The Quorum Report has a story recounts how Jeff Sandefer found himself in “the most vicious PR firefight I have ever seen in my life” The Quorum Report requires a subscription (and it’s pretty expensive) so I can not get you to the whole sad, sad story. However, I think you can get a picture of poor Sandefer’s plight from a few tidbits.
Sandefer probably didn’t get himself laughed off the stage when he said this because he underwrote the event (Squeezing the Tower: Are We Getting All We Can from Higher Education) where he got himself listed on the program as “Master Teacher” at the Acton School of Business (a school he started). He criticized universities who did not want to release data because “the average person doesn’t understand what we do there.” Sandefer is very unhappy that a more complete analysis of UT faculty workload makes clear it is Sandefer who doesn’t understand what universities do.
While Sandefer whines and moans about universities failing to embrace his “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” we should remember that Rick Perry quickly dumped one of the solutions (calling for alternative accreditation) and other state leaders have distanced themselves from his half-baked notions.
It is unfortunate that Sandefer used Perry and other political connections to ram changes to higher education through behind the scenes. It is pathetic for Sandefer to publicly cry when the other side pushes back.
Why did faculty go public with the fight? (1) That’s democracy in action. (2) Perry and company control the education bureaucracy in the state. A line from the story illustrates the problem:
Sandefer’s own father, [Texas A&M Professor Jaime] Grunlan told Sandefer, had pressured a Texas A&M regent to ram through the Seven Solutions with or without approval, a fact unearthed in a public information request by The Eagle in College Station. That hardly sounded like a starting point for a dialogue on a possible framework for change, Grunlan said.
Sandefer his allies have a legitimate place in the debate. However, there has been no real debate. Implementation has been going on behind the scenes. One of the reasons it has to be done quietly is that Sandefer’s assertion that higher education has been inadequatley supervised should be read as an indictment of Rick Perry. Inconveniently, Sandefer must either suggest that Perry and his appointees actually caused the problems or that the Governor has been so inattentive for the last decade that he did not notice the problem.
So, what’s with all the drama? It looks like people are trying to turn complaining about higher education into a lucrative full-time job. Someone desperately needs to turn people’s attention away from Seven Breakthrough Solutions before conservative donors realize that those reforms are left-wing student coddling and not fiscally responsible solutions to the challenges facing higher education.
By the way, I stay at a modest Days Inn when I do research or attend a conference in Washington, DC. I wonder what the accommodations for the Cato Institution’s meetings on academic thrift look like.