Thursday, April 2, 2009

Budget Cuts

One of the hardest things to handle in the modern environment is that the academy is not designed for dynamism. It is based on a system where hard work and apprenticeship eventually lead to a slow succession of improvements. However, when circumstances can change rapidly this puts the whole system into flux. Positions and outcomes that people have labored for decades to achieve can now be at risk.

I think that this situation is less true for the very senior people and more for those "too far in to back out" but who have not "really made it yet". Basically, PhD Students, post-doctoral fellows and assistant professors are the class at risk and are often placed into situation that are Kafkaesque.

Now it is hard to argue for who deserves resources; "deserve" being such a complicated word. But it is pretty clear to me that the budget cuts to higher education (at least here in the state of Washington) look to be pretty deep. I suspect few companies would cut so deeply unless they were in crisis.

This leads me to ask: is higher education failing so badly that it should count as being in crisis?

But, either way, there really is not a lot of fat, per se, left to be cut. Schools seems to be in (generally) slightly poor repair. Equipment seems to old and a lot of work-arounds exist. Teaching resources are hardly in surplus. It could be that we are trying to do too much with too little. But that suggests rethinking of priorities -- not the brutal selection of massive reductions in budgets.

Or at least that is the way that I see it.

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