Friday, March 05, 2010

I Would Only Protest If They Cut Off Beer Sales

I'm personally of the opinion that college students who protest anything are wasting the most valuable years of their lives doing something useless, when they should be spending their time drinking beer and doing other things (the phrase "doing other things" is designed as cover for when my daughter reads this).  You're only young once, but having so much free time is a gift that you should not discard for the silly goal of screaming about budget cuts. Megan McArdle expounds nicely on this...

But while I'm sympathetic to students finding it harder to attend college, I'm not sure what they think is supposed to happen. There's no money. This is not some question of reallocating resources from bad uses to good--everything is being cut because their institutions are under serious financial duress. When administrators point this out, the students reiterate how hard it all is, as if doing so will spur the administration to shake the money tree harder until extra cash falls from the skies.

I mean, they might protest the core business model, in which so many employees are effectively unfireable, meaning that everyone else has to take a disproportionate share of the cuts. But other than that, what is all this protesting going to accomplish?
I'm fine with protesting the core business model, although I think it's probably a waste of time. What I think these folks are missing is that the universities, even the public ones, have to operate on a budget. Particularly when I read quotes like this from a Maryland student...
Last night I talked with student organizer Bob Hayes, who said students are upset that they are paying more in tuition but getting less from the university and having trouble finding a job. "We feel disconnected from our education," Hayes said. "We're being run by a Fortune 500 company instead of by a university."
I think Hayes is missing a point -- the university isn't your Mom and Dad. It's a legitimate complaint that you're getting less bang for your buck as a consumer of an education -- the point of getting a college education is to get a better job as a result of all of your investment of time and money. If your complaint is that you're not getting an adeqquate bargain, you should want the school to run more like a successful business. Successful businesses aim to make profits, but they do so by satisfying their customers.  I realize Maryland is a public university with an educational mission, but the nature of the university's business structure may be part of the problem.  They don't have the same freedom to cut costs for certain things (like tenured faculty) that other businesses do, so they may have to focus their cuts in areas where the pain is felt by students instead.
What Hayes and others who are dissatisfied with the budget cuts to services they need should do is spend time illustrating why these cuts imperil the university's customers, and at the same time suggest ways the university can deal with the constraints of having less revenue (or public funding, as the case may be). Protesting does little to accomplish that -- it's not like most taxpayers who are struggling to pay their bills give a rat's ass about college students dealing with higher tuition or lesser services.

Meanwhile, Instapundit gives us the image at the right. Is our children learning?

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