Sunday, January 31, 2010

Was Perry (not that one) the other finalist?

Shortly before Bowen Loftin was named the sole finalist for president of Texas A&M, it was reported that there were only two finalists in the search after a third candidate dropped out. The BoR did a pretty good job of maintaining secrecy regarding the identities of the candidates, but it looks like there's a leak. In the comments on his post about Gen. Van Alstyne's wife, Burka writes:
My agenda with regard to Texas A&M is that it should achieve its potential as a tier one university and should not be held hostage to political influence. A&M set out to choose a successor to Bob Gates in a national-level search. They ended up choosing between the former president of A&M-Galveston and someone from Eastern Illinois, I think it was. A&M deserves a national quality leader, and it will not get one as long as political influence determines who is in charge.
Eastern Illinois University is not exactly comparable to the institutions where the rumored finalists from the last search were at the time. But EIU's President, William Perry, knows A&M very well, having worked here for many years. Perry rose to Vice Provost and chair of the Council on the Built Environment under Bob Gates before leaving for EIU.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The General's wife

The Eagle and Paul Burka of Texas Monthly describe Anita Van Alstyne's reaction to her husband's resignation as Commandant of the Corps of Cadets. An email, said to be from Mrs. Van Alstyne to various friends showed up on Burka's blog:
From: [] Anita Van Alstyne, wife of Gen. John

Subject: Totally NOT approved by JVA, but spoken from my heart.

Thank you for your concern and friendship. I will not attend any function at which any of the governor’s cronies will be in attendance. He has chosen to put a drunken, coed groping (adjective removed) in power as the Vice President of Student Affairs of this wonderful university, and I will not be a party to that, nor do I want my husband disgraced by their behavior.

Bowen Loftin [the interim president who will soon take over as president] had his staff lie about what had occurred and why John retired. Loftin came to John’s office last Friday, 21 January 2010, and told John that it was his intention to put the Corps of Cadets under the control of the VPSA (which was denied in the Eagle this morning). After the present VPSA had been in office for one semester, John and I had a long talk, and agreed that he could not, nor would I tolerate, his having to work for another asshole; we are too old and tired for that.

There are lots of folks who love us, and lots of folks who hate us. We are proud and thankful for the years we served the Corps of Cadets. It is my great sorrow that we will not be able to save it from Rick Perry, Mike McKinney, Bowen Loftin and the Board of Regents.

We cannot thank you enough for your friendship and support of the Corps of Cadets. Our earnest prayer is that you will continue to support them as long as you live. I know we will.
Vision 1920 is shocked by Mrs. Van Alstyne's email. "(adjective removed)" is clearly inappropriate in a place where there should be a noun.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

5% solutions

In the email from President Loftin:
I sent a memo to Deans and Vice Presidents last Friday that gave instructions for addressing the 5 percent budget reduction (about $28 million) that the Legislative Budget Board has requested from all state agencies. Each college and division will receive a target budget reduction goal and will be asked to give me a plan by Feb. 8 for meeting this goal. If you have a suggestion, please send it to me at no later than Feb. 5. These are tough economic times and we have tough decisions ahead of us, but our university is extremely resilient. Also, we are fortunate that our state is in better economic shape than many others. Our foremost guiding principle as we address these budget reductions is to protect our core mission of teaching, research and service.
Vision 1920 wonders if all the colleges and divisions will have 5% targets or if some targets will be more than 5% and some will be less. The future tense "will receive a target" suggests that tough decisions may actually be made to make the targets different. But the expectation of a plan by Feb 8; the first workday after suggestions are due suggests otherwise.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Van Alstyne resigns

The Batt reports
After seven and a half years as commandant of the Corps of Cadets, Lt. Gen. John Van Alstyne resigned Friday.

"There are good young men and women in the Corps," Van Alstyne said. "It was an honor to serve as the commandant."

Van Alstyne said he understood that the new commandant would be reporting to the vice president of student affairs Lt. Gen. Joe Weber.

Weber said no one had spoken to him "formally and specifically" about the resignation.
This was noted on TexAgs several days before it showed up elsewhere. The discussion is, shall we say...outspoken...on Van Alstyne's term as Commandant.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How about Doha?

From an Editorial in the Eagle
The best thing would be for the system to move its offices to Austin or Houston or some place away from here where there is no system university. That way, system administrators can concentrate on their jobs and leave the running of Texas A&M to the people appointed to do just that.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Byrning down the house

The Eagle has more from the BoR meeting
The Texas A&M Board of Regents grilled Athletic Director Bill Byrne and the department’s chief financial officer Thursday about a scathing audit released last month.

The audit, which was formally presented to regents at the daylong meeting in College Station, cited inadequate reporting and financial controls, along with expenses not abiding by the university’s established reporting standards.

“Are we going to live within the budget? We’ve been asked to reduce things all over the university,” said Regent Gene Stallings, a former Texas A&M football coach. “How did it get so far off?”
Inadequate reporting and financial controls. Hmm... that sounds familiar. Hey Gene, as long as you're focused on the budget, we have a couple of questions you can pose to your colleagues on the BoR:
  • How much did it cost to replace the paper towel dispensers in every restroom on campus?
  • What's the going rate for two first class round trip airfares to Qatar?
  • How much did that search firm cost?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How we see ourselves at Texas A&M

Quod erat demonstrandum.

It's Loftin


Aren't you glad we hired a high-priced search firm?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Decision day gets closer

The Houston Chronicle:
Dr. Richard Box, a member of the A&M board of regents and chairman of the presidential search committee, said his group will present a list of finalists when the full board meets in College Station Thursday.
There currently are two names — a third candidate dropped out
Vision 1920 recalls that the last time a search committee presented two candidates, the Regents said that wasn't a real choice.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How to save 28 million over two years

The Eagle reports on the long-expected budget changes for Texas A&M:
Texas A&M may have to cut $28 million out of its budget over two years.

University officials had expected budget instructions from state officials for several weeks. They came Friday, as state leaders directed all agencies and higher-education institutions to plan for a 5 percent reduction in spending.

The reduction averages $14 million a year over the two years -- or biennium -- that began Sept. 1. The university has flexibility in deciding how much to reduce each year. Since more than four months have passed in fiscal year 2010, one option would be a smaller cut this year and having fiscal year 2011 shoulder the rest.
Back in June, we pointed to a letter from former TAMU CFO William Krumm about budgets. One of Krumm's points is that the total budget aggregates a lot of sources that are neither tuition nor state funds. We could reduce the total TAMU budget, for example, by faculty losing their extramural research grants. While some might favor this to force the faculty to focus on teaching, this doesn't actually save much money.

To save significant amounts, you have to look were the State money actually goes. Last August Vision 1920 linked to an analysis of where the growth in the cost of higher ed is coming from: universities are adding administrators and staff at rates much higher than the rate of inflation. In the comments, Karl Katzke explains one important reason why staff and administration keeps growing faster than faculty:
We do end up spending quite a bit of time reading SAPs, collecting and collating documentation to prepare for audits, and making sure that we're in compliance with some very detailed, mutually contradictory, and absolutely nonsensical state and federal laws.
As Karl points out, this is unlikely to change.

Vision 1920 will try to explore other ideas or saving money in future posts. Send us your ideas!

Shared services

Over the break, Chancellor McKinney announced the results of the shared services analysis. The TAMU community heard about this via email. For the rest of you, here's the Eagle
Though more than $16 million in savings were identified, no savings have yet been implemented. And Wednesday's announcement provided administrative reshuffling, but still no savings, aside from two positions being cut from the A&M System. It was unclear late Wednesday what those positions were.
The "savings" consist mostly of moving administrators from the University to the System. Vision 1920 is sure that the resultant changes in the power of the System are just a coincidence.

Oh, and we'll save more money by hiring a consulting firm to redo what the internal committees have been doing for the past six months.

Happy MLK Day

A new semester starts tomorrow, and after the holiday break, Vision 1920 has a backlog of things to write about.