Professor Volokh, Was Your Job Saved by the Stimulus?

Interesting article in the Financial Times (Thursday, October 22, 2009) by Sarah O’Connor, “Colleges confused over which jobs have been saved by the extra cash.”  Marcia Smith, associate vice-chancellor for research administration at UCLA, who leads a UCLA administrative team handling its stimulus awards

received guidance from the UC Office of the President saying she should include everyone paid by stimulus dollars, including tenured faculty members.  She was surprised, given that this appeared to clash with the government’s definition of a “retained” job as “an existing position that would not have been continued were it not for [stimulus] funding”.  But it did avoid a very sticky problem: how can you know for sure whether a job would have disappeared were it not for stimulus money?

If you were a tenured professor who happened to receive stimulus dollars as part of work on some research project, then your job, on this guidance, was counted as “created or saved.” Many universities, says the article, are “including tenured academics in their ‘jobs created and saved’ numbers even though their jobs were already guaranteed for life.”

While “many universities,” according to the article, including UCLA, simply decided to count everyone who is paid through a stimulus grant, in accordance with the formula, others “have excluded tenured academics from their data, after taking legal advice, amid what they say was a lack of clarity from the government on how to deal with the issue.”