I’ve long thought that university administrations had difficulty with the concept of running their “business” efficiently. Now I have proof.

Someone that I know very well (snicker) has had some funding for a few years to develop software infrastructure for next-gen sequencing data. This is important work, since next-gen data poses quite a challenge. The work was done through NC State funds for cancer research.

After spending a lot of time and money building a great team, and getting the project seriously underway… the person just received an email from an administrator. The administrator said:

“We just got paperwork to transfer all your people off this account. Please let me know what account to transfer them to.”

Haha. Like this investigator has another pool of $200k/year lying around.

Unless the person(s) behind this unexpected move change their minds, it’s going to be interesting times in the affected lab.

Nobody talked to the PI about the status of the project. Nobody gave any warning. Instead, they did the most cowardly thing possible in sending paperwork to a departmental administrator, so she could let the PI know the bad news (with zero notice).


Let’s look at this from only one angle: good use of taxpayer funds. Let’s consider how useful it was to spend nearly $400k to build a team and get the project going – and then cancel it without warning.

Bye bye $400k.

Now that I’ve finished my book on grant writing, I think the book I’m planning to write about dysfunctional bureaucracy at universities just moved up in priority.

    2 replies to "Bad business at the Big U"

    • Anon

      In another part of the world entirely, I lined up a 8-month+ offer to seed research work I had wanted to do for years. I put an alternative job aside, relocated, etc. When I went into the university to start… I got told the money wasn’t there.

      It was enough to make me want to leave the country. (Like the person you describe, I work in computational biology, so I imagine I could get work elsewhere.) It’s left me out of pocket, too.

      Point to note is the sort of thing you describe doesn’t just occur where you friend works.

      I’d write under my real name, but I don’t want any backlash!

      • morgan

        Hi Anon,
        I understand where you’re coming from. The “friend” was actually me. As soon as my site is cleared of the “malware” I’ll be posting an update and some reflection about the situation. I’ve also decided to start a new website with stories of silly things like this that happen in Higher Ed. I want to put that on a separate site, since my goal is to keep this site positive and focused on strategies for success. Stay tuned.

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