Running the Wrong Kind of Business

Running the Wrong Kind of Business

There is nothing more annoying than going into a store to find a rude, unhelpful salesman. You are reminded of this when you walk into Store A. He talks over you when he has no idea why you’re in his store.  It would be so much easier if he just listened. After telling you to wait, the guy tells you he doesn’t want to fix your TV for some reason you know cannot possibly be true. It’s one of those stores that would rather sell you something defective and profit when you need it replaced. Wonderful.

This isn’t going anywhere, so you leave. But you still need to get your TV fixed, as you’re having guests over tomorrow and it’s too late to cancel. Your friend is bringing that cute girl you’ve been meaning to talk to. Failure is not an option. With no other choice, you go to the other guys across the street, hoping your luck changes.

Thankfully these guys actually know what they’re talking about. Store B works much better than Store A. You explain what you need and they get it for you. They treat you with respect and actually listen to what you want. You’re even told its ok to call if you have any further problems. You give a sigh of relief, because this is how business is supposed to be done.

We come to college to, among other things, get a degree.  The University runs the business and we are the customers.  We need this degree to get a well paying job.  The university needs our tuition keep on going.  As students, we would hope the university would be like Store B and not Store A.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Recent decisions by the administration have been troubling and deserve attention. In particular, their current plans to expand the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) Program and cut Deaf Education Program are especially ridiculous. It makes no sense, and is concurrent with a troubling trend of short-term thinking the University has chosen to take in their fiscal affairs.

I understand there need to be cuts when there are limited funds.  A weak economy in Michigan means less revenue for the University. I don’t blame them for having to pick between bad and worse when it comes to cutting back. It’s times like these where they must see which programs are truly needed. But the University is willing to hedge its bets on a program that they are selling well to prospective parents and students. It’s true that they’re going to make a quick buck in the next few years. But they are also willing to ditch a sound program that graduates qualified and skilled students every year for one hasn’t had a graduating class yet.

I have nothing personal against the RCAH. However, when compared to Deaf Education, the marketplace does. There is a market demand for those in Deaf Education for a reason. American Sign Language is the third most used language in the United States. Our Deaf Education Programs offers a unique bilingual experience that cannot be found anywhere else in Michigan. Thus, there is a reason why students enroll in the program. Prospective employers know this specialized program prepares them well for the workforce.

On the other hand, RCAH has a much less marketable potential for their graduates. It’s a young program that already has a dismal retention rate compared to any other Residential College on campus. People are leaving the program not just because of the lack of academic rigor, but the uncertainty for job prospects when they would finally graduate. I would be hard pressed to compare RCAH’s retention, job placement, and graduate school acceptance rates to that of Deaf Education. You would think such a weak program would be cut if we were running low on funds, not the program that has already proven itself.

And when these numbers come in the next few years, the consequences of such a decision will become evident. They will have to cut RCAH, as parents will stop sending their kids to a program that does not prepare them for a global economy. What then will the board say to those students who couldn’t get into Deaf Education?

They’ll be speechless, like the big businesses that took bailouts last year. The Banks’ short-sighted, high profiting loans, and the crisis that followed, should rebut any notion that focusing only on the short-term is a viable business model. GM and Chrysler put as little quality in their cars as possible to squeeze out as much profit as they could, only to have the world watch them topple into bankruptcy. Michigan State’s administration is acting like these bad characters. They have Store A Syndrome. What they value is quick profit, not the quality of the education they are providing.

What comes from this kind of irresponsibility is an annoyance with institutions we feel should be able to do much better.

I can’t think of a Democrat or Republican that doesn’t have some kind of disdain towards the banks after what they just put the county through.  I can’t think of one Michigander who was proud to see GM and Chrysler pleading to Washington for emergency funds. And these days, it’s hard to find people who really believe the University’s board is looking out for the students’ best interests. We hear hopeful language but are slapped in the face with boneheaded, shortsighted proposals – like cutting the Deaf Education Program. We have all seen the narrative before, and the plot gets old quick.

The real tragedy here is there does not have to be a contradiction between the University profiting and looking out for what’s best for students. There are plenty of common sense decisions and would benefit everyone. As a sports fan, it would be nice if they wouldn’t try to change the Spartan Logo when it is broadly disliked by the student body. As someone who lives in the dorms, it would be nice if they wouldn’t charge obnoxious sums of money for meal plans. As a Resident Mentor, I would rather the absurd amount they spent on “Live On” events be used to fund scholarships for students. And as a friend of some in the Deaf Education Program, I would appreciate it if the University used some rationality and prudence when making budgetary decisions.

These are decisions that prompt people to live off campus and sometimes leave Michigan State all together in the long run. This is what ultimately makes them loose profit. The University must realize there are no short term profits that can trump a deficit of trust students have with administration board members.

Conversely, small changes to show their concern with students’ long-term interests would give incentive for people to stay. That would bring sustainable profit over the next few years. The University would be running the right kind of business. We’ll be glad to bring our TV in if we’re being treated right.

If the University can afford to keep the RCAH, by all means they should do so.  But in such a deep recession where an education means more than it ever has for employment opportunity, they need to have their priorities in check.  Expanding RCAH and abandoning Deaf Education is a terrible idea, and board members should know better.

In the end, they need to do some serious soul searching. Everyone knows how the global economy operates. The quality of education students we receive is critical for finding a job. Businesses thrive because they care about their customers, not because they can cheat them out for a quick profit. I sincerely hope they reverse this decision and show they want to run the right kind of business we can all be proud of.

Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece by a guest columnist, and may or may not represent the views of TBG and its staff. If you disagree you’re free to leave your comments at the bottom or submit your own letter to tbgletters@gmail.com.

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Why Cap and Trade Won’t Work

Why Cap and Trade Won’t Work

When it comes to the environment, I am a tree hugger.  I believe man’s carbon imprint on God’s Earth is both immoral and unsustainable. I also happen to be, however, a fiscal conservative. I am skeptical whenever government tries to meddle with my pocketbook or interfere with the market equilibrium, as they have a reliable record of being inefficient, wasteful and just plain stupid. Having these beliefs has led me to a conclusion: Cap and Trade will not work – but that doesn’t mean we can’t save the environment.

The idea behind Cap and Trade is that the government sets a price for a carbon permit to be traded on a market.  The government would limit the amount of permits issued and the permits would be traded among companies. Tax revenues would be collected by the government, where the geniuses in Washington would supposedly figure out how to fund the next green innovation. So by definition, the key problem with Cap and Trade is that it relies on government’s judgment, not a scientist or engineer’s ingenuity.

It seems reasonable at first that government would be funding specific areas of the energy sector – wind, solar, or bio-fuels –  from this tax revenue collected from Cap and Trade.  But how would Washington figure out which alternative energy source makes the best sense to reward tax breaks?  The way they figure everything out — by listening to the most influential special interest.

The company that has the loudest lobbyist that writes the fattest check to senators working on this legislation will win tax benefits, not the company that deserves it. Hence, government will defer real, logical change when it comes to helping the environment, and that’s a problem.

Apart from the debacle of government choosing our energy sources, the idea of Cap and Trade itself is flaw(sxc.hu)ed. The MIT report that came out a few months ago said that Cap and Trade would cost the average family thousands in yearly expenses. The report stated that jobs would be cut, if not shipped overseas to some extent.

Not to mention, it’s Global Warming that’s the problem, not American Warming.  Even if we conserve 10% of carbon emissions by this taxation, the flood of people who will be driving new cars and opening coal mines in India and China will counteract these reductions.  That’s the problem with conservation – it doesn’t fundamentally change our energy needs from fossil fuels to energies that do not hurt the environment.  It’s just a redistribution of wealth.  Understanding all of this, I propose an alternate route.

Instead of taxing carbon or hoping Congress can figure out which alternative energy will replace fossil fuels, I propose tax benefits for research in this field – big ones.  Let the free market work by giving it an incentive to shift in the direction of clean energies.  I promise with enough research money, someone from Harvard or Princeton will figure out how to run a car on maple syrup.  Some scientist will figure out how to make the energy grid gather wind energy and solar energy together efficiently.  Engineers will be able to test and innovate these discoveries to solve our energy needs.

Then, when these research efforts yield results as to which alternative energy to invest in, give the free market a reason to produce it. Give the victor of this research effort massive tax breaks, and the market will take advantage of it. All that government will need to do is create broad conditions for these tax subsidies.  Congress would only have to mandate that the new green technologies vying for tax breaks would only produce a certain amount of carbon emissions.  This way, politicians would not be choosing our energy needs, the market would.

I think this approach would work a lot better than the Cap and Trade proposals coming out of Washington.  It cuts government out of the process as much as possible, while embracing basic Supply-Side principles that have proven to work.  I think our best bet at solving Global Warming is to give the free market a nudge in the green direction, in the form of tax relief.

And realistically, in order for there to be real green effort it needs to be profitable.  The economy will not turn green unless fuel efficient cars, solar panels and wind turbines are profitable. Just mindlessly funding an alternative energy source the government picks cannot fundamentally change how we use energy — scientists and business leaders need to be a part of the effort as well.  It has to be a long term and comprehensive plan, not one based in short term, political motives.

The transition may take a few years to implement, but I think the process of funding research and then acting on that research can work.  In doing so, we can create sustainable growth while saving the planet.  Not a bad deal.

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