Read this open letter from the faculty of the University of California at San Diego, and weep. Not for the University, or the faculty, but for the taxpayers and citizens of the state of California.
A few thoughts:
- The tenured faculty also weep, WEEP!, at the thought of taking a five percent pay cut at their tenured, guaranteed-for-life jobs. Not for themselves, but for the people of the State, which risks losing a "world class" university system. A system whose world-classness includes the University of California at San Diego (which I've barely heard of, but what do I know?), but excludes all universities lower on the system totem pole.
- Meanwhile, the state which pays them is issuing kited checks to pay its obligations. The taxpayers of California are losing their jobs in droves. But they'll have a "world class" department of sociology at UCSD, which is also known to billions for its oceanography department.
- In the spirit of oceanography, the faculty propose savage cuts for "scrub" schools such as UC-Riverside, which serve the poor and modest who can't get into UCSD. Throw those kids, and their schools, to Shamu the killer whale, so long as we don't have to eat five percent less food on the lifeboat.
- The chair of the economics department, who also signed, evidently fails to consider that if a pay cut for the economics faculty at "world class" UCSD is bad, but a pay cut for faculty at smaller schools is good, perhaps eliminating UCSD and funneling the money to genuinely world class Berkeley and UCLA might be even better.
- The faculty protest their undying loyalty to the University, which they've struggled so hard to build, and then admit that if their pay is cut they'll cut and run to better paying schools as soon as the economy improves. The lone historian who signed the letter, if candid, might describe himself and his compatriots as "mercenaries."
- It's ok to be a mercenary. It's an ancient and honest profession with roots going back to ancient Greece. But there's another Greek-derived term for a mercenary who refuses to admit he's a mercenary: hypocrite.
- Another historian, classically trained, might describe the lament as fiddling while Rome burns. It's not as though much of California's financial crisis can't be laid at the feet of sociologists and the like, who in better times urged their government to spend like a coke fiend on whatever crisis commanded the attention of sociologists that day.
- And speaking of economics, if the faculty believe that generous salaries from private universities, or other state systems, are just around the corner, well perhaps they should consult a member of the oceanographic zoology department on how long it takes a starved killer whale to rebuild its reserves of fat.
I have a more radical proposal, which would be of equal benefit to the taxpayers of California, and allow San Diego to keep its world class university. Approximately half of the signatories belong to departments which produce students who may in turn produce something of economic value to California. Fire them, but keep and reorganize their departments.
As for the other half, from the departments of sociology, music, political science, international studies, philosophy, communication, and education studies, whatever those are, eliminate their departments entirely, and transfer the money to UCLA and Berkeley. Because what California needs, more than a government able to pay its bills with dollars instead of scrip, is a world class university.