by Con Chapman
WASHINGTON, D.C. Taking their cue from high-powered college athletic programs, an alliance of universities today threatened to abandon national accrediting agencies unless they were given more freedom to make their own rules on committees, which are tightly regulated in order to maintain academic inefficiency.
“Why do we need a committee on committees?” asked Alton Birdsel, Jr., a career Assistant Provost who calculates he has wasted 21 percent of his waking hours since taking his first job at SUNY-Hornell. “Because some thumb-sucking goober at the Mid-Atlantic Commission on Secondary Schools says so.”
Major accrediting agencies impose committee requirements on schools they “recognize” as a means of insuring that academic and administrative issues are properly vetted, says Weber Hsiao of the North Midwest Association of Colleges and Schools. “It’s a question of separation of powers to avoid administrative despotism,” he notes. “And I am not a goober.”
Time served on committees “passes not according to standard measures but more like an absurdist movie or a T-ball game your kid isn’t playing in,” says academic psychologist Myron Flores, who has treated a number of patients for “committee fatigue” over the years. “I’d say it’s comparable to a dream,” he notes, “except most of my patients don’t wear pajamas while attending their meetings.”
The rebellious institutions model their revolt on the big sport schools who threatened to leave the NCAA if they weren’t allowed to pay their players more than they already do. “I’d like to get more than a glass of tap water out of these meetings,” says Georg Unrad, a tenured professor who wrote his last academic article two decades ago and now fills his schedule with committee meetings. “If we can give the starting scatback on the football team a Z-28 Camaro, is a prune danish too much to ask?”