Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wendler's two critical failings.

I hope anyone who isn't reading the comments starts now. There is great material in there. Thanks for all the good comments, you are sharpening my message.

Here is my quick bullet list of Wendler's two critical errors. If only he could fix these two things he would be golden.

First, the focus of Southern at 150 on research money was clearly a mistake. It is a great idea to move the university that way, but it ignores the history of the institution and the people who have worked there. His grand plan to flip a switch and suddenly have the kind of staff they have built at U of I, Purdue or UCLA was at best naive. You could argue that their goal was 13 more years to go and so they aren't pushing that hard for top 75, but that kind of change is a 50 to 100 year goal.

Second, Wendler's personal focus on the buildings of the campus instead of the people has consumed his good will and looks likely to leave a legacy of failure that building a new football stadium will not fix. If he cared about people he might have formed a group of advisors who weren't brain dead to bounce ideas off of. He has a tough job and it is tougher because he can't reach out and get help.

Just think if instead of hiring the consultants and go through the "grand" planning for S@150, instead they had focused on how to get their existing employees to do more, started a marketing campaign and generally focused on people (faculty, staff and students) instead of bricks and mortar. Image if he had announced that we have the right staff to be a top 75 university, but management hasn't supported them well enough. We don't need 100 or 1000 super hires at a super high pay scale, instead we are going to build our own from the people we already have. We are going to give the professors their $4M a year to make the salaries be in line with every other institution. Imaging the tide of goodwill. Of course, you would still shoot to hire the best people, but with all the professors working hard for 50+ hours a week the result would have been much better.

Heck he could have gone all out and actually read the WAG report. After reading it, he might have tried to fix the places with the lowest hanging fruit. Management isn't hard, you just need to like people.

There is nothing wrong at SIUC that 24,000 students doesn't cure. There is nothing right that will allow the university to remain in it's current form with 16,000. With 24,000 students, you have the money to build your football stadium. This is what the S@150 plan needed to focus on, but I hear that Walt has some marketing fever these days. Maybe the story isn't already done?

I'm proud to be here swing away. Hopefully, we few, we proud bloggers can help SIUC find its way. Good thing I had ear trouble this summer, if I was riding my bike like last year I wouldn't have time to amuse you.


Don said...

A quick note: Wendler’s actions vis-à-vis the spending of funds on hiring “big guns” and building grand edifices brings to mind the phrase made famous during the Vietnam war, “destroying the village in order to save it.” By ignoring, or downplaying and downgrading the vital roles played by the faculty and staff, and in so doing failing to “win hearts and minds” (to continue with the analogy), Wendler has committed gaffes comparable in scale to LBJ’s mistakes in Vietnam. Unlike Johnson, however, Wendler has (not yet) seen fit to step aside, gracefully or otherwise.

Fraydog said...

Gaffes similar to Vietnam? The number of faculty hired has increased over the last 3 years. Haven't seen the FY06 data yet... but faculty salaries have jumped up in declining budgets, and so have numbers of tenured and tenure track faculty.

Tenured/tenure-track faculty
FY03 792
FY04 804
FY05 831

Faculty Salaries
FY03 76670
FY04 79484
FY05 83427
Associate Professor
FY03 59183
FY04 60323
FY05 62274
Assistant Professor
FY03 51478
FY04 53368
FY05 55905

I'm going to ask for much more information, but I think the administration is making forward progress here but not winning over hearts and minds. It's in SIU culture to hate the administration, that might take 20 + years to change.

Don said...


To paraphrase Orwell, not all numbers are created equal. For instance, the assistant professor income numbers show an approximate 4.2% increase per annum in yearly income. However, in my four years at SIU, the increase per year in my paycheck (and I would think mine was a 'typical' example) was more on the order of 2.5%, which lags behind the average inflation rate for the years 2002-2006. One must break down the numbers further, and when one does, I suspect the discrepancy can be largely explained by the number of new hires in colleges in which a higher starting salary is expected, for instance CoBA.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I think Don forgot you need to exclude the "super hires" and former administrators from the numbers as well.

Pity the professor who took a job in liberal arts for less money, because they needed a job, but turn out to be a great performer. They will never catch up with the norms.

Don said...

You're right, Peter, the "super hires" (at all levels) and admin folks have to be included in one's analysis. In fact, those numbers might well eclipse the contribution from hires in CoBA, law, and other higher-paying programs.