Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Education or Social Engineering?

With all the current uproar occasioned by the proponents of more money for higher education hovering over Frankfort in the face of the cuts already promised by Governor Beshear, one would expect some good-faith belt-tightening on the part of the universities as some sort of recognition that they don't consider themselves too elitist to face what all other governmental departments face – a shortfall in funds necessitating cuts across the board. Indeed, the governor has already robbed Peter to pay Paul by snatching funds designated for state-park improvements to pour into a budget providing for a $30 million-stadium at the Horse Park. Not pretty!

So…in the face of this financial predicament, the University of Kentucky will install a vice president for institutional diversity next summer at a beginning salary of $210,000 per year. This person, of course, will need a staff, probably some highly educated folks, as well as office personnel and all the accoutrements pertaining thereto. Its budget will have to include a huge allowance for expenses, since its responsibilities will require its pooh-bahs to travel hither and yon to be conversant with the latest in diversity, defined as "the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization." In other words, this new vice president will operate a recruiting agency of sorts, with its focus on African Americans.

This is nothing new, especially in light of the fact that UK President Todd has been scored for not working hard enough at diversity. According to its Web-site, however, UK already has 11 recruiters in its admissions department, at least three of whom are African Americans. The Admissions Department is headed by another African American whose title is Director of Recruitment for Diversity Initiatives, indication that the matter of diversity is already front-and-center at UK. The replication/overlap of the new diversity vice president's office (obviously simply created at a time when money is in short supply) is obvious and represents yet another expensive unneeded administrative layer.

If the new diversity office could operate on…say…just a couple million dollars, and with UK tuition at $6,510 for a year, the tuition for 307 deserving students could be fully covered, instead of financing another layer of diversity. This would be a far better use of the funds and would indicate to taxpayers that the university is interested in all of its students, not political correctness or an attempt to mitigate an "unwelcoming atmosphere for blacks" that never existed in the first place except in the media, especially the Lexington Herald-Leader, a monopoly newspaper which manages to keep race constantly in the public's eye, thus aiding in fomenting racial problems…perhaps an agenda thing. Maybe this is what sells newspapers.

A previous column dealt with the diversity office at Eastern, headed by an African American and staffed by eight employees. The admissions department at Eastern, however, is comprised of 11 admissions counselors/specialists/coordinators and an administrator. The waste in this overlapping of responsibilities is obvious. The recruiters and counselors at all the state institutions travel to high schools throughout the state and even have responsibilities for areas in other states.

To duplicate the work of recruitment is to waste money and indicate to the lawmakers that the institutions either cannot or will not cooperate by placing the emphasis on academics instead of social engineering, thus cutting waste and rearranging priorities so that the financial problem is eased. Indeed, for two million a year, 28 associate professors or even more assistant professors and instructors could be employed to bring down the student-professor ratio and thus enhance education…or the social engineering could just be avoided, with the obvious savings.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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