The 3 Universities in UA system fill difference rolesBy Jackson Poe | 04/12/2015 10:02pm
Two weeks ago, I was surprised to read a piece by John Knox, a professor of geography at the University of Georgia, in The Crimson White. He presents many facts that come off as an attack on The University of Alabama Board of Trustees. The facts are the facts, but the way they are presented does not provide effective support for his argument. Many of the facts are unrelated and many need further explanation. Somewhere in there his argument becomes unclear and it is unfortunate because some of his points are definitely relevant.
One thing to note is that John Knox is a UAB graduate. That bias simply cannot be overlooked in a column attempting to discredit the University in favor of UAB.
UA enrollment has grown tremendously recently especially in comparison to the lack of growth from 1980 to 1996 and also in comparison to the smaller population growth in Alabama. But this growth by itself is not a cause for concern. Universities go through periods of differing enrollment growth and it really does not make sense to compare enrollment growth to population growth. Where he has a point is that enrollment growth should not be celebrated just for the sake of growth. This enrollment growth must be sustainable and coupled with academic resource growth to be successful.
The fact that the University was behind UAB and UAH in research universities according to the National Science Foundation is not a cause for concern either. UAB’s ranking is due to the hospital and medical school and UAH’s is due to its engineering programs. This is what they are known for and it comes as no surprise that the University does not match up in this respect. Rankings from the National Science Foundation are hardly any way to compare universities’ academics overall.
There are other ways to measure academic success than research rankings. For starters there is job and graduate school placement. The University puts students in the most coveted jobs and elite graduate schools in many different fields. They are putting people in positions that have historically only gone to elite universities. The business school consistently putting kids on Wall Street is a prime example.
The University of Alabama, UAB and UAH have vastly different missions and these missions are equally important to the balance of the system. The University should not be condemned for pursuing their mission but they should not be pursuing it at the expense of the others.
It is easy to blast the University for spending on athletics, Greek life and other expansion. But the University is the flagship state university of the system and maintains a similar focus on growth and athletics than that of comparable universities.
The University should not worry about boosting its research ranking by adding a research medical center when one of the most highly-ranked medical research centers in the country is 45 minutes to the north and already part of the same system. That does not make any sense but seems to be the type of thing Knox is implying.
The University of Alabama, UAB and UAH should not be compared on the same scale. They fit together as a piece of the much larger system that serves very diverse needs. The UA Board of Trustees has to be more open with the finances of the UA system as a whole and that is clear from the UAB football situation. But as of now that is the outlier and the universities are all doing their respective parts for the system.
Jackson Poe is a junior majoring in accounting and finance. His column runs biweekly.