Poshard's depressing view of things makes sense from two perspectives. My guess, for what it is worth, is that it accurately reflects his state of mind. Certainly his tone was that of the long suffering public servant, an attitude familiar to Poshard watchers. But of course his view also makes sense as an aid to bargaining with campus unions. Playing up the state's budgetary woes helps the administration demand concessions at the bargaining table.
More on that angle of things (and what Poshard said about faculty salaries) in a subsequent post, but one initial observation here: surely this sort of depressing talk doesn't help recruitment. Of course helping recruitment isn't the only task of a university President, and false optimism would undermine us in the longer run. But I would rather have our president try to give things a more positive spin: Illinois has so far managed to limit damage to its public universities, and we are optimistic about the future, blah, blah, blah. [Yes, I know that this will sound hypocritical to those who have attacked this blog for being too negative: but I'm not the university president.]
Finally, the most depressing thing for me in Poshard's interview was his closing comment. Asked to say something (i.e., something inspiring) for summer graduates and incoming students, Poshard could only manage to thank the graduates for choosing SIUC--rather like the airline pilot thanks you for choosing his airline after he tells you that you can take your seatbelt off. Students as consumers. His message for incoming students was crudely materialistic:
Study hard, make good grades, and you'll get that meal ticket into the American middle class--and that's what a university education is all about.If you lack any vision for a university beyond this, lousy finances will leave you depressed. Those of us who believe that education is about more than finances can afford to be more positive. You're about to enter a place where you can learn not only how to make a better living but how to make a better life for yourself, where you can not only be trained for a career but educated for a lifetime.