Holy Jeez, Fargo/Moorhead. All right. Let’s all snowmobile over here and have a calm discussion like adults.
There are some serious panties in a bunch over an article I published two days ago on Slate–that has gone viral, bee-tee-dubs, whee!–that highlighted the findings in this article published in Fargo/Moorhead’s local paper, which was brought to my attention by the wonderful Fargo Jones, a reader. I used the information in that article, as well as whatever other publicly-available information I could find on the situation, and trusted that those news sources were accurate. I did not contact the MSU-Moorhead administration for comment, because that is not what you do when you are muckraking! Also, I am an opinion columnist, so I do not have to represent “both sides” of anything. And anyway, the admin and their admin-speak had been widely quoted elsewhere, and I was not impressed at their crocodile tears as they explained their drop in enrollment–that they caused, by attempting to make the university more selective without a backup plan!!–would just, alas, necessitate faculty cuts, and then went back to their $150-200K salaries and gazed upon the school’s multimillion dollar “wellness center” with its personal TVs and rock wall.
There has been some talk in Slate comments about how they should suuuuuuuuuuue, and I will tell you why that is both misplaced and dumb.
It is misplaced because I am not “raking MSUM over the coals”–I am fighting for your university, and I am highlighting a national trend that needs to stop before there are no regional public universities left. I teach at a regional public university, so I know that local non-Harvardy working-class kids are just as deserving of education as fancypants kids are–and in a lot of ways they’re just as good. I am fighting for the survival of a type of institution that serves our country well, and does good things, and makes people better.
It is dumb, because as you can see in the article, I and my editors were very, very careful to equivocate in all language regarding the cuts: “may,” “might,” “seeks to,” etc. This has not happened yet, and it is entirely possible that the national scorn heaped on this admin might cause a correction in course, or heightened scrutiny upon a president whose short-sighted enrollment tactics caused this kerfuffle in the first place. Whatever they are calling it, however they are spinning it, they are seeking to fire faculty for no cause, and I want to stop them.
My point in the article–and on the radio, and in interviews–remains the same: what in the everloving fuck is the point of having enrollment if there is nothing to enroll for? A skeleton-crew “general education” program with whatever English, Phil, and foreign language faculty would allow themselves to be hired back at half the rate, is not fair to these kids, and it is not fair to the faculty. And if it happens here with no outrage, make no mistake that it will continue to happen all over the country.
But it hasn’t happened yet, and my article was very aware of this. You cannot accuse someone of libel or slander or whatever, for saying “may,” “might” or “seeks to.” You cannot sue a tautology. You cannot even refute a tautology. It is a rhetorical trick, but it’s one that keeps us out of trouble. “Either the MSUM administration will fire half its faculty or it won’t.” That is just a fact that is always true.
At any rate, I am bowing out of this fracas now, because it is Thanksgiving and I need to be with my family. I hope you are also spending Thanksgiving with your family, if you are American and like that sort of thing, and please do the world a favor and don’t do any shopping between now and Saturday.