Going Rogue on Monolithic Education Administrative Costs

Chris Rickert:

Talk about putting your best foot forward only to get it stomped on.

Last week, in response to an open records request from this newspaper, the UW System released internal emails that showed System President Ray Cross throwing UW-Eau Claire chancellor James Schmidt under the bus for sending him “candid” ideas for how to cope with Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to cut $300 million from the System’s state aid in exchange for giving the System more autonomy.

“Incredible logic!!” Cross writes in an email forwarding Schmidt’s ideas to two other System administrators. “I find this most troubling!!! I thought Jim was a bit more thoughtful than this.”

As a mere civilian, I thought Schmidt’s ideas had merit. And after spending 25 minutes talking to him on the phone, I think the System would do well to hire more people like him.

Schmidt laid out 10 suggestions in all, with five more concerning initiatives specific to his campus.

They range from seeking different employee health care insurers, to creating links between four-year campuses and their nearby two-year campuses, to cutting down on administrative overhead, to shrinking and decentralizing System administration.

Cross, who declined my interview request, was particularly irked by what he called Schmidt’s proposed “elimination of the System” and his call for even greater autonomy for System campuses.

Schmidt didn’t back down from the value of his ideas or from the importance of coming up with them, although he acknowledged that on second look, some, like combining administrative functions at four-year campuses and their nearby two-year feeder schools, might not provide as much savings as he initially thought.

A focus on “adult employment“.