Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It Might Make Sense

to a reporter or a university administrator, but it sure doesn't make sense to me. I've had all day to think about a story in today's Picayune and I just don't get it. Now, I don't think that I'm a total moron, I do understand this part:

To head off a deficit that could be as high as $10 million, Loyola University announced Monday that it is laying off 17 teachers, reorganizing and eliminating academic departments, and getting rid of some undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs.

Another sad Katrina casualty, I get it. A drop in enrollment reduced the university's income, I get it. It's crystal clear:

Before Katrina hit Aug. 29, Loyola had registered 950 first-year students, the largest in its history, Harris said. The university was closed until Jan. 9, when classes resumed and 750 freshmen returned, Lelong said.

For the approaching fall term, "we're hoping for 700," Wildes said.

Here's where I feel kinda stupid for scratching my head and wondering about a question that the reporter didn't ask. At least I thought that something in the article seemed odd:

They are part of a five-year strategic plan that had been in the works before Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans in August. But the monster storm "accelerated the planning

Huh? Didn't we also read that Loyola had just enrolled the largest freshman class in its history? So Loyola had a five year plan to deal with declining enrollment at a time when enrollment was climbing? Can somebody with a background in higher education explain that one to me? Can somebody with a journalism background explain why that doesn't raise questions?

Personally, I'd like to know how Loyola came up with that 700 hoped for freshman enrollment number, but that wouldn't be an issue if everything else made sense. Like I said, it still seems odd to me. Maybe, a letter writer in today's paper is onto something:

University faculty provide a greater resource than just someone to teach our students, and our universities deserve greater support from local leaders, including The Times-Picayune, than they have been getting

Journalism sure ain't what is used to be. I wish somebody would ask FEMA to show the the city permits for Tullis Drive instead of just practicing lazy, he-said she-said reporting. Then we'd know who's lying and posturing.
Yeah, that was my first thought when the Tullis Drive story broke. Stephanie Grace alluded to it Sunday (vaguely), but I can't believe nobody came out and asked it. Of course, I meant to, but I never did either. But I'm not a paid reporter or a city council member or mayoral candidate.

I think the Loyola story is part of a larger pattern. Even pre-K, there was constant hand-wringing over how the city could modernize while maintaining its uniqueness. Katrina has just given that issue (or series of little issues) more immediacy. This could be the subject of a very lengthy post or magazine article, but since Katrina has pointed out the need for change and left the city (and its institutions) obviously broke, the presumption is in favor of change.

It seems that seems that when change is addressed as one big issue (Canizzaro plan, BNOB) you get stagnation. When it's addressed as individual issues, it becomes too easy to rush through a change--I can think of a few individually minor cases. Don't know what the answer is, but the T/P could start by not presuming that anyone who opposes a change is a crank, protecting self-interest or in denial. Might also ask why the heads of the city largest universities are proposing permanent cuts and eliminating tenured positions to deal with possibly short term budget shortfalls.
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