GT editorial on OSU’s expansion

I can’t quite decide if I like this piece or not.  On the one hand, there are parts I like:

We’d also urge OSU officials to make this process as transparent and public as possible. If we’re talking about the possible elimination of programs – and it’s clear that we are – the only thing that could be worse than a decision that’s perceived by the public as being overly hasty would be a decision that the public believes was made entirely behind closed doors.

And we encourage OSU to reach beyond the borders of campus in soliciting public participation. … The community would appreciate having a chance to weigh in.

We know – goodness, how we know – that encouraging wide public participation brings with it the potential of adding unexpected bumps to the road. In the long run, though, it makes for a much smoother ride.

Then there are parts that I think could have connected the dots a bit better.  Two parts, specifically.  The first:

If you’ve become accustomed to the pace at which Oregon State University typically tackles big initiatives – let’s be generous and call it, well, carefully paced and deliberative – the speed at which the university is approaching its “OSU 2025” overhaul will be a shock to the system.

So why is OSU moving so fast?  This is the answer hinted at by OSU and picked up by the GT:

These are, potentially, huge decisions to be making on a short timeline. But OSU officials believe this process needs to move quickly – and the continuing erosion of state funding has just added urgency to the effort.

There are two assumptions being made here that I want to pull out, because I think they are important to understanding what’s actually happening.

1.  The reorganization will save money. Will the reorganization actually save money?  For example, how does adding a new layer of bureaucracy in the Division structure save money?  So far, the Business Centers are not saving any money, and when pressed, OSU administrators have backed off the initial claim that saving money was the point.  They’ve also presented remarkably little evidence or plans as to exactly how the changes will save money.

2.  The reorganization has to happen now because of the budget situation. What is the real connection between the reorganization and the budget crisis?  In other words, is the reorganization even intended to save money in the first place, or is there something else going on?  The reorganization has clearly been in the works since before the budget crisis, which makes the claim – almost always danced around by Ray, Randhawa and Faculty Senate President Paul Doescher – that the reorganization is necessary as a response to the budget crisis highly suspect, if not outright crap.  I happen to think the reorganization is motivated by other things and that no one is talking about what those other things might be.  I really wish the GT would let Bennett Hall loose on this angle.

University administrators are using the budget situation as cover for the changes – changes are not necessarily designed to save money, but are happening for some other purpose that OSU is not being very forthcoming about.

As far as the GT’s editorial is concerned, like I said at the beginning, I was pleased by some parts and less pleased by others.  There are some very shaky assumptions being made in the claims put forth by university administrators, and no one is taking a critical, public look at them.  I would love it if the GT did so.

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