A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

OTIT: UWM Fine Arts Quartet

In case you don't live in Wisconsin, and have been blipping over my occassional 'Taxes in Wisconsin are to high' rant, the state is in a major financial pickle. Has been for several years. During the hay days of the lated 90s, when everyone was running a surplus, Wisconsin prudently reinvested that surplus into huge benefit/pension plans for its public employees. The rethult? Penthions and benefiths are thapping... hang on a thec. [Tugs tongue out of cheek where it had gotten deeply implanted].

Sorry about that. Did Wisconsin provide tax relief with the surplus? No. Reinvest the money in the energy sector or attempt to revitalize areas that were on the decline? No. Stick it in a savings bond and at least make 2% interest on it? Nope. We gave our public employees whopping huge pension and bene plans (which I shouldn't bitch so much about because I am part of those plans-- but I'm willing to eat a bit less at the public trough for the good of the state). Then the surplus dried up, the dot.com bubble burst, and we still have whopping huge pension and bene plans.

Leaving the state in a big ole' hole, and looking to cut programs departments statewide. The biggest feeder at the state trough? The University of Wisconsin System. Roughly 2/3rds of the UW budget comes in state aid, so when the state is struggling, the UW System has money problems. Although our budget is by no means finalized, it appears that cuts in the UW System are pretty much inevitable, and there is the chance that 200 or so positions may be eliminated system-wide (there are 13 schools in the UW system, with Madison and Milwaukee being the largest by far).

Okay, so there's the background. Then you read this story about four "professors" of music at UW-Milwaukee pulling down $93,000 annually to perform 16 concerts ALL FRICKIN' YEAR! 16 concerts? I'm sure they have to practice and stuff, but 16? For $93K, plus benefits, tenure and the don't have to teach anyone, ever?

Nice work if you can get it.

The truly fun part of the story? UWM commissioned two consultants, to the tune (hah!) of an additional $2K to take a look at the Fine Arts Quartet and make a recommendation. Which the two consultants did. Their recommendation?

Get rid of the Quartet as the money being spent on those four "faculty" members would be much better spent on actual teaching faculty. You know, the ones that actually spend time with students and help further their education? What a radical thought. UWM apparently thought so as well, choosing to completely ignore their $2000 consultants and maintain the Quartet exactly how it is, $400K per year be damned.


Yet administrators, faculty members, and staff scream bloody murder when they're budgets are even threatened or not increased as much as they'd hoped. Why? Because the students will be hurt. The students won't receive as good of an education because of the cold, hard politicians.

I hate hypocrites.


Dare I ask the political composition of the state legislature, and the political affiliation of the Governor who made these “Good Time Charlie” decisions during the 90’s?

The Governor was Tommy Thompson, one of the so-called conservatives that W. seems to favor. You know, talk fiscal soundness but don't really do anything fiscally sound. The legislature was pretty evenly split during the 90s, I believe. Blame falls pretty evenly on everyone, with a few exceptions.
Damn. :->
I'd just like to point out in the wacky state of Minnesota, where anyone can get elected, our pro wrestler of a governor actually used most our surplus in 99 & 2000 on reducing taxes (namely our really outrageous motor vehicle renewal) and rebates.
Apparently electing a wrestler can occasionally be better than electing a career politician.
I don't have much comment on the particular you express such dismay over, Nick, because of several mitigating factors:

1. You don't describe how this expenditure relates to the overall budget. That's probably because the Journal omitted useful facts like that, so I'll give you a pass on this.
2. I like the Fine Arts Quartet. 2a. Part of the mission of the University, is to serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities; scientific, professional, and technological expertise ; my interpretation is that by exposing students and the public to the music of the Quartet helps to fulfill at least the intellectual and cultural part of that.
3. It also doesn't explicitly state that the cost of the quartet is $400,000; they sell tickets for those performances, after all, and I would presume that those ticket fees offset at least some of the cost of the musician-professors.

However, as someone recently said about the Ohio Kerfuffle, "Democrats can't win elections, and Republicans can't govern."

Which leaves us in the sitch that Nick suggested earlier, finding and pushing a third party outsider candidate.

I'm still available.

And I'm not opposed to wrestlers and porn stars as my appointees (I almost said on my staff, but that would have been... just wrong.)
TC, perhaps you should have some wrestling porn stars on your staff?

Ok, Nick, don't ban me for that!
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