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Parking: Cater to Their Every Need

In the Harvard B-School case study of Google, that company’s ten golden rules are listed. In the Dartmouth context, one stood out:

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What could we do at the College to increase interaction between students and faculty, and to free up time for Dartmouth’s highly paid professors to teach, study and do research? Certainly as a matter of management, an effort in that direction should be one of the administration’s top, ongoing goals, don’t you agree?

The answer to that question, and one that will cost no money at all, is to rejigger the parking priorities at the College. Right now parking permits with equal rights are given out to all employees for a small fee. Janitors, administrative assistants and dishwashers can grab any open space on campus just like a full professor. So when hourly workers get to campus early in the morning at the start of the first shift of the day, they can park their cars behind Dartmouth Hall and leave them there for eight hours. When professors later come into town to teach a class, they find the central campus spaces all taken, and they are obliged to wait for a shuttle bus in one of the satellite lots that will eventually deposit them near their offices. Profs will put up with this inefficiency when it comes to teaching classes, but such delays make it hard to justify coming into town to meet with a student, especially when the time spent dealing with parking can exceed the time interacting with an undergraduate.

As a matter of efficiency, it would make sense for the administration to organize a system wherein full professors (many of whom earn $150k/year — almost four times what a janitor earns!) have their time optimized, even if some inefficiency is added to the life of a janitor (or other hourly worker). There is no shame in accepting that professors do more valuable work at the College than other employees — that’s why we pay them more. As Google opines about its élite engineers, steps should be taken to cater to professors’ every need.

The folks at Google would consider this question a no-brainer, as we used to say at Bain, and accord central campus parking privileges to the faculty. That the College does not do so is an example of egalitarian obtuseness that places a misguided ideology of equality over the goal of excellence in education.

Addendum: I’ve written about this subject before (here and here). One day someone somewhere in the administration is going to realize that a change of policy will not only free up faculty time in the service of education, it will also make professors deliriously happy. Is the latter a priority at the College? If it isn’t now, it should be.

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