Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Do We Need A Sustainability Director?

A mini-controversy has appeared in our town & gown relations over the past week.  A few days ago, the Northwestern editorialized that the newly hired Director of Sustainability was an unnecessary luxury in these sour economic times.

They suggest that sustainability is just a buzz-word and is too fuzzy to hold much meaning.  They then claim the unversity is out to destroy local agriculture in some way because of this initiative

The chancellor fired back with a memo defending the need for this position.  In it, he emphasizes the savings that have already come from focusing on sustainability.  He also points out that the new director brings both specific experience in helping better use our resources and academic knowlege that will be shared in the classroom.

I thought that the attack on sustainability was gratuitous and ungrounded, meant mostly to attempt to get someone to read their editorial page.  If we are serious about reducing our environmental footprint, having an expert on staff seems worthwhile to me.   

That being said, I am skeptical about the increasing number of administrators on campus, of which the sustainability director is just one.  I would hope that when we have to make the next round of cuts, they will find money to cull from that area rather than from the instructional side of things.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Students deserve B's

This article from the New York Times raises the question of student's feelings of entitlements towards grades.  It starts with a survey of students that found that almost 50% expected a B just for showing up.   The author also interviews students who expect that effort alone should raise their grade.

Gerry Gzyrb posted this to the COLS discussion list a few days ago and I noticed that it is on the list of most commonly e-mailed at the Times website.

I think that this expectation generally holds on our campus as well.  

In my classes, I think the average is a low BC. 

This means that many students who show up and do passable work get a low B.  Only students who truly excel make A's.

Thus, I am guilty of fostering these expectations -- I often wonder if I should be tougher.  I am not sure what I would gain from it. . .

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good news! University budget avoids big cuts!

Governor Doyle announced his budget proposal tonight and it contained good news for us.  He proposed that the university budget remain flat for the next two years.  The problem is, of course, that it doesn't contain $120 million we need to cover "costs to continue" -- ie heat, light, health care costs, etc.  It also takes other fees to the tune of $54 million.  Some of this would be made up by a 5-6% tuition increase.

These are significant, but much better than I hoped.   There will be another round of belt-tightening, but it shouldn't be too traumatic.  It can't be as bad as the $250 million cut from a few years ago, though we are clearly leaner than before.  Students also are protected somewhat, by an increase in financial aid to keep tuition flat for families with income under $60,000.

Here are two different stories:

The Journal-Sentinel reports it as a $174 million cut.

The Wisconsin State Journal calls university funding flat.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Solution: Furloughs?

A rumor has just come my way that administrators are thinking about furloughs of faculty members to cut costs.

The suggestion is that UWO would save hundreds of thousands of dollars by not paying faculty members who do not teach during interims.

Pretty scary thought!  As if our pay weren't low enough!

The cutting starts soon, as the Gov. gets ready to reveal his plan to fix the $600 million shortfall for this year.  Then, we'll have to deal with the cuts of the next biennium.  

With the 'moderates' removing support for states from the stimulus bill in Washington, we should be prepared. . . .

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Wells a finalist again!

The newest addition to the chancellor's annual search for a new job has Dr. Wells in the running for the leader of SUNY-Albany. The Northwestern reported this story on Saturday.

Here is the story from the Albany newspaper, which lists the other candidates. Apparently this search was supposed to be undertaken with the stricted secrecy, but someone didn't think that was appropriate for a state institution.

Even more interesting (sort of) is that they supposedly were on the verge of hiring someone else just a few weeks ago.

It also reports that Albany took a 14% budget cut, so finances are pretty ugly there.

It is not particularly surprising to discover, as the Chancellor has been on the job market for many years now. The question is whether he will pull himself out of the running again, declaring that he couldn't tear himself away from us. . .