Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Covet...

University administrators are strange creatures, whose logic and thought processes are far different than professors'. A strange thing, indeed, since administrators were once professors.

The Powers That Be at my university have had their eyes on a lab---one of my department's labs---for some time. Until recently, they have only talked about maybe, someday, finding ways to "better utilize the space." In November, however, the tone shifted. Two weeks ago, it became possessive.

Now, instead of covetously eyeing the lab, they are talking about ripping out equipment---valuable, essential equipment---and converting the lab (which is a separate, single-story building) into a special "center."

My department would reap much of the benefit of this "center"---as would I, since my lab would be located there. Showcased, probably. I, however, am not dancing with joy. I am, in fact, furious. If the Powers That Be prevail, my department will lose valuable resources and, probably, the ability to offer a minor in aerospace engineering.

The Powers That Be seem to be of the opinion that there is only one way---their way---to create this "center." I disagree. The Dean of Engineering does, too (although he didn't at first). One thing the PTB seem not to have considered is that their plan to rip out this equipment will infuriate most of the alumni who graduated in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s---people who have retired or are about to do so and are deciding how to divide up their worldly goods when they pass on to their heavenly reward. If the PTB prevail and rip out this equipment, the university will lose any chance of getting an endowment or a bequest from those alumni.

The Dean talked to the President this afternoon. The President agreed not to do anything for a week. In the next week, I have a mile-long list of things the Dean (who will be out of town, on vacation) wants me to do, so we can try to change the PTB's minds. We may be fighting a losing battle, but I will go down fighting.

The most infuriating thing of all about the whole business is that no one has asked my opinion. Not once. I am Chair of the department affected, and I'm also in charge of the program that will benefit most from this new "center." My viewpoint ought to be worth something.

The fact that no one has asked what I think doesn't mean I haven't expressed an opinion. The Dean got an earful twice in the past two weeks, and when an opportunity presented itself yesterday, the Vice President for Academic Affairs got a blast, too. A much gentler blast, but one he wasn't expecting. He condescended to say that he and I and the Dean should get together soon and talk about what to do.

I'm not holding my breath.

But I am ready to bring out the big guns.


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