April 22, 2004

The Queen is Dead

Long live the Queen!

From reader podwall, comes this article about wasteful spending and chancellor salaries. Yes, I realize you're shocked that public universities aren't being good stewards of students' monies. Let me just give you a moment to recover.

Here at State, we laborers under the SPA heading (basically, non-teaching permanent employees, or Eeeeevilllleee State Government employees) haven't had a raise in two years. And the benefit costs have increased. Oh, and so has the cost of living. Ah well, life in the big city, right? We're all tightening our belts in these tough economic times, blah, blah, blah, so-why-are-EPA(faculty)-employees-getting-a-raise-again cakes. It's the whole weird State-Government-Versus-Free-Market dynamic, which makes the whole competetive salary thing a tad schizophrenic when you're at a public university.

Yeah, it'd all be a little easier to take if I felt as though we were all being asked to tighten our belts equally. But I guess I'm just more equal than some other folks. Go, me.

At State, the best "what the HELL are you doing with our money?" moment came a few years back, when the current-but-leaving-soon-for-USD-'cause, hello? More Money! Chancellor (Marye Anne Fox) thought it would be a good idea to have our bell tower (the landmark most associated with State--other than cattle or computer chips, that is) equipped with red lighting, so that when we won an important sporting event or wished to commemmorate something, the bell tower would glow red.

Never mind that red lighting can be somewhat off-putting and reminiscent of Hell. So anyway, how hard could it be to add another color bulb to the already existing bell tower lighting? Pretty hard, apparently. About $150,000 worth of hard, when all was said and done. For red lightbulbs.

And then there waas the whole Public Safety Tricks Out Their Homes With New AV Equipment scandal, which was a tad embarrassing for Chancellor Fox when she arrived at State. Oh and by the way, her current salary is $248,220 per annum, in case you're interested.

Is it any wonder that students tend to get a tad prickly when tuition goes up?

Yeah, well. Guess there's nothing for it but another piece of that cake. Yum.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 22, 2004 10:22 AM

"Never mind that red lighting can be somewhat off-putting and reminiscent of Hell."

To say nothing of the proverbial "red light district"!!

Posted by: UnderARock at April 22, 2004 12:33 PM

I'm not surprised. Marye Anne Fox was my advisor for my undergraduate research in photochemistry at U Texas at Austin. She was very much a political opportunist then, back in 1978, when she was a newly-minted PhD, so she obviously hasn't changed much.

I hadn't thought of her for a long time. It was interesting to look up her C.V. on the web. Just out of interest here is a list of the goals of her research:
- solar energy conversion
- environmental detoxification
- construction of molecular electronic devices
- synthesis and characterization of functionalized polymers
- chemically modified surfaces for catalysis or recognition

A laundry list of all the top, trendy topics in chemistry research in the universities these days.

Something that was a real eye-opener to me, coming from academia into industry, was that all of the research that we thought was leading edge back in academics was stuff that industry had already done, usually about 10 years before. But in industry, if it wasn't patented, then it was generally kept proprietary, and academia had no way of knowing that they were 'discovering' things already found. We used to get lots of snickers over it - one researcher in my group kept a bulletin board with journal articles paired up with internal research disclosure reports, highlighting the dates, which were usually years apart. In fact, most of the best researchers in industry have few publications and few patents.

Funny, the academic world seems to scorn patents. But I found that reading them was one of the best ways to keep up with leading research. You just had to master the unusual language used - a selection of technical terminology after it had been raped by lawyers. Some of the terms exist ONLY in patents, and you need to learn how to read them. (Who would have ever thought that the best way to read a patent is to start at the back and read forward? But that's how to get the best out of one. Go figure. Anything that involves lawyers can't be expected to make sense.)

Posted by: Claire at April 22, 2004 03:24 PM

The five cameras or camcorders removed from the truck puts me in mind of the streetcorner entrepreneurs one sees. Pull over, open the tailgate, whip out a lawn chair, and proceed to do some business. Why not?

University of Tennessee is at the tail end of a MAJOR scandal of this kind. The chancellor got booted out on his rear and there may be criminal charges. I want to know how these guardian foxes got the system set up to keep them in power. Who wants them there? The taxpayers don't. Legislators and governors who get black eyes over the scandals don't. God knows the professors and the poor tuition-paying students don't. So how does it happen?

Posted by: Laura at April 24, 2004 01:24 PM