Friday, April 6, 2012

Trustee Don Lowery on WSIU

I've finally found a working link to Don Lowery's "Morning Conversation" with Jennifer Fuller on WSIU from the 4th. Lowery's comments on the controversy between some on the board of trustees and President Poshard is unsurprisingly rather different than that in Poshard's news conference. I don't necessarily agree with everything Lowery said, but he certainly struck me as someone who's taking his job as trustee seriously, and feels it his responsibility to ask hard questions of the administration--something we need in the BOT. Lowery says that the administration has not been terribly forthcoming with answers to his questions.

Lowery's analysis of SIUC is decidedly more bleak than Poshard's claim that everything was peachy under his leadership. Lowery seemed to me to be a bit obsessed about tuition going up, in addition to the far more damning issue of enrollment going down (a factor Poshard did not mention in his hour long press conference). Our tuition needs to be looked at in comparison with our peers--it is likely that if everyone is raising tuition, there's some good reason for it (declining state support and rising costs come to mind). Of course this isn't to say that higher tuition is a good thing, or that Lowery is wrong to question administrative assurances that all possible cuts have been made. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On coach Hinson

As you'll no doubt have heard, SIUC named Bill Hinson as our new basketball coach. I've learned too much about the seamy side of college athletics, and the fact that well over half of the budget for athletics at SIUC (as most schools) is diverted from academics, to remain much of a college sports fan. But if one grants, as I'd rather not, that SIUC should divert over $10 million per year to provide entertainment in the form of athletics, then you can recognize better and worse decisions about athletics on campus. If you buy that premise, then the decision to pay our new coach less than half of what Chris Lowery was making is most welcome. It is also good to hear administrators were full of praise of Hinson's job promoting academic success among his players; that may be just talk, but talk is a start.

Hinson's salary is still a rather respectable $1.5 million for five years. But Bruce Weber, who many in Carbondale would have liked to see return to his former stomping grounds after he was fired by Illinois, will earn $1.5 million each year at Kansas State going forward, again on a five year contract. By my math, that means that SIUC will have $6 million dollars more on hand after five years than it would have had with Weber back in town. Is he a six million dollar man? He's charming and all, but I rather doubt it.

Put otherwise: you could pay 20 Associate Professors of Classics for the price difference each year between Weber and Hinson. Of course this doesn't mean that SIUC will hire 20 more professors. Most, after all, would be rather poor basketball players.

If only it were this easy to undo some of the lavish spending on Saluki Way, which our students will be paying off in the form of bonds for years to come. But give Cheng, and perhaps Moccia, credit where credit is due. They seem to have realized that we shouldn't continue to spend ourselves silly on athletics. In contemporary American academe that puts them ahead of the curve.