We all know it’s Thursday and that I therefore have a column in the Indy, and I do. It’s about how the University of Montana’s decision to lay off 35 lecturers guarantees it will inflict the most damage to its instructional capacity for each dollar saved. Lecturers get paid less and teach more—in many cases four or five classes a year. Cutting them to keep paying senior professors six figures to teach one and one maximizes the classes lost for each dollar saved. Something I failed to emphasize in the column was that the university is constrained, in this decision, by collective bargaining agreements that require them to fire the least senior teachers first. That policy makes a lot of sense from a labor perspective, but it also forces the administration to lose the faculty that get paid the least and teach the most classes. The university estimates it will save $900,000 by firing these 33 lecturers,1 at a rate of $27,272 apiece. It so happens that the former president of the university, who was asked to step down after the 25% drop in enrollment that occasioned these cuts, now teaches two chemistry classes a year in exchange for a salary of $117,000. You can read all about it here.
But shit man, wouldn’t you rather read about Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure? Pee-Wee isn’t just a reason to give money to Paul Rust. It’s also a touchstone of our eighties childhoods, which is weird because—even though Paul Rust is great—the Pee-Wee character kind of sucks. He has stopped amusing the modern viewer but remains hilarious to himself. This sense of disaster in the opening sequences makes the film all the more endearing in the end, though. Pee-Wee was never the point. The point was the act of making Pee-Wee: Paul Reuben’s insanely committed performance, a series of confidently campy choices from Tim Burton in his feature debut, the anarchic central character whothat has become utterly tedious and alienating, because he influenced our culture so much. Anyway, you can read even more of my incoherent speculation of Pee-Wee Herman in this essay, also in the Indy.
But why lose yourself in fantasy when real and hilarious shenanigans are happening right here in actual life? Missoulians who have not blocked me on Facebook may remember Wes Spiker from this guest column in The Missoulian, in which he condemns the soft treatment given to bicyclists and transients but praises the mayoral candidacy of Lisa Tripke. “Wes Spiker has been a Missoula city resident and property owner since October 1981, and a business owner since August 1983,” the bio lines say. They do not specify that his business, Spiker Communications, is also a paid vendor to the mayoral campaign of the aforesaid Lisa Tripke. Of the $12,000-plus in contributions the Tripke campaign has raised by July, per near $11,000 was paid to Spiker Communications. It kind of seems like they’re running their campaign, but Spiker assures Derek Brouwer that he doesn’t do campaign strategy:
In fact, media inquiries to the Triepke campaign are routed through a Spiker email address, and the agency sent out two campaign press releases in August. Asked if his firm is paid for consulting services, such as campaign strategy, Spiker initially replied, “Oh, God, no. No, no, not at all.” The Indy later requested to review campaign invoices. Spiker declined to provide copies, but did email a list of services the firm has billed Triepke for, including “campaign strategy.”
You’ve got to read that, right? The Indy rules. Missoula also rules, insofar as it is crookeder than a dog’s hind leg, but no one seems to be very good at hiding anything. We’re lucky to live here. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.