by Travis Mateer
The University of Montana is a dumpster fire and instead of putting out the conflagration, Major Bod is building MORE structures around it.
The first piece of news that should raise concerns is the departure of the Dean of Humanities and Sciences just 8 months after the last guy quit the job. From the link:
“Throughout the months of academic planning in which we have been engaged this year, it has become clear to me that aspirations I have for the college cannot be met in the current budget environment,” Larry Hufford wrote in an email to colleagues. “The vision I hold for the college is not sufficiently consistent with the vision held by university leadership. Recognizing this, I believe it is best for me to step down.”
If the departure of Hufford isn’t a BIG RED FLAG that core problems at UM persist, then you haven’t been paying attention.
A few years ago an alumnus by the name of Lewis Schneller had this to say in an op-ed run by the Missoulian:
The terrible reality is that one of the main reasons for the decline in enrollment at UM is the systematic attack waged by the UM administration on the university’s curriculum. The university’s curriculum, which is the most attractive and marketable component of any successful recruitment strategy, has been dismembered by systematic cuts in the number of faculty members, especially in the College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS), historically the driving engine of the university’s academic prosperity and growth. Outstanding academic programs with national and international reputations, such as Creative Writing and History, have been literally disfigured by systematic cuts to many of them in the form of attrition or a destructive policy of not filling vacant positions with new hires.
Instead of listening to critics, UM’s braintrust, led by Major Bod, is doubling down on a strategy of investing in THINGS instead of PEOPLE. This failing strategy will see a HUGE new dining hall built and, if the legislature goes along with this scheme, other major infrastructure investments. From the link:
One proposal would build a new College of Forestry from Montana timber. UM is asking the Legislature approve a $25 million dollar bond for the project, which the university would match with $20 million.
As proposed, the new College of Forestry building would be built from cross-laminated timber, meaning that instead of being framed by steel and concrete, the interior and exterior of the facility would be built with a product grown, harvested and manufactured in Montana.
The university is also asking the Legislature for permission to raise money to build a Museum of Art and Culture on campus by the Administration Center, which UM would fund through private donations.
The University of Montana is Missoula in microcosm. What made the University attractive is being slowly and systematically destroyed, just like Missoula. And just like Missoula, the leadership will pay PR lip service while they do it.
Major Bod makes the claim that the humanities will be strengthened by his administration’s actions. My favorite quote comes from Keila Szpaller as she delivers Major Bod’s contradictory PR bullshit (my emphasis):
To strengthen an organization while simultaneously stripping its resources sounds like a difficult proposition. But Bodnar said UM is starting from a robust place, and it already has strategies in place to bolster its liberal arts education.
What a load of crap.
It’s amazing how these amazing leaders with their amazing visions get to fail year after year at producing results. Despite clear evidence of failure, we just keep letting them throw money around and hope for the best.
How’s that being working out for ya, Missoula?
I chose to attend the University of Montana in the late 60’s because of the strong and affordable Liberal Arts Programs it offered. It has been sad to watch the destruction of this former great University first by the disaster of the out of control football program and now the slash and burn of important foundation programs of a liberal education. Most students don’t attend a college because of the beauty of the campus natural surrounding as Paul Lasister VP of op. and fin. wants you to believe. I believe in this world of high costs of college most students are looking at programs that will improve their life not only great jobs but how to think and broaden their understanding of how this world functions. Well at least there will be many empty buildings to study in what went wrong in the future.