Recognizing a queen sacrifice by a business award

Over this past (or current, depending on where you are) winter the College of Saint Rose performed a classic queen sacrifice, cutting programs, staff, and tenured faculty.  President Carolyn Stefanco led the axing of 27 programs and almost 6% of faculty.

College of Saint Rose president and a fanOne response came recently from the local community, in the form of… applause.  The Albany Business Review praised Stefano, formally recognizing her with an award as a leading disruptor.

We are honoring seven business leaders who have disrupted their own business model, industry or are innovating to stay ahead of trends…

To flourish in business these days is to make disruption and change work for you and your business. You have to recognize the need and opportunity for change and risk the status quo. And you need to see that before anyone else.

Saint Rose trustees also issued a strong statement of support for Stefanco.  Note this key line: “She is determined to … expand the academic programs our students are seeking”.  A key part of queen sacrifices is shifting resources from cut programs to ones seen as more likely to win students.

College of Saint Rose faculty protestorsQueen sacrifices can pay political dividends, in short, at least with boards and businesses. Not so with Saint Rose faculty, some of whom protested the award.

“The disruptions that Dr. Stefanco is receiving an award for are not the positive, transformational disruptions that other business leaders are being rightly praised for,” said Bridgett Williams-Searle, an associate professor of history and politics at Saint Rose. “Instead, President Stefanco’s disruptions promised to materially damage the curriculum and community at the College of Saint Rose.”

From another angle, this criticism:

“When you start firing tenured and tenure-track faculty,” [Angela Ledford, a political science professor and vice president of Saint Rose’s American Association of University Professors chapter] said, “then tenure no longer has any meaning.”

Since I started blogging about the queen sacrifice, has this academic strategy become normalized?

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14 Responses to Recognizing a queen sacrifice by a business award

  1. This tweet from among last night’s #AcademicOscars fun seems apposite:

    @rznagle Best Destructive Business Model Imposed on an Academic Institution / #AcademicOscars

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  2. Joe Murphy says:

    The comment about tenure is interesting on many levels. Cuts which are targeted at departments certainly seem like value judgments on the teaching and research work being done in them. (Though the administration is usually careful not to impugn individuals, framing cuts as a matter of institutional priorities.)

    And yet, one wonders how the faculty would go about balancing the books while keeping everyone employed. Everyone with tenure, that is.

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  3. christopherwatts says:

    I’ve been following your work on the queen sacrifice for years, Bryan, but I think this is the most depressing thing I’ve read. I find the cult of disruption to be pretty annoying in the short term and questionable in the long term; but giving someone an award for cutting 6% of their faculty is downright perverse. For me, this is the bottom line: of course we want students to choose their program of study. But when it comes to a whole curriculum, is that really best left to the market?

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    • Jeffrey Broussard says:

      I refuse to refer to them as markets, Christopher. When businesses can buy politicians and thus legislation, that is not market capitalism. I keep coming back to this as the underlying problem:

      It is more likely the norm than the exception. Businesses are determining outcomes across the U.S., but not through competition; they are just getting whatever they want.

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    • We are increasingly making that decision, Christopher.
      There’s a pragmatic reason, as so many institutions are facing growing financial and demographic pressures.
      There’s an ideological reason, namely the spread of market thinking (i.e., neoliberalism).
      I’m not seeing any effective countervailing forces at the present.

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  4. Sally says:

    Read Stefanco’s c.v. as summarized in the linked announcement; her background is humanities (history); it appears that she spent more time in administration (faculty retention, funds-getting, etc.) than in the classroom. It would be interesting to know how her thinking has evolved to this sorry point. Accepting such an award must take a supreme act of self deception.

    Bryan, reading your blogs on this sad state of affairs makes me wonder why no major news medium has begun to track the effects of this reduction in the number of academic jobs on individual lives (families, communities) a la the move of corporations overseas and the parallel slow destruction of American cities. Administrators have always amazed me, especially those with humanities/social science backgrounds, for being able to pretend those numbers (in the budget, in the statistical study, etc.) do not represent people. I am rapidly moving from amazement to alarm.
    What to do?

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    • Great point, Sally, about tracking that career. Sounds like the experience determined her outlook pretty well.

      Hm, why isn’t this getting coverage… for one, most of the schools aren’t media darlings. We’re not talking Stanford or Oberlin.
      Want me to pitch an article to IHE?

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      • bboessen says:

        I’d say this is definitely a story that should have wider attention, so if neither of the bigger pubs are running it, I think you should, yes.

        Like

  5. Pingback: AAUP censures a college for its queen sacrifice | Bryan Alexander

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