I declare Thanksgiving

Thank you, CakeWrecks.com

Thank you, CakeWrecks.com

It’s basically Thanksgiving. I’m thankful the Indy ran my column a day early this week, leaving me free to focus on my real calling, these Black Beans with Orange. Obviously, the period of Thanksgiving commences when you start cooking the food, not when you eat the food. So happy holidays, everybody! It might as well be Christmas morning.

In the meantime, I’m also thankful Sarah Aswell wrote this heartfelt, cleanly structured essay about our comedy death pact and the Missoula open mic where we fulfilled it. She is good at writing but never has to fall back on that, because she is also good at finding interesting stories. Don’t let America fall to ISIS, or she will have to stop writing and wear a bag over her head.

I have achieved a similar result without the bag. There will be no blog tomorrow, since Thanksgiving Thursday is also a holiday, nor Friday because my boss is not a miser duck.1 Instead, Combat! blog will go to the hot springs with our hot girlfriend. We will take pictures, but they’re not for you. They’re for a certain class of Japanese businessmen. See you Monday!

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  1. “The 97.5 percent/2.5 percent distribution of these layoffs between teachers and administrators seems to reflect the 0 percent/100 percent distribution of people deciding who gets fired.”
    I think it better reflects the overall proportion of employment in the university. There are far more teachers than administrators.

    It also reflects our bias. People know what a teacher does and can think of several who have impacted them personally. Very few people have balanced a budget or administered a contract, so they have no idea what an administrator might do, let alone notice the positive contribution one makes to their lives. This lack of understanding and appreciation puts teachers way fucking ahead in the fight for hearts and minds. As a result, their continued employment continues to be an easy position to hold whenever we look at higher ed. But it is a position based in ignorance. Reaching for the budget and seeing if departments are really pulling their weight in revenue requires much more effort and feels unkind.

    The insinuation that the administrators fucked up because the school doesn’t have enough money to pay everyone is daft. I doubt they failed to predict the low enrollment, and even if they did it doesn’t mean fewer educators should be laid off.* Those educators are providing a product the market doesn’t want. If the organization is to persist, it needs to invest its money in more profitable operations–not because there are mustache twirling stock barons requiring it, but because the whole organization folds otherwise. Why isn’t this obvious fact front and center in any discussion about the growth of administration in universities? The financialization of higher ed is treated like a symptom of administrators rather than a cause. Even deBoar gets this wrong (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/magazine/why-we-should-fear-university-inc.html?_r=1).

    University of Montana’s cuts could easily be that administrators fought for years, deferring maintenance, abstaining the expansion of profitable departments, and doing top-class student recruiting, to keep the unprofitable departments operational and contributing to this ideal we all have about the value of liberal education. But perhaps slumping enrollment–in part caused by a rapeutation–was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I bet the need to cut these positions was written on the walls years ago, but the administration fought to keep them. I would not bet they decided to fire people from the academic side because they want to protect job classifications like their own. That is a completely dumb insinuation.

    Thanks for enabling the comment section.

    *I am not a higher ed expert, but I believe most universities (with enrollments 15,000 or larger) use outside higher ed consultants to model student enrollment. They run scenarios of high economic growth, low economic growth, large industries relocating, large industries borne, and so forth. They use these results to predict how existing enrollment trends will be affected. They try to understand what skills the national and local workforces will need and how that translates into tuition dollars at their particular school. This modeling forms the foundation of financial planning, and is very important but susceptible to unexpected events and trends. Its easy to predict the future but tough to predict the future accurately. However, these models are built by reputable firms who provide the same services to schools across the country. They’re the best guess anyone can provide, not back-of-envelope calculations administrators can fuck up and deserve to be fired for. Fingering anyone in Montana for getting it wrong is probably stupid. Moreover, estimating enrollment within 7% may be pretty good, depending on how long ago they paid for a model. Do we know? And do we care to learn before we write our essays about who is to blame?

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