Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nice non-work if you can get it

Okay, I lifted the subject line from the editorial in the Tribune (properly acknowledged, I am not plagiarizing), but I thought it was a good one to describe the so-called sabbatical shortly to be taken by the so-called President of Governors State University. Being in the educational trade, I am naturally drawn to stories of educational wrong-doing; being at this moment myself on sabbatical I have a particular resonance with this lurid tale.

The meaning of the word sabbatical, as supplied to me by the delightful Karen Biernat of McGraw Hill is: Sab·bat·i·cal any extended period of leave from one's customary work, esp. for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.

Why is it that I am feeling at great pains to convince myself, let alone the cynics out there, that it is more than just rest. Perhaps it is days like Friday when Dulcie disappears into the remains of the blizzard at 7:30, while I am flicking through the paper indulging in my bowl of Go Lean (but not lightly) Well at least I am out of bed I say. (Predictably, the hard-working faculty spent the rest of the day whining about having to come to work). Perhaps it is when she calls at 11 to ask me what I am wearing. Perhaps it is taking a shower at about noon for no particular good reason other than the feeling I should be wearing proper clothes. The point is really, I can work on my chapters just as productively in my pyjamas as anything else.

So, anyway, back to the story of the subject line. The president of Governors State has announced that she it taking a year's sabbatical to be followed by immediate retirement, thereby enabling her to pull in her absurdly high salary of $240K for doing absolutely nothing. The paper points out that the faculty rulebook states that a faculty member must return to the campus for at least a year after taking a sabbatical. Do you think the pusillanimous board of trustees will take any action on this? Another point to ponder is that sabbaticals are really meant for faculty members to pursue research or projects pursuant to their subject. What projects could an administrator legitimately claim to be worthy of a sabbatical?

Governors State must rank among the world's worst universities, boasting as it does a 17 % graduation rate last year- and that is it's best effort in the past five years. I trust the president is feeling proud of that and feeling the $240K well earned. I am not aware of any students from COD going there and I would never recommend it. I did meet a group from there at Argonne last summer as part of the FaST program. If I remember aright the faculty member had a face whiter than any corpse, the appearance made the more stark by the dank black hair atop it.

Apart from the putrid graduation rate the university has been in the news for several (wrong) reasons. There was for example the scam with the student loan program being funnelled through some company with connections to the university. Then there was the president spending all kinds of loot on stuff and losing the receipts. The topper was perhaps the two photocopiers bought from a "company" run by a university employee at about $250,000 over list price. No wrong doing of course...

No doubt we will hear from the search committee the need to pay some salary even more outlandish than the $240K wasted on the present incumbent. After all, they will say, we need to attract a qualified candidate. Let me say right here that I will offer my services at far less than the above and I guarantee I will do a better job. And I won't have the same blatant disregard for the students, and I will buy my Dreadnaughts with my own money, provided I get the free house that goes with it.

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