Clay Shirky’s Adjunct Math
Other people have already taken up Clay Shirky’s latest more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger piece about how we just can’t afford the university anymore in these tough times. I just wanted to check the math about adjuncts.
I recently saw this pattern in my home institution. Last fall, NYU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors proposed reducing senior administrative salaries by 25%, alongside a ‘steady conversion’ of non-tenure-track jobs to tenure-track ones ‘at every NYU location’. The former move would save us about $5 million a year. The latter would cost us $250 million.
Now NYU is relatively well off, but we do not have a spare quarter of a billion dollars per annum, not even for a good cause, not even if we sold the mineral rights under Greenwich Village.
The operating budget of NYU in fiscal year 2014 is $6.5 billion. $250 million is a shade under 4% of that number. 4% is a lot to cut out of a budget — you couldn’t do it overnight — but it’s not some impossible goal either. It wouldn’t take a ton of long-term planning and reorganization to cut down 4% over a period of, say, five years. I know a lot of academic units have been made to cut deeper than that in recent years. (UPDATE: See the comments for what the math looks like if you cordon off the hospital funds.)
This seems eminently doable and something the university should absolutely prioritize.
Hilariously, $5 million to $250 million is not that far off from 3.8%; it’s 2%. 2% is a paltry sum, not even worth discussing next to the whole. One sentence later, 3.8% is a king’s ransom we could literally never find even if we sold the mineral rights to Greenwich Village.