Contrary to what is frequently reported, when colleges actually do face budget cutbacks in the amount of state and federal aid that they receive, professors can usually avert them.
The house organ of academe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, shows how they not only survive but thrive in troubled times. “Melvin C. Platt, chair of the art department at the University of Missouri at Columbia, learned last fall that the master-of-fine-arts program was one of 69 at his institution and 586 in the state that were identified for possible elimination,” Dan Berrett reported in The Chronicle on September 9, 2011. “He had about three months to persuade state officials that his program should continue to exist.”
Platt managed to do just that. “He argued that it offered the only public M. F. A. in the state, and he redirected money from adjuncts’ salaries to create new graduate teaching assistantships,” Berrett reported. “Even though the program review was taking place late in the fall semester, which was close to students’ application deadline, he and other faculty members sent word to colleagues at other institutions that Missouri had more paid assistant positions available than in years past.”
“As a result, the number of M. F. A. applicants grew by 20 percent.” And the state was convinced that there was a demand for the program.
The University of Nevada at Las Vegas, meanwhile, resorted to an old-fashioned bureaucratic ploy to save an obvious target for budget cutters from funding cutbacks. “The legislative session featured a proposal by Gov. Brian E. Sandoval, a Republican, to cut 29 percent from higher-education appropriations,” Eric Kelderman reported in The Chronicle on September 2, 2011. “That cut was eventually halved, but state spending on higher education is little more than it was in 2006.”
“In the resulting cuts at UNLV, the women’s studies department was to be eliminated but eventually was made a subdiscipline in the College of Liberal Arts.”
Ironically, UNLV is home to what might be considered a monument commemorating the futility of government aid to higher education. “About 10 miles from the glamour and wealth of the Las Vegas Strip are two large signs that mark the entrance to the research part of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas,” Kelderman reports. “Aside from the bold, red letters of ‘UNLV,’ there is little to see at the Harry Reid Research and Technology Park, named for the longtime U. S. senator.”
“In fact, there is not a single building on the site of the five-year old project. The entrance road and sidewalks to nowhere were paid for with a $2-million federal grant.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org