On Budget Woes and Leadership Lows: Steve Hays at the Teach-In

This is what happens when you ask a humanist to talk about budget issues: You get Yeats.

You also get a vivid picture of a leadership failure that has allowed athletics and other non-academic spending to eclipse academics, in an imbalance severe enough to draw national media attention. (And yes, you also get plenty of cold hard dollars-and-cents figures.)

Ohio University’s skewed budget priorities came under the lens of OU+AAUP member and Professor of Classics and World Religions Steve Hays at this Wednesday’s teach-in. Here’s his PowerPoint presentation with voice-over – a sobering call for our leaders to reassess our university’s direction.

For more detailed information and printable materials, see also Steve’s website. Thank you, Steve, for providing leadership on these issues even when hardly anyone was listening. People are starting to listen now.

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One Response to On Budget Woes and Leadership Lows: Steve Hays at the Teach-In

  1. duane mcdiarmid says:

    The problem with Football, an administrative blind love…

    Not a condemnation of sport or I.C.A. The problem is the premise of competition a gladiator mentality that injures all participants. My school is a rival, a business competitor, with your school—what if we saw ourselves as members of a family seeking to raise the educational capabilities of our citizenry. Disarmament is needed and a change of perspective required. This will require a leadership that does not buy into the thrill of the fight but instead the vibe of shared accomplishment. There would be obstacles –perhaps even anti trust issues alas no path is without its roots and creeks to cross. The benefit is the end of the multitude of arms races afoot in higher education all are funded by cuts direct or circuitous to academics and learning missions regardless of how effective the camouflage of accounting—on some level money is a liquid. Just as the escalation of the arms race with the Soviets presumably won the cold war we will loose the education war if we use escalation as a tactic—for escalation favors the wealthiest and the wealthiest like any of us tend to serve first their own concerns. Our administration indeed all college administrations can correctly claim that the crisis is not of the institution nor that they have created it—what they cannot claim is that they have failed to take action to curtail the problem, a problem larger then their institution but that threatens both the individual university and the entire enterprise of affordable quality higher education.

    On how many fronts can any society fight an endless escalation policy? We have it in sports, in housing, in technology, in recreation. It is not that these things are not important or should be completely eliminated, it is rather that in a competition constrained only by bankruptcy these strategies will produce bankruptcy as well meaning intentions are perverted by competition models and marketing façades and thus become too expensive and too heavy for the substance to carry. Collapses may not come to every college or every university, but for nearly all a grave injury will be inflicted. A million dollar coach is hired –then all competing must hire a million dollar coach, full scholarships are offered –then all must offer full scholarships—the incentives and advantages disintegrate but the costs do not. Prospective students receive personal calls from admissions, from fellow students, from faculty and so then all must pay for callers and divert work force to this task–marketing campaigns in public advertising space will be purchased obligating all to do the same, potential donors are wined and dined we dare not be among these suitors…The problem is in each pitch one or more gladiators is inflicted financial injury and as the pits circulate all will win some and loose a few but all will be taxed by the expenses of the battle and also invest in better weaponry as to improve measurable outcomes.

    Detent is needed in admissions, in country club amenities, in development spending and in sports–we need leaders that will negotiate down the arms race—then all can cooperatively save the millions needed to pursue our collective mission of furthering a society not governed by Spartan principles—battle is so glorious and negotiated peace so dweeby!

    At dinner with Kurt Vonnegut years ago he said the things that make a good story are the things that make a terrible life—a good life, its hard to find a story within it—no house fires, no adultery no drowned children, no invasion by aliens, no mental breakdowns, no bankruptcies who would want such a life when we can have colossal figures ramming heads, breaking necks and leaving the masses ignorant pawns of the few?

    We need to invest in reversing the spiraling overhead costs; we need to invest in differences—the unique qualities of a variety of models. Then with transparency in place and clear values and institutional cultures established we can spend less advertising why one college Cola is better then the other Cola and instead allow for informed choices. So this is pie in the sky and we have budget woes now, so true! Shall we use that to avoid calling for a change in the arms race—can we afford to lower our sword and step out of the arena of a zero sum game? What might we save in overhead costs if we unilaterally stepped back—sent out some plain emails explaining our strategy was to not participate in fancy battles but instead to preserve student faculty contact, educational priorities, and a collective modeling of an institution who’s facad was stripped away to reveal the beauty of its structural integrity—the exposed beans of learning, innovation, rigor, experimentation, and the exploration of frontiers.

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