Tag Archives: the economy

Ye Olde Actually Sorta Relevant Argus Article


The Argus has been focusing quite a bit lately on the how the class of ’09 is faring—who’s got jobs, who’s unemployed, who’s looking for work abroad. It makes sense, for sure, when you consider that these kids had to graduate into the HOLY-SHIT-WORST-FINANCIAL-MELTDOWN-SINCE-THE-GREAT-DEPRESSION-OMG.

But still, it might be helpful, or comforting, or whatever, to remember that there is a more recent historical precedent (on a smaller scale, admittedly) in the early ’90s recession. This Argus article, from November 1992, seems eerily similar to some current ones:

“If there was a general trend last year, it was that people were scared to death—the media harped on the downturn of the economy, and most of the prominent employers cut back on hiring,” said Director of Career Services Rick McLellan.

Given the positive reaction to last week’s Ye Old Unintentionally Hilarious Argus Article—and in the spirit of the Argus’s historical issue—this will be a continuing feature on Wesleying, in which we present blurry photographs of relevant, bizarre, or simply hilarious Argus articles from the past. Because, you know—the past is weird. And interesting.

Read the whole article here: Class of ’92 Still Searching for Jobs

Things could be worse…

Much has been made of the administration’s proposal to institute a one-year salary freeze for professors, staff, and librarians. That has understandably upset a number of people, but it pales in comparison to what’s going on up at Brandeis: Professors are considering reducing their salaries by one percent to avoid staff layoffs:

Lawyers are still vetting the details of the proposal but, in short, interested faculty would contribute to the cause either by forgoing 1 percent of their paychecks, or via a charitable contribution to a reserved Brandeis fund. Faculty would volunteer individually and anonymously (“only the payroll office would know,” Flesch said), without any cuts to their listed base pay. And, to avert concerns about freeloading, contributions would kick in only if there is a critical mass of willing faculty — if those who volunteer collectively earn at least 30 percent of the total faculty salary pool within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Concerns voiced about the Brandeis proposal at a recent faculty meeting reflect, at least in part, questions of trust. According to Flesch’s account, and an account in the student newspaper, some faculty raised concerns that the foregone pay would be used for purposes other than shielding staff, and, more philosophically, that the administration would see the move as a concession suggesting that faculty could be paid less in the future.

I don’t know how the salaries of Brandeis professors compare to those at Wes, but this seems like a pretty drastic step to take. Talk about altruism.

Inside Higher Ed: Taking One (Percent) for the Team

Basinger on Obnoxious TV Wealth

Professor Jeanine Basinger is quoted in the L.A. Times about the flailing economy’s effect on Americans’ television viewing choices.

Rich-people-behaving-badly shows like “Dirty Sexy Money”, and “Lipstick Jungle” aren’t doing so well, while shows about wish fulfillment like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and spoiled teenagers learning lessons on “Exiled!” are doing better:

Americans are too depressed about their own finances to entertain themselves by watching shows about money, according to industry executives and academics.

“People don’t want to come home at the end of the day and have more bad news about their money,” said Jeanine Basinger, chairwoman of the film studies department at Wesleyan University. “They don’t want to see the Enron scandal, they don’t want to see CEOs getting away with it.”

L.A. Times: Obnoxious displays of wealth on TV turn off many

Bigger classes, higher tuition, major budget cuts

The Board of Trustees recently met for their first board meeting of the year, and the news that emerged was not good.

Due to the economic downturn, the University’s endowment has lost over $120 million… and if you remember, Wesleyan’s endowment isn’t all that big, compared to our “peer institutions.”

A student in the know writes:

Wesleyan’s endowment is down 20% over the last 4 months, and there will be major repercussions for the University’s budget over the next few years—a $15.5 million deficit each year.

The trustees are considering a proposal from the administration that would deal with the problem by increasing class size by 30 for the next four years. There would also be major cuts across all the departments, a one-year salary freeze for staff and faculty, and a slightly larger than normal increase to the cost of tuition. No faculty positions or departments would be eliminated under this plan.

Students should be particularly aware of the ramifications of the first and last strategies being proposed. By increasing class size over the course of the next four years, if we reach our target admission levels, we’ll see around 120 more students on campus—making residential space even tighter (meaning triples for many more freshmen, and a lack of class-appropriate housing in general), leading to longer lines at dining venues, and possibly causing class sizes to swell. By tacking on an additional increase to tuition, the University would raise your bill next year by 5.9%, a bit more than the standard 5% annual increase.

The future is always hard to predict, but current projections, assuming a 5% year-over-year return on the endowment, put us back at our pre-downturn total in 2013. So, in a nutshell, current predictions show that it’ll take us five years to get back to where we were four months ago.

The Board of Trustees meets again in February—unless they decide to call a meeting sooner. It seems fairly certain that a quick reversal of fortunes isn’t on the horizon, and of course, there’s no guarantee that further erosion of the endowment won’t occur. By February, we’ll see if even more restrictive measures are needed to secure the financial stability of the University.

Basinger on Wall St./Hollywood Intersection

Wes professor Jeanine Basinger gets a quote in the NYtimes’ article In Hollywood, the Wall St. Plots Will Thicken, where she weighs in on the effect of economic hard times has on what reaches the silver screen:

Jeanine Basinger, chairwoman of the film studies department at Wesleyan University, said that studios had the best luck dealing with economic issues when they did so with subtlety. For instance, “It Happened One Night,” the 1934 Frank Capra movie about a spoiled heiress running away from her family, is a romantic comedy that hints at the social turmoil of the Great Depression: a wandering thief desperate for money; a passing train populated with hobos. “Subtlety has always been the key,” she said.

The article itself is also really worth a read, if only for the awesome picture of Martha Stewart and Jim Cramer at the top.

Roth addresses economy, posts sexy photo

This morning, President Roth released a “Community Update” about the state of the economy, and its effects on Wesleyan:

[Wesleyan’s response to the financial turmoil] will include some serious budget cuts, delays in major facilities construction, and a close look at our priorities for the future. All of us will be asked to make sacrifices.

Following up on that, Roth has posted a new blog entry with some more specific ways in which the troubled economy will alter life around campus, and what the University intends to prioritize as we continue further into this grim economic situation:

… there will be cuts in the Wesleyan budget, but, as I said in my last post, I will do my best to protect teaching, research and the student experience from the impact of our cost cutting measures. […] We will continue to offer our community the very best liberal arts education, but we must do so in a more cost effective way. We must delay for some years our major facilities projects, like the Molecular and Life Sciences Building, and we are looking at every department at the university for budget savings.

What will be the University’s priorities going forward? Writes Roth:

  • Maintaining a robust financial aid program
  • Hiring and retaining faculty
  • Continuing the internationalization of campus
  • Enhancing the student experience, esp. for frosh and seniors
  • Implementing the College of the Environment

Plus, Roth has also changed the self-photo he uses on the blog. Check it out. Even as a straight guy, I have to admit it’s pretty flattering. Heh.

Roth in HuffPost, on Trusting Institutions

President Michael Roth has apparently joined Arianna Huffington’s complex social network, as a blogger on Huffington Post. How did this come about? Do they have a Blackberry connection from some West Coast dinner party?

He writes about our shaken trust in the financial and political institutions of America:

It’s a cliché that trust is a lot easier to destroy than it is to build. When children tell us that this time they are telling the truth, and that they lie only some of the time, they are about to learn that even one lie destroys the credibility of all your other statements — even when these other claims are true. One lie creates general uncertainty. We are seeing this everyday on Wall Street and in the banking sector. Governments are desperately trying to restore trust, but as long as there is lingering (and, I might add, reasonable) uncertainty about who is holding the bad debts they once tried to profit from, it will be impossible to have the basic trust that makes our credit systems work.

The cure for the erosion of trust is not medicinal; it’s social. Participation builds trust. On the university campus where I work, the only ways I’ve seen trust successfully restored is to involve people once again in whatever activity they’d become uncertain about. From athletics to music, from lab science to poetry workshops, participation reduces uncertainty and builds faith through practice. When you begin again to seek or offer credit in secure ways, when investments can be protected, then you feel prepared to take a few new risks. When you get involved with your fellow-citizens in a political campaign or make your voice heard with your neighbors, you begin to see that democracy isn’t only about attack. Democracy is about participating with people who you grow to trust by working together.

Teachers know this. We have to earn the trust of our students everyday so that they can risk making mistakes, so that they can take the chance to open themselves to learning. That’s why we encourage the participation of our students.

Our current, acute crisis of confidence will pass. Then we must rebuild trust by participating in our economy and polity rather than just try to tear down others who are doing so.

A lot of people read the Huffington Post!

Huffington Post
: “Trust” in the Economy and Electoral Politics

Wesleyan’s Shrinking Endowment

Wesleyan’s endowment has shrunk 3.9% in the 2008 fiscal year, declining from the $700 million range to the $600 million range – a major change from last year’s 15% growth. Expected annual growth is usually projected at 9% every year, and it’s not entirely clear what accounts for this decline – the WSA is releasing a report this week.

What’s even more unclear is how the economy’s recent turmoil will affect the figures in Fiscal Year 2009 – FY 2008 ended in June, before everyone starting freaking out on Wall Street.

So much for President Roth’s plan to double the size of our endowment – especially in this economy, it’s not looking so good.

Argus: Endowment shrinks by 3.9 percent