Monday, June 29, 2009

The budget robots move to eliminate 11 degree programs at Rhode Island colleges

Here we go again - time and time again - eliminate opportunity in the name of cost savings. There is no courage here - there seems to be no courage within administrators in power to make decisions over people's lives.

Yesterday's Providence Pamphlet (Providence Journal) had a lead story involving the elimination of 11 degree programs at state universities here in Rhode Island. As always, the excuse is to save money. Say what you want, money is never saved, especially if you look at the savings in the long run. Consolidation robots are having a field day. If you have read this site, you know that my position is diametrically opposed to the consolidation efforts of government and industry. Consolidation can be necessary when some organization is simply out of money; but you all know the truth, government is not out of money.

What will be missed is opportunity for Rhode Island; but more importantly, individual students are being deprived of potential. Citizens will be deprived of an opportunity to pursue their dreams within their home state because of the consolidation robots. If every state follows suit, this country is in dire shape!

I'll touch on just a couple of degree areas that are being eliminated at the University of Rhode Island (URI). B.A. Latin American Studies - who cares about those Latin Americans anyway; as Dan Quayle once said, who speaks Latin in this day and age? Next is B.A. Physics - we don't need to worry - we already know about the theory of relativity. This is the theory that when times get tough, robots consolidate programs relative to the amount of money available. How about this one; B.S. in Chemical and Ocean Engineering - we don't need this - the oceans are only our future as humans on this Planet - green energy from the oceans be damned! No more B.S. in Chemistry and Chemical Oceanography - take that Rhode Island - the "Ocean State".

I've only touched on a few of the changes coming to the Rhode Island educational system. To the administrators that can't find a way around the obstacles, turn the teaching back over to the teachers. Stop administering if you can't find the courage to establish new ways of doing business. While positions will be lost at the universities through attrition because of cost cutting, new ways to structure majors to meet the needs of students simply have to be found.

Damn it! Just look at what a college education costs today. Are you telling me that we have to have fewer majors than we had 10 years ago when the cost of an education was half of what it is now? Students are taking loans over $100,000 for 4 years of college and you can't find a way to make their education match their true vocation?

Fewer administrators, more professors and a little courage to meet the needs of the student is what is required. This can be accomplished with significant cost savings.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Backing a company that is too large to fail is an Obama mistake

I have never been a fan of consolidations in government or business. If you track back to my May 31st and June 2nd posts, I explain my position in greater detail. Cost savings are always disguised when the entity grows larger and more complex. Some of GM and AIG's problems grew out of the consolidations of the past.

Of all of the economic maneuvers of the Obama administration, the strategy that has me most concerned is the continued financial backing of companies that are still considered too big to fail. AIG, GM, Chrysler and major banks have been the recipients of tax payer bailouts. I continue to maintain that no company in America can become so large that it's failure would significantly damage our Nation.

I just came across this quotation that I think the Obama team needs to live by:

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex......It takes a touch of genus-----and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." Albert Einstein

While the auto industry (GM) is shedding divisions like Pontiac, the underlying intent is to make GM as strong as ever. GM officials will seek to do this in a way that would avoid competition. Removing a Pontiac from the market place will water down the competition for GM. Money thrown at AIG and the banks is going to end up in the hands of overpaid, over-egoed executives. This has already been widely reported to have happened. As for the working middle-class; they have been the ones that are forced to "sacrifice".

I keep going back to the AT&T model here. I think that it took courage to bust apart an American corporate icon that simply became too big and controlled too large a sector of the American economy. I maintain that GM needed to be broken into 4 separate corporations left to compete for our dollars. Insurance and banking industries need to be separated and appropriately regulated. We can no longer afford to let this failed marriage experiment in capitalism lead our lives. If we don't move in the opposite direction as Einstein proposed, our problems will remain with us for decades to come.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wisdom from the Woods X

Wisdom from the Woods is an occasional column that outlines complex issues.

Today's picture is another view from the Holyoke Range in Western Massachusetts. It's in the woods where I think anyone can do their best thinking. Too bad Mark Sanford wasn't in the woods walking the Appalachian Trail as first reported, he could have really cleared his head if he had done that. He'll have a lot of opportunity to be walking the woods in the future though.

Today is kind of a special day as it marks my 100th post to this blog. I started the blog 141 days ago and I've thoroughly enjoyed sharing my thoughts. I am also pleased with the number of people that have been reading these pages and I'm most impressed by the average time readers are spending here (approximately 6 minutes per visit). At some point I will share with readers additional numbers, but I want to have more information because I have only been tracking the traffic for 2 months now.

Today I want to just say a few words about the most important complex issue of our times, nuclear proliferation. North Korea is really scaring me and because of their deteriorating economy, it won't be long before they make a move against the South. I hope that the Obama administration is making preparations for this disastrous possibility. This is another mess you have gotten us into, George Bush.

Why pick on Bush here when the upper Korean peninsula has been a problem since World War II? I'll pick on George because he accelerated the nuclear arms race throughout the world like no other peer. He started his 8 years after being selected as President by Sandra Day O'Connor by calling North Korea, Iraq and Iran; "the axis of evil". Bush then proceeds to launch a preemptive invasion of Iraq based upon a series of monumental falsehoods (lies if you will). Now ask yourself; if you've been labeled the "axis of evil" and the people doing the labeling invaded without cause one corner of the triangle, you sure as hell would be making preparations for protecting your country.

The problem Obama faces is the American political system itself. Even if Obama could wheel and deal with some of our adversaries, they know damn well that the next American leader could end up being another Bush (I'm choking here). Eight years is not a lot of time to deal with such a complex issue. Knowing that the United States never invaded a country with a nuclear deterrent is all the evidence any country would need to accelerate and build a nuclear arsenal. Given the messages sent by the Bush administration, is it any wonder that the world is now going to have to deal with 2 unfriendly nations that posses WMD?

This is not a pretty picture and I don't hazard a guess at the outcome. I do know this; George W. Bush was a disaster for the United States and the world. I wonder; if Sandra Day O'Connor had a second chance to pick a President, would she still choose the worst mistake in American history? Al Gore won the election by 500,000 votes and he won the state of Florida. One person (the deciding vote on the Supreme Court) is responsible for the current day nuclear proliferation and the economic morass that we are in. The Florida Supreme Court had it right with their unanimous vote (to count all of the votes). George W. Bush, the selected President lived up to his reputation of failing at everything he had his hands in.

Do you remember historically it was the American strategy to keep the Winchester rifle out of the hands of American Indian? We wanted that distinct firepower advantage over our perceived enemy. Certainly the American Indian knew that they were perceived as an enemy. Wanting weapons to even the fight is just human nature and many rifles were acquired by the native tribes. While the consequences of nuclear proliferation is far more dangerous, the human nature behind acquiring the weaponry remains the same.

Perhaps the Obama administration can change the tone by changing perceptions. It is my feeling that the possibility for success is extremely low. I don't think that perceptions will change fast enough to prevent these nations from building nuclear arsenals. Change in North Korea is especially problematic because that is truly a "closed" society. I hope I'm wrong!

George W. Bush; because of all your stupid bullying tactics, you have accelerated the potential growth of nuclear weapons in the hands of dangerous people. Your legacy can be summed up in one word; "failure" (during the Bush years if you googled; "failure", it would take you directly to the White House).


Monday, June 22, 2009

Where's Waldo (Governor Mark Sanford)?

There have been some extremely bizarre stories that have surfaced during the past 18 months. The Palin stories and associated Republican ramblings have been the essence of late night TV, for good reason. Now comes the story of the missing Mark Sanford of South Carolina and you have to ask yourself; is this the Twilight Zone?

What the hell is going on with this guy? First of all, he has absolutely no ability to understand the political priorities of the day. Secondly, he has no ability to recognize his intellectual limitations. Now, I fear for his well-being and the well-being of his family. Governor Sanford's behavior is truly unusual. I can't remember when the disappearance of a politician was more troubling. The man has literally disappeared and is not telling people where he is, including his own family.

In Rhode Island, Patrick Kennedy has just disappeared, but we all know the reason because he was willing to share it with his constituents. It is common knowledge that Patrick has had substance abuse problems. Mark Sanford has serious reasoning problems, and this disappearance is just a manifestation of that.

While someone on his staff claims that he needed to get away to do some writing and he needed to get away from the kids (on fathers day), this does not excuse him from his responsibilities as husband, father, governor and anchor for his family.

To my conservative friends that have sung the praises of the leadership of Mark Sanford; is this the model of leadership you choose? Is President Obama's Father's Day example more appropriate for Americans to consume? Is this not a sad day for Mark Sanford's 4 sons that did not get to share Father's Day with him?

Unlike many people, I have "empathy" in my heart and I sincerely hope that Governor Mark Sanford is recovering from his personal problems. I won't speculate as to the cause of his mysterious disappearance; but I will remind readers that South Carolina is the state that kept Strom Thurmond's secret for approximately 8 decades. Strom Thurmond's secret; the fathering of a child with a black women when Thurmond was the foremost segregationist in the United States, was breath-taking.

In South Carolina, they seem to know how to keep secrets. Let's hope that Mark Sanford is doing some serious soul searching of his own and will be the better person for his time away. As for his 4 sons, they will not recapture the time apart and they will apparently have difficulty understanding it. How could they understand it if Sanford's wife does not know where he is?

I advise the good people of South Carolina that are looking for leadership to look towards the leadership of President Obama.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Washington D.C. after 911

I've just returned from a week in Washington D.C. where I went as a tourist for the third time in my life. I apologise to readers that have been looking for new posts during the past week, but my hotel did not have a public computer facility. So for the past week, I forgot what a computer felt like. Don't worry, I'm back and will be looking forward to offering more opinions on the issues of the day.

Last week's poll seemed to mirror the perceptions of the Congress and the public at large. The question; Do you support the appointment of Sonya Sotomayor to the Supreme Court had a 100% positive response, although 16% of respondents said "yes with reservations" The remaining 84% of respondents had no reservations.

I just want to say a few words about visiting the Nation's capitol as a tourist following the attacks on 911. While I've traveled to D.C. over 50 times in my life, I've only been the tourist on 3 occasions. I went when I was around 12 years of age with my parents, and then I took my son there along with my wife during the early part of the Clinton administration. Last week's visit saw many changes from the Clinton years.

Today, you need permission from someone in Congress to visit certain facilities such as the White House and Congress. Some 17 years ago, we toured the White house without a problem. Today, the selection process is kept secret as it probably should be. We applied 2 months before our visit and did not gain entry this time.

Every museum entry has tight security and the feeling of freedom that Americans enjoyed some 10 years ago seems to be somewhere in the distant past. I don't suppose that things will reverse themselves anytime soon. The most striking site was a guard standing outside of the Capitol with a long gun (probably and automatic weapon). It reminded me of my travel to Mexico many years ago on a business trip to Vera Cruz. Mexican Army guards seemed to be in a lot of places with their long weapons in hand. Somehow, we in America never thought this would be necessary.

Another familiar site was the presence of bomb sniffing dogs making their rounds through the park areas surrounding the Capitol and other key facilities. And of course, there are now barriers everywhere.

A lot has changed since 911. Most of this change is absolutely necessary. Spending an entire day in the U.S. Holocaust Museum 6 days after the attack there was a sobering experience. There was another striking fact however; tourism is alive and well in Washington D.C. The election of Barack Obama has been a real boon to the economy of this city. Threats aside, everyone still wanted to be there and enjoy what this Nation has given us. It was a great week.

I'm awfully glad that I had the opportunity to visit the city in a more innocent time. One thing that has not changed in the years I've been traveling to the city, the homeless are still everywhere, and that is a sad commentary on our society.

Check out the new slide show.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Random Reasoning's XIV

An occasional column of random thoughts and observations.

  1. In last week's poll; the question was, should Guantanamo Bay prison be closed and prisoners housed in U.S. prisons? This poll resulted in our first unanimous result; 100% of respondents answered: yes.
  2. Hey, John DiPetro from WPRO radio; you had better watch your step or Buddy Cianci is going to burn you with a cigarette.
  3. Did everyone in Rhode Island see the recent story about the RI Health and Human Services director being appointed by Carcieri? The scary part was the budget for HHS; $1.8 billion and scarier still; HHS services 300,000 Rhode Islanders each year. That's 1 in 3 Rhode Island residents are collecting some form of assistance. Wow! I don't know anybody collecting assistance, I only know people providing assistance (Meals on Wheels etc.).
  4. For those that don't follow where your tax dollars go; that's you the jokers at WPRO, the budget for HHS is $500 million more than the budget for servicing all of the state employee's annual - salary, benefits and pension costs combined.
  5. Did anyone see the geeky picture of Rhode Island's proud governor on the front page of the Providence Journal yesterday. That is some nerve to show up at a tea party protest and lambaste government deficits when you; Mr. Carcieri, you are the "Deficit King"!!
  6. How big is the Carcieri Governor's Office deficit for this fiscal year? Answer at the bottom of the column.
  7. Rush Limbaugh must be a "left wing" extremist! You heard it here first folks. It seems like Limbaugh tried to build the case yesterday that the Holocaust Memorial shooter (I won't dignify the event by providing the scum bag's name) was a "left wing" nut job. Now that's what I call entertainment. Rush; welcome to the "left wing"! I guess if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.
  8. Congressman, Mike Rodgers of Michigan spoke yesterday and proclaimed that the country has serious concerns about extremists on the left and the right. Ha!! I'm trying to think of what happened to all of those hippies. I think they all moved to Wall Street (yup! - ah- yuppies). That's right; I forgot, Rush Limbaugh is a left wing extremist!! Now it all makes sense. That damn left wing is always responsible for anything that goes wrong.
  9. Message to the Providence Journal: You captains of industry stopped printing the names of graduates at our high schools and colleges. Do you folks know how many grandmothers have now been disenfranchised because they don't get to see their flesh and blood in print? When was the last time you saw somebody at Cumberland Farms buying 10 copies of the Providence Journal? One more nail in the coffin!!
  10. Have you heard Donald Carcieri's new radio ad that tries to sell his economic strategy of lowering corporate taxes and eliminating the "death tax"? Message to Governor "Deficit": There is no such thing as a "death tax". That is Republican hate speech! The tax is called the "estate tax", and do you really think that all Rhode Islander's will vacate this state because their $750,000 estates will be taxed upon their deaths? All those that have a $750,000 estate; please raise your hands!!
  11. Let's not forget; anyone that has an estate approaching the estate tax level has found ways to prevent the tax to their heirs. You know it Governor Carcieri!!!!!!!!
  12. If privatization is so great, why did I have to send a package overseas to Hungary via the U.S. Postal Service? Well, Federal Express wanted $350 to send the $50 package. The U.S. Postal Service sent it for under $50. Everything arrived safe and sound. Seems like the government can just simply do things better and cheaper!!
  13. Governor Mark Sandford of South Carolina just had his Supreme Court order that he accept the Stimulus Funds for education in his state. What else can I say - the man's an idiot!
  14. The Governor's Office deficit for this year is $589,218 as reported in the Providence Journal. This deficit is on top of the outrageous $4.7 million dollar budget for what should be a very small office.
  15. Did you Get the message readers?


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Republican Radio Making Noise

You have to read today's front page story of the Providence Pamphlet (Providence Journal) regarding the feud at Rhode Island's premier radio talk station, WPRO (click here). It seems like even neo-conservative talk show folks just can't get along with each other, let alone define a vision for fixing things in this country.

If you read between the lines it is clear that John DePetro is not a team player. He's lucky he only got hit with a piece of paper in the eye. His little tantrum because Buddy Cianci asked one of his guests (Bruce Sundlun) to stay for his show (the show that followed) is truly "school yard". Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to ...... act like A-holes! Let's face it, the line up on WPRO is disturbingly full of hatred, bigotry, arrogance and ignorance. The only host that shows some level of normalcy is Buddy, but even he falters frequently.

Republican radio seems to be obsessed with making the news instead of talking about the news. When they talk about the news, they use no basis in fact a high percentage of the time and consequently, generate the controversy that they all crave. They are all looking for the headline and are jealous when somebody else steals their thunder. In the end though, its the lies that we are all left to ponder. Rush Limbaugh is the "biggest" example of the need to make the headlines. He will say anything to make the nightly news cycle and it is mostly lies and hatred that he continues to foster.

Additionally, the problem with radio talk is the current culture centered on Republican philosophy that has failed us miserably. OK, it is Republican radio after all so one would expect radio hosts to sing the Republican song. We hear radio hosts repeatedly beat listeners over the head with the "Obama deficits" that will cripple us for years to come. I agree with the need to solve deficits, but get your facts straight! Bush era practices have lead to the lion share of future deficits. If you don't believe me; click here.

Many Republicans are highly critical of Keith Olbermann because of his reporting the liberal side of the news. I can understand that. His special commentaries can be extremely hard hitting and rude. If you have never watched his show on MSNBC, you should. Keith does something that conservative pundits never seem to do. Keith always backs up his sentiments with a stream of facts that can make your head spin. He especially loves to turn things around on Republicans when they make some off-handed stupid comment for political posturing. Just yesterday, Newt Gingrich made the comment that he is not a "citizen of the world" like Obama, he's a "citizen of the United States". Keith shows up with a tape of Ronald Reagan saying; "I am a citizen of the world" and all of a sudden, Gingrich looks like a fool.

From Limbaugh to WPRO right here in little Rhode Island, Republican radio needs to be reformed. If the FCC won't do it, then I think progressive citizens need to start seeking out new ways to change the dialogue. We need to start complaining to the sponsors of what has now become a joke in America.

I have one suggestion for WPRO. Try firing DiPetro; hell, he's been fired many times before for his bigotry. Then install Tara Granahan in his morning post. When she filled in for him last Friday, I heard her handle some of John DiPetro's usual crowd. She stood up to them with style and grace. Unfortunately, Republican radio is not looking for style and grace; they are looking for headlines.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Governor Donald Carcieri is the Deficit King

There was a recent mention in a Providence Journal column regarding the budget deficit that Governor Donald Carcieri's own office is running in this recession. Seems like the Republican that is more than willing to jump all over the Democrats for deficit spending has been leading the way. It sort of reminds me of all of the deficit spending during the Bush years. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, the nation's leading hypocrite is also called to mind.

What has gone on in our own Governor's office is no joke. First of all; I can't believe for the life of me, why the Governor's office needs $4.7 million per year. Rhode Island is such a small state that no Governor needs more than a handful of employees to get the job done. This much money in Rhode Island today translates into over 50 employees. Are you kidding me? I can see the office employing 15 employees and a few interns. Under no circumstances, should that office be costing citizens more than $1.5 million per year.

Now our business minded governor is suppose to have some sense when it comes to managing the people's money. He certainly has gone out of his way to take what he can away from the dedicated state employees that are not part of his office. Carcieri's office running a projected $589,218 deficit for the current fiscal year is about the most outrageous news I've heard emanating from the State House. I think it's criminal!

Let me put a little perspective on this. Multiple divisions within the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) operated on far less than this. A good example is the Environmental Police. Last I knew, the number of officers covering the entire state is in the vicinity of 35. That's 35 employees to handle duties on the Bay and throughout Rhode Island, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Environmental Police play a key role in keeping our food supply safe. Heck, the DEM Environmental Police force is only half the size of my town's Police Department.

The Governor's Office has become so bloated under Carcieri's leadership that the Legislature really needs to step up to the plate here. Carcieri is very reluctant to entertain hiring anybody outside of his immediate circle; however, when it is something that he personally wants, he will pursue it at the expense of everyone else. We don't need a Steve Cass employed, Mr. Carcieri. His job is meaningless.

I urge the Legislature to start cutting the 2010 budget by reducing the Governor's Office by $3.2 million to a more respectable and adequate $1.5 million. I would suggest privatizing the Governor's Office because Mr. Carcieri likes that strategy, but we all know that it would end up costing us more.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wisdom from the Woods IX

Wisdom from the Woods is an occasional column that outlines complex issues.

Today's picture is a unique view of where I spent a few years of my life. In the distance is the University of Massachusetts in Amherst framed by the Connecticut River and the Holyoke Range. I learned a lot at that university and my education has carried me a long way. It was at this place in a different time (1970) when my politics changed forever. No other picture could depict "wisdom from the woods" better than this one.

Today I want to say a few words about hate and the teaching of hate that is not only a problem in Islamic counties, it is a problem right here at home. This past week, the Kansas church group (I'm not going to give the official church name) came to Rhode Island to spread their message of hate against Blacks, Jews and Gays. A small group of church goers showed up with their children in tow to make an ugly scene. Actually, the scene was not so ugly because of the counter-protest by students at a local high school. Many East Providence school kids went as far as wearing yarmulkes all day long to support their Jewish friends. Thankfully, there was no violence.

These anti-American extremists from Kansas are sending a dangerous message; largely to their own children. I wonder how many future uni-bombers are being created because of the indoctrination techniques used by these evil people. I suppose that this is the cost of freedom and the protections provided by the first amendment to the Constitution. Is there a Constitutional way to restrict this hateful behavior?

I for one, believe that the Department of Education in the appropriate state should have the authority to monitor what is taught in the schools that these children attend. If this hate mongering is part of a school curriculum, we need to ensure that laws are in place to allow for the arrest of any perpetrators. While freedom of speech remains one of our founding values, freedom to brainwash young minds with hatred does not constitute free speech. I think this is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater. I believe this needs to be the case even if the school is a private school. As a society, we can not afford to have hatred taught to young people. Any school, private or public should be subject to approved curricula; and if necessary, compliance should be monitored and enforced.

Activities of the Kansas church group and their brain-washing techniques applied to their young are no different than the use of the radical Madrases that teach radical forms of Islam throughout the Middle East. The radical Madrases teach hatred of Jews, Americans and the West the same way some of our radical bible beaters do.

This to me is a scary issue that needs to be considered. Government needs to find Constitutional ways of coping with this complete ignorance. I suppose our radio talk show folks that like to teach hate from their pulpits fit the definition of free speech. Teaching hate in a class room is far different. Teaching hate from a church is just pure evil; but maybe this issue can be appropriately addressed through refined tax codes.

Thank you for our freedom - World War II Vets (65 years ago - D Day)!! You men and women fought hate to preserve the freedom of nations. Your courage is not forgotten.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Why do I listen to Republican Radio?

I wish I could find an answer to the question I pose. Why the hell listen to talk radio when 95% of what you here is neo-conservative babble from mental midgets. Most of the time I try to crank up a little Neil Young or David Crosby when driving around town. On occasion, like today, my curiosity takes over and I succumb to the temptation to listen to fools.

President Obama's trip abroad to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France peaked my interest in what "the dark side" is saying. Except for one exceptional caller, what I heard was hatred, lies and ignorance. One caller this morning on Rhode Island's WPRO moaned on about Obama's religion. He needed to say; "I told you so, I told you he was a Muslim". Here we go again; somebody needs to straighten the idiot out, but don't count on the talk show host to do it. Obama is Christian and has been attending Christian churches most of his adult life. We all knew that his father was Muslim (although he was a non-practicing Muslim).

Callers went on to insist; the media was not allowed to use Obama's middle name during the campaign and nobody dared say Hussein. Where the hell were you people? Were you all living under a rock? Republicans across this country used his middle name to make sure that voters would identify him as a Muslim. Obama wrote a book; "Dreams from My Father" that fully outlined his early life. The book was written before his vaulting onto the national political scene so it is clear that he was hiding nothing. Intelligent voters knew his story during the campaign while others kept trying to make things up. It feels good today to have intelligent voters in the majority from my perspective.

A couple of callers went on to blast NBC for the recent Brian Williams, 2 part story on the Obama White House. Callers insisted that this never happened with past presidents and again there was no correction from the talk show host. I remember seeing a story on the Bush White House on prime time TV during the early part of his administration. I think it's true that there is a different relationship between the Obama administration and the Bush administration when it comes to the national press corp. While it is clear that Obama respects the press, Bush was very negative towards the press.

The old saying that you "reap what you sow" seems appropriate here. Obama is obviously trying to sow the seeds for peace in the Middle East, while Bush was sowing poison ivy. While the jury is out on Obama's ability to change the dynamics in that part of the world, at least he is leading this nation towards a new positive image. Gunslinging Bush did not get Osama bin laden "dead or alive". Obama's reaching out while remaining firm has gained respect around the world.

I think many more problems are solved when people respect each other. The hatred displayed on Republican radio will never solve problems. While talk show host after talk show host allow the continual vitriol to be spewed at Barack Obama, respect becomes the casualty.

Yes; my respect for many Republicans has also become a casualty because of the continual non-sense, hatred, lies and ignorance that we hear on radio. I think the FCC needs to take a new look at the Fairness Doctrine. If that does not happen, maybe progressives could start an Internet viral boycott of sponsors to these hateful, unbalanced Republican radio talk shows.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Consolidations in education - a wise move?

Conventional wisdom seems to like consolidations when budgets get tight. I'm not so sure that consolidation is a good thing; and quite frankly, I have learned that consolidations are a really bad strategy. While in business consolidations can save companies from bankruptcy, it has been my experience that well intentioned consolidations in government can be disastrous.

I recently read a short article on the plan at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) to abolish the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Natural Resources and the Environment in order to to form a single college which will be known as the College of Natural Sciences. In the words of Steve Goodwin, dean of the College of Natural Resources and the Environment; the consolidation of two colleges "better positions us to compete nationally and internationally and enhances our ability to attract and retain the best faculty and offer excellent education for our students." Who can argue with that? There is no doubt that dedicated people are trying to do the right thing.

Let's look a little deeper. Initially, by the fall of 2009, the new college will house the following programs: Astronomy, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Sciences, Food Science, Geosciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Microbiology, Natural Resources Conservation, Physics, Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences,Polymer Science and Engineering, Psychology, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and Veterinary and Animal Sciences. The plan seems to call for future college realignments which will result in disciplines like Psychology, Computer Science and Polymer Science and Engineering to find new homes by 2010. Even with that change, the new College of Natural Sciences is a monster!

Having been a UMass graduate (1972) with a forestry degree, you can imagine why I'm concerned. Does Forestry, Wildlife Conservation and Wood Technology seem a little buried? Here is the larger issue; while immediate cost savings may be demonstrable, larger is never cheaper. In time, the new college will prove more expensive. Think about it; consolidations in government seldom see anyone cast aside from the pay rolls. The new monster college will result in higher compensation for administrators. Initial savings are almost always impossible to maintain.

The new college will be under the same cost restraints as the original two. As time moves forward, decisions regarding program cuts will be made. Programs with the least power and the fewest students will be jettisoned like a bad penny. Administrators making the decisions will be too far removed from the issues to fully comprehend consequences. Students will not be better served and educational opportunities will be diminished. Some disciplines such as forestry will never command the student numbers of a mathematics program. The need for those 25 or 30 graduates each year in forestry may be critical to the state's environmental efforts in the decades ahead. When the dean of the college may well be a chemistry professor, understanding forestry issues will be a real stretch.

In my opinion, maintaining the original colleges will result in better decisions into the future. Think about the most successful businesses today. The fastest growing business segment involves the companies that are small with simple strategic visions. Netflix, Google, and Amazon, just to name a few, are now giants. Time-Warner did not have the corporate mentality to create an AOL. AOL was purchased by Time-Warner and now Time-Warner has had to cast AOL aside because administrators were too far removed from the culture. Time-Warner had no idea how to make decisions that would enhance the AOL position. I fear the same lack of sensitivity when consolidations take place in government and universities.

While administrators struggle with some harsh economic realities, I think they need to remember this - larger is not cheaper and bigger is not better.