Wednesday, October 22, 2003

KPIs for academic distinction 

Thomas Reeves at the NAS Online Forum (permalinks bloggered -- see entry of 10/21) reflects on the Lee Bollinger editorial I discussed earlier. In it he asks how to achieve the vision Bollinger has.
Assuming that a campus seeks academic distinction (and one can by no means take this for granted), what specific steps might be taken by a top administrator anywhere to recreate the productive and valuable atmosphere described by Bollinger? How might a president or chancellor go about creating a free and intellectually sophisticated culture on campus that would produce the sort of first-rate educational experience that almost any ambitious campus might reproduce? Several suggestions come readily to mind for your consideration, each one a potential book in itself.
His answers are to (1) defend academic freedom, (2) defend student speech rights, (3) promote ideological diversity on campus, and (4) maintain high academic standards. On the last he expands:
That means working to eliminate nonsensical courses and majors, seeing that grades are awarded responsibly, and discouraging the use of student evaluations, which too often lure professors into the worst sorts of pandering. (We have recently learned that a professor's physical attractiveness plays a role in the scoring.)
He also discourages hiring adjuncts in favor of full-time faculty (paid for by firing "legions of minor administrators") and encourages fundraising.

We've mentioned our strategic plan before, which now is focused on developing KPIs -- key performance indicators. A key performance indicator on Reeves' standards would be the destruction of civility codes and speech codes, an assessment of the number of conservatives on the campus, the ending of HURL follies and their hyperinflated GPAs, and the increase in university endowment for non-athletic and non-beautification projects. On this score, how does our current administration score?