David Warsh reports on the continuing struggle to keep the Unobersity of California's faculty not just high quality but the highest quality in the world. In general, maintaining a social democratic university in a neoliberal age--it's not for sissies. This is particularly true for UC which has spent every dollar it can scrape together and more over the past two generations in its wildly successful mammoth expansion plan while its private peers have taken the lavish gifts from alumni purchasing indulgences and focused them on increasing surplus to stakeholders.
It is particularly hard in economics. In other disciplined to leave your university because another offers to pay you more entails personal humiliation and status degradation to a not inconsiderable degree: you are supposed to value ideas and colleagues and students, not cash. In economics, however, the thrust of the discipline makes a failure to respond to market forces a moral fault in itself.
Yet somehow we continue to punch well above our fundamental financial weight--and it looks like we will do so again this year.
This year we have been aided to some degree by the fact that Harvard's administration has turned out to be more inept than anyone believed possible. Harvard public policy was trying to hire David and Harvard economics Christie Romer. Here at Berkeley they have adjoining offices, they raise children together, they write articles together, they teach together--yet Harvard president Drew Faust turned thumbs up for him and thumbs down for her. "Early onset Alzheimer's" is the kindest explanation I have heard from anyone currently in Cambridge. Other candidate explanations are crueller and less flattering.
One part of the story David Warsh does not have is that Harvard's business school tried to reduce the university's humiliation and put a job odder together over the weekend--thinking that whatever bizarre rationale Massachusetts Avenue had might not apply to them.