Articles about nothing

Based on its title, I expected the article Third-Party Groups Take Up Challenge of How Best to Improve Public Universities to be about ideas from groups outside academia to improve public universities.  The first sentence frames the discussion more specifically about “efficiency and productivity,” and various forms of the word “efficiency” appear at the center of discussion four times in the (brief) text.  But I defy anyone to find any hint in the article of a definition of “efficiency” or “productivity” in the context of a university.  Neither the numerator nor denominator is named; in fact, the numerator isn’t even hinted at.  Rising tuition and student debt are mentioned by the author of the article in passing, but no one from any third-party group says anything about either subject, even to agree that they are problems (let alone to offer any solutions).

It seems to me that the actual news story here is that conservative groups conned a reporter into treating their ongoing assault on all forms of public education as if it had something to do with improving universities, and that someone at the New York Times decided this was worth printing.

Update: in partial defense of the author, it seems that the article was originally accompanied by the much more suitable headline Groups Positioning For Prolonged Higher Ed Debate.

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