Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's like highway 6

From President Loftin's speech at convocation:
As president, I commit to all of you that I will not only lead Texas A&M further down the path of academic and institutional excellence that you have worked so hard to define
The path of academic and institutional excellence runs both ways.

Friday, September 24, 2010

We make it up in volume

In the Eagle:
State funding per student within the Texas A&M System will decrease by more than 17 percent if a budget cut is as large as officials have been asked to prepare for.
The state provides $7,529 per student within the 11-university A&M System this biennium, the two-year period that began September 2009.
The projected funding per student for the biennium that begins September 2011 is $6,230.
That's based on a 10 percent state reduction -- as officials have been asked to plan for -- the loss of federal stimulus money and a 6 percent enrollment increase. Calvert said that's a conservative estimate and the system's enrollment is likely to increase by closer to 10 percent.
This is great news for Texas taxpayers: we've reduced the cost of higher education!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Loftin held hostage?

On Sunday we wondered where President Loftin was. On Monday, some at A&M received a communique purporting to be from him:
Texas A&M has had, for many years, mechanisms in place that allow the full range of your activities to be considered in annual performance evaluations as well as for promotion and tenure (which are guided by our faculty rules and guidelines). This report will not be used (even if inaccuracies are corrected) to assess the overall productivity of an individual faculty member, and it certainly does not speak to the quality of that productivity.
Vision 1920 is worried that President Loftin is being held hostage by faculty terrorists and sent this email under duress. Here's why:
  • The message was not delivered in public
  • Although President Loftin sends weekly emails from, this one comes from a different address.
  • There is nothing like it on his university webpage. Note how he fooled his captors by not sending faculty propaganda to the whole TAMU community.
  • Like POW Jeremiah Denton blinking out Morse Code, Loftin gets the real message through
    ...What I wish to emphasize to you is that the existence of this document does not imply change in our focus or behavior as a university. More explicitly, let me say that the mission of Texas A&M University has not changed nor have the processes we have in place for evaluating faculty.
What other explanation could there be?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Returning to our rightful mission

In the Academic Fishy Data Compilation, research funding was put into a separate column and did not count against each faculty member's red/black totals. The appropriate way to count research funding is not clear. For guidance, we can look to this Texas Public Policy Foundation report (pdf)
In short, we could afford to provide perhaps twice as many students in America with a college education if we just reduced the wasteful spending on scholarly academic re- search, and returned the university to its rightful mission of teaching.
Indeed. And, even better, if we just diverted all that extramural grant money to the football team, we could hire a really good special teams coach. Vision 1920 is sure the OMB would have no problem with that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Where's Loftin?

Comments on the Academic Fishy Data Compilation from top A&M leaders (from the Eagle and the Chronicle of Higher Education):

  • Dean of Faculties Antonio Cepeda-Benito
    "...a simplistic and misleading way to measure faculty"
  • Provost Karan Watson
    "...we may have told them we don't really see the value in what you're doing."
  • Dean of Architecture Jorge Vanegas
    "... numbers are taken out of their full context and they feed into misconceptions or explicit lack of recognition of what the full spectrum of academia should be"
  • Dean of Business Jerry Strawser
    "...just totally and completely misleading..."
President Loftin has been strangely silent as his underlings criticize the System. Vision 1920 calls on Loftin to remind his employees about the bidirectionality of Highway 6.

Close enough for government work, part 2

Governor Perry explains the importance of the Academic Fishy Data Compilation exercise:
"We are in the process of doing the groundwork to ensure that tax dollars are being spent as effectively as possible by our higher education institutions," he said.

Close enough for government work

The Eagle reports on an update to the tale of the Academic Fishy Fiscal Data Compilation:
But following public release last week, the document has been criticized as containing widespread inaccuracies, from inflated salaries to faculty members not being counted.

On Friday evening, visitors who clicked on the report link online instead saw a message that stated, "In light of the feedback received, corrections are being made to the FY 2009 'Academic Financial Data Compilation.' Processes are being modified and an updated report will be prepared and posted to the web."
This suggests that the report is no longer available, but on Saturday night that note is just one of two pages appended to the pdf before the body of the report. The other page is a flow chart for how the data was compiled.

The data on faculty payroll is shown as coming from the "BPP's pay history file for each instructor", except for the payroll from the Vet School, which comes from somewhere else. Wherever it comes from, the faculty are complaining:
Raymond Carroll wishes he got paid $443,000, like it says in a financial measurement released this week by the A&M System. But he says that's about $150,000 more than his actual salary.
Perhaps the extra $150K has just been strategically reallocated.

Vision 1920 suspects that BPP refers to the System Budget/Payroll/Personnel Operations Center. Alternatively it could refer to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole.