Richard Bland College Mows 80 Acres of Grass and mows them and mows them . . .

Richard Bland College Mows 80 Acres of Grass and mows them and mows them . . .


RBC has a $15.5 million operating budget for FY15. Tuition and fees will contribute approximately $5,050,000, state appropriations will account for approximately $6,650,000 (an unusually high percentage for a Higher Ed institution and we only get it if the budget passes!) The foundation, auxiliary enterprises, and other sources create the remainder of the revenue.

Distributing the revenue and allocating the expenses is always a challenge and there are many ways to do that and as many opinions on the subject as there are days in the year. I hear lots of voices around campus who want a bigger piece of that pie and I wonder about cutting all that grass . . . I’m sure we know exactly what it costs us and we probably agree that cutting the grass is important, but of course, if we agree to pay someone to cut the grass (and to purchase and maintain the equipment to do that big, on-going job), then there is something else we can’t pay for. What do we cut and what do we keep? What do we grow (besides the grass)?

It’s complicated. The more experience I have in leadership and management, the more sympathy I have for those at the top of the food chain. Their job is hard. How important is it to cut the grass? Is it more important than library books? More important than computer upgrades? Than people? Is not cutting the grass even an option?

There is an idea called The Law of Interdependence and it seems logical to me – no man is an island after all. Every action has a reaction and the pie is only so big. To see the consequence of actions on a grand scale and witness cause and effect in a safe, virtual simulation, there is an amazing game called Democracy 3. You can run your own country (you can even pick the country you want to run), and see how well you do allocating and distributing resources related to the management of crime, unemployment, national debt, terrorism, climate change, etc. etc. etc. Low and behold, it’s not that easy – social engineering is messy and sometimes you support things you don’t agree with because not supporting them is too costly.

Democracy 3 relies on a unique user interface that makes visualizing the connections between laws, policies, voters and situations easy. A simple iconic-based view of your countries issues allows you to ‘drill-down’ through all the relationships between policies and voters to quickly analyze the impacts of your decisions. Your trade policy may affect GDP, which will affect unemployment, which will effect poverty, and thus crime, leading to a change in tourism, which affects GDP…

There is a detailed policy model representing each policy (or law) in the game with a slider which allows you to fine tune it’s intensity to get the balance just right. A series of equations within the game allows the same policy to have radically different effects on different constituency groups, which highlights voter support, which matter in politics! Democracy 3 also models the global economy, including credit rating agencies and debt interest levels, as well as the impact of global events on your country.

It’s a pretty amazing interface and a great way to learn about cause and effect, policy, and interconnectedness. School children as young as seven are playing this game, which is a pretty cool way to create global citizens and teach some grand skills about humanity. It’s worth a try if you are interested in these kinds of things and only costs around $25. I see all these lawnmowers roving around campus and I wonder, should we or shouldn’t we keep cutting all this grass?


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