The Wal-Mart University
An Interview with Preston Pennypacker
Q: Mr. Pennypacker, as the oldest living Rutgers alumnus, you must have seen a great many changes in the university since you graduated in 1924.
A: I have indeed.
Q: For better, or worse?
A: Worse, I'm sorry to say.
Q: What do you have in mind?
A: Well, many things. The slum campus, for instance. Dorms like dungeons. The high rape and burglary rate. The determination to make Rutgers into a sports factory like Miami or Virginia Tech. The tremendous waste of resources. The total neglect of the brightest students. The open admissions policy that brings in hordes of "party animals" who hate being in school. It's all pretty much a matter of shame to us older alumni.
Q: What do you think is the source of these problems?
A: The attempt to turn Rutgers into a Wal-Mart university.
Q: A what?
A: You know, the "student as customer." Treating higher education as a consumer item, like cars or refrigerators or television sets. Attempts to provide "customer satisfaction." The dumbing down of instruction. Grade inflation.
Q: Pardon us for asking, but what's wrong with seeing students as customers?
A: What do you mean 'what's wrong'? Haven't you read the widely-reprinted Targum op ed on how the "consumer model" is destroying American higher education?
Q: Oh. You mean "Why We Should Abolish Teaching Evaluations"?
Q: We remember the analysis. But what makes you think that's happening at Rutgers?
A: Haven't you heard this new president of yours talk in public yet?
Q: We've heard him.
A: Don't you realize that he's always talking about Rutgers students as "customers"? And constantly using the term "excellence"?
Q: Now that you mention it, we have heard him talk about "excellence."
A: Don't you realize that he brought in a woman from the University of Washington specifically to oversee "customer service"?
Q: You must be joking. That would be like returning Rutgers to the nightmare years of Francis Lawrence and Josh Ruben and "QCI." We thought those days of institutional humiliation were over forever.
A: Her name is Karen Kavanagh. She oversaw customer relations at the University of Washington.
Q: But how do you know she won't be doing something completely different at Rutgers? People do switch jobs in mid-career.
A: Then why would the Rutgers news service have trumpeted this woman's expertise in "customer service."
Q: They did that?
Q: Well, do you have any actual proof that her office at Washington gave out awards for "customer service"?
A: I do. An announcement from the "News & Notes" bulletin of the so-called Department of Human Resources at Washington. The office this woman used to operate. It gave out "Outstanding Service" awards.
Q: You mean like those "Employee of the Month" displays you see when you go to Home Depot and Staples and Wal-Mart? With Polaroid pictures of guys who work in the stock room or the loading dock? She did this at a university?
A: At the University of Washington. The same place this new president of yours came from.
Q: And now she's at Rutgers?
A: She is.
Q: Oh dear.
Karen Kavanagh Appointed Executive Vice President for Administrative Affairs
NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Karen Kavanagh, an accomplished university administrator known for innovation and a client-service orientation, has been appointed executive vice president for administrative affairs at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, President Richard L. McCormick has announced.
-- Where EXCELLENCE is a SLOGAN"
In her new role, Kavanagh will serve as the university's chief business and administrative officer. She will have direct oversight of human resources, finance, facilities management, capital projects, computing, and business services.
Kavanagh, 54, comes to Rutgers from the University of Washington, where she has been vice president for human resources since 1999. During her tenure, she created a more effective, efficient organization focused on customer service and redesigned management compensation systems to keep pace with the changing economic climate, market shifts, and internal equity issues.
The HR Recognition Team is pleased to announce that Linda Anderson is the recipient of this quarter's HR Outstanding Service Award.
Linda is an Employment Specialist in Upper Campus Operations. She has been with the UW for twenty six years!
She clearly demonstrates her commitment to the UW in everything she does.
Please join us in congratulating Linda on her award!