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Published on May 7, 2000
© The Buffalo News Inc.

The News has recently been saturated with opinions from faculty arguing that the University at Buffalo has "declined" and that its president, William Greiner, should resign. There have been stories about faculty discontent and the recent vote of no confidence.

As a professor of finance at UB, I have been among the faculty whose departments have been negatively affected by Greiner's decisions and I am leaving this university after 20 years. But I don't think Greiner should resign. While I believe that some of his decisions were wrong, I understand that no president makes the right moves every day. University presidents cannot avoid making choices, and this means that some areas will win and some will lose. At UB, the decline in state money has made choices painful, but even if resources were plentiful there would still be winners and losers.

Greiner has chosen to invest in information technology, student services, athletics and a few select interdisciplinary areas. Furthermore, his administration has given all departments unusual flexibility in managing their resources but held each department accountable for its decisions.

Those departments that design programs that attract students do better financially than those that don't attract students. The result is a mixed pattern of well-run, effective departments and departments that are declining because of low student demand or bad management decisions.

By many traditional measures, UB is doing poorly. By less traditional measures, it is not. For example, many academic departments, including the libraries, have fallen in national ranking. But ranked UB the 11th "wired" campus in the nation, the library is a national leader in using the Internet, and the center for computational research has one of the top 10 fastest computers in the nation and is attracting grants and researchers. And many academic departments are running programs that get national attention.

UB's investment in information technology is probably the only source of growth for Western New York's economy and UB is attracting more and better students now than it has in 10 years.

There is no question that UB has been hurt by budget cuts, but readers should understand that the complaints are not coming from the successful departments. They are coming from programs that have lost faculty and students. There are always complainers when things change, but that does not necessarily mean that this university needs new leadership.

Certainly there are times when Greiner could make better decisions. But in a time of declining resources, he has made UB a dynamic, responsive university that does not waste tax dollars chasing after old academic models. Greiner should stay.


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