Sunday, March 19, 2006

Colleges and Hurricanes I: Context

The 2005 Hurricanes in the State of Louisiana are kind of old news these days. Although the main stream media delights in showing wrecked parts of New Orleans on a regular basis, they often forget the ravages caused by Hurricane Rita on South Louisiana. A detailed account of the damage with pictures is available and worth looking at. However, there are other effects of the storms that has received less media coverage, because it is not so camera friendly.

Immediately after the storms, the State was forced to cut the budgets of State supported services. Some oddities in the law means that almost all cuts had to be absorbed by the health and education sectors. Education in particular is a crucially important area for the long term recovery of the State. It is for this reason that Governor Blanco has proposed pay raises for school teachers and university faculty.

On the face of it, it might seem a little odd that university faculty should need a pay hike. After all, do they not have relatively secure and comfortable jobs? Wouldn't the money be better spent rebuilding levees or something? These kinds of questions have been raised by some, mostly Republicans. The answers to these questions are far from straight forward, however.

The university system in the State of Louisiana has been in a difficult spot for a number of years, even prior to the storms of 2005. During the oil crash in the 1980s, the education system was subject to multiple cutbacks. Indeed, in some years there were several cuts. There is general agreement that State universities in Louisiana are poorly funded and faculty are badly paid, as compared to other States. When this state of affairs is added to the effects of the storms, the results are chronic, though no less catastrophic.

For simple ecenomic reasons, it is hard to hire good faculty, if the rate of pay is well below the going rate. In addition, generally teaching loads at State institutions are higher than comparable institutions elsewhere. More teaching means less research. Less research means fewer publications. Fewer publications translates in a lower professional visibility, which in turn has the effect of retarding an otherwise promising career. So, high teaching loads and bad pay has made it difficult to hire good faculty. This is especially true of new assistant professors. However, when these pre-existing problems are added to by fears about the future, brought on by the uncertainties concerning funding and job security, and with respect to future hurricanes, this puts the State in a tough position. This is the context in which the governor has made the suggestion about faculty pay, and for these reasons it is crucial that this suggestion is supported. If it fails, the State will be in a very bad way. However, faculty pay raises alone are not sufficient!

To be continued...

The CP


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Collages, or colleges? Good post, CP.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Professor Zero said...

'Anonymous' was actually me myself, professor Zero. I was being anonymous
so as to give your blog some variety in its commentators. But it turns out to have had another, interesting effect. Look at your site meter. Where does this post appear to come from?

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Leslie Bary said...

See if you can tell what IP I am at!

6:27 PM  

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