You’ve Tried the Rest

So the phone rings, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s Lars Abraham, Past Professor Plenipotentiary at Seattle State University.

“How now, Lars?” say I.

“Things are not so good, Tim,” says Lars.

“Raining in Seattle again?” I ask. “C’mon, Lars, the bluest skies I’ve ever seen are in Seattle.”

“What? No, it is not the rain. It is the new Chancellor of our University. He has announced a sweeping new strategic plan that involves rebranding and an upgrade to the DNA of Seattle State.”

“That’s great, Lars, you’ll all get new stationery and new lapel buttons and new gimme caps.”

“That is not all we will get. The Chancellor has also announced that we will get ten additional students in each freshman writing section.”

“I suppose they’ll pay you more and reduce the number of sections you teach, Lars.”

“You suppose wrong. No raises or courseload reductions. The Chancellor believes that writing sections cost too much, even though their instructors typically earn less than a tenth of the tuition dollars from them as it is.”

“That’s too bad, Lars. Quality will just go down then, but if you can’t afford good education in this budget climate, so be it.”

“Our Chancellor says that quality will go up, because it does not matter how large the student-to-faculty ratio is. According to him, the high quality of small classes is a myth.”

“It’s a myth that has made Stanford and Rice and Reed College very wealthy institutions.”

“But our Chancellor says that a large urban state college like Seattle cannot afford to compare itself to such top-tier private schools.”

“True dat.”

“Are you becoming aphasic, Tim? No, our Chancellor says that we must grow to twice our present enrollment.”

“No time for research, then. You’d better give up plans to finish that book you’ve had up on blocks for the past fifteen years.”

“On the contrary. The Chancellor has also announced that faculty will be expected to publish 33% more peer-reviewed research results every year.”

“That’ll be easy for you, Lars. 33 percent of nothing is nothing.”

“Always the comedian. No, our Chancellor says that by rebranding we will transcend all the selective private colleges and flagship public schools to become the best university in the Universe.”

“Might as well aim high.”

“And our new tagline is,” said Lars, “YOU’VE TRIED THE REST, NOW TRY THE BEST OF THE BEST.”

“Catchy. But, Lars …”


“Is that strictly accurate? Have students actually tried the rest?”

“I do not understand, Tim.”

“Well, y’know, sometimes students transfer in. Or sometimes they stop out of some other school and enroll at yours a couple years later.”


“Well, that means they might have tried one or two other colleges. Three tops. But it’s unlikely that any undergraduate would have tried all the rest of the possible colleges. I mean, there must be fifty universities in Washington State alone, right?”

“Tim, you dodo, it is a figure of speech.”

“Well, figurative or literal, it’s an awesome moment for you. Without spending any more money, you will vastly improve both teaching and research while serving twice as many students. I can’t find a downside here.”

“That is unsurprising, Tim, because you could not find your tochus with a GPS machine. Tim, have you ever heard of the Engineer’s Triangle?”

“Yeah, I had one of those in drafting class in highschool. It’s a little clear acrylic thing, you put it on your T-square and you can draw angles and stuff.”

“Tim, your ignorance is fathomless. The Engineer’s Triangle is another metaphor. It consists of Quality, Time, and Cost. The Triangle says that for any project, one can improve two of those elements, but only by expending the third. Make something faster and better, it will cost more. Make something cheaper and better, it will take longer. Make something cheaper and faster, it will be shoddy.”

“I don’t believe that, Lars. Continuous quality improvement is always possible in every human endeavor. Our limitations are limitless.”

“Tim, you perhaps also do not believe in the laws of Gravity and Thermodynamics. The Engineer’s Triangle is similarly immutable. And our Chancellor, he is an engineer, one would think he would have heard of this principle. It seems not.”

“Sounds like a can of worms, Lars. I’m so thankful we don’t face any of these problems at UTA. We are exempt from triangles and squares and pentagrams and we just get better every day in every way.”

“Alas, that is not so on Puget Sound, Tim.”

“But look at it this way, Lars. Legal weed is on its way.”

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