At UW, the search is off

The University of Washington has to suspend 23 faculty searches, coping with the budget crisis. It recalls the sayings of Chairman Dick.
The University of Washington has to suspend 23 faculty searches, coping with the budget crisis. It recalls the sayings of Chairman Dick.

It's a maddening if comic juxtaposition: The day after a University of Washington Dean suspends 23 faculty searches because of a Provost-mandated hiring freeze, the Nixon Library releases more paranoid pearls from You-Know-Who.

Sinking faculty morale and fewer UW profs? Cue Richard Nixon:

"Professors are the enemy," the President tells Henry Kissinger. "Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it."

On Monday, December 1, Ana Mari Cauce, the new Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, issues the bad news in a Dear Colleague memo:

As you know, for the last six weeks or so, we have been in hiring freeze. Despite this, as the UW'ꀙs largest teaching units, we have been able to argue successfully to have our critical positions filled — including an initial ok to go forward on our most critical searches. In total we gave the ok for about thirty searches, saying no to an additional dozen or so which were meritorious, but not critical, requests.

Given the importance of those searches we did approve — all in departments with recent losses and relatively heavy teaching loads — it is deeply disappointing to put the vast majority (23) of them on hold. Indeed, we will only be asking the Provost to go forward with four or five of them, in all cases either because we have been able to identify multi-year external bridge funding or because failure to fill the position would put a critical funding source in danger. There are another one or two, not yet approved, that we will be looking to fund through external sources, if we are able to identify a source, most likely by moving an endowment or identifying a donor.

Further on, Dean Cauce writes:

I have no easy (or even hard) solutions to offer. I do not even fully understand the magnitude of the problem. Adversity will surely test our mettle, but I am confident we will be up to the test. We have a difficult road ahead and we will be energized and creative in meeting the challenge.

The University may be up to the test, but the responsibility rests in Olympia. State budgets, however tedious to absorb, throw public values into sharp relief. What happened to all that political chatter about "investing in the future" and training a 21st-century workforce?

There are compelling arguments that, even in an austerity storm, starving higher-education represents long-term planning in reverse. De-funding means that Washington will continue to import its talent. It means that the Northwest economy will weaken from the roots.

To borrow from President Nixon: Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it.

  

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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson