"There's something wrong here," the 63-year-old [Philip] Froelich, [one of the fired professors] said. "To fire junior faculty like this is immoral — and that word is now around the country."
Eric Walker, an English professor and president of the Faculty Senate, isn't sure how layoffs in geological sciences and oceanography are playing around the country.
"I do know how this fact plays: We terminated 21 tenured faculty members," Walker said. "This is a fact that will get the attention of faculty members across the country.
What should also get Professor Walker's attention is that the state of Florida, hit as hard as any by the recession and an economy based on tourism and real estate, has a budget that can charitably be described as in the toilet. Faculty members in departments such as oceanography, who produce little of present economic value, depend on taxes paid by tourist attractions and realtors and orange growers and the like, who aren't doing too well. The only solutions for such a problem in a state like Florida are to raise taxes (which will push the economy deeper into the toilet as any economics professor could tell you), to borrow until the state's economy resembles Argentina's, or to fire people whose jobs are less than essential.
That's fine, according to Florida State's faculty senate, as long as it's other people being fired.
FSU invested considerable resources in fall 2008 when it hired Wetz, Brian Arbic and Amy Baco-Taylor in oceanography and Davis Farris in geological sciences. Approximately $1 million in "start-up" fees were earmarked for the four new faculty members, who have all received layoff notices.
Gosh. $1 million in "start-up" fees for three oceanographers and a geologist. Who I'm sure produce more of value than their equivalent in primary school teachers, road maintenance workers, law enforcement officers, or state legislators. (Heh.) But though I don't know much about the Ekman spiral effect, it boggles my mind that the upper echelons of FSU's faculty, such as geography department chair Leroy Odom, didn't see this coming when they asked for a faculty expansion in 2008:
"I'm not expecting any reversal, but I do expect we'll be treated better in the future," Odom said. "Somehow we went from a department that was good enough to deserve new faculty positions to one that didn't deserve to exist."I didn't see it coming.
I knew there was a budget problem and they were considering faculty cuts and this and that. I didn't know they would all be coming from our departments."
Sounds as though Chairman Odom was reading too many geology papers and not enough newspapers in Fall 2008, if he couldn't see this coming.
In the Soviet Union they had ladies whose job was to polish subway stair railings. That's all they did, all day. And while polished stair railings are nice enough, make-work jobs and other non-productive uses of actual productive labor, resources, and energy drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy more surely than its tyranny and ethnic strife. And all of the rail-polishing ladies were fired. It's tragic when anyone loses his job due to economic circumstances he couldn't forsee, whether it's a rail polishing lady or an oceanographics professor.
But it isn't immoral. And for the academy to claim that it should be above the resources of the people who pay its bills indicates we may need fewer tenured oceanographics professors, and more grad student T.A.s in the economics department.