Message From Your President

John Warner shares the memo you may soon receive.

December 7, 2010

Greetings to all students, faculty, and friends of the university:

I am writing to share with you our "2011 and Beyond Strategic Plan for SurThriveal," recently generated during our annual leadership retreat held Nov. 10, from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. in the lobby of the Route 123 Microtel. We emerged from our exhilarating, though abbreviated — thanks to a previously scheduled carpet shampooing — session resolved more than ever to provide a top-notch educational experience for our students.

With their voting in of legislators associated with the Tea Party movement, the citizens of our state have spoken loud and clear: They’re sick and tired of the government paying for things. Unfortunately, one of those things is public higher education, and all indications from the capitol are that we should expect an additional 37-percent reduction in allocated funds, following last year’s 28-percent reduction and the year before that’s 22-percent reduction.

The current funding now puts us on par with 1892 levels (not indexed to inflation), when our most popular degree was blacksmithing.

As most of you are well aware, we've been doing our best to offset these reductions in state support with enhancements in revenue. Unfortunately, many of these initiatives have not panned out as originally hoped. While the divestiture of our dining services entirely to Cinnabon™ has proven to be both profitable and delicious, the installation of pay-for-use restroom facilities has been less successful. Thanks to some irresponsible individual choices to use some unfortunate "alternate" outlets for waste disposal, (including my office credenza), any additional income has been more than offset in overtime pay for our custodial services and hazmat remediation.

The regrettable end of our “Ride a Live Tiger” initiative, featuring our beloved mascot, Marcellus the Mighty, has been more than well documented (and overly sensationalized) in the media. Let me reiterate that there is no truth to the rumors that Marcellus was sold to a black-market African gaming reserve, where he was to be hunted by vacationing billionaires looking for the ultimate thrill. He was humanely euthanized by some high-G.P.A. juniors in our animal science program.

Yes, we are auctioning his pelt on eBay. We’ve got an office supplies bill overdue at Staples.

With the — let's face it — long overdue passing of Professor Emeritus G. Bertram Barker of the department of materials science, we are at the end of recovering savings through faculty attrition and retirement. Thanks to those caramel pecan Cinnabons™, our remaining instructional crew may look corpulent, but in numbers, we are truly skeleton.

Which brings me to my unfortunate, but necessary, announcement. During our strategic retreat, it became clear that under current funding, in order to provide an education that appropriately arms our graduates in the battle for employment in the 21st century, cuts in the curriculum must be made. After careful analysis and spirited debate, I’m prepared to announce the elimination of the College of Arts and Humanities, effective at the end of the current semester.

I am aware that this news may be greeted with some surprise, but a clear-eyed evaluation of the programs we offer shows that graduates in foreign languages, English, history, performing and visual arts, and philosophy are simply irrelevant in the current marketplace. As was stated at the retreat, "You can’t eat opera, and you don’t need a college degree to stand outside of Home Depot and wait to get picked up for an off-the-books day laborer job."

America is now a nation of people who DO things like post on Facebook, or run for Senate, rather than KNOW things, like Plato’s allegory of the cave, or the First Amendment of the Constitution. This year, the Jersey Shore’s Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino will reportedly earn $5 million. In contrast, last year, only one of our English-degreed graduates was able to secure employment related to her major — teaching English to call center workers in Bhopal.

Under these circumstances it’s a relatively obvious decision to cut the humanities, even as we triple the available sections of Pilates.

However, let this not be the death knell of a well-rounded education. While we will no longer be offering courses in the humanities disciplines, we remain committed to providing a humanities-like experience for our students, starting with the following campuswide initiatives:

  • Some individual courses that retain popularity among the student body — such as "Performing Arts 202: Glee Your High School Musical Ass Off" — will be relocated to different colleges.
  • We have asked local physicians, dentists, and spa-services providers to donate their old waiting-area issues of publications such as Mother Jones, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and The Economist, to the library.
  • National Public Radio will now play over the phone when on hold with any university department.
  • To fulfill both literature and foreign language requirements, we will broadcast the German production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (Warten Auf Godot), starring Horst Bollman as Estragon, over the campus closed-circuit television station.

We recognize that these changes are likely to erode our standing in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings, but I’d like to point out that we were recently voted the "best smelling" campus in the nation. When it comes to butter and cinnamon-scented goodness, we're No. 1!


John Warner is the author of Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice From a Published Author to the Writerly Aspirant. He teaches at Clemson University and is a contributing writer to The Morning News, where this essay first appeared.


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