Mr. UAB 1992
In my last post, I introduced many of you to the fact that UAB was named one of the top 150 universities in the world, and the strange truth that the UAB administration is making no efforts to promote that fact. To recap, using a system that factored in accomplishments by faculty and alumni, UAB was ranked as better than 99.4 percent of the universities world-wide.
Fewer schools are ranked between UAB and Harvard (the No. 1 school) than between UAB and the next closest school in the state (the University of Alabama ranked just out of the top 400). The administration has ignored this fact, as has the illustrious University of Alabama Board of Trustees.
The director of public relations for UAB is a University of Alabama alumnus and basketball letterman and is 100 percent loyal to his alma mater and the UA Board of Trustees, to the detriment of UAB. Now, from this starting point, I want to introduce you to the F word and another part of why those in charge are not proud of this ranking.
This word, as it is used by the UAB administration, is as vile and reprehensible a word as is any in the English language not related to a racial, sexual, or other epiteth. Before you dismiss this as a tad too much hyperbole, let me explain the rational for this statement in both what is meant and what should be.
UAB Forward, as it is used by the UAB administration, is a designed plan to shift as many students as possible to online classes. These students will pay extra fees for online access and require less student services and student activities. Take note: This is not a plan to maintain or increase on-campus enrollment while at the same time increasing online enrollment.
The plan to is move students from brick and mortar classrooms to virtual classrooms to reduce the need for campus services, all while charging more for a diminished product. As the on-campus student base shrinks, there will be less need for tenured faculty. To be blunt, non-tenured and non-tenured-track faculty do little to no research, have fewer, if any, peer review articles, and are cited less in other research. For a research-heavy campus, this is a kiss of death.
Slowly, one of the top 150 schools in the world will be reduced to a small, local or regional school, a Troy with a medical school at best, a West Alabama with a medical school at worse. The student enrollment might actually increase greatly during this program, and that will be hailed as proof of its success, as the undergraduate side of campus becomes an online degree mill, losing the characteristics that made UAB one of the best values in education. UAB Forward, in a nutshell, is a deLorian with a flux capacitor, ready to go Forward to the Past, when UAB was an extension center for those unworthy of Tuscaloosa for financial or sociological and ethnic reasons.
And as UAB goes, so goes the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. As the Birmingham-Hoover Metro Area goes, so goes the state. The end result of UAB Forward will be a crushing blow to the economy of central Alabama and the state as a whole. One of the poorest states in the Union will hit the bottom and start to dig.
Now, please, for one minute, cast your memory back to the early 1960s. If you were alive then and can remember, please play along, if not, invoke your knowledge of American history or just imagine for a minute. The United States had the post-World War II high flow into the 1950s, the time of “Leave it to Beaver” as the Baby Boomers passed through childhood. Americans were at the top of the world as far as they were concerned. Life was a Norman Rockwell Painting and it was a good one (note: exaggerated for a reason, again, play along).
Suddenly, a small piece of Soviet equipment started pinging from orbit, and we learned that the USSR had been able to put a satellite in space, then a dog and a monkey. They had developed nuclear weapons a decade before. According to some, they were poised to put nuclear missiles on the moon and end the amazing dream of the American Founding Fathers.
The United States elected a young war hero and senator from New England as president. In April of 1961, the Soviets had a man orbit the earth, and the United States followed with a man in sub-orbit. We were way, way behind and not even close. That young president, in 1961, stood before the American people and stated, no, proclaimed, that it would be the unified goal of the United States to put a man on the moon and safely return him to earth BEFORE THE END OF THE DECADE. We were not ready for this challenge, but it did not matter. Mr. Kennedy had set the bar high, very high, and challenged the people to answer his call.
They did. In July of 1969, the United States had men walk the face of the moon and return safely. This was leadership. This was vision. This was what “Forward” SHOULD mean. The era under JFK as president was known as Camelot, the mythical kingdom under King Arthur, where it never rained until after sundown and there was no better place for “happy ever aftering.”
The city of Birmingham is on the verge of its own Camelot. The city proper is actually growing in population for the first time since the 1960s. We hosted the Dali Lama. The metro area is surging as well. We have more attractions than ever, from a revitalized water park to a world-class race track, world class dining in categories other than deep fried and barbecue (although we still have that), and every other indulgence your heart could want from music to art and more. To be honest, there is a chance that the Birmingham-Hoover Metro area could reclaim best city in the south from whoever has it today.
UAB, too, should be riding that wave, surfing on the combined crest of that resurgence and the recent events that have galvanized the #UABFamily in ways that we have never seen before. This is what UAB Forward should be. We invest in student life. We invest in the best faculty in the world. We expand on-campus offerings. Yes, we also expand on-line learning, but not at the cost of our ranking.
If UAB had true leadership, a JFK of its own, that president would proclaim, loudly and without compromise, that by 2025, UAB will be one of the Top 100 Schools in the World.
In the next stage, by 2050, UAB would be one of the Top 50 Schools in the World. By 2075, UAB would be one of the Top Ten Schools in the world. That is what UAB Forward SHOULD BE. That is the desire of the #UABFamily. That is what the state of Alabama needs. That is what the world needs. We must demand that from the UA Board of Trustees. We must demand that from UAB. WE MUST HAVE UAB ALWAYS PUSHING TO BE MORE THAN ORDINARY.
I want to address the University of Alabama Board of Trustees directly. Right now, there is at least one member of the Board who has donated to UAB. That is a rarity. I know for a fact that there are Board members who are heavily invested in the Birmingham-Hoover Metro Area. I ask of them: why are you not encouraging UAB to strive to be better? What is it in UAB that prevents you from standing up and making UAB reach its full potential? Take that stand. I will back you. All of us will. The #UABFamily will welcome you and stand with you, side by side.
If I could, if I had the power, I would stop Watts and his owners from using UAB Forward. I would ensure that UAB Forward would be associated with another F Word: FREE.