The Arizona Desert Lamp

White Papers: School of Mathematical Sciences

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 21 October 2008

I’m pretty sure I once had a nightmare where I was trapped taking a midterm, in a class called “Mathematical Sciences”, with a horsefly suctioned onto my arm. I thought that the class was some sort of subconscious Frankenstein created in my liberal-arts-centered mind, but instead it turned out to be an omen of UA portents.

This paper offers example of proposing a nifty new plan, while offering budget savings that have nothing to do with said plan. To further elaborate on an earlier point, money must be saved. This is not a case where schools can cut/consolidate programs, and then use those savings for something new and shiny; that’s what the schools should have been doing when the budget was solid. Of course, during times of plenty, these departments simply thought that they could have new and shiny things without making any adjustments to their present largesse. Don’t be surprised when Hay praises the cutting plans and calls for their enactment, while bureaucratically deferring the departments’ requests indefinitely.

Also, the idea of “mathematical sciences” seems to hint at the sort of synergistic interdisciplinarian-ism that the University seems to love so much.

Furthermore, the proposals for this school are little more than feel-good pabulum that have little do with actual proposals:

1.1. Preparing Arizona’s youth and ensuring access and opportunity

1.2. Engaging and graduating students who can contribute to state, nation, and world

1.3. Providing world class research that improves the human condition in Arizona and beyond.

1.4. Partnering with and serving the people of Arizona.

There’s also some more secretary axing:

There is a small administrative cost savings that will be achieved within the School: The Program in Applied Mathematics will assume the administrative services for the Statistics GIDP thereby saving the cost of hiring a 0.5 FTE Program Coordinator for Statistics. The estimated savings (including 44.7% ERE) is approximately $28K.

From the budget section, we get the aforementioned unrelated budget savings:

1. Eliminate outside math tutoring. Currently, the department “conservatively” estimates that two-thirds of the funding for UA tutoring services (CATS academics, University Learning Center, and MASTR) is spent on mathematics tutoring. The department aims to reduce spending by providing those services by themselves. Estimated savings of $400,000.

2. Consolidate statistics courses. The department will have introductory statistics classes taught by graduate teaching assistants, rather than professors. Estimated savings of $2.25 million.

Then, we get back to the World of Potentiality — “Possible [emphasis added- EML] increased revenue from recaptured tuition and lab fees.” Yet the proposal is more interesting than its title:

There are 2,000 entering students each year who fail to score high enough on the Math Readiness Test to qualify for any mathematics course offered at the University of Arizona. We estimate that 1,000 of these could be accommodated by a 2-unit transitional course using the online AI-based learning system ALEKS. We assume that the resulting increased 21-day head count would increase revenue to the University.

We have 2,000 kids entering each year who cannot qualify for any math course? The idea that there’s controversy over increasing admission standards is absurd.
Image courtesy of the artist at Blue Flaming Doodles.

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