I particularly liked this column (below) by my friend Larry Stirling. It’s a blunt, unflattering assessment of San Diego State University’s retiring president Stephen Weber. While this may seem too esoteric for all but my local readers, the op-ed presents some reforms that certainly have almost universal applicability to conventional colleges everywhere.
The benefits would be widespread to taxpayers, students and the quality of education. Only the numerous part-time, overpaid college professors would suffer from Judge Stirling’s ideas.
SAN DIEGO DAILY TRANSCRIPT
COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | LARRY STIRLING
Stephen Weber: Patron saint of the obsolete
By Larry Stirling
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The San Diego Union-Tribune’s June 13th puff piece on retiring San Diego State University President Stephen Weber credits him with various academic miracles: presiding over $800 million in capital improvements; substantially improving the rate of private donations to the school; increasing SDSU’s minority enrollment; and best of all, nearly doubling SDSU’s six-year graduation rate from 38 to 66 percent.
And besides that, “The faculty loves him!” gushed one of my professor friends.
Wait! Six-year graduation rate? What happened to graduating from college in four years? SDSU claims some 26,000 “full-time” students. What are they doing if they are not graduating timely?
Probably, like always, they couldn’t get classes. How many hours do professors teach? How many would they have to teach so that students could graduate in four years?
I asked the university about their four-year graduation rate. Last reported it was an embarrassing FOURTEEN percent.
There only a few ways to “increase” graduation rates: inflate the grades as they do at Harvard; offer more classes; or be more selective in admissions.
The faculty has not been required to teach more classes which may account for why they “love” him.
In fact, the Chancellor’s office confirms there is no minimum class-hours requirement to be a CSU faculty member to earn the average $84,000 salary.
“Best part-time job in the world” one disgruntled former faculty member recently told me.
Until the latest budget crunch, Weber railed against curtailing unqualified admissions from his self- prescribed “service area.”
I met one of Weber’s graduates who majored in criminal justice.
Though he had a degree from my university, he could not read or write English; did not know a jail from a prison; parole from probation; or a misdemeanor from a felony.
I was put off by President Weber when his first act as the new president was to spend an estimated $84,000 in taxpayer’s money for an “investiture ceremony.”
He further compounded my dubiosity when he decided that the school’s mascot Monty Montezuma was offensive to Aztec descendants.
Mascots are caricatures, not meant to be taken seriously.
Certainly one can question fostering the ideation of “the Aztecs” as a symbol of a university.
There actually were no Aztecs. It is a name erroneously coined by Alexander von Humboldt whose German ear did not quite hear the word Aztlan correctly, erroneously coining “Aztec” as a result. It was like Columbus calling Native American “Indians” because he was lost.
The residents of the Central Mexico island city of Tenochtitlan that we erroneously call Aztecs were enslaving cannibals.
All this was lost on the grieving heirs of either the killer Conquistadors or the people-munching “Aztecs” and apparently on President Weber.
The new mascot sheriff in town wanted to change something, so Monty was out. Now we have “Zuma the Lechetoast” to inspire our teams on.
As soon as Weber gets back to his native Maine to count moose, will someone please get Monty out of the closet back into his loin cloth?
Even though SDSU is a state university, Weber fostered the establishment of “the SDSU service area.”
This appears to be academia’s method for circumventing the California initiative that banned college admissions on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Once in the “service area” local students receive preference in admissions to SDSU in spite of their LSAT scores.
The “service area” had the impact of denying better qualified California students access to the university just because they lived in Fontana or Rialto.
Some speculate that the recent grade-change scandal at Castle Park High School resulted from the cozy “assured admissions” between that school and SDSU.
The service areas dragged down graduation rates and turned what used to be primarily and upper-division student body into a remedial high school.
That load should have been carried instead by the adult education system, which has been starved of funding to feed the self-serving university system.
As the adulatory articles about Weber confirm, American universities think their product is the university itself.
Their goal is more: more bricks and mortar; more high-paid governing bureaucrats with titles and sinecures; more high-paid faculty who barely see the inside of a classroom; and more federal endowments and time out of the classroom for “research.”
One would think that with the millions of non-classroom hours and billions of dollars in “research” conducted by university faculties, by now we should have achieved world peace, the cure for all diseases, and have enough food to feed a starving world while achieving energy independence.
No such luck. Instead, as Dr. Mark Bauerlein of Emory University has estimated, American faculties have produced 21,000 articles on Shakespeare since 1980 at an average federal cost of $72,000 each.
As Dr. Richard Vedder asked in the Wall Street Journal, “Wouldn’t 5,000 such federally financed articles have been enough?
Bricks and mortar universities are things of the past and should be contracted: the internet has made them so.
Why not have the best professors in the world teach courses to thousands at a fraction of the cost per student rather than thousands of mediocre professors teach 50 each at a much greater cost?
The American University system is obsolete. It burdens students with massive loans to make academic bureaucrat rich.
One can only hope that incoming president Elliot Hirshman will do a better job of caring about the students.
But then he wouldn’t be “loved” by the faculty.
Stirling, a former U.S. Army officer, has been elected to the San Diego City Council, state Assembly and state Senate. He also served as a municipal and superior court judge in San Diego. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.