Today there was a General Faculty meeting on campus. I think this is the second time it's happened since I arrived at the University. Our University launched a plan two years ago, with the goal of hiring 250 additional new faculty in 5 years. Unfortunately, after the first year, only 12 additional new faculty have been hired and this year the number of searches being conducted appears only barely enough to cover replacements for faculty who will likely leave this year.
I spoke at the meeting. Last week, our state senator took the faculty senate to task, saying it was the inability of the University system to speak with a common voice that has landed us in this predicament. I spoke today about how we need effective leadership if we're to stay on message.
Last year, I was one of many faculty who traveled to the state house to lobby the legislature about the needs of our University. We spoke about our pressing need for more faculty and how, if money was forthcoming, it would be used to hire more faculty, because that had been identified as the number one priority. (I also made a brief pitch that every one of the offices we visited, said that sending faculty to the state house was probably the most persuasive action we could take to underline the importance of our message and that only member's dues to our union can be used toward lobbying -- agency fee payer's dues can't be used that way. So make sure you're an MSP member, if you want to support lobbying!)
This year, however, a large amount of the additional monies received by the campus have been targeted toward "debt service". I don't deny that the buildings are important, but it puts us in an awkward position and it feels like we're working at cross purposes when what we believed was the number one priority of the University was being neglected.
There needs to be a higher-ed advocacy group that can mobilize faculty, students, parents, and the university administration around a common vision -- and that requires effective leadership. Without that leadership, we can't maintain a consistent message, and we'll continue to fail in achieving our goals.