SUBJECT: Memo's From Mike Berliner and Ed Locke Concerning Faculty Salaries at the Objectivist Graduate Center
FROM: George Reisman
TO: Mike Berliner, Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, and All Members of the ARI Board of Advisors
As I think about the above-named memo's, I'm reminded of a humorous story that I once heard Ayn Rand tell about the cover of an issue of New Yorker magazine. The cover showed a little old-lady artist sitting in a museum with her easel in front of a painting of a beautiful nude, which she appeared to be diligently copying. But it turned out that what filled the little old lady's canvas was just a copy of a few birds that could be seen somewhere over the beautiful nude's shoulder.
I'm sorry to say that I think the memo's we've gotten are like the birds.
Here is ARI evidently planning some kind of graduate school, which would be by far the most important thing it's ever done, and, as far as I know, absolutely no discussion has ever taken place about it with any of the members of the Board of Advisors. Not only has their advice not been sought, but the only information made available to them centers on the salaries that will be paid to Harry and Peter next Spring.
What I can understand of the present plan makes no sense to me. That plan, as I understand it, is to bring out Harry and Peter for 7 weeks and 5 or 6 weeks respectively, at a cost of approximately $45,000, for the purpose of teaching 7 graduate students who are presently being served at a small fraction of the cost with phone sessions. The $45,000 doesn't count the cost of facilities, scholarships, or administrative overhead. No indication is given of what is to follow the two courses. For example, are they to be a test of anything? If so, what results will determine what is done thereafter? No explanation is given of why a course in writing is of such urgency. Supposedly the graduate students in the program are serious and do not need remedial composition. Isn't it likely that they need a lot more philosophy and other content subjects ahead of any specialized writing course?
What is equally amazing is what is apparently being overlooked. There are presently two Objectivist Ph.D's in philosophy who are already located in Southern California--Darryl Wright and Gary Hull--and two more Objectivist philosophers in the same area who are within striking distance of getting their Ph.D's--Linda Reardan and Dave Harriman. All of them have more or less extensive teaching experience. They also already own cars and so don't have to rent them. They pay their own living expenses and so don't need expense allowances. And I'm sure they would all be delighted to give regular semester-length courses at rates competitive with the part-time rates prevailing in higher education--i.e., at $4,000 per course or less. I think a very sound, practicable program, teachable largely by these young philosophers, could be built on the principle of courses just having to center on the reading and "chewing" of the very extensive Objectivist literature that now exists. Such courses could be open to the public and would probably have a sufficient market to make them financially self-supporting or nearly so. Graduate students, with the benefit of small seminars and tutorials, could, within a year or two become teaching assistants in those courses, and later on themselves join the faculty.
Of course, along with Leonard, Harry has to have a leading role in any ARI program. After Leonard, he is presently the foremost Objectivist philosopher. He also has extensive teaching experience, and in a more rational world he would certainly be a professor of philosophy. I do not object to the overall level of compensation being requested for him.
At the same time, however, even with his inclusion on these terms, I think it is obvious that a much more substantial program could be launched for the same cost as is presently being contemplated.