An article by UVA professor Siva Vaidhyanathan in Slate, especially the mention of "strategic dynamism," matches what a UVA-affiliated friend described to me yesterday (which may just mean she had read the Slate article by the time we spoke; the only difference I see is that she described more resistance by the faculty to the new budgeting model).
Herewith some flava:
In the 19th century, robber barons started their own private universities when they were not satisfied with those already available. . . .In the 21st century, robber barons try to usurp control of
established public universities to impose their will via comical
management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris. At least
that’s what’s been happening at one of the oldest public universities in
the United States—Thomas Jefferson’s dream come true, the University of
Virginia. . . . .
Strategic dynamism, or, as it is more commonly called, “strategic
dynamics,” seems to be a method of continually altering one's short-term
targets and resource allocation depending on relative changes in
environment, the costs of inputs, and the price you can charge for
outputs. . . .
The inappropriateness of applying concepts designed for firms and
sailboats to a massive and contemplative institution as a university
should be clear to anyone who does not run a hedge fund or make too much
money. To execute anything like strategic dynamism, one must be able to
order people to do things, make quick decisions from the top down, and
have a constant view of a wide array of variables. It helps if you
understand what counts as an input and an output. Universities have
multiple inputs and uncountable and unpredictable outputs. And that’s
how we like them. . . .
Both the Kiernan letter and Dragas’ shallow statements discuss the
climate facing the university and all public universities in the United
States. The problem is, everyone seems to discuss the fact that
universities have too little money as if it actually were a matter of
climate. . . .It’s not. It’s a matter of politics. States have been making policy
decisions for 20 years, accelerating remarkably since the 2007
recession, to cut funding severely, shifting the costs to students and
the federal government. . . .So as tuition peaks and federal support dries up, the only stream
still flowing is philanthropy. . . .The reason folks such as Dragas and Kiernan get to call the shots at
major universities is that they write huge, tax-deductable checks to
them. They buy influence and we subsidize their purchases. . . .
The biggest challenge facing higher education is market-based myopia.
Wealthy board members, echoing the politicians who appointed them
(after massive campaign donations) too often believe that universities
should be run like businesses, despite the poor record of most actual
businesses in human history.
Universities do not have “business models.” They have complementary
missions of teaching, research, and public service. Yet such leaders
think of universities as a collection of market transactions, instead of
a dynamic (I said it) tapestry of creativity, experimentation, rigorous
thought, preservation, recreation, vision, critical debate,
contemplative spaces, powerful information sources, invention, and
immeasurable human capital.