The Texas A&M University system has embarked on a new accountability program. For every department – indeed, for every professor – revenue generated and?cost incurred are calculated; and?profit – the difference – is reported. Each professor is presumably supposed to have a?marginal revenue product above his/her compensation.
Cost (at least the professor’s pay) is easy to calculate.?? Unfortunately, the calculation of revenue includes only outside grants received and tuition revenue.? Any unfunded research, no matter where published, is assumed to have zero value, as is any service. Were this to spread throughout Texas (as I sadly expect it will), any publication – even in the most visible scholarly outlet, even if it affects how the average person thinks about the world – would be valued at zero; so too would an appearance in a nationally visible media outlet.
University administrators facing these incentives would have every reason to construct a faculty of grant-hustlers and low-paid teachers (subject, one might perhaps vainly hope, to some minimum teaching quality).? Despite the traditional UT-A&M rivalry, I hate to see a great institution do this damage to itself.? Worse still, this kind of mindless accounting, if it spreads, would increase still further the widening gulf between the quality of the nation’s best private universities and its top public universities.? Very depressing – especially to someone who has spent 38 years teaching at public universities.