Who is winning at academia?

I recently visited a fantastical realm called “facilities administration” to inquire about renovating a small room. I left the 50 year old linoleum tile and concrete of my building and made my way to their offices, to meet with an engineer, an electrician, an architect, an HVAC specialist, a grants office representative, a building manager, and 3 people with interchangeable titles related to “project management.” I left campus to go to the CBD office tower where this department is housed, along with law offices and banks. I was greeted by a receptionist at an 18 foot desk, and sat in an armchair in a well-appointed reception area. Someone’s assistant (in a suit) came and escorted me through an electronically locked glass door. We sat on Aeron chairs in a conference room where the screen’s descent from the ceiling, the projector, lighting, and two (2) sets of window shades (should we want to shield ourselves either 50% or 100% from a view of the city skyline) were controlled from a touch screen on the wall. In the seminar room nearest my lab we use cinder blocks painted white as a screen. The window is covered with construction paper. In the end, I paid them handsomely to conclude that I could not afford their services. Mostly, I can’t figure out how it is that we work for the same institution.

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4 Comments on “Who is winning at academia?”

  1. DJMH says:

    But indirects don’t pay enough to cover the costs of doing science, dontcha know?

  2. DrugMonkey says:

    We don’t have this kind of disparity at my Uni, DJMH. This ain’t the rule…

  3. DJMH says:

    Maybe not at yours, but I can certainly think of institutions where the proliferation of VPs suggests that IDC dollars aren’t really all about the science….

  4. rxnm says:

    This particular case is interesting because it isn’t a university-wide phenomenon…the admin bloat is not that bad here, and during recent budget issues the admin got eviscerated and faculty–especially new faculty–were protected. However, there are rules related to infrastructure/equipment spending that mean facilities can impose any conditions they want on almost anything you do. So they do. Imagine a general contractor that doesn’t have to compete on price and tells YOU when and what work needs to be done..

    I think its interesting when structural quirks like this create bonanzas for some people…like how luxury hotel bell hops can end up with $75-$100K a year in tax free cash.


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