Guest Fact Checker: faculty member discusses secret Duke budget process

✔✔ In a Friday post, FC asked a series of questions about the budget for the year starting July 1, and regretted that we only had questions, no information from the administration. Here are some thoughts from a faculty member. As Loyal Readers know, we are working on a new website that will allow open discussion.

The only way to achieve an appropriate level of transparency re. Duke's budgetary picture would be to hire an independent financial auditing company, with the understanding that its findings would be shared with all faculty and employees. (Hey, professor, you did not mention alumni!!)

While individual faculty salary figures have never been public (and probably shouldn't be), the distribution of faculty salaries per academic unit, per rank, the size of raises (and the criteria governing it), could be explored. The budgetary trajectory of Arts and Sciences (relative to other schools) in the past five years (also is ripe for exploration).

Particular things to highlight would be:

-- salary levels and increases (including hidden discretionary funds) for senior administrators and their upward trend;

-- how revenues are allocated to individual schools.

-- the apparently very substantial funds under the sole control of the Provost. For the past couple of years, he has controlled funds (and, accordingly, the composition of hiring committees) for more positions than have been allocated to A&S departments. Under his Napoleonic leadership, the academic priorities of A&S have been disproportionately shaped by his unilateral edicts.

An audit would also have to reveal how the President's and Provost's Kunshan folly is affecting the university's long-term financial position here at home.

When UNC Chapel Hill set up an independent audit a couple of years back, my recollection is that administrative positions had increased by some 400% over the previous 10 years, with faculty positions growing by less than 60%. This information can be verified because UNC operates according to established disclosure standards.

Duke, herein resembling the Kremlin of the 1950s, will never give an honest accounting of anything unless its administrative elite is compelled to do so. The reckless and utopian financial projections re. Duke-Kunshan, and likely the serious legal repercussions of the A. Potti debacle, may be the best opportunity to move this school from its venerable Southern legacy of "old corruption" (as they called it in 18th c. Britain) towards standards of integrity, accountability, and responsibility that would accord with its stated educational ideals.

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We hope with transfer to a new website in the near future to have open discussion. FC also welcomes Guest FC columns, a complete essay that will be posted just like our own.