An op-ed piece in today’s New York Times by Stephen Budiansky describes in vivid and hilarious terms the extent to which university’s will go to attract “customers” (formerly known as students). The prinicpal example is my fine employer, Case Western Reseve University, which a couple of years ago decided (after an expenditure of many dollars–rumored to be over a million, but a closely guarded secret–and numerous “focus groups”) to style itself as CASE, based on the idea that all great universities have one-word names: think Harvard, Yale, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern. (Sorry, we’re not in the same league.) The only flaw in the plan was that they failed to “focus” on the the zillions of old ladies and old gentlemen who didn’t graduate from CASE, but instead have allegiance to Western Reserve University or Adelbert College, or Flora Stone Mather College–all of which were swept away in the name change.)
The Times piece goes on to describe Case’s new undergraduate curriculum, SAGES (Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship), which is sucking up untold resources in terms of faculty time–time that is subtracted from the time they have available for research–and classroom resources. Most damning is the quotation from the SAGES web site about the coffee shop that supports the SAGES program.
Working for an institution whose president just resigned more or less in disgrace, which has a $40 million budget deficit it is trying to make up in one year, and currently seemingly nobody in charge, this piece on op-ed page of the New York Times is the last thing we need. It’s all pretty pathetic.