Budgets and Divides on Campus

There are lots of articles and research out there on how institutions of higher education can solve budget problems. I was reading this article, and I thought it was rather well-written and explained a lot about the research of budget cutting. And then I read the comments (there were 13 when I read them). There are many comments about the "problems" in higher ed, such as unions or administration or "student services" (I like that it was put in quotes).

I read Inside Higher Ed a lot, mainly because there is no subscription fee, and I cannot really afford to subscribe to The Chronicle of Higher Education. While the articles can be amazing and discuss really interesting topics, I find the comments (and sometimes the articles) to be in two or three categories (disclaimer: broad generalizations are coming, entire papers could be done on each topic). The first is faculty. They generally have the highest degree attainable in their field and they either focus on research or teaching, sometimes both. They understand their one field and their personal experiences but they generally live in an academic silo. Also in this category are the administrators that work around academics, such as deans or provosts. The second is student services and those administrators. They will generally hold at least a Bachelor's degree, or some certification in something, but many hold Master's degrees or doctorates. Those with graduate degrees spent time studying the whole institution and topics on many levels about why institutions look like they do. They research why there are so many academic departments, how student services developed, how diversity initiatives started, and why student services is around (student development theory). The third camp includes facilities, support services, and unions. This third camp can sometimes be divided into the first two, so it only occasionally arrives by itself.

One part of the article I found interesting was the mention of when programs were cut at an institution, faculty then wanted similar cuts in administration or somewhere else at the institution. The reasons academic programs can be cut, is because there is either redundancy or lack of enrollment. Redundancy was created because of silos. For example two English professors argue the merits between writing properly and public speaking in the early 1990s, thus the department of communications is created to focus on public speaking. Going with that example, we might be able to say that English professors and communication professors focus on those two specifics and completely forget that one needs the other, whereas someone who has studied higher ed knows that the two could theoretically be teaching in the same department. In a different article that focused directly on student services there was a comment by a faculty member somewhere along the lines of "I didn't know student services existed, how do I find out more on my campus?"

Without faculty there would be no students. It could be (and has been) argued that without student services students would drop out, perform worse, and behave worse in the community (or if you put admissions and financial aid into the student services category one could argue there would be no students). One cannot exist without the other.  I believe making "fair" cuts or across-the-board cuts hurts the institution far worse than eliminating inefficient administration and courses/programs that do not meet enrollment standards. If inefficiencies are found in student services, than by all means make cuts there, too. But simply because we may not understand what someone's job is, does not make it okay to attack their position or worthiness to work on campus. Oh, and trust me, there have been cuts made to student services (otherwise I probably wouldn't have this blog).

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