In case people don’t get to the bottom of the long comment stream on Jon’s post, William Wulf’s resignation from the faculty at UVA has been getting a lot of attention in certain circles. I can’t imagine a better illustration of the problem the hard-headed business types on the Board of Visitors are bravely trying to solve, which is the failure of pointyhead intellectuals to get with the Darden Program.
First, Wulf (and Jones) are very expensive. For what Virginia is paying them, it could hire a whole batch of adjuncts who could fill many more seats in courses, especially required courses where the students don’t complicate the marketing task by demanding to actually learn anything important. It could also hire a roomful of hungry assistant professors and post-docs who would publish, in total, lots more pages of research. Just as there’s no problem finding students to fill seats, there’s no constraint of journals to accept these papers; I get invitations from actual journals I’ve never heard of and no-one reads to write something – anything – all the time. Production is paid bottoms in seats (real or virtual) and word count on paper (real or virtual); they’re easy to measure and the duty of the university is to get as many of each as possible as cheap as it can. Helen Dragas understands this and for some reason Wulf and Jones don’t, and that’s just how it is.
Second, there is no evidence they are providing any service to the university’s overall reputation on core measures: it’s telling that in his letter, Wulf cannot name a single football or men’s basketball starter who was recruited to UVA by himself or Jones, not one! If they’re not advancing the mission, self-deportation is exactly in order, and their resignation is a badge of honor for the Visitors.
The selfless and courageous behavior of the Board don’t get no respect in quarters I frequent, perhaps because they tried to let their actions speak for them, but I’m happy to say they have now overcome their natural and admirable modesty and put forth a deathless, priceless manifesto of purpose and intentions.