On Spin and the Rearrangement of the Deck Chairs
—By David Waldstreicher, Editor
The Temple Times was very happy to quote the December Herald’s announcement of the Provost’s White Paper, though somewhat out of context. My remark that the document is “strikingly thoughtful and comprehensive “ was an attempt to get the faculty to read something sent out on December 15th — at the worst possible moment of the year for the faculty’s serious consideration. In light of this week’s recent Faculty Senate resolution, and the fact that members of the faculty senate steering committee are no longer sworn to a secrecy we did not know was going to be labeled and retailed as “consultation with the faculty,” it is time for a more frank assessment.
Where it comes to the recombination of colleges and departments, the “White Paper” does not justify such drastic expedients with short-term financial or administrative necessities. Given the fairly obvious desires of certain deans to expand their domains, it seems like a distinctly corporate-style management exercise. Instead of speaking up about the value of higher education – its distinctly nonprofit virtues of educating citizens and producing knowledge, for example – we are to be subject to what will at least look like quick action, without any accounting for the effects on programs and staff.
Meanwhile, the presidential committee has finished its deliberations on guidelines for possible course load increases for the faculty. Apparently much of the impetus for these guidelines are the sweet-heart deals for new faculty of 2003-5, especially in the sciences, rather than the more standard loads of most of the presidential faculty. A better idea, highlighted by Marina Angel and one not contradicting the spirit of those parts of the White Paper calling for efficiencies and attention to Temple’s historic mission, would be some serious attention to high-salaried positions and administrative bloat. As Peter Gran noted at this week’s Senate meeting, some central Pennsylvania legislators expressed a willingness to spare some budget cuts – if only Temple (and Penn State, etc.) would divulge the salaries of its highest paid employees! If this means we can’t recruit such administrative luminaries from other institutions, all the better: we’ve had enough such corporate-level brilliance. I’ve met some pretty smart an administratively experienced faculty here who would do just fine as deans or assistant executive vice provosts (maybe even without the permanent post-acting-deanship hike in salary that left one of my not especially research-prolific colleagues retiring with $150K), and happily return to the faculty in 5 or so years, rather than burnishing their CVs with administrative fiats that can be touted when auditioning for their next executive position.
Or the money could be taken out of the portion of the big-sports athletic machine that doesn’t recoup its own expenses. We have no business creating entertainment for a state and a city and a population that encourages us to expand but then leaves us little choice but to either casualize our labor force, fire folks, increase class sizes, raise tuition, or raise workload, and/or abandon subsidized construction projects. I might add that a university that can’t find a way to nurture and grow its own program in Women’s Studies or American Studies in the 21st century is not one worthy of a great metropolis, and not one that needs football. (Maybe if we had nurtured those programs we would understand why we find our-selves facing such choices.) Or, if money is the issue, considerable monies could be taken out of the contingency fund, as Phil Yannella argues in his ongoing analysis of the Temple budget, in this issue.
During one of the “Dialogues with Dick” at the representative senate meeting, the Provost, noted that while he’s not known for “vision,” he is a good listener. We wish it were clearer who he’s really listening to now. The faculty has spoken pretty clearly, though the Senate, of its desire to slow down the apparent speed-up of restructuring. Surely the impetus is not coming from a president who told us she was resigning to take care of her aged mother, negotiated a $700K consulting fee, and has promptly taken the presidency of the University of Arizona, an even bigger institution than Temple, hundreds of miles from “home” in Salt Lake City.
We know what lessons we learned from our experience with past administrations. What are the lessons of our experience with President Hart and Provost Englert – a lesson we can take into our relationship with the next president and provost? It is time for the faculty to make its voice heard – to demonstrate that real leadership requires not lobbying and spin so much as truth-telling, and moral clarity in difficult times.•