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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Thursday, May 28, 2020
Statement from the American Association of University Professors chapter at New York University

In ordinary circumstances, most of what AAUP chapters do is reactive—stepping up to advocate for the protection of faculty and student rights when they are under threat. At a time when higher education’s morbid expectation of its future is one of crushing austerity and, for some colleges, extinction, our NYU group decided to be proactive and assemble some principles for a post-COVID university. This was not done because we labor under the illusion that a university can be a morally purified space. Instead, we wanted to honor (by gathering together) the ideas and suggestions and arguments for reforming our institution that we have heard being made by faculty and students over the years. Of course, many of the action items on the list are far above our pay grade, but, at some point, we have to start behaving like self-organizing employees of the more humane workplace outlined here. --Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU


Principles for a Post-COVID University

How should NYU play its role in a “just recovery” from the COVID crisis? How can we build on the experience of the crisis and from the opinions, grievances, and solidarity that circulated in NYU communities during this period? In thinking about how the university can sustain and rebuild itself, the AAUP envisions NYU as a more transparent, democratic, caring and resilient institution, prioritizing the equitable treatment and rights of its students and employees, minimizing the cost of attendance, and striving more single-mindedly to live up to its motto—“a private university in the public service.”

For too long, NYU policy has been dictated by debt-leveraged expansionary growth, domestically and overseas, and by an institutional desire for upward mobility as measured by national and international rankings. Post-COVID, and in the spirit of social and ecological sustainability, we would like to see NYU focus on thriving in place rather than reaching after “performance” goals that are defined by financial institutions or managerial value metrics. 


With the university’s finances under pressure, now is the time to provide faculty, students and staff full access to NYU’s fiscal affairs.

Participatory budgeting should be a key component of the transition to transparency

Executive policy-making should be open to faculty review, and senior administrators should draw more routinely on faculty expertise

Top-level decision-makers should consult and solicit input from the faculty body before making large-scale policy moves, especially on GNU matters

The terms of operation of global branches – in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and other GNU “nodes” -- should be transparent to the entire NYU community.


The faculty role in shared governance, as recognized by AAUP principles, should be fully restored and clarified.

The NYU administration should agree and affirm that the Faculty Handbook is contractually binding.

Faculty and students should be represented on the Board of Trustees.

Faculty who are elected, and not handpicked, should serve on committees to choose senior administrators, including the Provost and President.

Minutes of BOT and administrative leadership meetings should be accessible to faculty and students.

The right to organize (including that of contract and tenure-track faculty) should be upheld and encouraged, and NYU should recognize any bargaining unit formed by a majority of its eligible members.

Community-driven town halls and plenary assemblies should be instituted on the NYU Calendar to inform and review institutional decision-making.

NYU should be a sanctuary campus, prioritizing safety and sanctuary to members of the university and its host communities.

Resources and legal assistance should be extended to vulnerable and marginalized community members.

NYU should not operate branches of the university, domestic or overseas, in breach of its nondiscrimination policies.

Employees and students should have (free) access to comprehensive health care at Langone-Grossman if they choose.

Workplace welfare councils (with faculty, student, and staff representation) should be elected in every university unit to safeguard employee well-being and workplace quality.


Every effort should be made to lower tuition and retire NYU’s reputation as poster child for student debt.

NYU’s unequal pay structures should be addressed, including gender salary gaps, salary compression, and the role of underrepresentation of minority faculty.

Senior administrator salaries should be sliced, and nonacademic administrative personnel positions downsized.

NYU should establish a much more equitable range spread between the highest and lowest paid of NYU employees, with total compensation packages included in these re-adjustments.

Salary and student fellowship increases should be tied to COLA, and not merit evaluations.

NYU should secure the steady conversion of NTT into TT faculty positions at every GNU location and in its US campuses; as a preliminary goal, NYU should aim for not more than 25% NTT positions in 5 years across the university.

NYU should extend protections comparable to those that accrue to tenure to all full-time faculty who have served continuously for seven years.

Faculty housing rent should be capped at an affordable percentage of income.


NYU’s carbon footprint should be minimized and its endowed funds should divest from the fossil fuel industry, and all enterprises involved in incarceration, immigrant detention, and military production.

Air travel, to global sites and to academic meetings, should be curtailed.

Cross-disciplinary climate crisis research and study should be prioritized.

New environmental justice and climate justice initiatives should be targeted and funded.

NYU should adopt an environmental stewardship role in downtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn, modelling and propagating just practices.

Public Service

Since NYU sits on occupied lands of Lenni Lenape peoples, it should fully adopt a charter of decolonial ethics and practice.

NYU should extend public access (for meetings, workshops, assemblies) to its underutilized classrooms and buildings when they are not being used. It should also seek to provide students across the city access to its libraries and online research resources.

NYU should prioritize pathways for students from New York public schools and community colleges to matriculate at NYU; it should also extend and deepen support to such institutions in other ways that those institutions identify as arenas for collaboration.

NYU should make special efforts to support DACA and undocumented students.

NYU’s reach as a landlord and real estate owner should be surveyed and redefined to help address the city’s urgent housing crisis.

Representatives from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn communities should have the right to review and participate in the approval of all new building and expansion plans.

Local community representatives should have the right to serve on a committee for developing university-community initiatives that will benefit from NYU’s research and resources.

Racial and Social Justice

Indigenous study and engagement should be instituted and encouraged in all university programs.

NYU resources should prioritize the reduction of institutional inequalities for students, staff and faculty of color, along with LGBTQ, disabled community members, DACA and undocumented students.

NYU should insist on staffing reforms on the part of departments and units with an overwhelming majority of white instructors.

Gender balance and racial diversity should be adopted as an institutional principle of all NYU workplaces.

Truly affordable housing should be made available for faculty of color and first-generation academics who often have higher student debt burdens than their peers and cannot rely on family wealth.

Global University?

NYU should convene a community-wide review of the GNU mission and its record.

Free movement of students and scholars across borders and GNU sites should be guaranteed by NYU and host authorities.

NYU should loudly and visibly protest travel and enrollment restrictions at its GNU sites and NYC campuses and lobby the relevant political authorities to lift those restrictions. In cases where there are boycotts of NYU campuses by faculty and students in other parts of NYU because of these restrictions, NYU should recognize these as fundamental expressions of academic freedom.

Academic freedom protections, in all of the forms and expressions recognized by the AAUP, should be guaranteed across all NYU sites.

NYU should uphold the right of all employees, including those contracted to construct and maintain GNU buildings, to be protected by the ILO's basic international labor standards.

NYU should insist that US authorities remedy the challenges faced by international students and faculty--travel restrictions, embassy closures, and impractical visa protocols.
      The Executive Committee of the NYU Chapter of the AAUP
         Rebecca Karl, President
         Paula Chakravartty Vice-President
         Andrew Ross, Secretary
         Anna McCarthy, Treasurer
         Fred Moten, Member-at-large
         Vasuki Nesiah, Member-at-large
         Mohamad Bazzi, Member-at-large
         Marie Monaco, Immediate past President
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday, May 24, 2020
Should university officials be fatalistic about Covid-powered cuts to their core educational budgets?  Or should they work 24/7 on their state governments to keep their current budgets whole?

What about state governments? Should they cut higher ed yet again, as various governors are doing (New Jersey, Ohio), and as Gavin Newsom proposes in California?

This post investigates the budget case for a zero-cuts policy.  If your state's public colleges and universities have an ample base budget, you can make some temporary cuts to their state funding. If they are already bare bones, further budget cuts will cut educational quality.

0. Why The History?

There are lots of ways to use numbers as proxies for teaching and research quality.  Most are bad. A pretty good one for teaching is instructional expenditures per student. To help state governments understand quality, departments could establish a set of minimum practices, then cost them out.   Campuses could figure out what their budgets must be to meet these standards. But departments haven't been invited to build the budget that would meet their needs.  And the averages for instructional expenditure that have been used by my case study here, the University of California system, aren't reliable.

Instead, I'll use historical budget trends as quality proxies.  I do this for two reasons.  First, the history of the state's relationship to UC controls what the state thinks UC should have.  This is a strained history and it still matters.

Second, UC's budget history expresses the idea that public universities could and should be as good as elite private universities.  Public university students should be roughly equal to private university students. The same was to be true of their faculties.

Historical budgets expressed this aspiration for equality through public quality.  A detailed Senate report I co-authored identified this proxy for full quality as UC's 1990 budget. Strong budgets expressed the quality aspiration in reality as well as in theory.  For example, previous, higher levels of public funding for UC campuses had enabled most of them to become members of the American Association of Universities, a group of North America's strongest research universities. Nearly all did this while tuition was still very low and with negligible per-student endowments.  This taught an important general lesson: Great academic quality came as readily from public support as from private capital.

Quality wasn't just about prestige, but also about social effects.  Public universities were to educate students as well as private universities did.  There were always resource differences (though not today's resource abyss), so let's put it this way: students were not to have to accept lower cognitive benefits from their B.A. by getting it from UC Irvine instead of from Occidental College.  UCI students had more courses in large-lecture format, so UCI had also to be able to afford lots of small courses too.  Occidental College seniors could write a thesis that taught them how to produce as well as consume knowledge.  So UCI had to offer undergraduate research experiences.

The same was true in research: major public universities were  to be as good as the elite privates (Berkeley and Stanford, Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chicago, Chapel Hill and Duke, Rutgers and Princeton, etc.).  Public university doctoral and professional degrees needed to be roughly comparable to private university degrees--or at least not in different leagues. The idea was to have proverbial world-class research going on at several hundred research universities rather than mainly at 16 Ivy League universities and their wealthy equivalents. Public universities needed plenty of internal funds to support research.  It was a national priority to have millions of really good thinkers and hundreds of really good research sites. The dominant political culture assumed these two things--widespread intelligence, abundant research--were essential for democracy, progress, and justice.

So to put the large public system on a clearly inferior resource tier was understood to be economically suboptimal and also unjust.  This was particularly clear in the wake of civil rights movements as economic inequality grew and many K-12 school systems became minority-majority--while generally giving the least funds to districts with the highest shares of Black and brown students.

How are state legislatures doing with keeping public universities in the mix? Here are some charts to show what's happened in California. They come in three sections: UC Core Revenues, the State's Point of View, and What UC Really Has Left.   They track funding from the turn of the century.

1. UC's Core State Revenues

Figure A looks at what's happened to the state's allocation to the University of California.  This is money that generally follows resident students.

In Figure A you'll see 3 lines. The blue line is a benchmark, tracking growth in state per-capita income.  This measures the strength of the economy as it exists in people's pockets.  It goes up 4-5 percent a year most of the time.  If a state wanted to fund an agency in an average way, it would make that agency's revenues rise at the same rate as per-capita income. In this case, the legislature isn't treating it as essential or special, but just letting UC or CSU or public health or transportation grow with the state.

UC enrollment did not stay flat through this period, but increased by about 50 percent. The yellow line takes the per-capita income benchmark and corrects it for actual UC student growth.

The red line tracks the state's actual general fund allocation in nominal dollars, not corrected for inflation.

Figure A: State Funds for UC in Nominal Dollars, Compared to Per-Capita Income Benchmark, and Benchmark Corrected for Enrollment Growth

The story is clear. The state's allocation fell far behind state income growth.

If UC's state funding had kept up with state per-capita income (blue line), its 2019-20 allocation would have been $6.6 billion--not the $3.7 billion it actually got.

If UC's state funding had kept up with this benchmark corrected for 50 percent enrollment growth (yellow line), its current-year allocation would be $10 billion--nearly 3 times more than it received.

Sometimes people explain this low state allocation by saying the state population just doesn't have the money. That's not true.  The state population had the money to spend on UC (or CSU), but spent it elsewhere.  2017-18 was the first year that UC got a higher state allocation than its state allocation in 2001-02 ($3.28 billion).  (2007-08 was the sole exception, at $3.39 billion.)  These nominal dollars don't reflect cumulative inflation, which has been around 46 percent.

In other words, for twenty years, the State of California has gotten all UC enrollment growth and all of its cost increases for free.

On to another chart. Sometimes people say, "well, the whole public sector has been falling behind."  That's also untrue.

 Figure B: Adding California State Budget Growth to Figure A

The purple line is the California state budget (right-hand scale).  State government--health, corrections, transportation, K-12 education, etc--has grown at around the same rate as personal income.  California doesn't have an exceptional government, measured by growth rates.  It has an average-growth government--except for higher education, which state government has pushed well below other agencies.

2. The State's Point of View

State officials will often say that Figures A and B are misleading because they leave out UC's other revenues, especially tuition.  The state has in the past claimed that student tuition is actually state funding.  The more plausible claim is that UC tuition hikes have offset state funding cuts.

In a January 2013 UC Board of Regents meeting, a state official made the point this way:
The possibility of increased funding right now: it doesn't exist. . . .There is no significant amount of money to backfill previous cuts. We've made roughly $900 million in cuts and you've increased fees $1.4 billion dollars. The [fee] increases were disproportionate to the level of disinvestment by the state. 
He was accurately using Department of Finance data to say that UC had $500 million more in gross tuition revenue than the amount of the 2011-12 cut.  The official was state Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.  Pérez, who helped install the UC tuition freeze, now serves as chair of the UC Board of Regents.

To represent the state's understanding, Figure C adds a green line that represents UC core educational revenues.  These are about a quarter of UC's total budget (no medical centers, auxiliaries, or extramural grant funding ("direct costs").   The main revenue sources are state general funding, but now with various kinds of tuition added in (resident tuition, non-resident supplemental tuition, abbreviated as NRST, which mostly international students, and also the state funds that go to UC via the Cal Grants program that eligible students use to pay some of their tuition.  1/3rd of gross resident tuition is "return-to-aid," meaning thaat it cannot be used as operating revenue because it is converted into financial aid. There's also some indirect cost recovery funds and other bits and bobs that the core uses.  Take a look.

Figure C: UC Gross Core Revenues, Including Various Forms of Student Tuition and Related Funds

The green line is a lot better than the red.  UC gross core revenues grow faster than the income benchmark. Core revenues (mainly state funding plus various tuition streams) do a somewhat decent job of keeping up with enrollment growth at the benchmarked level (the yellow line).

You might be wondering about the widening gap between the yellow and green lines in recent years: it reflects the "surge" of unfunded or underfunded resident students the state forced UC to take to make up for the previous growth in non-resident enrollments.  This is a key source of the deficits many UC campuses were projecting even before the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

So here, it looks like the state has a point. UC's educational core has much better revenues than the state general fund calculation (Figures A and B) suggests.

This does not change the fact that the state has been free-riding for growth and upgrades on students, and also on other UC revenues.

But it looks like UC's gross core revenues have at least kept up with state income growth, and slightly beaten inflation.

3. What UC Really Has Left

Here's the problem with the state's point of view: while it was cutting or eroding the general fund allocation, the state also decided not to pay for lots of other things. The two biggest unfunded costs are (i) capital projects and (ii) that part of total compensation known as the University of California Retirement Program (UCRP).

In contrast to previous practice, UC now has to build its own buildings with a combination of University-based borrowing, private donations, and internal operating revenues.  This is the case both on the campuses and at the medical centers.  The state acknowledged the situation with legislation, AB 94, that allows campuses to use state funding to pay interest on debt.  That isn't additional money, just permission to use existing funds for debt that the state used to pay.  Three familiar symptoms rae chronic student overcrowding, inadequate office and research space, and campus disrepair across the UC system.

The "pension holiday" from 1991-2010 was also a payment holiday for the State of California, which saved many billions of dollars over the years.  The state is the only beneficiary of that ill-advised break that has not started to make payments again.  Thus the employer contribution to UCRP comes out of UC operating funds as well. 

Figure D deducts employer pension costs and capital projects costs from UC's gross core revenues. There are many ways to calculate both, and I tried nearly all that I could think of, in consultation with several other longtime budget observers.  This figure uses a UCOP report (without the underlying data) for UCRP costs (Display XIX-6, p 159).  Capital projects costs were based on campus-by-campus calculations of operating revenues allocated to capital projects in each individual year.  This variant, Figure D, shows the highest net revenues of all the methods, so you should see it as a best case for the state's funding practice.  Watch the green line.

Figure D: UC Net Core Revenues (Core Revenues with Endowment Revenues, minus Employer Share of UCRP Contributions and Campus Funds Used for Capital Projects)

Most of the tuition revenue gains in Figure C are canceled by the state's withdrawal from capital projects and by its non-contribution to pension costs. UC revenues have not kept up with the income benchmark.  In some years, net core educational revenues are close to the flatlined state general fund allocation.

The University of California comes into the Covid crisis with net core educational revenues that are well below historic quality norms.  There's no educational surplus lying around to cut.

 4. The Insufficient Base for 2020-21

The anticipated Covid state cuts would be the fourth major round since 1990. But these would be the first without UC's traditional revenue rescue, large tuition hikes. (Existing UC reserves are a separate matter that are outside my scope here.)

The first time the big cuts came, University of California officials assumed they were a one-time event.  That was 1992-95.  The second time the state cut general fund support for UC and CSU, UC had a plan, which was large tuition increases.  That was 2002-5.  The compact the two systems signed with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 2004, didn't just permit tuition increases of 7-10 percent each year, but required them.

The third time state cuts happened, 2008-12, the high tuition plan was in place.  But high tuition didn't make it through the cuts cycle.  The student protests of fall 2011 effectively ended tuition increases on resident undergraduates. Jerry Brown removed Tuition Plan A, tuition hikes on resident undergraduates. UC then refocused on Tuition Plans B and C: increasing non-resident supplemental tuition (NRST), especially by taking more international students, and growing Self-Supporting Graduate Professional Degree Program tuition, where UC academic units create for-profit (mostly masters) programs that can charge high tuition to residents and non-residents alike. The regents capped Tuition Plan B in 2017, and Plan C is unlikely to survive the pandemic.

As you can see in Figure D, UC's net revenues have stagnated for 20 years, have not kept up with the income benchmark, and are far behind enrollment growth.

State cuts and quiet general fund erosion have already lowered UC quality. They have lowered it specifically for the most economically and racially diverse population in California memory.  Sacramento's funding practice gives much less per-student educational funding to today's students-of-color majority than it gave to their majority white predecessors a generation ago--even after we count revenues from tripled in-state tuition.

This losing battle has taken place in a state that has seen one of the most intense accumulations of wealth in recorded history.  We don't expect Google and Apple to support high quality higher ed for all. But we do expect state government to do that.

Any state revenue cuts now will directly cut UC quality again.  This time, the damage may be irreversible.  State government must now reverse the chronic underfunding policy of recent decades. It must keep UC (and CSU) whole for the sake of the state.


Figure E: Version 2 of Figure D--UC Net Core Revenues (Core Revenues with Endowment Revenues, minus Employer Share of UCRP Contributions and Campus Funds Used for Capital Projects)

Many thanks to Minh Hua, the RA with inexhaustible spreadsheet stamina.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 1

Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday, May 15, 2020
Its a simple story, as budget stories really are.

In 2019-20, the University of California received $3.724 billion of its revenues from the Golden State. That was a bit under ten percent of UC's gross revenues, budgeted to be $38.394 billion.  "Core" revenues on the campuses are about a quarter of that. The rest are medical centers and revenues from auxiliaries like housing.  That means that state general funds are about 40 percent of UC's educational core.

In November, the UC Office of the President got the Board of Regents to ask for an increase.  The base increase was a bit over $264 million.  Throw in some other line items, like paying for undergraduate enrollment growth !!, and you had $447 million in requested increases.

It looked ambitious, but it wasn't, for reasons of withdrawn one-time funds, etc.  It was a treading- water budget. Most campuses were already projecting structural deficits in a couple of years, even after years of good-pupil pursuit of non-public revenue streams like international students and for-profit masters programs.  The system projected a deficit as well. Base conditions on the campuses have long been bad--a whole concealed story in itself--and these increases kept this status quo.

This was  too rich for Gov Gavin Newsom.  In January, he offered UC half of its request - $217 million. It was a deed of anti-chivalry I heralded in my budget poem.  Then Covid-19 arrived and swept across the land.

Like every other university, and like every hospital system, UC took massive hits. Half were to the medical center, and half were to the campuses, more or less. The campuses had big losses in housing and dining as those were mostly emptied out. UC hospitals emptied beds and other facilities expecting a Covid-19 flood.  Long story short, UC projects total losses of $2.7 billion -- by June 30, 2020, for the current fiscal year.  Teresa Watanabe's story in the LA Times was rightly titled, "UC Reeling Under Staggering Coronovirus Costs.'

The current best case, the thinking goes, is that Covid-19 disrupts UC through Fall 2020 but then normalcy returns. 2021 would then be a fairly normal year-- face-to-face instruction, laboratories at full throttle, much higher cleaning, testing, tracing, and monitoring costs but also normal revenues.  In this best case, UC assumed a no-cut state budget.  If the state held firm, losses would be only another $4.4 billion or so for 2020-21. They would come from lost non-resident tuition and various Covid-19 expenses in the fall (testing, temporary classrooms for social distancing, etc.), and not losses from the state.  UC would be out $7 billion or so from March 2019 through end of June 2020, but could possibly cover that with borrowing and additional stimulus funds--emphasis on possibly. That was still at least a 10 percent loss for 2020-21--as the best case.  And it depended, to repeat, on a flat state budget -- neither the $447 million nor the $264 million increase, but merely a $0 increase for next year.

$0 was too much for Gavin Newsom. He has now come back again with another cut. Rather than just under $4 billion for UC, in the already-reduced January offer, Newsom proposes $3.369 billion, down about $629 million, a cut in the state share of 15.72 percent.

This pushes the best-case 2020-21 losses (on the January budget for that year) to more than $5 billion.  I'll put this another way.  About half of the $4.4 in losses were on the campuses--around $2.2 billion.  Newsom's cuts have just increased UC's core campus loses by nearly 30 percent.

States are supposed to help their major public systems, not disable them.  California forgot this long ago. It has forgotten this most completely with the educational pillars of its storied knowledge economy.

Sacramento looks for the cheapest deal, and it has gotten it with the University of California.  Newsom's new general fund figure, around $3.4 billion, is about what the state gave UC  in 2001-02, two decades ago.  Since then, inflation has run 46 percent, and undergraduate enrollments are up 52 percent.  A flat state general fund share for UC, reflecting both, would be $7.8 billion next year. Newsom has decided UC isn't worth even half of that.

In effect, the state is planning yet again proposing to do serious damage to UC quality.  Research, doctoral education, undergraduate education, and their basic infrastructure have not recovered from the 2008-11 cuts, and the governor proposes to hit them again.

I'll just pull out two major issues.  UC doctoral students are the backbone of UC teaching and research.  Those in private housing need a COLA to afford rent in most UC locations. Where is that money supposed to come from when the UAW contract is renegotiated?

Secondly, racial disparity.  Undergraduate graduation rates vary by race: the 4 year rates are 54/57 percent for African American and Latinx students and 73/76 percent for white and Asian American students.  This is the most rudimentary quality measure--not what did you learn, but simply did you finish--and yet UC lacks the funds to achieve racial parity in basic grad rates.  It costs money to (a) make up for weaker preparation coming from California's de facto segregated high schools (no 2nd year algebra or calculus, for example); and (b) give enough financial aid to keep poorer students from working too much. State cuts = more racial disparity, plain and simple.

Think of the difference between Newsom's $3.4 billion general fund offer and the inflation-enrollment corrected amount UC should have, $7.8 billion, like this.  In 2001, Underrepresented Minority (URM) students were 16 percent of UC's undergrad population. This year, they are 29 percent.  The state now invests half as much in a student body with twice the share of black and brown students.

Everyone decries this textbook structural racism--the Regents, the governor (p 48), and every liberal Democrat who also plays respectability politics by saying there must be "sizable reductions in services"or saying "a hand up, not a hand out."  Herbert Hoover would be proud. If Democrats don't want racial disparity, they should stop producing it with austerity, as though Keynes never lived, the New Deal never happened, civil rights were a chimera, and stimulus funding didn't actually build the country.

It's economically illiterate for California Democrats to revive Hoovernomics when it will hurt the most. The legislature should reject Newsom's cuts to the state's core systems.

UPDATE 5.19.  Yesterday, UC president Janet Napolitano announced a pay freeze for "policy-covered staff employees," 10 percent salary cuts for her and the campus chancellors, and the continuation of ladder-faculty merit reviews (the coded language here will need careful parsing, and will probably be implemented somewhat differently on the various campuses).

Towards the end, she noted,
From mid-March through April alone, we estimate that systemwide financial losses totaled nearly $1.2 billion, and we anticipate these losses will continue to climb in the months ahead. Needless to say, this significant loss of revenue is having an enormous negative effect on our budgets. Additionally, Governor Newsom last week announced a revised State budget for 2020-21 that includes a 10 percent funding reduction for UC of $372 million.
Newsom's May cut takes UC down to $3.369 billion.  Why does Napolitano describe this as a ten percent cut for 2020-21, not 15.72 percent?  It depends on how you count. It's a
  • 10 percent cut from 2019-20's general fund appropriation of $3.724 billion.
  • 16 percent cut from Newsom's January budget proposal (see Dept of Finance)
  • 20 percent cut from the UC Regents' November budget proposal (of $4.228 billion).
With a 20 percent cut, Newsom joins Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown in the 20 Percent Higher Ed Cuts Club.

I don't know why Napolitano is minimizing the size of the state cut, making it seem like half of what it actually is when compared to the University's official request in November.  That November request was not large enough to make UC solvent (second budget slide here): many UC campuses were projecting deficits on its basis.  Add in the non-state revenue losses and UC's 2020-21 is an unprecedented budget disaster.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 4

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
by Eric Hays, Executive Director, Council of UC Faculty Associations

The UC Regents are meeting May 19-21 via Zoom. Agenda materials are now available online here:

Some highlights follow.

On Tuesday, May 19th, at 11:30 am, there will be a public comment session followed by the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee discussing major capital projects. Then, at 2:30 pm, the Investments Committee will get an update on how hard hit UC's various investment pools are. The pension fund, for example, is down 12.4 percent in the first quarter of 2020, or down 4% from this time last year. Remember, the assumption is that UCRP will earn on average a 6.75% rate of return (already lowered last Octobeer from an assumed 7.25% return).  UC had discussed increasing employee contributions at the time.  What will they discuss in the midst of Covid-19?

Here's the full Investment Committee report. It  includes information about UC's other major funds, like the endowment and the investment pools. You can find links to the Power Point presentations at the end of that document for more details about each fund.

Then, at 4:30 pm, the Special Committee on Basic Needs will meet to discuss the report they were working on before Covid. UC students were already suffering from food and housing insecurity. What is the situation now? They do have a Covid update agendized, but without any real information.

Wednesday, May 20th, starts with a closed session where the Regents will discuss hiring a new Chancellor for UC Merced.  Then it becomes Covid-19 Day. 

At 10 am the Health Service Committee is supposed to hear about the impact of Covid on UC's health services. At least half of UC's projected losses this spring stem from the Medical Centers.  But so far there are no details for this item in the agenda.  In the Academic and Student Affairs Committee that follows, the agenda material says only,
UC campuses are actively involved in scenario planning for the fall, with options ranging from returning to on-campus instruction, continuing remote instruction, or a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction.
Since UC's recovery depends on opening campuses for instruction, we should look for more detailed planning.

This session will be followed by the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee discussing the impact of Covid on UC revenue. There are some interesting figures here:
  • UC campuses and medical centers had over $14 billion in working capital as of March 31, 2020 – an amount roughly equivalent to 155 days’ cash on hand. 
  • Losses to UC in March and April totaled $1.2 billion across the system, including $700 million attributable to the University’s medical centers
Quantitative information peters out quickly.  The agenda describes potential reductions in revenue from tuition or from the state as "uncertain."
There is more detail about the state's finances here:
On May 7, the Department of Finance projected a looming budget deficit of $54.3 billion for the State, including $13.4 billion in the current year and $40.9 billion in 2020-21. (The overall projected deficit is equivalent to nearly 37 percent of budgeted General Fund expenditures in 2019-20.) A report published by the Legislative Analyst’s Office on May 8 projects a deficit ranging from $18 billion to $31 billion... A significant reduction in ongoing State support for UC in 2020-21 is possible. The timeline and prospects for full restoration of any such cuts could be uncertain for some time. (Even today, State support for the University remains below 2007-08 levels after adjusting for inflation, California resident enrollment growth, and other factors.) (emphasis added)
Then (and mind you this is still supposedly before lunch on Wednesday) the full board will gather to discuss "Principles for Responsible Operation of University Locations in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic." You can read a roadmap to reopen campuses.

At 1:00 pm, the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meets to discuss UCOP's budget for next year.  UC says they will work really hard to get the 2020-21 Office of the President's budget down 5% from the 2019-20 budget.

At 2:00 pm, the Governance Committee has an agenda item about a review of board member misconduct, but the link to background material is currently broken. The committee will also discuss the policy on appointing the Student Regent. That is followed by some closed sessions.

Which brings us to Thursday, the 21st. The full board meets starting at 8:30 am with public comment, followed by further discussion and then finally a vote on an issue that preoccupied the Board during their first remote Covid meeting in March: UC's use of standardized college entrance exams.  The use of the SAT/ACT in admissions has roiled higher education for decades, and UC is no exception.  President Napolitano is recommending that the regents suspend the standardized test requirement through 2024, pending a fully revised or new equivalent test. Read all about it here.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 2

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Thursday, May 7, 2020

This is an open letter expressing the concerns of around a dozen Assistant Professors from the Faculty Organizing Group (FOG) at UCSC. The authors would like to encourage all colleagues to share stories of surveillance, intimidation and/or punitive measures taken by university administrations during the COVID-19 crisis with the hashtag #DisciplineAnd Punish. Also please follow the “Ad Hoc Committee of Scholars 4 COLA” on Facebook and on Twitter (handle: @COLASolidarity).

Dear Colleagues,

Assistant professors have been repeatedly asked, both formally and informally, to provide information about how the graduate student wildcat strike (and later, the COVID-19 pandemic) has impacted our research, teaching, and service on campus. Here is our collective response.

Echoing numerous calls from the faculty senate, individual departments, and colleagues at institutions across the United States, we write in the form of an open letter, to call upon the administration to stop their harmful disciplinary actions against graduate and undergraduate members of our campus community.

To our great dismay, what has impacted us the most is not the circumstances created by the strike itself, such as the absence of TAs in our lecture courses, additional grading, and general disruption to our teaching. Rather, the most taxing element has been the emotional, logistical, and material support we have provided graduate and undergraduate students as a direct result of the administration’s punitive responses to the strike. And now, in the midst of a global pandemic, many of us have been working countless additional hours to assist students who have been caught up in a needlessly aggressive disciplinary dragnet because of their involvement in the strike.

We are deeply frustrated by our campus administration’s misguided approach in responding to the strike, particularly the ongoing disciplinary hearings whose only purpose seems to be to intimidate and overwhelm students. These actions traumatize the students involved; it is unconscionable that they continue at a time when students are struggling in the face of unprecedented financial, psychological, and health risks. They also put a disproportionate burden on junior faculty members who have often been on the frontlines (sometimes literally—at the picket) in defending these students from a bureaucratic machine whose punitive actions seem to know no rhyme or reason.

The administration has been carrying out disciplinary proceedings against at least 49 students for strike-related activities, despite the passing of a faculty senate resolution and numerous faculty letters and requests calling for these disciplinary actions to stop. Students arrested at the picket line received interim suspensions; some of these students had been injured by police, and the suspensions impeded their timely access to medical care on campus. Arrested students and those who withheld grades have received warning letters in their files.

Disciplinary hearings have been ongoing, even after the onset of COVID-19, and even as cities and states closed courts and halted criminal proceedings. The administration has refused to halt or revoke any of these measures even after students submitted grades. Perhaps most mysteriously, they have formed a “Demonstrations Operations Team,” whose role remains opaque at best. Ostensibly charged with “coordinating the campus’ specific operational planning and response needs related to campus activism,” we have no information about who team members are and little to no knowledge about their budget, surveillance activities, oversight role, or involvement in issuing summons.

As faculty, our role has involved providing for the physical safety, emotional health, and academic success of our students. We have accompanied them to multiple disciplinary hearings when they were intimidated by disciplinary officers. We have also provided time and emotional support to vulnerable, frightened, and sometimes ill students. We organized a daily faculty march and picket line support group so that faculty observers were at all times at the base of campus to protect students from campus-paid police, and to serve as witnesses should testimonials later be required, which they were. We made donations of money and food to help already-struggling students continue to meet their daily needs. We worked to secure alternative funding and employment for fired graduate students and wrote numerous letters. These included character letters for students as part of the disciplinary proceedings and letters to campus administration expressing our dismay about how these proceedings have unfolded.  We spent afternoons being interviewed by disciplinary officers who were attempting to corroborate police reports with student accounts.

Quantitatively, many of us easily spent between ten and twenty hours a week on these activities during winter quarter (and into the present). This workload has only become more complex and time-consuming in the context of COVID-19, as we navigate the many bureaucratic and procedural inconsistencies caused by moving these disciplinary hearings to Zoom. In total, we estimate that assistant professors have spent at least 2,000 hours engaged in hearings and other activities related to our students’ punishment, intimidation, and dismissal—undoubtedly enough time to publish one or more articles, or even finish first books.

These numbers only gesture at a more worrying reality: the disturbing skill-sets acquired by assistant professors on our campus. We now know the answers to many questions we had previously never wished to ask: What is the difference between the CHP and campus police? What is the correct tone to use when speaking with police officers in riot gear to de-escalate a situation and avoid physical harm being inflicted on students? Where does our academic freedom begin and end when it comes to using Canvas or modifying our syllabi? Is a grade property—and, if so, who “owns” a grade? Should we be worried about our security of employment based on a student’s online report via the administration-provided Canvas widget (dubbed the Tattlebot by faculty)? Might photos taken of us by police at the picket line be used against us in future tenure and promotion decisions?

To offer an example of what this disciplining has looked like, one of us accompanied a graduate student - who had in fact submitted grades - to a hearing. They were being “investigated” for having temporarily moved these grades off Canvas. The charges included “interference with courses of instruction, theft or damage of intellectual property; unauthorized entry to, possession of, receipt of, duplication of, or use of any university services; theft or abuse of university computers and other University electronic resources; forgery, alteration or misuse of any university, state, federal or other government documents; obstruction or disruption of teaching; failure to identify oneself to, or comply with directions of, a university official; violation of any other university policy or campus regulation.” This list can only be read as a concerted attempt to intimidate and harass this student.  This heavy-handed process raises troubling questions—for us  as well as our graduate students—about the potential uses of Canvas for surveillance and discipline.

To offer a second example, another of us supported an undergraduate student who, after being present at the picket line in February, was later investigated for alleged “obstruction of university activities.” This student was one of a large number of undergraduates who had assembled at the base of campus in support of their TAs. That day, a number of faculty saw this student arrested during the well-documented episode of police overreach and outright brutality. During this student’s hearing, the faculty support person saw their student forced to relive the anxiety and lingering trauma from their interaction with police (a condition that has been formally diagnosed by a medical professional) as the student conduct officer posed confusing, leading questions. This student never received the opportunity to review the full evidence held against them, and was only sent piecemeal and contradictory police testimonies.

Many of us arrived at UC Santa Cruz excited about the university’s history of support for radical and progressive politics and intellectual thought. We looked forward to fulfilling the three components of our responsibilities as assistant professors—teaching, research, and service—at a public, Hispanic-serving institution that takes its commitment to undergraduates seriously. One of our primary activities in the past year has fallen somewhere between teaching and service: working closely with UCSC students, helping expand their intellectual horizons and acting as a source of support, as so many mentors have done for us. This role is rewarding but challenging for many of us—particularly for female-identified assistant professors and faculty of color, as we try to establish a balance between caring for our students’ welfare and maintaining our professional role as professors. It is particularly difficult on this campus even during the best of times, as campus services struggle to keep up with the very real problems of food insecurity, homelessness, sexual violence, and expressions of racism that confront our students. As a result, our role is often something between a social worker and a professor. We have no training for the former, nor is this labor particularly valued as we approach mid-career reviews and the always-ticking tenure clock. 

Some will say it was our decision—and not our responsibility—to assume this role. We could have watched from the sidelines as our students were harassed, arrested, and even physically injured. Yet such a position implies that professors’ mentorship and care should be restricted to classroom discussions. Moreover, the Academic Personnel Manual (210) states that, “Mentoring and advising of students and faculty members, particularly from underrepresented and underserved populations, should be given due recognition in the teaching or service categories of the academic personnel process.” Indeed, we see our activities around the strike as fully in line with our responsibility to support the most precarious members of our community.

These activities have continued into the spring. The administration’s present actions continue to undermine the well-being of our students, precisely at a time when their precarity has been heightened by COVID-19. While we worry about the welfare of our community, the administration seems to be undermining our efforts at every turn, continuing to traumatize students at a precarious time. Not only do their actions harm graduate students, they have also been profoundly destabilizing for undergraduates who have been swept up in disciplinary hearings. Indeed, for  all the UCSC administration’s statements of concerns about the impact of the strike on undergraduate learning, the reality is that undergraduate learning has been severely disrupted by such an opaque and inconsistent disciplinary process. It is alarming that as we transition to distance learning, the most immediate connection that students maintain with UCSC is through its disciplinary bureaucracy.

Now that the graduate students have announced that they will collectively submit outstanding fall and winter quarter grades, we believe that it is time to bring this disciplinary process to a close. We ask again that the university halt all disciplinary proceedings, end probationary periods and other sanctions (including the possible loss of housing stipends), and expunge the records of all graduate and undergraduate students under investigation.

We hope that the administration will take seriously our request to halt the disciplinary process and will offer a response to this letter.


Assistant Professors of FOG, UCSC

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 3

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020
In mid-April, the U.S. shifted from "will shutdown work?" to "how do we open up?" The answer is that we can't--at least not yet, if we want to avoid the further spread of SARS-CoV-2 and a "second peak."   Georgia, Florida et al. are running an experiment in premature opening, using their local populations as guinea pigs. If bowling is an essential service for you, you know where to go to participate, for science and the greater good.

There's another problem. We aren't yet willing to spend the massive funds that reopening will take.  It's not about more frequent sanitizing of the bowling balls.  We're not yet willing to construct a complete program and ask for the full funding for the public systems we obviously need.  Higher ed, along with state leaders in general, haven't gotten their heads around the scale of the ask. 

In fact, it's been looking this month like higher ed will go quietly to the slaughter. There are now daily announcements from colleges and universities of layoffs, furloughs, financial cuts, and contemplations of permanent downsizing. You can read similar notices from diverse institutions like the University of Arizona, Emory University, the Pennsylvania state system,  the University of Tulsa, Michigan State, Minnesota State-Moorhead, Vermont, etc. New Jersey suspended nearly a billion dollars of expenditures in the current fiscal year, of which $122 million was for state colleges.  Austerity is the default reflex everywhere.  2008-10 is repeating itself.

I see one big reason as the right-wing political training that higher ed and other public services have absorbed all too well.  Knowledge types have been bullied, over decades, out of asking for what their jobs require. The training continues: The higher ed portion of last month's bailout was $14 billion on a $50 billion request, and only half of that went to colleges themselves. (The half to support students has mostly not arrived.) Universities' share, $7 billion, is around 1 percent of annual college expenditures, obviously far short of the 20 percent losses that many are projecting. In research, universities got 10 percent of what they asked for (which was $13 billion). More recently, some higher ed leaders asked for another $46.6 billion to cover Covid-related losses, but this week's federal bailout bill gave them nothing.

Last week, University of California president Janet Napolitano wrote to state leaders to report University losses of $550 million - for the month of March. The campus share of these losses came to about 40% of normal revenues. Teresa Watanabe's LA Times piece had the fitting title, "UC reeling under staggering coronavirus costs."  In her letter, Napolitano noted that "the $260 million in direct assistance that UC campuses will receive through the CARES Act will not be sufficient to cover even the first month of our COVID-19 response." Informal estimates of total system losses are in the $2.0 - 2.5 billion range.  I'd guess it will be a 15 percent hit to annual core expenditures.

But the Napolitano letter doesn't actually ask for an amount of money.  There's this: "As you consider the 2020-21 State budget, providing funding for UC to cover some of our COVID-19 response costs will help UC provide students the education they were promised, treat our employees with fairness, and provide our communities with compassionate care." That's all very important.  But doesn't UC need another $2 billion just to maintain current levels of service?  Where are they going to get it if they don't ask for it?

I would much rather develop a reconstruction plan than a bailout.  But we're not even getting that.  Where is the quantified financial plan?

In contrast, the Right has no inhibitions about making its biggest possible ask.  Trump needs a 2017 rating bump? The Senate's majority leader, Mitch McConnell, gets him a $1.5 trillion tax cut. McConnell doesn't like public employees or their pensions?  He lards this week's stimulus with the statement thata he'd rather the states declare bankruptcy than get federal pension help.  Trump is using shutdown frustration to cast competent government as a Democrat attack on personal liberty.  This is very successful business as usual: Republicans long ago shifted the zone of the possible by taking Barry Goldwater's old line about "extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice" and applying it to everything, particularly the pursuit of tax cuts, which require discrediting all government-coordinated forms of common action and mutualized costs. The political Right has made it all possible by demanding the whole thing that they want and more, and never accepting 10 percent, not ever.  The knowledge party should be no less determined.

Universities have a massive recovery role to play through education, research, and sustained employment. Making the negative version of this point in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Paul Friga observed,
If 20 percent of colleges really face closure, as some experts predict, local college communities across the nation would be devastated. Estimates of the economic impact of higher education vary from $2 to $7 per $1 invested. Every year, colleges spend around $584 billion. If the industry contracted by, say, a quarter, this could translate to a hit to the economy of anywhere from $292 billion to over $1 trillion.
We get to the scale of $1 trillion very quickly.  That's fine: the feds are now spending trillions of dollars every couple of weeks. The reason is simple.  The shutdown is leading the world towards another Great Depression.  As one symptom, we may already have a real unemployment rate of 23 percent.  We need to do every possible thing to get out of it.  Opening up and then recovering is going to take new order of magnitude for public expenditure.

Serious reopening plans have now been announced in Germany, in the UK (which requires "no risk of a second peak"), in New York (exemplified by Governor Andrew Cuomo's remarkable stay-the-course press conference April 13th), in California (where Gov. Gavin Newsom's reopening plan is very rigorous), and elsewhere. The common features of the strong plans are:
  1. testing everybody--the sick, the well, the in-between--and also more than once.
  2. contract tracing of all positive cases
  3. isolating of the ill and the maybe-ill, meaning taking lots of people out of the workforce for two to four weeks--perhaps more than once
  4. treating everyone, immediately and completely, without overwhelming people and equipment
  5. having personal protective equipment for same. 
  6. social distancing after opening, basically everywhere (Newsom mentioned "businesses, schools, and child care facilities," and I would add parks, beaches, food shops, liquor stores, subway trains, buses, sidewalks, restaurants, playgrounds, classrooms . . .)  Six feet? 12 feet? 
  7. renewed "stay-at-home" orders from time to time (If you see infection rates "tick up," Cuomo said, "you've opened the value too fast" and you have to close it down again (0'13"). See Singapore.
  8. the cultural capability to deal with uncertainty, new conditions, complex information, negative affects, sociocultural differences, opening-closing cycles, app-based medical surveillance, systemic regulation, and big government.
That's the first order stuff.  But with our many little, bullied governments, we don't have the infrastructure, the people, the PPE, the cultural intelligence. And yet we must have them.  We must work on a bigger scale with more massive systems than we've ever done.

For example: (1) requires reagents, swabs, machines, technicians, and accurate testing. And volume: Paul Romer tweeted "do the math: discover that you need millions of tests a day."  Leana Wen wrote, "Testing should also be available to everyone who needs or wants it. . . . Reasonable reopening scenarios include testing of employees and students before they return to work and school. This means millions of tests must be available every day so that there can be a staggered return for the most essential workers, followed by gradual return of other employees and students."  A Harvard report quantified the most effective regime at 10 million tests a day. with "precise tracing' requiring 2.5 million tests a day.  But so far, the U.S. has administered 4.9 million tests since the pandemic began. Daily averages have hovered around 150,000, or 1.5 percent of the full program (and are up to about 200,000 in the last several days). "Testing falls woefully short" more or less everywhere in the U.S. Last week, Politico had reported that testing numbers had in fact been falling.

Or (2), contact tracing: this will require a workforce of 300,000 people.  Think a 2nd Census on top of the first one.  Testing and contact tracing could easily cost $100 billion a year, and as much as $500 billion if done piecemeal (see pp 15-16).  Congress did just allocate $25 billion for testing.

Or (5): market free-for-alls have grossly undersupplied personal protective equipment, made worse by Trump family private-sector arbitrage of essential medical supplies.  (6), modified social distancing, is a huge unknown. At universities, it may end the large lecture for a year or two if not forever, turn every double- or triple-occupant dorm room into a single, eliminate half to two-thirds of desks in every classroom, cover campus grounds with tent classrooms, half-empty dining halls, require thermal-imaging machines at the entrances to all major buildings, cut capacity in every bar in every college town, etc. And universities are an easier case than Georgia governor Brian Kemp's first-to-reopen esseential businesses: "gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbershops, cosmetologists, and hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians and their respective schools, massage therapists."

Progressives, which in the U.S. political frame means every single person in higher ed, now need to think in terms of real money, to do the whole job, and all the jobs that actually need doing. This will involve a few elements.  They should be constructed as a package, all five dimensions together. Get one, then another, then keep trying for the others.
  1. Firing Freeze.  Universities must not lay off anyone, and must not cancel hires of early-career scholars either. 
  2. Federal direct paycheck support.  This is not the current "Paycheck Protection Plan" in which forgivable loans are made to businesses. It would be a copy of the British, Danish, or South Korean plans in which the government directly pays 75-80% of a person's pay in their existing job to keep them there -- as cooks, teachers, custodians, accountants, research assistants, stage managers, composers, everything.
  3. Federal grants to state governments to make this possible, covering their deficits and expanded spending so they don't bring on the New Depression by cutting everything we need. 
  4. Government Work Projects.  The Green New Deal comes to mind, and so does the original New Deal's public works. The Executive Director of the Modern Language Association, Paula Krebs, summarized the idea for arts and humanities workers in an article at CNN.  
    The Works Progress Administration (WPA), created with an initial $4.9 billion appropriation in 1935 during the Depression, is commonly associated with the building of roads and bridges. 
    But the WPA also employed writers, researchers, historians, artists, musicians, actors and other cultural figures — and the work they did had as profound and lasting impact on the nation as the bridges and roads built by thousands of laborers.. . . 
    The Federal Music Project, perhaps best known today for folklorists John and Alan Lomax's collections of the music of rural America, commissioned music, hired performers and conductors, and consciously set out to shape public appreciation for music, as the theater and writers' projects did for their disciplines.  . . . 
    The thousands of humanities scholars who are now working as adjunct labor, who have been pushed by the higher education economy into underemployment and unemployment, constitute a labor force that could wade through fast-changing cultural conditions right now and help to shape our national understanding of how our lives are changing and how we are reacting to the shifts. . . 
    How many people are feeling unmoored by their isolation, and are trying to learn how to get their entertainment from a screen instead of through interpersonal interaction? What happens to families when you can no longer visit the grandparents? How does it change what it's acceptable to say or write when a President renames a virus to target another country or an ethnic group? We as a nation must take on these questions as urgently as the question of getting the economy going again.
The model applies to STEM students, researchers, and workers as well.  It would also include the rebuilding of non-academic public infrastructure, like our D-grade roads and bridges, insulate millions of older American houses, and  build social housing for the unhoused with government-funded workers.  It could fix up a lot of faltering colleges.

     5. National Higher Ed Upgrade. Writing in the Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, I described Free College Plus, which, first, buys out tuition in a large network of public colleges, and second, avoids the free-college poverty syndrome by also increasing per-student spending. The idea is to bring per-student expenditures up to an average of $20,000 a year, which is about three times more than most students receive at our thousands of low-income public colleges.  Something similar needs to happen for research, in the arts, humanities, and social sciences as well as in STEM.  The annual new expenditure for the teaching upgrade, not counting debt cancellation, would be about $100 billion, each year.  All things considered, this is cheap.

This all seems so unimaginable as to be embarrassingly ridiculous. But that's my point. We've been trained to feel this about our own needs and visions, and so we ask for pennies on the dollar of real possibility.

Covid-19 is helping us think at the proper scale.  Think a package of a trillion or two.  Covid-19 is showing it's not that much money--especially compared to the alternative.

Image credit: Harry Haysom for the Chronicle of Higher Education
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 4

Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday, April 17, 2020

By Hannah Chadeayne Appel, Asst Prof of Anthropology, and Ananya Roy, Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography and The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy, UCLA

We are two of the faculty members who have written a survey that we are asking our colleagues to take.  It is about the relations between the UC graduate student strike and the covid-19 pandemic: how do you see this relationship, and how would you most like to respond.  The survey can be found at this link.  And here’s a bit more on the thinking that lies behind it.

Covid-19 lays bare a precarity that long predates it. The virus’ routes expose and deepen lived inequalities, demonstrating that the taking of human life is neither natural nor inevitable, but rather an outcome of political decisions that have ravaged social protections and hollowed out infrastructures of care.

As this blog has chronicled over the years, the formerly public university is paradigmatic of this hollowing out—increasingly reliant on the tuition of indebted students and the shamefully under-remunerated labor of adjunct faculty. As calls for rent strikes resound across the U.S., severely rent-burdened graduate students in the University of California system were already months into a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) wildcat strike. Precisely. Covid-19 lays bare precarity that long predates it.

Covid-19’s safer-at-home mandates, remote instruction, hiring freezes, evaporation of summer teaching and of broader job prospects exacerbate the pre-existing housing insecurity and financial stress that the COLA movement aims to reveal and remedy. Undergraduates as well as graduate students are asked to succeed as students in communities where they cannot afford to live and work. Now undergraduates find themselves lacking access to technologies, space, and other resources required for online instruction, while graduate students are expected to teach from living conditions not appropriately conducive to that labor. A COLA means compensation adequate to the cost of living, and this is even more necessary in a pandemic. If the COLA movement emphasizes that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, covid-19 exacerbates the inadequacy of all those conditions and foregrounds the urgency of addressing these problems together.

The Inter-Campus Faculty Solidarity Network is a group of about 40 tenured, untenured, and adjunct faculty from across the UCs who had been communicating weekly throughout the COLA campaign. We have continued to do so into the covid-19 crisis. This network is in turn generated by Faculty Organizing Groups and other bodies of long-standing faculty activism that emerged from previous moments of austerity. As the network watched covid begin to overshadow COLA, we felt that articulating their intersection and (re)mobilizing faculty was all the more pressing. Thus we wrote the survey you find here, which aims to better understand faculty concerns during this time and to organize potential future collective action to respond to those concerns – from support for the COLA demands to our own uncertain futures at a time of looming economic recession.

We cannot return to business as usual once the masks are off. We cannot sit by, again, as we are told, there is no alternative. There are alternatives. And it will not be administrators who envision them or build the power to champion them. It will be us – adjunct and tenure-line faculty and undergraduate and graduate students and student debtors – categories that blur increasingly for those of us who were schooled and indebted in neoliberal times. 

As Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History & Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History at UCLA said on the occasion of UCLA’s COLA rally: “This is bigger than a cost of living adjustment. You are on the frontlines of a broader struggle against a new university order that entails the casualization of labor; rising tuitions; the financialization of higher education resulting in unsustainable student debt and corporate profit; not to mention investments in institutions that violate human rights and hasten the planet’s demise. You are fighting for a different future, and as faculty who want a university that practices equity and ethical behavior, that can reverse its neoliberal trend, we have no choice but to stand in solidarity and to stand up.”

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 9

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Here's an act of self-harm that is spreading from coast to coast. Stanford University is "pausing" all faculty searches. "Provost Drell will permit hiring processes to continue if 'discussions have taken place with the finalist about terms of the offer,' or if a formal offer has been extended to a candidate for a faculty position, but any pending offer for a staff position must be put on hold immediately.  On August 31, 2019, the end of the university’s fiscal year, Stanford reported its endowment was $27.7 billion."

That's the author's sequencing, not mine. Drell is tossing out a lot of faculty time and effort, for starters. She's throwing people who almost got jobs back into a terrible job market. And for how much savings--one year of payroll for how many new faculty?  Unknown.  (Update: On April 1st, UC Berkeley announced their own hiring freeze, counting $100 million in covid-related costs, on a $3 billion base).

Another example, from Brown University at the other end of the financial spectrum.  Their provost   is not canceling searches already "well under way," but has frozen future hiring other than "a very few critically strategic hires in the year ahead."  A number of very wealthy elite universities are following suit (Emory, Columbia, Penn . . ): see Bryan Alexander's growing spreadsheet and also this very long one.

Here's a third case, from a state system with 23 campuses and over 450,000 students.

 "All open searches are to be stopped"-- unless the top 2 campus officers agree that it's "vital." They are now the sole originators of searches, "if they deem it necessary." How many searches are cancelled--hundreds across all  campuses? We don't know.

Translation for all three, and the other freezes  now occurring: "we expect the ship to take on water in the coming storm.  So first we'll throw early career researchers overboard."

Note two other features. These senior officials don't offer financial modeling to explain or justify the freezes. Second, these are top-down decisions, devoid of shared governance. They identify no consultation with the units affected. A full range of operational answers aren't produced. What will this do to your major? to your students graduating? to their learning? to department functions? How will this affect your research, short, medium, and long term? What does this do to your doctoral program? How does it affect doctoral education in any particular discipline. There's no information.

Academia has long let financial factors dominate or simply ignore educational ones, to the long-term detriment of education. Administration becomes a transmission belt in which a crisis in the outside world immediately becomes a crisis in the institution. In addition to hurting education, this kind of management robs the institution of agency. It also fails the essential public job of countercyclical actions that resist the cycle of  shutdown--consumption crash--job loss--no money--more closures.

But wait, you say, this is the Great Depression 2.0.  3.3 million new unemployment claims last week, all sorts of back-of-the-envelope fun being had by Fed economists, etc.. Shouldn't the funding collapse override all other factors? 

No. Hell no. A thousand times no.

Managers must always think about the welfare of their whole institutions, which means considering multiple factors when allocating funds. In this case, that includes how a cut or a freeze will affect
  1. immediate institutional solvency
  2. long term institutional solvency
  3. the university's immediate operations, like teaching and research
  4. the university's long term operations, like teaching and research
  5. university personnel (sunk effort, effectiveness, fairness, morale, continuation, recovery)
  6. the disciplines represented in the university
  7. the overall profession of college teaching and research
That's a short list, and you can see an item like (5) can be broken out into many parts. The items at the top are not more important than the rest.  Managers don't really get to pick one or two of these and ignore all others  But that is what Provost Drell and Chancellor White et al. are doing: only getting to (1) or (2) on a  long list, and not to the rest--to impact on courses, curriculum, departmental health, student access, success, food and housing, not to mention the continuity of the professions that keep universities alive.

Drell and White aren't to blame for the defective managerial culture in higher ed nationally, but they are enacting it here. Universities have long dealt with present fiscal crises by sacrificing the future: in addition to their epic passages of deferred maintenance and the like, they have addressed chronic financial shortfalls by hiring temporary faculty rather than permanent ones or by hiring no new faculty at all.  They have not invoked items (3) through (7) above and said to their legislatures, governing  boards, senior managers, wealthy donors, etc., "we cannot offer quality instruction, which in universities always includes a research dimension, by adjuncting more than X percent of our faculty."  (X was traditionally 1/3rd averaged across the sector.)  They have not said this. The long-term results have been
  • massive shrinking of the tenure-track job market
  • destabilization of doctoral study (doing intellectual as well as personal damage)
  • transformation of advanced study into precarity
  • endangerment of the quality and continuity of academic disciplines
Management is an intellectually challenging practice, at least when done right. And doing it well is crucial to the health of academic life. Although I'm very aware of the university's many negative legacies and practices, I'm also an institutionalist, a bit churchy in my sense of the value of universities as intricate and animating systems. I also grew up on Michel Foucault, who, for all his pessimism about the deployments of law, rights, and liberal institutions to impose rather than check power, saw sovereignty as partially replaced by governmentality, in which various powers engaged in the disposition of all the elements of a system, in some kind of efficacy.  I have a lot of respect for the difficulty of the administrative job and for people trying to do it well.  But that is not what is happening here.  Managers are now getting set to wreck another academic generation, having failed to rebuild the public university employment base after the last big crisis in 2008.

A few concluding policy thoughts:
  • Tenured faculty need to bring this repeated sacrifice of the rising academic generations into the sphere of institutional politics.  This means strong objections to pauses, freezes, closures, and future downgradese.  We need to fight this, and design alternatives. 
  • Universities must demand new federal stimulus funds-- beyond the $14 billion (on a nearly $60 billion request) that POTUS signed last week--specifically to maintain the academic workforce. See Michael's post for context and argument. Another giant federal stimulus bill is going to have to happen in the next few weeks. The main point of stimulus funds is sustaining employment.  Given the employment crisis in the society at large, universities should be increasing hiring and trying to employ more people, to ease the pressure on other sectors. Universities should use the crisis to absorb unemployed PhDs from former years and put them to work in the jobs these graduates of our doctoral programs sacrificed years of their lives to do.  More tenure-track employment will also upgrade instruction such that the undergrads we've sent home are more likely to come back. See MLA Executive Director Paula Krebs' excellent short piece on this topic.
  • The federal government should allocate bailout funds to universities only on the condition that they reverse hiring chills and freezes, maintain their workforces, and try the countercyclical economic work of expanding them.
We don't need another massive hit to a higher ed system that was already weaker in 2020 than it was in 2008. We can't take another bloodbath in the academic job market. We need a New Deal for higher ed, starting with the doctoral job market.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 7