I got a phone call this morning from my friend Chaim Knott, Executive Associate Vice Provost for K-20 Initiatives here at UTA.
“Hey Tim,” said Chaim. “I really can’t talk right now.”
“You called me, Chaim. What’s up?” I said.
“Can I tell you something in confidence?” asked Chaim.
“Of course not,” I said. “I’m a blogger. Anything you tell me will be lunchtime reading across the globe later today.”
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to trust you,” said Chaim. “UTA is on the brink of a major new Tier One thrust. But the name is too simple, so I wanted to get some verbiage from you. We’re calling it Improving Education.”
“Way too simple,” I said. “Try Value-Added Intrapersonal Enhancement.”
“Man, you the wordsmith,” said Chaim. “That’s why I call you.”
“But what’s it all about, Chaim?” I asked.
“Well, keep this under your hat,” said Chaim. “But here’s the deal. First, we’re going to require a foreign language for every bachelor’s degree. Not just because of the global economy, but because being multilingual makes you a better world citizen and a more truly cultured human being. We have to pay more than lip service to the liberal arts if we want to be Tier One.”
“L’esprit est prompt, mais la chair est faible, Chaim.”
“Huh? No comprendo, dude-o. Anyway, next, we’re going to make class sizes a lot smaller.”
“What’s up with that, Chaim? Everyone from my Dean to the Chronicle of Higher Education tells me that bigger classes actually improve learning.”
“Uh-huh. Which is why they try to recruit kids to Dartmouth and Reed College and Bryn Mawr by advertising gigantic freshman sections? Listen, Tim. We’re going to cap basic literature, math, government, and history classes at 20 students, so the professor knows every student’s name and can give extra help on everything.”
“Sounds good. But that’s for F2F classes, right? You’ll still offer unlimited on-line sections.”
“No, we’re eliminating distance ed.”
“Eliminating it? But Chaim, distance ed is the vibrant new delivery system for the 21st century. It’s the way Generation Z has learned how to learn.”
“You believe that banana oil, Tim? Distance ed is about cutting costs, not about better instruction. I saw an on-line chemistry course the other day that was made up of Facebook Quizzes. You really think kids learn anything from “What Kind of Hydrocarbon Chain Are You?”
“You’re going to need a lot of new faculty to teach those sections, Chaim.”
“And we’ve got to pay them accordingly. What does UTA pay full-time Lecturers in English right now, Tim?”
“$22,500 a year. But Senior Lecturers with a Ph.D. plus ten years’ experience can make up to $38,000.”
“Let’s see, let’s see . . . Fort Worth ISD pays entry-level kindergarten teachers $46,570. I figure we should top that by 10%. How does $51,227 sound?”
“Sounds like what I was making when I got promoted to Full Professor.”
“But how are you going to fund this, Chaim?”
“I thought you’d ask that. Number one, we’re going to cancel the annual redesign of the UTA logo. That’ll pick up $83K a year.”
“But there are so many ways to write the letter A that you haven’t tried out yet!”
“Funny. Next, we’re going to realize huge savings from sustainability initiatives.”
“But Chaim, UTA already has a sustainability program. We even have a sustainability blog.”
“Tim, blogs are for whiny, powerless losers. We’re talking actually doing something here. First, we’re going to xeriscape the campus, so we stop pumping water out of 10,000 sprinkler heads when the Shorthorn headline is TOO RAINY TO PLAY OOZEBALL. Then, we’re going to rip up the heat-trapping new blacktop in Lot 49 and replace it with a green-roofed parking garage. And we’re going to plaster the top of the new basketball stadium with solar panels so it can go off the grid.”
“You mean the new Events Center.”
“Events Shmevents. That place is for March Madness, baby. And since Texas Hall won’t be needed for hoops anymore, we’re going to turn it into an art-house movie theater, so you won’t need to drive to Dallas to watch something better than Paul Blart 2. And we are also going to follow up 40 years of empty talk by revitalizing downtown Arlington, maybe even attract a Seven-Eleven.”
“That’s going to need even more cash, Chaim.”
“We’ve got it covered. Jerry Jones is donating a drop of sweat shed by Roger Staubach in Super Bowl VI. Vials of that stuff have been going for seven figures on eBay. Hey, my Droid is freeping at me, sweetheart. TTYL.”
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