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Due to budgetary woes, PR position should remain unfilled

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 11, 2009 7:20 AM

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TA cuts, potential tuition hikes, and … a new public-relations hiring?

This week, the UI leadership is interviewing four candidates for the vice president of Strategic Communication position, who would handle external communication. The position has been vacant for the last eight years, and — at least for now — it should stay that way.

The position may be important, but filling it would not be prudent or fiscally responsible, given the economic climate and the university’s budget reductions.

In times likes these, UI officials need to prioritize. It’s asinine to hire a PR man or woman at the same time we’re weighing a tuition increase and surcharge. These budgetary issues require our direct and immediate attention before we address our public-relations department.

President Sally Mason and other officials have spoken of the need for sacrifice, yet their hypocrisy is apparent when they’re concurrently looking to fill a public-relations position.

UI officials contend they need to fill this position because they lack a central figure at the helm of their communication efforts.

“There are many committed communications specialists at the UI, but their efforts are currently not occurring under the direction of a specialist who is dedicated to that task alone,” UI spokesman Tom Moore told The Daily Iowan.

Efficiency is important in any area, and a university is no exception. But to call this hiring a practice in bad timing is a vast understatement. Adding a public-relations position needs to take a back seat in dire times like these.

The UI leadership wants us to believe that we need to integrate this position into our bureaucracy because every other Big Ten university has done so. However, it is utterly ridiculous to hire a well-compensated individual at a time when any and all excess funds should be used to increase the quality of our education. Quality education is, and always will be, the best advertisement for any academic institution.

Tim Paschkewitz, a UI Ph.D. candidate and member of the search committee, feels that such a position can help in times of distress.

“A vice president who can lead our internal and external efforts in times of crises can contribute to a stable, receptive, and timely recovery,” he wrote in an e-mail.

The Editorial Board acknowledges that this position would help out in times of crisis, when the dissemination of information is at its highest need. When budgets are tight, however, the solution is not to invest in areas that won’t contribute to our revival.

We need to be resolutely clear on what is essential and what jobs are ancillary to our purpose as a top institution. Hiring a vice president of Strategic Communication is not going to tip the scale toward prosperity in the immediate future. Moore has done a sufficient job, and there is no reason to spend money on a new person.

There is a time for hiring additional UI employees. But that time is not now.


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