To the Editor:
I have long regarded the administration of Ohio University as feckless. Yes, they talk and talk and often double-talk about excellence, but I have come to expect hype, rather than any tangible outcome. Yet, in the face of all my doubts, OU has actually achieved excellence. Its athletic program is a real force in the Mid-American Conference: In the two popular university sports, football and men's basketball, OU fields talented and well-coached teams.
This achievement is no accident. This is one of the strategic objectives of President Roderick McDavis and, I presume, the Board of Trustees. Accordingly, OU has devoted a good deal of time and resources to the improvement of these two sports. For example, head football coach Frank Solich is the highest-paid person at OU. Several years ago, I was a member of the Finance and Facilities Committee of the Faculty Senate. As such, I had access to two years of information about the budgets and number of employees of each of the university's departments. This was the year after OU cut a number of intercollegiate sports. I noticed that both the size of the athletic budget and the number of employees within the athletic department had increased, despite a decrease in the number of intercollegiate sports. Confused about this, I said to the Provost, "So, it looks as if the athletic department is doing less with more." She smiled, and said "yes," and then moved to her next point.
At the time, I didn't know how to interpret this. But, now it's becoming clearer. The athletic department was not a rogue department, squandering the university's resources, unchecked by the administration; rather, it was consciously being fed an increasing amount of scarce resources, while the academic departments were suffering budget cuts.
The results of this strategy have come to fruition. Ohio University is now a dominant force in the MAC, kudos to McDavis and all who have assisted him. You formulated a strategy, consistently and successfully implemented it, and ultimately achieved your objective. One of the problems in running an organization, however, is that one can achieve one's objectives and still fail miserably, if one chooses the wrong objectives.
Suppose that instead of achieving prowess in football and basketball, OU had an objective that each of its graduates achieved a basic understanding of grammar. Then our graduates would say have gone, rather than the increasing popular have went. They'd know an adjective from a preposition. Ultimately, they would know the subtle difference between I saw that twice and I have seen that twice. (For the record, I do not fault the English Department for the declining literacy of OU graduates. The university and the entire faculty issue diplomas; therefore, the responsibility of ensuring student achievement is the entire faculty's joint responsibility.)
Which do you believe is more important to a student's career: Having an alma mater with a winning basketball team, or being able to write precisely and discern the meaning of the written word?
Wow, I just spent an hour of my time arguing that OU should require its graduates to achieve what used to be a high school level of proficiency. It's a crazy world in academe.
Semi-Retired Professor of Accountancy