Monthly Archives: September 2011

Higher Ed Employment Tip #1: Avoid brandishing a knife

The Austin-American Statesman (“Fired A&M deputy chancellor says he was ‘joking,’ not threatening“)  is reporting that Jay Kimbrough, a former chief of staff for Governor Perry, brandished a pocket knife after being fired from his $300,000 a year  position as the deputy chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. According to a story in the Texas Tribune (“Kimbrough Fired From Texas A&M System, Revealed Knife“) Kimbrough explained: “Sure I displayed it, yes. But I do that 20 times a week. I do it when someone needs to cut a watermelon.”

I’m not sure how many watermelons a deputy chancellor has to cut each week, but I’m sure he can afford a lot of watermelons with a$300,000 salary.

Anyway, don’t try this at home, kids.

The politicization of A&M

John Hagler, a former chairman of the A&M Foundation, chronicles how politics took it toll on A&M (“Texas A&M: A case study in failure in governance“). The picture is not pretty:

A first-rate university is a treasure and a great gift to the people; it should be held accountable by legitimate, thoughtful, interactive oversight. Reinterpretation of its mission and restructuring of its management for political purposes should never be allowed.

Keeping politics out of higher ed

Kenneth Ashworth, a former commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, makes the case for separating our state universities from partisan politics in an article in the Austin-American Statesman (“For universities’ sake, let’s keep politics away“).

Who makes what

The Texas Tribune has updated their database of state employee salaries. Once again, SFA was not included. You will just have to speculate how much less I make that UT football coach Mack Brown’s $5.1 million (Congrats, Mack, on beating Brigham Young by one point last week!).

You can use this database to look up most salaries in the state. Don’t make too much of any one salary. Some of the faculty salaries listed make much more sense if you know about current/former administrative positions. For example, I noticed that the data base does not note who departmental chairs are at UT.

Critics of faculty salaries should note that the most highly paid faculty are those that are in field in which universities are competing with the private sector.  Those faculty members have salaries that occasionally top 5% of Mack Brown’s salary. Most of us range from 1% to 3% of his salary.

Deferred gratification

Put bluntly, great universities are based on deferred gratification.

Today, UT President Bill Powers offered up his state of the university address. You can find it covered in the Texas Tribune, complete with the full text of his speech.

Powers makes offers a strong defense of his faculty and offers up some nice insights. I enjoyed his discussion of deferred gratification because it may help some people understand the more subtle contributions of a quality education.

The fruits of this type of education are harvested when these students take leadership roles years after graduation to support our democratic way of life, and when they spawn further innovation in business, science, technology, and the arts. Even the satisfaction that one’s life was well and richly lived is an “output” of an education that cultivates the mind.

Powers offers up a broader rational for attending college. He that we delay someone’s entry into the workplace “so 20 years from now, they will have a richer life for it, productively, financially, intellectually, and even spiritually.”  A meaningful education is not simply something that prepares you for your first job. It may not pay for itself fully until your second or third job. Powers reminds his faculty that the value of a broad-based education may not be apparent until we reach the end of our life and reflect on how richly that life was lived.

I hope that his point is not lost the state’s leaders and we do not cave in to the culture of instant gratification.

The limits of online learning

As the debate over higher education reform moves to Florida, Donald R. Eastman III, president of Eckerd College, argues that online learning is not the right approach for every student.

The performance-based funding trend

Stateline, an online publication that looks at state governments, has a story (“States ask colleges to perform for money“) on the incentives higher ed is facing. It’s just a reminder that the pressure we’re feeling is Texas is part of a nation-wide movement. Oddly enough, Texas is lagging behind many states on developing and implementing performance-based funding.

Chasing those big Tier 1 bucks

College Mascot WarsDespite all the complaints about the role of research at the state’s elite research universities, the Texas Tribune reports (“Tier One Money Up For Grabs in University Competition“) the ongoing race for the big dollars the state is handing out to create more elite research universities.