Not enough travel

Regarding the articles on administrators’ and faculty travel expense (Northern Star, September 13): With all those “experts” off campus – like the IBHE and the BOR – looking over our shoulders and trying to find almost any reason to make us look wasteful, I would ask Northern Starpersonnel to consider three very simple questions before going off on an editorial critique of campus travel, namely” 1) Why do administrators and faculty need to travel? 2) How much do we need to travel? 3) How much should it cost?

I’ll suggest my answers to these three questions, then we can hear from some others.

Why do administrators and faculty need to travel? Administrators need to travel a) to keep up with what is going on in other places than at NIU, b) to secure resources for what is going on at NIU, and c) to spread the word about what has been called “the best kept secret in the Midwest”—i.e., what we are doing at NIU. Faculty, on the other hand, need to travel for exactly the same three reasons plus a) to disseminate the results of research we are employed to produce and b) to provide the services we are employed to provide.

How much do we need to travel? That depends on how well informed we want to be about what is going on elsewhere that could benefit NIU, how many resources are out there in both the public and private sectors that we might be able to get our hands on for NIU, and how concerned we are about getting our research and service out there where it might do some good and, as a consequence, expose “the best kept secret in the Midwest.” To my mind, that means we should be traveling quite a bit. And clearly, to the extent that the president’s, the v.p.‘s and the deans’ jobs are defined in terms of bringing in resources for NIU, it means that these administrators need to be on the road a lot more than they apparently are!

How much should it cost? Peter Schuh writes that the total travel costs for administrators exceeded $50,000 last year and that President La Tourette and Dean Stegman were the “big spenders.” In a separate article, Schuh writes that travel funds for faculty are about $300 per faculty member per year, while travel funds allotted to faculty in other colleges are somewhat higher—about $600 in the College of Education, for instance.

That doesn’t look like very much to me. Only two administrators spent more than $10,000 last year off campus? Why? What is so important on campus that it keeps them from going out and getting the resources the faculty needs to better do our jobs on campus? And what about the $300 or $600 in travel funds. However, if I do my job, I guess I am going to have to spend a lot more than that out of my pocket.

So, what is new? Not much. Both the administration and the faculty travel too little to do the jobs we are employed to do. But, then, anyone who has been following the PQP process very carefully and anyone who is reading the IBHE staff report on Faculty roles and Responsibilities understands pretty clearly that the members of our boards and their staffs haven’t a clue what jobs we do or what kinds of resources it takes to do them well.

Anybody out there see it any differently than I do?