Joel Faltermayer, Phillip McCausland: Private matters

As budget cuts plague state-related schools, one option has been kept mum: privatization. This four-part series will examine the longevity of Temple as a state-related university.

On the mezzanine level of the Samuel L. Paley Library lies a cluttered, stuffy museum of dated Temple publications and dusty material known as the “Special Collections.” Though the room itself appears as an impressive testament to archival organization and trinket hoarding, it contains a crucial and relevant document to all subjects of Temple, from the highest-level administrators, to the faculty, students and staff themselves.

Yet, the university budget lies enshrined in a faux-leather sleeve, rarely to be gazed upon by the undergraduate population, though it begs for analysis and review, like a surprisingly expensive dinner check.

During such a time of economic crisis, it is curious that such hallowed evidence of administrative decisions should be kept in the musty catacombs of Paley. While student protestors line the streets and Main Campus, passionately resisting the cyclical cuts of Pennsylvania’s educational budget, undergraduates still remain painfully ignorant of how their money is spent.

Undergraduates have seen the explicit consequences of university economics. Aside from the rhetorical tirades of frustrated protesters shouting, “We are one,” administration and university professionals have publicly made it known that budget cuts hurt students. But these misinformed rallying cries merely displace responsibility away from the university administration.

With exception of a few critiques of administration policy, recent discourse has failed to address state budget cuts as tools in the possibility of a long-term, conscious effort toward privatization. The implicit writing on the wall – recognized by concerned faculty, unseen by students and yet clumsily silenced by university administrators – suggests the real fault lies with the university, not the state.

Even though changes in Temple’s budget will affect students and faculty alike, both groups suffer from silence.

On the one hand, transitional undergraduates simply don’t understand the relevance of such issues to individual academic careers, outside the fear of rising tuition. Those who have their arms and wallets already overstretched, anticipating a painstakingly earned diploma in the next few semesters, often have no concern for the quality of their professors, nor for the demographic shift of future Temple students.

Dedicated and invested faculty, on the other hand, are prevented from voicing their opinions by the threat of administrative takeover. While the number of tenured professors is shrinking in favor of cheaper, disposable adjuncts and associate professors, a fear of being “cut” from the budget has silenced most concerned faculty, many of who declined to comment, despite being aware and supportive of administrative criticism.

Managing to fly below the undergraduate radar, this obstinate discourse on administrative repression, incentives and logical fallacies still persists through university politics, thanks to tenured faculty who do not need to be concerned with job security.

Faculty, like Temple law professor Dr. Marina Angel, have no delusions about the possibilities of what could happen.

“This budget crisis has unnecessarily worked its way up to the student body … There is an enormous waste in the university budget,” Angel said.

Through her report in the Faculty Herald, a faculty-produced newsletter through the Beasley School of Law, “The Plan to Privatize Temple,” Angel is one of the few faculty members willing to recognize the administrative reaction to budget cuts for what they are likely to be – tools for further privatization of Temple.

“[Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Anthony Wagner] told me that there had been widespread ‘transparent’ discussion of privatization for the four years since he arrived at Temple in 2007,” wrote Angel in the Faculty Herald.

As more evidence arises linking Temple’s budget with privatization, Angel said she presses the need to “let [Wagner,] the rest of the administration and the [Board of] Trustees know that the idea stinks.”

Pending Angel’s arguments, why has this awareness not spread into the student body? And considering Temple’s role as a well-respected research institution in Philadelphia, how would effects of privatization trickle into rest of the city?

Over the next three weeks, we will revisit the “who” in these most recent academic trends, spurred on by Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed educational budget cut. However, while it is important to recognize the specific ways in which administration has been pursuing its own agenda, it is more crucial to recognize the historical shift from Temple as the “Harvard on the Deleware,” to the current profit-/loss-oriented bureaucratic machine that it is today.

Joel Faltermayer and Phil McCausland can be reached at letters@temple-news.com.

1 Comment

  1. Joel, as someone who had the honor to be one of your teachers, I must first commend you on a very well-written article! Temple’s mission is to educate working-class people and I hope it does not swerve from it. Privatizing the school and what that means — raising tuition dramatically — would be deadly for most students here; as I know from the classes I teach, most of them already work at least part-time to finance their education, and some work nearly full-time.

    By the way, the disposable professors are adjuncts and non-tenure-track professors (NTTs). We have contracts that are often on a one-year-only basis with almost no job protection. An associate professor is a level above an assistant professor, and usually the designation is for tenure-track faculty. When you are a grey-haired alpha prof, you become a full-professor, and when you become a white-haired elder, you usually retire and become an Emeritus. By this very description, you can see how hierarchical the academy is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*