If I had attended the University of Montana for more than a day and a half, I think I’d be pretty furious about the institution’s budget priorities. As a teacher who has watched the state’s flagship university ignore and mismanage recruitment of top students for years, I know I am frustrated.
And the latest decision from the University, to hire another “consultant,” is especially galling.
While there never seems to be enough money to maintain academic programs or to ensure that students in Montana are actually being recruited to attend the university, there seems to be a limitless pool of money to hire consultants and people who are asked to build “collaborative relationships around the state,” whatever the hell that means.
The latest hire, according to the Missoulian, is former Lee Enterprises publisher and vice president Mike Gulledge, who will pull down $10,000 a month to somehow help the School of Journalism and to do media work for the university.
It’s a fascinating choice. Gulledge oversaw papers in Montana while his parent company stripped them of reporters and editors across the state. As former Indy Writer Dan Brooks noted on Twitter, “Lee Enterprises laid off half its employees during Gulledge’s tenure. He shut down the Independent.”
It is hard to emphasize how insulting it must seem to those who lost their jobs under Gulledge’s leadership while he was pulling down $456,000 in salary and other compensation from Lee to see the University many attended offer him exorbitant compensation for little responsibility. It’s probably of little comfort that Gulledge hopes to help the media recover from the “contraction” he played such an important role creating.
It also speaks clearly about the misplaced priorities at the University of Montana. You can be damn sure that no prospective student–assuming any are ever actually contacted by the University–will be drawn to campus because of this hire, especially when 58 faculty members are being cut.
UM is facing a challenging future and seems to be answering it the way Lee has answered its corporate cash crisis: rewarding layers of top administrative staff and spending precious resources on public relations rather than substance.
Deciding to spend precious resources that could be used on student recruitment, retention, or even assistance seems on someone with a nebulously defined task of massaging some public relations is yet another unforced error by a university that seems unable to stop making them.