Sunday, September 12, 2010

The logic of "revenue generation": profit-loss statements for faculty

We're hearing a lot about revenue generation at UMN as a means to cover reduced support from the state. Texas A&M is discussing a policy that would allow them to assess which faculty are "pulling their weight." Under this proposed policy, all faculty will be assessed by their net revenue generation with a simple formula: deduct salary from the amount of external research funding received and tuition revenue generated from teaching.

Such a policy, of course, must be opposed. (The article does a good job of explaining why--link below.) But such figures could illuminate some dynamics that university presidents don't seem to want to discuss. For example, universities often shell out big money for star faculty and let everyone else survive on the crumbs that are left over. Such faculty teach fewer and often smaller courses. What would their profit-loss statements look like? Do we have a system in which the labor of the majority subsidizes the super stars? (The answer to that is yes.) In addition, it would probably show that the colleges that teach large numbers of students and survive primarily on tuition are profit centers while many of the units that depend more on research are loss centers. This means that undergrad tuition is subsidizing parts of the university that do not teach them. Which is why the administration keeps promising, but never delivers, an accounting of how tuition dollars are spent. The logic of milking the colleges that generate tuition revenue to fund other parts of the university is manifested in what is happening with faculty positions. Dozens of faculty positions in CLA remain unfilled. Most departments were forced to reduce the number of graduate students that they admit, which means fewer TAs are available to support the teaching of large lecture courses. Students in CLA are having a harder time getting the courses that they need this semester. Meanwhile the biomedical sciences will get 40 new faculty lines. (See for more on this subject: )

1 comment:

  1. I've been harping away for years about this.

    The administration refuses to come up with an answer to the question of how much it costs to educate one undergrad per year at the U of M.

    One can make a deduction - based on statements made by Morrill Hall that may or may not be true - that it costs tuition plus about 15%. The contribution to the U from the state, despite Morrill Hall whining about how pitifully low it is, is about equal to tution. So the expenses of education SEEM to be more than adequately covered. Where does the surplus go and why is it necessary to raise tution?

    And of course if we are doing so well academically why is the poly sci dept decimated, Bob?