“Repent! Collaborator,” Said the Higher Ed Beancounterman

“Even in the cubicles of the hierarchy, where fear was generated, seldom suffered, he was called the Ticktockman. But no one called him that to his mask. You don’t call a man a hated name, not when that man is capable of revoking the minutes, the hours, the days and nights, the years or your life. He was called the Master Timekeeper to his mask. It was safer that way.” —Harlan Ellison’s “‘Repent! Harlequin,’ Said the Ticktockman”

As the recession gets worse, even blogging or commenting about layoffs and budget cuts becomes a scary thing to do for fear that The Ones Who Kept the Machine Functioning may find you.  So many of us in higher ed wonder about the future of our projects, our professional development opportunities, and even our positions.

One of my big fears, though, is the irony that in saving money, those who count beans may be causing departments to hoard beans.  Sound familiar?  It’s almost like a higher ed credit crisis:

Let’s say department X is allocated funds annually to support a system. Department Y supports their own similar system.  Neither department will be motivated to coordinate their efforts and reduce time and money spent on that project for fear that they would lose some funding or positions. Instead X and Y give their students disparate systems and the university pays twice the amount it should have.

In BNET’s Five Signs That You Have a Crummy Job, the two departments that rarely shrink in a recession are accounting and legal.  As the bureaucracy increases, innovation drops and the creative talent becomes demotivated.  I’m all for saving the institution, but will hoarding a handful of magic beans really do the trick?

Have your collaborative projects been terminated for budgetary reasons? I’d like to hear about it. Comment (anonymously if you prefer) or tweet (https://twitter.com/nikkimk) to tell me about it.

Photo by Sherry Elliott

6 Responses to ““Repent! Collaborator,” Said the Higher Ed Beancounterman”

  1. Says:

    Holy Cancelled Projects Batman. Our entire university web redesign was squashed after nearly 2 years of planning (RFPs, vendor selection, committees, content aggregation etc.) Instead of cleaning the whole thing up in one fell swoop we’re reduced to plodding through the 70,000 page site department by department :(

    P.S. love the quote

  2. Says:

    No projects have been terminated, thankfully. In fact, due to the economic crisis, we’ve gotten a new big project — a rush-rush involvement in a statewide energy summit that led to the creation of a new website and a video project, among other things. But the hiring freeze in effect since last November has left us hamstrung, as our 3-person electronic marketing office is now a 2-person operation.

    Interesting that legal and accounting do OK during recessionary times. But not surprising.

  3. Says:

    No termination of any projects yet… Though I’m expecting some stuff to fall by the wayside once the budget for next year is fully worked out.

    But when it comes to collaborative/online project, I actually expect these to increase as our University tries to capitalize on the relative cheapness of the web compared to other more traditional mediums (eg. Print, phone, and long lines in our Student Affairs office)

  4. Says:

    I thought that I would see the higher ed jobs posted at https://www.higheredexperts.com/work dry up, but this isn’t the case (it’s free to post or to check positions - so posting there isn’t a decision that has to be approved by the bean counters)

    Institutions keep hiring Web/New Media folks, and sometimes they even create new positions, which is a good thing. This crisis may give a boost to the field and its professionals.

  5. Says:

    Well this is very scary for me. I’m the Web Services Manager for my college and I’ve been mandated to develop a plan and implement a complete redesign that is transformational and move the college online presence in new direction. That being said, it will be a major collaborative initiative between my area, marketing, recruiting, IT and advising - as well as other areas.

    I did a proposal last week and the support is there from senior leadership, but we’ll see if they put there money where their mouth is.

    We have been seeing declining enrolments, and through many surveys, its finally coming to their attention that the Web is and should be a top priority.

    I will keep you posted on the status of this major collaborative project.

    BTW, Isaacson, I’m really sorry to hear about your projects be squashed.

  6. Says:

    @isaacson: So sorry to hear about your redesign project. Hopefully you will have other interesting things do to because of the economic crisis like @andrewcareaga.

    @Jim Ford: Best of luck to you. I have heard talks focusing on efficiency and collaborative projects recently at my institution as well. We’re a pretty large organization, so I’m hoping those goals translate all the way down the hierarchy.

    @Karine Joly: Thanks for sharing with the @eduGuru readers. For those who are on soft money that may not be renewed, those who are laid off, or even those whose salary freezes will not keep up with their expenses, it’s good to take a look at what’s out there.

    @Director of Web MarketingMcCready: It sounds like you have support and they recognize that done properly the Web redesign could attract resources, not just cost them. Best of luck to you as well!