University Prairie Blues

Did you know that the South Dakota university system is doing with less these days–not unlike the rest of us who live and work in South Dakota?

Three years of budget hits have not diminished the quality of education that public university students receive in South Dakota, but the cuts can’t continue, the director of the Board of Regents says.

Perhaps that information should be shared with the investors who called for the cuts based on a massive revenue downturn. Oh, I suppose that would be us. Sorry, go ahead.

Warner said university administrators have done a good job of softening the effect on academic integrity. He’s not sure that will continue if the cuts continue.

“If we have too many more years of no pay raises, we will lose good faculty, top faculty,” he said. “Some of our best faculty are beginning to get offers.

“And if we have more cuts, we will have to cut programs that are more viable than the ones we’ve already had to cut.”

I’m glad that university administrators have done a good job. That is, after all, their job. Anybody can a run an enterprise when the cash is flowing. Leaders, however, are required when the cash is no longer coming in like it used to.

If the best faculty are beginning to get offers, that is not (in my way of thinking) a reason to say “Oh, no. We must keep these people.” Rather, I would wonder where they are getting the offers from–other state systems, or private schools? I doubt that other state systems are bulking up at present, but there may be some which are still swimming against the current. Besides, I’ve worked in the business world long enough to know that people use the “I’ve got another offer” gambit for everything from cars and houses to the crib they are selling at their yard-sale. I guess you could say that I’m skeptical.

With reference to his “more viable” statement, I confess to an adverse reaction. If something is viable, then it is. If it isn’t, then it isn’t. Rather like “unique.” No degrees, just a binary. I think what he means is that they will need to start cutting programs that they do not want to, rather than some of the not-so-exciting programs which have already been cut. Once again, that is what leaders do in difficult times: cut unprofitable products or services and do whatever else is necessary to weather the economic storm.

Taxpayer-funded schools have just as much claim to shrinking funds as the next government entity–and just as little.