Last week, Engstrom delivered his long-awaited 2016 state of the university address. I would have bitten my nails in anticipation of his enrollment plan, if I were uncouth. As it is, I sat with my hands neatly folded and looked forward to his articulation of a bold, specific strategy.
That strategy turned out to fit into two catchphrases. The first is the University’s new slogan, “Let’s go there!” which does addresses the problem of declining enrollment head-on. The second was Engstrom’s call for better “customer service.” That sounded promising, too, at first—until you realize it is the vaguest of businesspeak, and whatever it means, it isn’t more classes and better teachers.
If we’re going to talk about the university as though it were a business, how about we sell a better product? That seems more likely to win back our market share than improved customer service. “Customer service” sounds like justification for a ballooning administration. Engstrom’s plan seems to reflect the same mindset that directed 96% of its cuts toward instruction last spring—which is no surprise, since it’s a product of the same administration those cuts spared.
What we have here is a feedback loop. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow, probably, with Friday links.