Chris Powell: Avoiding teaching at UConn; Kansas vs. Conn.; why the 'buffoon' won

Main quad of the flagship campus, in Storrs, of the University of Connecticut.

Main quad of the flagship campus, in Storrs, of the University of Connecticut.

At least some Republicans are refraining from the gush that usually insulates the University of Connecticut from scrutiny of its budget and political correctness. UConn President Susan Herbst's plan to retire for a teaching position early next year has prompted not just reflexive praise for her administration but also criticism of the university's financial excesses, particularly at the ever-troubled UConn Health Center in Farmington.

State government long has been reducing its subsidy to the university, causing it to raise tuition, and while UConn's facilities have improved greatly, fair questions abound, starting with administrative staff and salaries. But similar questions should be asked about instructional staff.

UConn prides itself on being a "research" university, the euphemism for a school where professors don't have to get their hands dirty teaching mere undergraduates, work that can be delegated to less expert and untenured instructors.

How much teaching are professors at UConn really doing, and is the state better served by their doing "research" instead? UConn seems never to have answered the question, perhaps because governors and legislators have never asked it.

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EVEN KANSAS MIGHT BE A STEP UP: "Conservative businessman" Bob Stefanowski, as he styles himself in his television commercials, implicitly recognizing that no one ever heard of him, hasn't even qualified for the primary for the Republican nomination for governor. But the other day the Democratic Governors Association criticized him exclusively among the many Republican candidates.

Stefanowski had boasted in a commercial that his state budget plan had been developed in part by the economist Arthur Laffer, who had advised President Reagan. The DGA scoffed: "Conveniently Stefanowski forgot to tell voters about another one of Laffer's more recent credentials: chief architect of the Kansas budget disaster."

Yes, Kansas isn't doing well under Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican. But Connecticut seems to be doing even worse, especially since Kansas never had the advantages Connecticut had before its government employee unions took over.

If the budget plan of an obscure candidate is the worst thing the DGA can cite about Republicans here, maybe Connecticut really has a chance of political change.

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ISN'T THERE SOMETHING IN BETWEEN?: Venal, crude and stupid as the Trump administration can be, it may be most damaging not for any particular policy but for giving the impression that what it offers are the only alternatives to the failures and corruption of the liberalism that has been the country's political ethos since the 1960s.

Many people sense those failures and that corruption at least vaguely. That's why Hillary Clinton could not carry three ordinarily Democratic states in the 2016 election, losing  many working-class voters and forfeiting the presidency to someone who strikes many people as a megalomanical buffoon. But so many liberals now are on the government payroll that liberals are incapable of considering whether anything that passes as liberal policy might be mistaken.

As the Democratic nominee for governor of California in 1934, the socialist Upton Sinclair titled his platform "End Poverty in California." Big money was against him and he was defeated, causing him to observe that it's hard to get someone to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. Though Sinclair's side is in charge of Connecticut now, it is even harder here.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.