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Folt’s Strategic Planning Boondoggle

Provost Carol Folt is wheeling out the heavy machinery of the Dartmouth bureaucracy in order to produce yet another Strategic Plan for the College. We can be assured of a great deal of huffing and puffing, and no end of self-congratulation, but will we see wisdom and innovation from this process? I’m not putting any money on that proposition.

On April 27, Folt issued a document that presaged an endless series of meetings by bloated committees. Just what we need:

● Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC): 10 members
● Faculty Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (F-SPAC): 17 members
● Senior Executive Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (SE-SPAC): 26 members
● Working Groups: priceless

It is worth noting that none of these committees contains a representative from Economics, the College’s largest and most successful undergraduate department. One would think that Econ professors, with a professional understanding of incentives and choice-making, would add value to the deliberations of these groups.

In her April 27 announcement, Folt also mentioned that a shiny new Strategic Planning website would be up and running in “early May.”

Strat Plan.png

As of today, there is no sign of the new site. How amazing that Provost Folt can announce that a new website will appear within a week or two, and then nothing is produced in the following four and a half months. (Did anyone notice? Does anyone care?)

Not that Folt doesn’t have the staff to conjure up a website. It seems that the College’s strategic planning office now numbers a total of three people (full and part-time).

In short, the only result that we can expect from this time-consuming exercise is the same sort of long-winded report that Jim Wright’s strategic planning effort produced in 2002: lots of praise for the process of planning, endless PR about the adminstration’s generalized achievements (specifics always lacking), no ideas of any consequence for the future beyond unquantified platitudes and plans for new buildings, and certainly no change from the College’s present way of being organized and run.

How demoralizing it is to watch second-rate people do third-rate work.

Admin Growth.jpgNote: Benjamin Ginsberg, whose recent book, “The Fall of the Faculty,” laments the rise of staff and administrators in the academy (see table at right), singled out strategic planning for special attention in a recent article in the Boston Globe:

Academic bureaucracies across the country spend millions each year drafting and refining strategic plans that, once unveiled to the public with great fanfare, are generally filed away and forgotten. All this while hundreds of thousands of students are taught by part-time “adjuncts” so that schools can save money on faculty salaries.

He’s correct, as we’ll see in the next few days when we look at the 2002 Strategic Plan.

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