Musick's report hits the wrong note

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Marc Musick, associate dean at the College of Liberal Arts, prepared a study of the productivity of UT professors.

Two sources of revenue are examined: The first is general support to UT by the State. After determining the total amount to devote to four-year higher education, the Legislature computes individual institutional allotments by formulas based on semester credit hours taught, weighted by subject and the status of the teacher. The second source of revenue is grants obtained by a professor to conduct research.

Musick computes the amounts “generated” by professors of different classes — such as senior faculty, junior faculty, those in science, etc. — and concludes that the highest-paid faculty, as a group, “brought in $218 million in research and formula funding” while receiving total compensation of $107 million. He offers this as support for a conclusion of high “productivity.”

The research funds brought to the University by a professor can correctly be attributed to the professor’s research, but the general state support, while using semester credit hours as a metric for its distribution, can be and is used for any
academic purpose.

If the amount of state support distributed according to the semester-credit-hour formula were applied to specific professors, it would cover only a part of the expenses of providing instruction. Activities not measured by semester credit hours, including the admissions office, President William Powers Jr.’s salary, electricity, library maintenance, must be met. The “generating revenue” analysis offered by Musick would suggest that a Texas university would improve its financial position by hiring ever more senior faculty. Huh?

Francis D. Fisher
Senior Research Fellow, LBJ School of Public Affairs