Search Results for ""excellence without money""

20th 2009
Excellence without Money!, part III: Knowledge without Books!

Posted under American history & jobs & students

knowledgewithoutbooksAnother in our occasional series on the Great Recession and the crisis in funding public institutions of higher education, with thanks to Moose at Roxie’s World for coining the phrase “Excellence without Money!”

Johann Neem, an Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University, has an article over at Inside Higher Ed called “Reviving the Academic Library.”  In his brief comments, he defends the traditional library, something that many librarians are reluctant to do these days.  Just read some of the angry comments–most of them from librarians, and some of them well-earned, by the way.  Neem writes rather condescendingly about librarians, who are at most universities tenure-track and tenured scholars themselves, and he claims that education can only take place inside university classrooms.  That was unfortunate hyperbole, in my view, because in the main I agree with Neem.  (Can’t we all just get along?)

In case we’ve forgotten, amidst all those i-Pod downloads and football games and keg parties, Neem explains that “[t]he core purposes of the academy are to teach and to produce new knowledge. Continue Reading »


19th 2009
Excellence without Money! Redux

Posted under jobs & local news & unhappy endings

excellenceWell, for those of us who work at state unis with fiscal years that begin on July 1, the budget crystal ball is becoming clearer and clearer.  There is no money to support our excellence!  Notortious Girl, Ph.D. reports that her uni is considering furloughs that aren’t pay cuts, but rather “two unpaid days a month (where we´re not supposed to work — yeah, right) comes out to 6% of our work days, which means that my tenure raise is effectively wiped out before I ever see it.  Add to this the suggestion from our dean that the course releases that allowed us to teach 3-3 rather than 4-4 may be going away (but with no decrease in research expectations), and you can see why I´m cranky.”  Crank on, my friend–that is one bum deal.

It all stinks–but it’s that “no decrease in research expectations” that I think faculties must protest.  At Baa Ram U., my department has no raises to offer and zero travel money–but, we haven’t had to fire anyone, and we aren’t facing an increase in our teaching loads.  A colleague of mine commented yesterday that we might need to consider suspending the tenure clock or revising our tenure standards for junior faculty if this is our new reality for the next several years.  I think this is correct–and if I were a recently hired Assistant Professor, I’d feel like I had just pulled the short straw in a bait-and-switch.  But, this is the Golden Rule, friends:  those who have the gold make the rules.

Should universities–and the people in the states who b!tch and moan endlessly about taxation–get the benefit of our full workload when they’re not paying for it?  Continue Reading »


15th 2008
Excellence Without Money!

Posted under jobs & local news

The weather here in the Rocky Mountains is like the economy:  bottoming out and likely to remain in the deep freeze for the foreseeable future.  So after my face-freezing walk across the Baa Ram U. campus, I arrived at work this morning to a flooded department hallway and an office full of wet carpet.  (A colleague of mine 2 doors down got the worst of it–for the second time in two years, the pipes in the heating system in her office burst and flooded half the department.)  Luckily, our decaying, flooding, oddly dead-fly infested building was on a list of buildings to be renovated…before the stock market tanked this fall, and before all of the other harbingers of economic doom that followed in short order.  As the little gingerbread man in that Go Phone commercial says about another crumbling building, in the voice of Steve Buscemi, “I’d like people to stop eating my house…but that ain’t gonna happen.” 

So, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Roxie’s musings on the problems facing public colleges and universities, get thee to Roxie’s World right now to read Moose’s back-of-the-cereal-box history of trends in higher education over the past few decades and her super depression-proof plan for public institutions everywhere

For years, public institutions like Queer the Turtle U have been stuck between the rock and the hard place of declining levels of state support and mounting pressure to keep tuition affordable. Caught in that vise, schools have fought to do more with less while scrambling to catch up to private institutions in the game of fundraising. That strategy worked reasonably well when times were good and the bubbles in stocks or real estate had a lot people feeling rich. Now? The party’s over, public and private revenues have dried up, and schools are desperately trying to figure out how to cut costs without compromising the value of their brand (the ne plus ultra of higher ed under the consumer model).

Moose, who has a healthy respect for academic entrepreneurship, has a slogan for public institutions eager to prove that larger classes, smaller operating budgets, and reductions in advising and other forms of academic support are no threat whatsoever to the quality of education. She’s been using the slogan informally all over campus at Queer the Turtle U this fall, but it hasn’t been officially adopted yet, so, in the spirit of academic capitalism she has decided to auction it off here to one of my legions of loyal fans who works at some other cash-strapped public school. . . .  Are you ready?  Here is Moose’s slogan for hard times in higher ed:

Excellence Without Money

Hey, kids, let’s rent a barn (without money!) and put on a show (for no money)!  Historiann has even developed this generic university seal to symbolize this movement with the Seal Generator at  You can make your own seal–say it with me nowfor no money!  Can you feel the excellence, my darlings?  Let’s see if the copier company will be happy to to fix our copier–for no money!  How about serving up lunch in the student center to us–for no money!  Maybe Shell Oil will donate gasoline for staff and faculty vehicles so that we can get to campus–for no money!  I wonder if banks and landlords will forgive mortgages and rents for everyone employed in higher education, so that we can house ourselves for no money!  This no money thing could work, just so long as it’s not just people in higher education who are doing it for no money!

Moose’s new slogan leads us directly to a comment by Matt L. on a recent post called “Money, class, and the values of academe” about our curious unwillingness to pay for education.  He notes:

One of my colleagues, who had spent a decade in K-12 education said that all teachers were held to an unspoken ideal: the Roman Catholic Nuns who taught in parochial schools. They were sexless, had few or no material needs, required no pay for their work, and disappeared into the convent out of sight at the end of the school day. The trope of the WASP amateur historian or the celibate scholar in the frayed tweed jacket is similar. People with no visible means of support carrying out a higher cultural mission in the name of virtue, not material gain.

Ultimately, these myths mean one thing. People, that is to say parents, students and legislators, do not value education enough to pay for it. Instead they would like it to be a commodity that costs as little as possible. If you want to know what society really values in a university go look at the salaries of Big 10 football and basketball coaches.  

Yes, indeedy.  Let’s see who’s willing to coach the team for no money!  But no university president would dream of asking the coach to work for nothing–he works in a sector that’s very male dominated and hasn’t traditionally coasted on the volunteer labor of religious women, underpaid secular women, or WASP dilettantes with inheritances. 

At the conclusion of that post, I asked, “Is the meaning of what we do all day long–teaching, research, and service–dependent on how badly we need the paycheck?  Is it not work, regardless of the worker?”  Today’s koan, my darlings, is slightly modified:  Is the price paid for the work dependent on the work, or on the worker?  And, what’s the real price of “Excellence Without Money?”


4th 2014
Giving to the office at the office: are you f^(king kidding me?

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & local news & unhappy endings & wankers

excellenceI just received a telephone solicitation from a student at Baa Ram U. to donate money to support programs at Baa Ram U.  I realize that because the Democratic politicians in my state (who have been running the show for the last nine years!) are so gonad-free that state colleges and universities are literally going begging.  I also get it that “development” is all the rage.  Everyone’s got their hat out these days.

But I still feel pretty goddamned miffed about being asked to donate to my own damn employer.  The steady stream of solicitations had been until tonight confined to paper and email pleas for support.  (Curse you, stupid land line!)  I’m really interested to hear how the rest of you university and college employees feel about being solicited for donations by your employers, because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

Here’s my thinking:  Continue Reading »


14th 2011
Excellence with money!

Posted under local news & unhappy endings & wankers

I received a couple of shiny, happy e-mails from Baa Ram U. President Tony Frank about this yesterday.  The details are even more demoralizing than I could have guessed:

FORT COLLINS — Green-and-gold balloons accented the interior of Colorado State’s on-campus football indoor practice facility. It is a building in many ways representing the greatest success of the past regime being used to usher in an ambitious future.

Signs declared Tuesday the beginning of “a bold new era for Ram football.”

A green era. The university threw out lots of it to land its new head coach, Jim McElwain, who is being asked to turn around a program that won just 16 times in the past four seasons. To get Alabama’s offensive coordinator, CSU offered the 49-year-old McElwain a five-year contract with a base salary of $1.35 million, and a $150,000 bonus if his team meets graduation standards.

It is by far the largest sum ever paid to a coach at CSU, and more than double the $700,000 total compensation package the university paid its previous coach, Steve Fairchild. (CU coach Jon Embree, hired a year ago, is making $741,000 a year.)

Athletic director Jack Graham, who was hired Dec. 8, and president Tony Frank insisted they would invest in the football program, and they put their money where their mouths were. Continue Reading »


13th 2011
Sunday round-up: the “crisis in higher ed,” your turn edition

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & jobs & local news & students

Girl howdy did my post last weekend soliciting your views on the “crisis in higher ed” get an avalanche of replies, like, immediately!  It was almost like you were just waiting for someone to ask!

As regular readers will recall, I commented on Tony Grafton’s recent essay in the New York Review of Books, in which he reviews the current jeremiads about what’s wrong with American colleges and universities these days and called for “curious writers . . . [to] describe some universities and colleges, in detail, with all their defects.”  I solicited your views, dear readers, and am blown away by the number and diversity of viewpoints you have contributed.  So today I offer you a very briefly annotated bibliography of the responses.  Please click and read them for yourselves!

  1. Roxie at Roxie’s World must be reading the New York Review of Books up in heaven, because she wrote a post fully 24 hours before I solicited her opinion on what’s wrong with modern American universities.  Her answer?  The unconscionable reliance on adjunct labor, which is after all at the heart of most Excellence Without Money strategies.  (Just go to her blog and search Excellence Without Money to read her catalog of crimes against education over the past three years.)
  2. Roxie also kindly reminded me that Tenured Radical got in on the game even earlier with this post calling for faculty “to get off the Education Carousel and get to work Occupying Education.  Faculty, in particular, are becoming more like each other than not, regardless of where they work.  While some of us will age out under the old system of tenure and stratified privilege, increasingly we too must come to terms with the effects of the neoliberal education agenda (shrinking salaries, reduced and more expensive medical benefits, the destruction of entire fields of study to eliminate tenured positions, political attacks on unionized faculty and staff, higher workloads) in the here and now.”  (Just to name a few of the problems facing us in higher ed!)
  3. Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar says from her perch at Crisis State University (after Walt Kelly’s Pogo) that the enemy of higher education “is us,” that is, the American voters who have consented to withdraw their support from higher education at both the state and federal levels.
  4. Lance Manyon writes from Flagship Public U. that Americans in general approach university education in a way that’s too career-oriented rather than thought-oriented, and urges other faculty not to fall into the trap of buying into this vision of education.
  5. Dr. Crazy, in a brilliant riff on Foucault and the repressive hypothesis, asks who’s failing and on what terms?  From her position at a comprehensive directional university where she teaches a 4-4 load (plus usually some summer courses), she thinks that her university does just fine in offering first-generation college students a fine education at a bargain price.  Continue Reading »


2nd 2011
Sunday Round-Up: Endless Summer edition

Posted under American history & book reviews & jobs & students & the body & wankers

Where there's smoke. . .

Howdy, friends.  It’s just another gorgeous, clear, warm, sunny, dry, earthquake-free, hurricane-free, and (of course) tsunami-free autumn day here on the High Plains Desert.  The crickets are chirping happily, and there are a few lawnmowers humming in the distance.  I’ve got a stack of student essays to mark while I sit outside trying to extend the tan on my gams, but here’s some fun links to keep you amused if the weather (or something else) is keeping you indoors.  To wit:


29th 2011
Monday roundup: no more pencils, no more books edition

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & class & Gender & jobs & local news & students & wankers & women's history

Done your back-to-school shopping yet?

Busy day here at the ranch, but there’s lotsa news and views in the education world.  Read on to hear more about online education, the availability of technologies like pencils and crayons in some Colorado classrooms, and the aggressive pR0nification of student life at some elite colleges:

  • Via Inside Higher Ed, It turns out that you can’t fool more than a third of the general public all of the time, but college presidents are much, much better at fooling themselves.  According to a Pew Research Center study on “The Digital Revolution and Higher Education,” here’s the verdict on “[t]he Value of Online Learning. The public and college presidents differ over the educational value of online courses. Only 29% of the public says online courses offer an equal value compared with courses taken in a classroom. Half (51%) of the college presidents surveyed say online courses provide the same value.” 
  • But of course, it’s possible to have “Excellence Without Money,” right?  The State of Colorado and a “scholar” at the Hoover Institution argue that money can’t possibly fix the problems we have with P-20 education.  They’re shocked, shocked at the implication that money has anything to do with the quality of education we offer through our schools and universities!  (Funny how money fixes problems for banks, and car manufacturers, and hospitals, and no one ever patronizes them by calling it “throwing money” at their problems.) 
  • Meanwhile, back in Colorado’s rural elementary schools, here’s just one fourth-grade teacher’s lived experience:  “Some of the most compelling testimony for the plaintiffs came from Matthew Keefauver, a teacher in Cortez who choked back emotion at times describing how poor his students are and how his district doesn’t have enough resources to help them.  The free lunches and breakfasts at school are frequently the only meals they have, he testified.  ‘They actually race to the classroom in the morning for breakfast because some of them are so hungry,’Keefauver said. Continue Reading »


30th 2011
Spring: the season for dumba$$ ideas? (Or are they like little black dresses and never out of fashion?)

Posted under jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings & wankers

What is it about the opening tulips, the flowering crabapple trees, and the blossoming lilacs that makes university administrators spring their half-cooked “brilliant” and “revenue-neutral” (i.e. Excellence Without Money) schemes on the faculty and students?  Is it that they know we’re buried in end-of-term papers and exams that must be written and graded, and the last thing we need in our lives is more long meetings?  Last year as you may recall, Baa Ram U. asked us to consider the scheme of “concurrent enrollment,” in which high school history teachers would be permitted to teach courses for which we in the History department would give Baa Ram U. credit.  (The uni collects the cash, and we just provide the free credentialing service.)

This year, apparently one administrator has decided that we need to be more like prestigious, well-funded Ivies and elite SLACs.  Of course, it would cost millions if not billions of dollars to accomplish this honestly, but that’s not on the table.  Continue Reading »


12th 2011
Alienation and anomie about a job

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs

It tolls for thee!

Associate Professor Angela writes:

Do you ever wake up in the morning 100% ready to quit your job?  Not to look for another job, but just to walk the hell away?

That was me, at 7 a.m. today.  Do you have any advice on navigating mid-career?

If you post this on your blog, I’m quite sure that some responses will be along the lines of “Hey, I’m a grad student/adjunct/non-academic, and I’d be *happy* to have your problems.  Boo-f^(king-hoo.”  There’s some justification there, to be sure.  But, as I said to recently to a former mentor, I try to be grateful that I have a job.  I’d hate to be on the market in these times.  But “I’m not unemployed” seems like I’m setting the bar too low.  It’s like evaluating someone you’re dating by saying “Well, he’s never been in prison.”

Heh.  I’ve never felt like resigning, but I can relate, Angela.  I was close to where this correspondent is about a year ago, but the advice I got from you readers was really helpful.  In short, in the comments on my post about my mid-career slump, many of you told me to Continue Reading »


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