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Editor’s note: Commentary provides university faculty and staff an opportunity to express their opinions in The Miami University Report. Contributions should be no longer than 500-600 words in length and should be directed to Bill Houk (physics), Published commentaries also will be posted online at

Slidin’ Down the Slant
as overheard by James Brock, economics

“So Doc,” this undergrad blurts out as I’m crawlin’ from my passion-red Cadillac XLR with eucalyptus accents, “you must be shocked to learn that Miami’s trustees are continuing to pay our ex-president his full salary of $311,000, even though he’s firmly ensconced in retirement down in Sante Fe, New Mexico.”

“Negatory,” I shoots back, “that’s just our trustees bringin’ the best of private sector economies into Miami’s operations.”

“But Doc,” he sputters, “isn’t that paying someone a pretty hefty sum to not do his job? What’s efficient about that?”

“Jus’ goes to show ya don’t have a clue how the ol’ private sector operates,” I smugly replies. “Haven’t you heard about Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, or Richard Grasso and the New York Stock Exchange? This is cuttin’ edge stuff in today’s biz world!”

“Well, if it is I guess I can see why American businesses have a hard time competing,” he bawls. “Meanwhile, it looks like we students are being charged to pay for two presidents rather than one.”

“Sure it seems like a lot to you and your family,” I assures him, “but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the massive debt you’re pilin’ up to finance your education. Besides, our ex-prez is servin’ as an expert adviser to the physics department at the University of Illinois, just possibly one of the greatest physics departments in the history of the world!”

“But why should Miami pay someone to do another university’s advising? Why shouldn’t Illinois pay him instead?” he asks incredulously.

“Because sonny,” I explains, “while he’s doin’ that big time advisin’ the ex-prez is also gonna write a book on how to make college more affordable and save democracy.”

“Gee,” he responds, “I wish the ex-prez would have done that by controlling costs and bureaucracy here during his 10-year reign. According to university statistics, Miami’s total spending doubled between 1999 and 2006, while the number of non-faculty positions exploded by 94 percent between 1993 and 2004 (compared to only a 6 percent increase in the number of faculty over the same period). So why should Miami pay him an additional $300,000 a year to write a book about what he didn’t do while he was president here?”

“Because, sonny, the ex-prez is also gonna keep juicin’ Miami alums for fat financial donations.”

“Gee, I don’t know,” he babbles. “From what I’ve heard about his fundraising ability, that sounds like paying to get rid of the flu -- but only if the flu sticks around.”

“Naw sonny, ya got it all wrong,” I shoots back. “Besides, the ex-prez might be packin’ heat, just like that retired Miami administrator who waved his rod at Johnny Bananas for dissing him over on McGuffey Avenue a couple weeks ago!”
“Yeah, what’s up with that, Doc,” the lil’ punk asks.

“Well sonny,” I sez, “ya might consider that retired bureaucrats ain’t the only ones carryin’ heat.”

“What do you mean,” he asks all wide-eyed.

“Pistol packin’ profs,” I replies. “That lump under their sweater isn’t last Thursday’s meatloaf, ya know! So get to class, turn in those assignments on time, and flush after yourself or you might find yourself starin’ down the long end of a short rod!”

“But Doc,” he blurts, “I thought you didn’t teach undergraduate classes, so why do you care about those things?”

“Well sonny,” I chortles, “it helps our graduate TAs better deliver what we calls the ‘teachin’ product.’ Me, I got pounds of penguin guano to pick through for my fat NSF grant, so’s it’s no never mind so far’s I’m concerned.”

“Speaking of which,” he whines, “I was hoping to register for your undergraduate class before I graduate next year.”

“Fat chance,” I triumphantly declares, “you got better odds tryin’ to sprout weeds in high earth orbit!”

Date Published: 11/09/2006
Volume: 26   Number: 9


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