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Thursday, May 2, 2024

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Less than 24 hours after my last post, dissenting political opinion faced violent suppression on both coasts of the United States.  In New York, Columbia's President called in the NYPD to take control of Columbia's campus.  In Los Angeles, UCLA did little  to prevent violent thugs from attacking the divestment encampment with fireworks, chemical agents, and clubs, all while spewing hate speech at the protesters. Police, when they arrived, did little to stop the attacks for at least an hour.  (for video see) Then on May 1, the UCLA administration called in the police  to remove the encampment, something they accomplished through force--including flash bombs, batons, rubber bullets--in the morning of May 2.  We are left with the example of the leaders of two leading universities either calling for, or implicitly accepting, state and right wing violence against free speech.

As I indicated in my last post, the current suppression of divestment encampments and the mobilization of anti-Semitism against them (despite the many Jewish alumni, faculty, and students who participate in and support the the divestment movement), must be seen against the years long right wing attempt to destroy higher education as source of independent thinking.  As is often the case, Chris Rufo helpfully made this point clear in his recent tweet on the difference between Columbia and the University of Florida, where he praised the latter because as he put it: "This is a leadership cascade: @govGovRonDesantis sets the vision, @BenSasse enacts the policy, and the aptly-named Steve Orlando reproduces the tone.  Coordinated Movement. Clear incentives.  Perfect contrast with Columbia."  It is hard to find a clearer description of state controlled education than that.

But with all of that said, yesterday marked something different.  The combination of police violence and vigilante activity directed against dissenting speech was outrageous.  To be sure, this combination is not new in the United States as Steven Hahn has recently reminded us.  Nor can we be shocked that campus administrations have turned to force to control their space. There was another danger this week.  For years, free speech warriors and nattering nabobs of neutrality have been complaining about the heckler's veto.  I share those concerns.  But this week we saw the result of one of the largest heckler's vetoes in recent history: as two universities responded to violence and condemnation of protest by shutting down the protest itself.  No clearer message can be sent to those who disapprove of both dissent and American colleges and universities that their aggression will get them what they want.

We need to be clear that when the campus administrations declare the encampments unlawful or in trespass, they are marking them as objects for violence.  This action is not some purported neutrality.  Instead it casts them out of the community and imagines them as outside the law.  The violence--both state and mob--is a failure of leadership at the highest levels of both universities.  Chancellors, Presidents, and Governing Boards share in the responsibility.    

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Columbia President Shafik's capitulation to, and then collaboration with, the House Republican Show Hearings marked a turning point in the development of the New McCarthyism in the United States.  Her decision to suspend encamped students and declare them in "trespass" and to then call in the NYPD in violation of, at least the spirit of Columbia's governing documents has unleashed a remarkable number of copycat Presidents.  Presidents at Emory, University of Florida,  Indiana University, University of Texas, Humboldt Polytechnic, and Yale and Connecticut to name only a few, have suspended student protesters, called in police (in some cases including snipers), and struck poses of campus emergency--all in response to what have been overwhelmingly peaceful protests in support of Palestinian rights.  

Of course, as President Shafik quickly learned, if she had hoped to appease the right-wing critics of the protests and of higher education she was sorely mistaken.  Her naming names and revealing confidential information about investigations at the hearing only provided new openings for the Right to intensify pressure as she effectively conceded their claims that her campus was in crisis.  Who could be surprised when House Speaker Mike Johnson, himself under pressure from his own right wing, decided to make Columbia a photo op in order to call for Shafik's resignation, while Senators Hawley and Cotton called for the National Guard to be mobilized to break up the encampments.

The evident failure of President Shafik's strategy to appease the House Republicans and the ongoing imitation of her actions make manifest the politically precarious state of higher education today.  In thinking about this situation I'd suggest that three points are crucial:

1. Shafik's strategy, and those of her epigones, was doomed from the start because the right wing focus on anti-Semitism was never a good faith effort.  That there have been anti-Semitic statements and actions seems clear, but these have been isolated and on the margins.  That Republicans who didn't condemn Charlottesville and who promote the Great Replacement Theory have suddenly become concerned about the safety of Jewish students beggars belief.  Instead, this specific effort to smear campuses is a continuation of the Right's prior campaigns to limit the teaching of subjects critical of current and historical structures of class, gender and race.  There is little movement needed for Florida to go from limiting discussion of sexuality and race while attacking academic freedom and faculty authority, to suspending anti-Zionist student organizations, to reinstating requirements to teach anti-communism as if that remains a pressing issue.  It's true that there is nothing new with attempting to insist that anti-Zionism is by definition anti-Semitism.  But that conflation has always been about limiting knowledge and political debate at least as much as it has been about protecting Jews.

2. The fact that Shafik's turn to police has been imitated so widely should give us pause about treating her as a special case.  It is true that she is a classic example of a university president whose experience is not as an academic.  But that excuse cannot be made for so many other presidents.  Instead, the reliance on force marks both the structural separation of senior management from the everyday life of campuses--especially their everyday intellectual and academic life--as well as the overweening power of donors and, in the case of public universities, governors and state legislators.  Governing Boards have become much more active and much more closely tied to wealthy and intrusive donors given the relative decline in public funding support for higher education.  These are all outcomes of the long-term spread of managerialism in higher education.  But this need not be written in stone.  As the cases of Brown,  Northwestern, and Wesleyan demonstrate, it is possible for Presidents to choose an alternative path.  But they have to recognize the academic nature of their institutions to do so.

3.  Indeed, the fact that there have been alternative approaches to the encampments suggests what college and university leaders need to do if they want to preserve the autonomy and nature of their institutions.  One of the failures of President Shafik, as well as her predecessors from Harvard and Penn, was her failure to use her time to challenge the premise of the hearings.  I recognize that to do so would be extremely difficult.  The whole thing was a show trial.  But President Shafik could have used her time to defend her institution and the nature of higher education, to explain the nature of academic inquiry, to insist on the importance of the intellectual autonomy of universities from political interference.  She did none of those things.  Instead, she violated some of the most important traditions of academic freedom we have.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Strike continues with no end in sight.  Although there have been tentative agreements concerning Post-Docs and Academic Researchers, in the Academic Student Employee and Student Researcher units, the parties appear to remain well apart on the fundamental economic issues.  This distance is most easily seen in the ASE category: although the UAW made significant adjustments in its proposal UC responded with little change.  You can see the latest UAW wage proposal here and the latest UC wage proposal here.  

It is impossible from the outside to tell where the negotiations are headed.  But what I want to try to do here is offer some suggestions for how we could think about the gap, how we got here, and what we might do in the future to alter the conditions that have created what is undoubtedly a crisis at the University, and a depressing foreshadowing of the end of UC as a serious research university.  If the latter does happen the responsibility will ultimately lie with UCOP and the Regents with some support from the campus Chancellors.

The first point is that it seems clear that there is a fundamental gap in the way that each side is defining these negotiations.  UC is approaching this as if it were a conventional labor negotiation with a class of workers whose position is fundamentally stable.  The UAW and its supporters on the other hand, start from the position that they have been placed in an untenable economic position.  Given the fact that TA wages have barely kept up with national inflation over the years combined with the extreme cost of housing in California, they cannot continue with relatively minor adjustments in the dollar amount of their monthly pay.  To make matters worse, UC's latest offer has a first year adjustment that is about equal to current inflation.  In this light, UCOP appears completely out of touch with the reality of life on campuses and indifferent to its lack of knowledge.

This image of autocratic disregard was only deepened by Provost Brown's appalling letter to the faculty last week.  Although much of it was standard UCOP pablum, he inspired widespread faculty hostility with his closing flourish threatening faculty members who refused to pick up the work of striking workers with discipline beyond the docking of pay.  For the last three years, faculty and lecturers  have performed an enormous amount of additional labor to keep the university afloat during the pandemic: transforming their courses, spending additional time with students, planning for campus transformations, and putting their research duties on the side to maintain "instructional continuity" as the administration likes to put it.  After all this effort, for the Provost to threaten disciplinary action for those who choose not to pick up the work of striking TAs or to act upon their own convictions about academic integrity, manifests a contempt for the faculty that is hard to ignore.

It's important to grasp UC's budgetary situation correctly.  Most importantly, the usual invocation of the university's 46 billion dollar budget needs to be put aside.  Most of that budget is tied up in the medical centers or in funding for designated purposes.  The real budget that is relevant is the core budget made up of tuition, state funding, and some UC funds.  It comes in closer to $10 billion (Display 1) and is largely tied up in salaries across the campuses.  As Chris and I have been pointing out for nearly 15 years, UC has been subject to core educational austerity surrounded by compartmentalized privatized wealth (although we should notice that the medical centers barely stay in the black).  This crisis will not be overcome by hidden caches of money floating around the university.  The problem is deeper than that:  its roots lie in the combination of state underfunding and the expansion of expensive non-instructional (often non-academic research) activities that have taken up too much of campus's payrolls.

But I want to stress that this reality does not mean that the graduate students are being unreasonable in seeking wages that enable them to perform their employment duties and pursue their studies.  Instead, it is a sign of how deep the failure of the University has been in (not) providing a sustainable funding model both for students and faculty supporting students.  The Academic Senate has been pointing to this problem for at least two decades.  In statements and reports from 2006, 2012, and 2020, the Senate has repeatedly insisted that graduate student support was insufficient and proposed steps to improve it.  Even the administration itself has sometimes recognized its depth.  To take only one example from 2019, UCOP's Academic Planning Council declared that:  

UC must do better at financially supporting its doctoral students, particularly as it seeks to diversify the graduate student body. The University cannot compete with its peers for talented candidates if it does not offer competitive support. In 2017 the gap in average net stipend between UC and its peers was nominally $680.3 In actuality the gap is much greater due to California’s high cost of living - with factored in, the average gap in doctoral support is closer to $3,400.4 This is a huge difference but not insurmountable. The Workgroup urges UC leadership to make every effort to close the gap so that the quality of UC’s doctoral programs is maintained and enhanced.

UC campuses, with planning and prioritization, could guarantee five-year multi-year funding to doctoral students upon admission. According to current data, about 77 percent of doctoral students across UC receive stable or increasing net stipends for five consecutive years.5 (Appendix 1.) With some exceptions, this multi-year funding is relatively consistent across campuses and disciplines. However, this funding is typically not presented as a full five-year multi-year guaranteed package upon admission. Offering five-year funding upon admission would enhance recruitment of high-potential students, offer financial security, and address one of the chief stressors for doctoral students - worry over continued funding while in the program.

In addition to offering guaranteed five-year funding, the University must address the issue of graduate student housing. Graduate students, many of whom have family responsibilities, face enormous challenges in finding affordable housing. Without a targeted effort to address graduate student housing, UC’s capacity to attract and retain qualified candidates is at serious risk.  (4-5)

And yet the problem persists.  The Academic Senate has stressed this issue repeatedly and with great force.  A recent letter from the UCLA Divisional Senate's Executive Board has pointed its finger at the problem--the need for renewed state funding.   It is time for the administration to do something to fix it--and something that doesn't simply damage other parts of the academic endeavor.

UCOP will continue--as they always do--to insist that we cannot get more money out of the state to pay for what needs to be done.  But let's press on that point a little more.  It is certainly possible that we are heading for a recession--the Federal Reserve seems determined to induce one to put labor in its place.  But does that mean that the state doesn't have the capacity to respond to an emergency at the University?  Despite all the talk about a budget shortfall, Dan Mitchell at the UCLA Faculty Association Blog has been pointing out that the situation is far less clear than the Legislative Analyst is insisting (and the University is repeating).  For one thing, revenues have been higher than expected and that even with the possibility of a downturn the state has around 90 billion dollars in usable reserves. If the state won't help it's not because of economic necessity but a matter of political choice.  After all, the Governor had no problem finding $500 million to pay for a private immunology research park at UCLA that provides little, if any, real benefit to the campus academic program.  The Governor and the state can do more for the educational core of the University than they are doing: and if UCOP and the Regents can't show the state how necessary that is, then one wonders again what their purpose is.  

I want to make one final point.  UC is the research university of the state and UC insists that graduate education is at the heart of its purpose.  But if UCOP actually agrees with that then the question must be: what do we need to do to have academic graduate education in a sustainable form?  What resources do we need to enable students to both contribute to the larger functioning of the university and to pursue their studies?  Are we willing to have only graduate programs where students have family money or have already flipped a startup?  Or where they are here to gain an additional credential to take back to their jobs?  Does UCOP remain committed to UC's contributions to disciplines across the spectrum of knowledge?  Or does it only care about graduate students (and others) as cheap and disposable labor?  

I don't expect that these negotiations or this strike can answer or settle these questions.  But UC is at a crossroads and the university--especially its leadership--must face up to that.  The long-term question raised by the strike is whether UC will continue as a research university; if we don’t make it possible for future scholars to attend, we will have forfeited our purpose.  There is an opportunity here to take the first steps towards creating a new sustainable vision of a twenty-first century research university.  Or we can continue as we have in decline.  The choice ultimately is UCOP's and the Regents'.


(I've focused here on the ASE unit because the Student Researcher Unit is admittedly a more complicated problem.  The vast majority of GSRs are supported by external grants and those grants have both limits and their own rules.  To some extent UC has been negotiating with someone else's money.  That doesn't mean the situation is impossible but rather that it has to be implemented in such a fashion as to protect Principal Investigators from damaging unintended consequences.)

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

I've fixed the mistake in the Los Angeles Times headline on Gov. Gavin Newsom's higher ed budget proposal for 2022-23.  In fact, if you add one-time money from the current and coming years, Newsom is proposing overall cuts to UC and CSU.

The base general fund increase is five percent next year (see summary slide above), with five percent promised each year for five years total in a new compact between the university systems and the state.  

Newsom delivered  the compact promise with a joke about how he knows the people who lived through the last (broken) compacts will doubt this one too.  Newsom signaling he knows we think Sacramento compacts are worthless doesn't make Sacramento compacts less worthless.  So I assume only next year's five percent.

Newsom's five percent is better than Gov Jerry Brown's annual two or three percent--apparently twice as good.  However, Newsom gets an inflation rate that is twice Brown's too. The Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Index accelerated from 4.2 percent to 5.7 percent from July to November 2021. CPI hit 6.8 percent, and projections for inflation in 2022 by Fannie Mae and others suggest a five percent increase will be entirely consumed by inflation.  Hence the term "flat," and also my sense that the corrected headline is still optimistic.  For more than a decade, two Democratic governors have been giving UC and CSU flat annual budgets--when they are not cutting them.  That is not changing.

The other touted feature is that the state is funding residential enrollment growth.  Newsom proposes it support 6,230 new California undergraduates with $67.8 million (or $10,882.83 per student).  Again, it looks good compared to Jerry Brown.  He proposes an additional $31 million to buy out 902 nonresident slots at the three flagships (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego), at $34,368.07 per student. Don't ask me how they came up with those numbers.  What is clear is that the nonflagships are not getting state funding for the nonresident students they have been unable to admit because of the enrollment cap that emerged from the political blowback caused by the flagships.  Newsom sets up UC for a multi-year series of tuition carve-outs that allow the flagships to keep their nonresident tuition premiums, maintaining intra-campus budget inequality.

Most UC campuses are at capacity and have been for some time, so getting new students means hiring new faculty and staff and building or expanding facilities.  In practice, it means more costs and also more hardships for existing students. They will have even more trouble getting courses and housing.  Next year's per-student rate is less than half of what UCOP says is the average cost of instruction of each student (that is vastly more than most departments receive per major but never mind). We can say that $10,882.83 will at best cover costs of the new students and at worse create new deficits.  Like the base increase, this is not an increase in UC's per-student operating budget.  (The small "cohort tuition" hike will also make very little difference.)

Last fall, I suggested 2021 might well be, financially speaking, Peak UC.  The governor's new proposal confirms that fear about a stagnant 2020s of unfunded mandates.  Further confirmation came from UC president Michael Drake ritually praising the governor's generosity, putting a cap on growth in the bigger revenues.

I'm not going to go into more detail on the numbers until they settle down, and won't chart any trends until spring.  Newsom is right to see budgets as "expressing our values," as he said at the end, but his presentation was a numerical mess, referencing three different sizes of surplus ($42 billion, $20 billion, $31 billion), two from his own office, and identifying dozens of individual program totals from two different budget years.  So in the meantime, let's take a look at some other issues raised by the presentation, both on the campuses and the state as a whole.

Newsom has exactly two ideas about higher education. One is that it maximize access on the basis of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  The other is that it prepare students for jobs, and by jobs he means jobs in technology. 

Newsom makes state funding contingent on several 2030 goals: UC eliminating racial gaps in grad rates, getting grad rates to 76 percent for four-year students, and getting students to debt-free graduation. These are essential goals and UC must achieve them. But they require fundamental change in the UC business model.  That now depends on undergrad tuition subsidizing research and other activities--so less money is in instruction and student support, which hurts retention differentially across racial groups.  The business model also depends on saving a lot of university money (my estimate is $755 million in 2019-20 using Accountability data) by capping financial aid, therefore forcing undergrads to borrow and work during the academic year (see Stage 2 and Stage 5 respectively).  

This is such an important point--the need to fund goals rather than simply assert them--that I'll expand a bit. You improve graduation rates in part by hiring enough instructors so that every student can get every class they need, when they need it. Because of chronic underfunding, many or most students on all UC campuses wait quarters or years to get admitted into at least a few of their core required courses.

How do you reduce racial gaps in graduation rates? You offer personalized, individual advising to every student who wants or needs it.  You don't tolerate caseloads of 740 students for each advisor, which Laura Hamilton and Kelly Nielson, in their important book Broke, report is the case at UC Merced's school of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts (page 123). 

You also reduce racial gaps in graduation rates by taking students of color out of the cafeteria job they use to reduce their borrowing and into class: you cut their work hours ideally to zero while they are enrolled full time. You do not impose a Self-Help Expectation of $8,500 or $9,200 or $10,000 on every student with financial aid, even if they are low income, as every UC campus does. In other words, if you want to reduce racial gaps in graduation, you don't do this, for years and years: have a net cost of attendance of $10,000 per year (after financial aid) for students whose whole family earns $60,000 or less.

You also don't allow the poorest students to have the most debt at graduation.  

You stop doing these things by buying out financing gaps for poor and otherwise disadvantaged students, and then you put money into  personalized, intensive advising, well-funded student centers, and other things most UC faculty and staff could name off the tops of their heads.  When you start paying to provide these things, you're then able close your graduation gaps.

These are all things UC campuses want to do. None of them are things that either the governor or the legislature want to pay for.  None of them are things whose costs UCOP has itemized and justified in public in order to inspire the desire to pay for these essential things.

The governor mentioned diversifying university faculty.  This has been an explicit UC goal since the 1980s. Again there are racio-cultural obstacles. But the material ones are at least as important.  A diverse faculty comes from diverse doctoral programs, which means strong retention in those programs, means fully funding grad students from working-class backgrounds who are at greater risk of dropping out for lack of funds or excess debt.  UC does not fund its doctoral programs at the needed level.  

Thus in 2019-20, grad students went on a multi-campus strike over their rent burden, demanding a cost of living increase outside their union contract so they could cover costs in the private rental market. Nothing was done, and the students who started it (at UC Santa Cruz) were expelled for a while.  In the midst of the pandemic in early 2021, UCSD grads had to protest in the face of massive rent hikes in campus housing.  In 2022, rent burden is, if anything, even worse. The diversity of the faculty stops there, with unmanageable costs of living.  If it is serious about faculty diversity, UC should announce debt-free doctoral programs. But the governor and legislature would have to pay for it.

In sum, Newsom insists that UC close graduation gaps with essentially the same per-student funding that caused the gaps in the first place.  UC officials should point this out.

Now, on this question of college for jobs: Newsom and most policy people continue to work with a version of Human Capital Theory (HCT) descended from the 1950s, in which "learning equals earning."  In reality that is true only for a subset of students (generally already financially advantaged--for the theory's flaws see our LARB review-essay).  Policymakers are trying to fix the theory by saying, "tech learning equals earning," and UCOP encourages this splitting of STEM from other fields by publishing wages-by-major data.). 

Enter Gavin Newsom: propelled by half-baked but established neo-HCT, he is making these five percent state funding increase contingent on "supporting workforce preparedness and high-demand career pipelines," requiring 25 percent increases in degrees in STEM "and Education or Early Education" disciplines, as well as the same increase in "academic doctoral degrees," all by 2026-27.  The requirement is not exactly water-tight, and it also has a very weak justification in existing jobs projections.  The original 2015 report that started this "million missing college degrees" fixation shows most new jobs appearing outside of STEM (Figure 4).   Did anyone in the governor's office read the current occupational breakdowns for the state? It's the same story here, with tech a minor employer by size (though not by wages, which are high). But the STEM quota sails anyway, towing a legitimate fear about teaching shortages behind.

Even if the job market really did say STEM, it's an invasive step for a governor to mandate changes in degree outputs in a university.  Californians felt sorry for Floridians having to put up with Gov. Rick Scott making nasty cracks about anthropology and saying he didn't want taxpayers to foot the bill for useless degrees. Newsom is effectively doing the same thing. It raises allocation questions: Will new faculty lines to teach the expanded enrollments all go to STEM plus a few for education?  Will provosts need to stop hiring in arts and humanities for a number of years to pool lines in the "high demand careers"? Should California's future musicians, screenwriters, architects, designers, painters, film editors, historians, novelists, and journalists avoid the experience of being second-class citizens by going to UC? 

There are no answers, and this brings me to the experience of watching a governor's budget presentation on dozens of topics where the word "education" wasn't uttered until well after minute 70. Newsom organized his address around five existential threats. He had no vision of a New California, but ran through a series of hard problems that must be solved. I sympathize: he has not been having a joyful time. There's pandemic illness and also its political madhouse, with the recall trying to get rid of him for doing his public health job. There's drought and fire and the climate crisis behind them. There's the cost of living crisis. There's decades of underinvestment in transportation and other infrastructure.  There's a very polarized state economy, where a third of the workforce earns less than $15 per hour (page 3). There's a decades-old housing crisis, where so much private wealth has been absorbed into inflated housing assets that the state spent $5.2 billion last year--an additional University of California state budget--paying people's rent. 

Newsom brings a lot of energy to this slate of problems. He fired dozens of powerpoint bullets at them, each carrying a $100 M or $200 M or $1 B payload. But it's all the equivalent of filling (very important) potholes, keeping the electricity on, getting the shots in arms, giving the kids something to do in school until their parents get home.  

Even the tech future of green transition is remedial, trying to undig the hole of climate change in a state still almost entirely dependent on the private car.  There was something hollow in Newsom's enthusiasm for the state's green tech leadership: he cast the state's investment as bait for private investors, took it as an opportunity to hype the hegemonic tech sector that I think he quietly dislikes for its entitlement and arrogance as do most Californians, overpraised legislative honchos and others, and started referring to California as a "leader in this space" or that space--space being a term he used dozens of times.

Contrast this with how Newsom sounds on things he cares about. Then he is serious, knowledgeable, plainspoken, and open. What he really cares about is pre-K, school nutrition, homelessness, getting people out of encampments, mental health, universal health care, summer school for poor kids, a decent access to basic goods for disadvantaged people.  Whatever his neoliberal policies might be, Newsom's deeper desire, I felt watching him, is to ease the worst suffering.  This is also where he feels useful, even perhaps a bit of a hero.  But this desire doesn't find much to feed on in higher education as officials present it to him.

It's not just Newsom: the media isn't interested in higher ed either. During question time, the press had crisp questions about Newsom's contradictions on personal exemptions from Covid vaccines, his concrete plans for supporting reproductive rights, his borrowing of his recall opponents' plans for the mental health system, and his proposed changes in the Medicaid prescription program. They had nothing about higher ed.  This is a real problem for the sector. The governors' office doesn’t get vigorously questioned about higher ed, so they don’t prep for that, they rightly think the media and its consumers don't care about the details, so they never think, "we’re going to get pounded on mandating STEM degrees so we’d better think this through."  

I’ve written about Biden-era Democrats assigning college to a dedicated space in the welfare state. The good news is that they want government-run social development—Biden has in fact broken with key tenants of neoliberal Obama-Clintonism.  The bad news for higher ed is that the Biden-Newsom mainstream has no intellectual developmental plan for higher ed to address. Biden-Newsom are a real policy advance on Obama-Brown--an advance for children, the food insecure, the mentally ill, the unhoused, the uninsured, but not an advance for college students or the educational system.  

For them, the knowledge economy is abstract scenery, a slightly smoggy familiar sky.  We may need a million more college degrees, but that's just a logistics problem—there’s no interest in process or content or quality upgrades to say nothing of revolutions in thought or in the public's collective cultural and political capabilities. For them, UC and CSU are server farms that should run quietly in the background. There's nothing heroic about them, and they won't make a hero of any president or governor.  They are of modest interest as economic infrastructure. They are certainly not, for this Democratic party, a state engine of destiny.  

This could be changed, in a couple of diverging ways. One would be all three segments busting out of the workforce preparation trap and developing exciting stories of college-fueled individual and social transformation.  I know some deans and individual faculty who could do this. I don't know anyone at the senior manager level who would. Please correct me if I've missed some folks. 

The second, more plausible path is to comply fully with the mainstream Democrat welfarist passion. Inspiration is also needed here, that makes the state's politicians heroes of social justice. But that means defining the processes that would allow UC (and CSU) really to meet graduation and the other targets, and then setting their actual price. 

Fix the funding, or miss the goals. It shouldn't be a hard decision.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 1

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Date: November 23, 2021 

To: Susannah Scott, Academic Senate Chair, UCSB 

Henry Yang, Chancellor, UCSB 

Cc: Michael V. Drake, UC President 

Cecilia Estolano, Chair, UC Board of Regents 

Robert Horwitz, Chair, UC Academic Senate 

From: Concerned UCSB Senate Faculty 

Re: The planning of Munger Hall at UCSB 

The UCSB Academic Senate Town Hall Meeting, “Faculty Questions on the Munger Hall Project,” held on November 15, 2021, intensified pervasive and significant concerns about 

(a) UCSB administration’s lack of response to fundamental questions about student well-being related to the Munger Hall project, including concerns about mental health, physical safety, security, and accessibility; 

(b) student housing options on campus and future housing projects; 

(c) building funding, planning and construction processes at UCSB; 

(d) abrogation of the right of faculty shared governance; 

(e) the impact of these decisions on UCSB’s stated commitment to social justice and equity; 

(f) UCSB administration’s failure to adequately take into account and address the opinion of experts in architectural design and rethink the design to ensure student well-being. 

To elaborate:

On the Design of Munger Hall: A broad swath of architectural design and housing experts both within and outside the university have criticized the design. Among its many problems we call particular attention to: (i) lack of natural light and ventilation—particularly the absence of openable windows; (ii) floor plan that reveals poor organization of space at the scale of the rooms, the suites, and the entire floor space at each level; (iii) inadequate thought given to student accommodation and well-being, given what we know about virus transmission, quarantine, and recovery in situations such as COVID-19; (iv) poor wayfinding and evacuation plans that would greatly endanger students in fires, earthquakes and other disasters; (v) massing and volume; (vi) environmental sustainability. 

We, the faculty, are gravely concerned by these issues, and we urge the UCSB administration, including Chancellor Yang, to address openly, explicitly and responsibly the many questions regarding the current design’s impact on the safety, security and mental well-being of the students. These fundamental questions were not answered at the November 15 Town Hall meeting and we urge the administration to answer them now. 

On Due Process: A key reason for the current state of affairs is that the usual design review process that has governed campus construction over the last 30 years was bypassed. The request-for-proposal stage of the design review process was ignored, thereby eliminating potential competition to Munger’s design. When the design review committee and its panel of architects were asked to comment, their views were not adequately taken into account. 

We have two options to move forward: 

1. Stop the plans. Begin the entire design process again following the established procedures of the design review committee. 

2. Halt the process and modify the plans. Consider the advice of a joint committee of experts on design, health and safety, drawn from both outside and inside UCSB, including Academic Senate Members and student representatives. The UCSB Academic Senate must have a say in the composition of such a panel of experts, the issues they will be asked to consider, and the way in which their recommendations would be implemented. 

We wish to send a clear message to the Chancellor, UC Office of the President, the UC Board of Regents, and the donor, that we will not accept inequitable and unsafe options for student housing. 

While we recognize the measures that must be taken to resolve the immediate housing crisis, we call on UCSB to democratically and transparently develop a long-range housing plan that ensures safety, affordability, community responsibility, and environmental sustainability for students, faculty, and staff. Not only does UCSB have a responsibility in this regard, but so do the President of the University and the UC Board of Regents. 

Sincerely, Concerned UCSB Senate Faculty, including, 

Constance Penley 

Swati Chattopadhyay 

Laurie Monahan 

Eileen Boris 

Dominique Jullien 

Bishnupriya Ghosh 

Lisa Hajjar 

Jeffrey Stopple 

Bassam Bamieh 

John Majewski Richard Wittman 

Ann Bermingham 

Michael Curtin 

Ann Jensen Adams 

Omer Egecioglu 

Mark A. Meadow 

Harold Marcuse 

Catherine L. Albanese 

Heather Badamo 

Sabine Frühstück 

William Robinson 

Barbara Herr Harthorn 

Herbert M. Cole 

David White 

Steven Gaulin 

Bhaskar Sarkar 

Kip Fulbeck 

Barbara A. Holdrege 

William Elison 

Kate McDonald 

Christina Vagt 

Juan E. Campo 

Arpit Gupta 

Julie Carlson 

Elisabeth Weber 

Stephan Miescher 

Jenni Sorkin 

Janet Walker 

Kevin B. Anderson 

Nancy Gallagher 

Aazam Feiz 

Hilary Bernstein 

Wolf Kittler 

John S. W. Park 

Silvia Bermudez 

Sara Pankenier Weld 

Marko Peljhan 

Jorge Castillo 

Jill Levine 

Evelyn Reder 

Kim Yasuda 

Erika Rappaport 

James Frew 

Janet Afary 

Fabio Rambelli 

Amr El Abbadi 

Giuliana Perrone 

Salim Yaqub 

Elena Aronova 

Cristina Venegas 

Stuart Tyson Smith 

Phill Conrad 

Volker M. Welter 

Adrienne Edgar 

Joseph Blankholm 

Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi 

Catherine Nesci 

John W. I. Lee 

Sylvester O. Ogbechie 

Daniel Masterson 

Grace Chang 

Daniel Reeve 

Enda Duffy 

Roberta L. Rudnick 

Leroy Laverman 

Walid Afifi 

Iman Djouini 

Cherrie Moraga 

Dorota Dutsch 

Mark Maslan 

Charmaine Chua 

Roberto Strongman 

Amrah Salomón J. 

Ralph Armbruster Sandoval 

Carlos J. Garcia-Cervera 

Darren Long 

Sharon Tettegah 

Aashish Mehta 

Kaustav Banerjee 

Miroslava Chavez-Garcia 

Helen Morales 

Casey Walsh 

Terrance Wooten 

Birge Huisgen-Zimmermann 

Felice Blake 

Juan Cobo Betancourt 

Mario Garcia 

Scott Marcus 

Ingrid Banks 

Jody Enders 

Nelson Lichtenstein 

France Winddance Twine 

Lisa Jevbratt 

Ellen McCracken 

Juan Pablo Lupi 

Gisela Kommerell 

Edwina Barvosa 

Jeremy Douglass 

Valentina L. Padula 

Mayfair Yang 

Harvey Molotch 

Sven Spieker 

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Monday, November 15, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021
By Richard Wittman
Associate Professor,
Department of the History of Art and Architecture, UCSB
for today's Academic Senate Town Hall meeting, 
in collaboration with the UCSB Architectural Historians Group

Thank you very much for the invitation to speak here today. Time is short, so I will dive right in.

Munger Hall is a highly experimental design based on completely untested theories. It crams over 4500 young undergraduates into tiny windowless bedrooms at a density comparable to some of the densest urban concentrations in the world. And yet it claims that it will have beneficial effects on student well-being, and poses them no danger. What is the evidence for this claim? There is none! 

Munger Hall is justified uniquely by the unsupported, fact-free assertions of the billionaire architectural hobbyist who conceived it. It cannot be said often enough: no serious supporting data has been brought forth to support the claims made in favor of this outlandish design. And yet UCSB is proposing not a small experimental building, but a pharaonic investment of $1.5 billion in what would be the largest dormitory building in the world. It is difficult to exaggerate how completely irresponsible this would be: to gamble on that scale on a project whose entire rationale is untested and which is regarded skeptically by an almost universal consensus of knowledgeable professionals. And to make that gamble with the wellbeing of our UCSB students.

This project is also a slap in the face to recent global efforts in the architecture industry to mitigate environmental degradation and climate change. A key tenet of those efforts is sustainability. Sustainability refers to passive strategies to reduce energy consumption, like considering sun orientation when sitting, or being thoughtful about window placement; it refers to using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, and low environmental-impact building materials. The current design of Munger Hall essentially ignores these strategies, for instance by shutting out the sunlight that is one of Santa Barbara’s most abundant natural resources. 

Do not be deceived by the building’s LEED Gold certification. The LEED system is widely recognized as a problematic guideline that very often has more of a public relations value than a real connection to environmental outcomes. Munger Hall exemplifies this, as it is based on an outdated, unsustainable approach to building, in which the building fundamentally depends on mechanical systems to defeat and exclude nature, and to create an entirely artificial environment.

The design of Munger Hall is profoundly problematic in terms of our students’ mental and physical health. There is clear scientific evidence that a lack of natural light and ventilation has adverse impacts on human beings. (As the LA Times recently reported, even prison design in the US is required to provide windows, as well as lower density.) 

But also consider the COVID pandemic. Imagine living in a windowless cell, somewhere near the core of the most densely packed building you’ve ever lived in (or ever will live in), during a pandemic, when every knowledgeable party is telling you that the safest place is outdoors and at a distance from other people. Imagine having to quarantine for two weeks in such a windowless cell. Graduate students at Mr Munger’s Michigan dorm building have had to do just this, and have spoken wrenchingly about the effect it had on their mental health. Being ill is never fun, but being ill in Munger Hall would be hell.

We know that there is a severe housing crisis in the Santa Barbara area. We all have students who have been unable to find lodgings, or who are even living in cars. We are not utopians who oppose Munger Hall out of obliviousness to the problem it is meant to solve. (And we certainly don’t oppose it because we are “idiots” or because we “hate billionaires,” as Charlie Munger has so charmingly alleged in his public remarks.) 

No, we oppose this building project because it is a disgrace. Because it will damage the wellbeing of our students. Because no serious evidence has been provided to support the claims its boosters have made about its benefits. Because it will damage the reputation of our university. Because it betrays UCSB’s commitment to safeguarding our natural environment.

Indeed, Munger Hall has already turned UCSB into the target of critical articles in all the major US papers and in many foreign ones too. My colleagues and I launched a petition about Munger Hall and received nearly 3000 signatures in a week! A petition by an undergraduate who targeted undergraduate social networks received over 12,000 signatures! Meanwhile, barely a single credible voice supports this design. 

Our petition has had dozens and dozens of comments from past, present, and potential future UCSB parents saying that they would not allow their child to live in Munger Hall, or in some cases even to go to UCSB if Munger Hall were built. The message is pretty clear: the stakes are high; the leadership at UCSB needs to step away from this monstrous project, the sooner the better, before lasting damage is done.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Friday, October 1, 2021

Friday, October 1, 2021

As the pandemic is brought under control, will conditions on UC campuses get better, get worse, or stay the same for the indefinite future? 

The evidence for "better" boils down to two things. First is the official UCOP interpretation of this year's legislative budget as one of the best increases ever, and thus a sign of state generosity to come. Second is the passage of the "cohort-tuition" plan, which will break the decade freeze on tuition income. The lead budget officials at regents' meetings, Nathan Brostrom and David Alcocer, have stressed the value of getting increases in both the state and tuition components rather than relying on increases on the state side only, where even a 5% increase translates into a 2% improvement in core funds, once it's averaged with zero on the tuition side. 

On the first point, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee was informed that "The 2021-22 State Budget provides the University of California with the largest-ever single-year funding increase, totaling $1.27 billion dollars."  Unfortunately, this greatly inflates ongoing funding. The net increase in continuing state funding is $243.5 million. I defined this real increase in relation to Gavin Newsom's May Revision. The permanent funding increase is slightly bigger in the final budget. 

UC Ongoing General Fund


2020-2021 (with cut retroactively restored)


2 year cumulative change

May Revision

$3,724.3 M

$3,766.0 M



Summer Final

$3,724.3 M

$3,766.0 M



Budget nerds will be pleased to see UC breaking the magic $4 billion barrier it has being aiming at for 20 years.  But the real news is the budget is the explosion of earmarked funds for special purposes.  The unallocated increase in general funding is $173.2 million. Everything else is a designated fund: for example, "$3 million for animal rescue operations in natural disasters."  9 such items get permanent funding. One-time funding goes to 27 more. I've never seen budgetary reach-in quite like this. In 2016-17, for example, there were 6+4 such earmarks.  The legislature is now treating UC as a platform for enacting pet projects, arriving from who knows where, that apparently fit less well in other state agencies. They incur costs to operate, so it's not obvious that they are even net positive in all cases. Long story short, the state reversed last year's $302 million cut and added $173 million this year, with $325 million in one-time funding for deferred maintenance (defined this year as a $7 billion systemwide problem).  Those are the meaningful items.  UC has no big boost from state funding.

The other half is cohort tuition, where each entering class has flat tuition for up to 6 years, but the next year's class pays more--the inflation rate plus an increment that declines annually from 2.0% to 0.  That will net in round numbers somewhat more than $100 million a year once it gets going.  UC tuition revenue is in the $4 billion range, so the new tuition plan will add 2 or 3% to the total.  Net benefit to core funds is around half that. A 1.0-1.5% increase to core funds is at best a steady-state number. 

These modest increases don't reflect increased costs.  UCOP estimates costs going up 4% a year no matter what. The most irresponsible omission is COVID-19 costs (including related losses). UCOP estimates somewhat more than $2 billion in lost revenues (Display 4); add to that an unknown amount of ongoing health mitigation costs (testing, quarantining, cleaning, and so on). The Democratic legislature pretended that these didn't exist when they cut $302 million at the height of the pandemic, and they are still pretending. Campuses will absorb these costs from their operating budgets, and that will mean cuts elsewhere.  

The state's refusal to fund has some familiar dimensions.  Employer contributions to retirement and capital construction are the two that will be known to readers (see the Essential Charts for a primer).  Pandemic shortfalls were covered by new UC debt, which also funded ongoing construction and other costs: UC took on an additional $6 billion in debt in the last fiscal year. This will have to be paid down out of med center and campus operating funds.  Debt translates a short-term into a long-term cost (see Alex Usher's good cross-national discussion). 

Another likely unfunded mandate is new resident enrollment.  In the mid-2010s, the Democratic legislature started not liking how high non-resident enrollments had gone, but also didn't like paying full cost for resident students (around $10,000 per head).  This hurt campus quality in the 2010s, particularly during the growth years after 2015, and is a major future issue, since "UC 2030" could hit quality again because of the growth involved--to increase degree output by 251,000 in this decade to meet state workforce needs.  This has been modified to adding 20,000 more resident students this decade, some at the graduate level (see the September meeting's planning document).  

Since at various points in its history UC has been hurt by underfunded growth, Brostrom and Alcocer emphasized the need for the state to follow through with funding this time: both to fund this enrollment growth and to fund the replacement of non-resident students with lower-paying residents (on the latter, see Mikhail Zinshteyn's overview).  They noted that the legislature has not funded some recent required growth, and showed this slide. 

In short, UC had recently added around 10,000 students who paid tuition but didn't bring any of the state funding they might have assumed their family taxes had paid for, so couldn't take another 20,000 on the same terms.

At this point, rolling all this together, you might conclude that UC campuses in the 2020s won't get better, but with all this UCOP vigilance about the state keeping its funding promises, at least they won't get worse.

This presentation occurred on the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee on September 29, chaired by Michael Cohen.  Before opening the floor for questions, he offered his response (at 2:22.30 once you scroll down this page). 

I've said this before, but I think it's important to repeat, particularly giving our conversation coming tomorrow about enrollment growth, that, sort of framing our budget ask in terms of, "oh, we were shorted money five years ago, and have been living with it ever since," as doing this in the unfunded enrollment context, I think is absolutely the wrong approach, and it really makes the university come off as, "well, we only serve students because we get paid for them, and we're not going to serve them if we don't get paid for them." 

So certainly the legislature has been very generous in its commitment to buy down our nonresident enrollment, and has really put a shining light on the need for the university to enroll students. But to suggest that we need to be paid back, for students we've been serving for years, it's just going to fall on deaf ears. And, frankly, it goes against all of the arguments the university made for years in that it wanted funding undesignated, and general purpose, so that they could decide the best way to use the funds. So, I hope that, when you bring back the budget in November, you heed these words and don't really emphasize this notion, which I don't even buy, of, you know, unfunded enrollment going back five plus years. 

Got that? Me neither. Clearly Brostrom and Alcocer's point was that the University did serve all students that were over the targeted enrollment that the state funded.  Regardless, Cohen in effect rejected all statements that tie doing things to having resources for them, such as "I would like to start my car, but I need gas in my tank"; "I would like to keep living in my apartment, but  I lost my job and can't pay rent"; "with extra enrollments, I need to offer 650 classes in each class period, but have only 615 classrooms"; "my professional staff requests a 3% salary increase, but the state has budgeted 0% for that."  Rejecting the need for resources makes perfect sense -- as a labor of self-exoneration, since Cohen the regent is also Cohen the former budget director for Jerry Brown, and is thus the same person who didn't send the state money with the new UC students. But never mind, and enjoy picturing the world in which all Cohen cars start without fuel, no Cohen tenants are ever evicted, and all Cohen colleges run on goodwill toward students. 

Cohen's outburst had the predictable effect, which was to censor budget discussion and forestall calls for UC to reject unfunded growth (since that lowers per-students resources and quality).  No one objected to teaching grossly underfunded students, including the representatives of the Academic Senate.  The show moved on.

So what is really the plan here?  

It's not to insure that public university students learn about as much as private university students.  They aren't getting--or asking for--the money for that. 

It's not to increase access without diluting quality. Current budgets encourage, say, increasing biology B.A output by cutting math requirements, or maintaining study abroad enrollments by eliminating foreign language acquisition.

It's not to overcome structural racism by insuring that minority-majority campuses are as well-funded as white campuses.  That kind of budget justice is not being supported. 

It's not to reverse the shift away from tenure-track hiring or to fund significant staff cost-of-living increases.

It is not to reduce financial burden for UC students. Solving grad student rent burden is off the table. So is reducing the academic costs of student debt.  A UCOP talking point has been that net cost of attendance will go up more slowly with cohort tuition increases than with flat tuition for all but the most affluent students. (The grounds are that higher tuition funds higher financial aid.)  In fact, student self-help expectation starts high even for the poorest UC students (about $11,000 per year for under $20,000 in family income, Display 6), and under the cohort plan, goes higher (to around $15,000 for the under $20,000s by 2028-29). Self-help expectation is set by campus officials, and is money that students who don't have private assets must earn by working while enrolled, which reduces study, or by taking on debt. The best solution for students would be low tuition so aid covers all living costs and their self-help expectation approaches zero).  But that is not anything UCOP or the legislature would currently discuss.  The large share of UC students who struggle with daily life will continue in the 2020s to struggle with daily life.

The plan is also not to increase funding for cultural and social research, which depends on institutional funds, though there is an obvious crying public need.

The plan is to do workforce-oriented enrollment growth at the lowest possible cost.  It focuses on quantity rather than quality of degrees. It defines educational value through graduates' future earnings, which means directing majors towards professions that pay more. It means reserving any new direct federal funding for 2-year colleges, tweaking financial aid (increasing Pell Grant maximums), and supporting funds that go directly to students or to student support programs, like the Student Academic Preparation and Educational Partnerships (SAPEP) program, one of UC's 27 one-time earmarks. (Note also that the "Proposed 2030 Framework Investments" are split about 50/50 between hiring new faculty to teach 20,000 more students and growing student support programs [Display 6], thus halving the faculty hiring.)  It also means burying quality problems behind the marketing of UC excellence: UC dominates the public university rankings, and recent news of Berkeley as Forbes #1 and US News' Top 10 publics mostly UC campuses confirms zero incentive to increase investment.  The same is true for the extremely high rejection rates at many UC campuses, further hardening the aura of impregnable prestige. UC's per-student resources are well below their level of 20 years ago, but so what, since its rankings are so very high--and applicant demand is through the roof? People like me argue that these rankings are not only invalid but now oddly immune to matters of educational quality, and selectivity obviously conflicts with access, and yet their image-making power, and the genuinely high quality of UC faculty, staff and students as individuals, pave the yellow-brick road to low-cost growth.  

Usher sums it up well when he writes, "there are very few places with extra domestic billions to spend out there, and where there are . . . as often as not, they want to spend the money to make existing spaces cheaper, not expand the number of spaces or make existing education better."  UC is options 1 and 2--more and cheaper. This Workforce UC isn't fated, but fixing it will mean a fight.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

By Dylan Rodríguez, Professor, Department of Media and Cultural Studies, UC Riverside


Dear Chancellor Wilcox and UCR Administrative Colleagues:


Please accept this note as my formal response to your invitation to join the Chancellor’s Campus Safety Workgroup. I am writing to contextualize my response with a concise analysis of the UC Riverside Campus Safety Task Force’s “Report and Recommendations” of March 18, 2021, which was finalized after a mere three months of deliberation. I note that Chancellor Wilcox circulated a campus memo four days later that declared his unqualified endorsement of the Task Force document, claiming that “for many years, we have been striving at UC Riverside to redefine campus safety in a way that addresses the needs of our diverse community.”

I write to you as a researcher and scholar who has published widely on the topic of United States policing over more than two decades. My work pays particular attention to the historical conditions of police violence that consistently create asymmetrical casualties among targeted and criminalized communities, bodies, and geographies. 

While the UCR Task Force Report acknowledges that “systemic racism exists in U.S. society and in policing, and must be eliminated wherever possible,” its nine recommendations fail to challenge the fundamental centrality of police power to the university’s infrastructure and everyday operations. At first glance, the Task Force appears to advocate a modest downscaling of the UCRPD’s campus presence. Upon further analysis, however, its proposals cultivate an expansion of police power through the deputization of campus staff and administrators to act as civilian surrogates of the police department. Perhaps most revealingly, campus employees in specific units (including Student Affairs, Human Resources, and the Title IX office) are expected “to pair and cross-train [with] public safety personnel [e.g. UCRPD officers].” The Report does not bother to elaborate on the substance of such “pairing and cross-training” other than to indicate that select staff and administrators will be expected to build collegial relationships with the UCRPD that, by extension, further legitimize and extend the reach of campus police power by institutionalizing what amounts to a civilian/employee shadow police force.

The paradigm of “campus safety” operationalized by the Task Force Report fails to remotely heed the widespread, growing body of both university-based and community-accountable research, organizational innovation, and institutional leadership exemplified by students, faculty, staff, administrators, and concerned community members (including survivors of police harassment and violence) at educational institutions like Peralta Community College District and Oakland Unified School District, both of which have effectively eliminated police presence at their college and school campuses. Rather, by appropriating and distorting a pedagogical framework widely used by abolitionist researchers, activists, organizers, and teachers for much of the early 21st century—“Re-imagining Campus Safety”—the UCR Task Force offers a series of recommendations that allege to take steps “toward narrowing the role of traditional law enforcement” by “[integrating] UCR’s Police Department into a more comprehensive Campus Safety Division.” The history of modern police reforms indicates that such proposals expand the bureaucratic, ideological, cultural, and institutional capacity of policing and police violence in their various forms, from surveillance and harassment to crowd control, involuntary hospitalization, and bodily (sexual) assault. Regrettably, the Task Force Report proposes a reorganization and redistribution of police power that rests on an “[integration of] campus safety activities, including prevention and response, more deliberately with existing campus-based programs that address issues such as mental health, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and drug or alcohol abuse.”[i]

Such reforms of campus police power replicate the widely criticized models of “community policing” attributed to well-known late-20th and early-21st century police administrators like Daryl Gates, William Bratton, and numerous others who have implemented scaled-up versions of similar policing protocols in Los Angeles, New York City, and numerous other locales known for rampant, normalized gendered antiblack police violence.[ii] To invoke David Correia and Tyler Wall’s entry on “community policing” in their indispensable keyword text Police: A Field Guide, “advocates for community policing claim that it offers a suite of best practices and policies that promote collaboration and partnership with communities as a way to enlist the active support of an entire community in the fabrication of social order.”[iii] 

Widely read policing scholar Kristian Williams further crystallizes the philosophical, organizational, and strategic logic of community policing in terms that anticipate the boilerplate proposals of the UCR Task Force:


Philosophically, community policing is characterized by the solicitation of citizen input, the broadening of the police function, and the attempt to find solutions based on the values of the local community. Organizationally, community policing requires that departments be restructured such as to de-centralize command, flatten hierarchies, reduce specialization, civilianize staff positions, and encourage teamwork. Strategically, community policing efforts reorient operations away from random patrols and responding to 911 calls, towards more directed, proactive, and preventive activities.[iv] [emphasis added]


The UCR Task Force’s recommendations are attempting to solve a “legitimacy problem” for the UCPD in the context of unprecedented challenges to its institutional power and reach. “The legitimacy problem for police,” as Correia and Wall write, “is about the legitimacy to use violence.  Community policing is not about making police friendlier, but about making police violence more acceptable.”[v]

Numerous members of the UC community have repeatedly testified that “police violence” is not limited to incidents of bodily harm, and includes everyday forms of gendered antiblack, racist, ableist, transphobic, and queerphobic harassment, surveillance, profiling, detention, and intimidation that manifest in the mere presence of a campus police force. Unless there are sustained and accelerated attempts at collective critical analysis, shared study, and concrete institutional intervention, the next phase of campus police reforms at UCR and beyond will directly reflect the logics of collaboration, re-legitimation, and deputization outlined by Correia, Wall, Williams, and many others.[vi]


        I acknowledge your invitation dated May 24, 2021 to join the “Chancellor’s Campus Safety Workgroup,” chaired by Provost Liz Watkins. I acknowledge that part of the agenda for this workgroup entails “[integrating] UCPD into the new Division of Campus Health, Well-being, and Safety,” thus expanding the reach of the campus police to include mediated involvement in matters related to mental and physiological trauma, illness, and vulnerability. For these reasons among the others previously outlined above as well as in a previously published article, i respectfully decline this invitation.




[i] “UC Riverside Campus Safety Task Force Report and Recommendations,” p. 2.

[ii] See Kristian Williams, “Ch. 9, Your Friendly Neighborhood Police State,” Our Enemies In Blue: Police and Power in America (2004) (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007), p. 197-222.

[iii] David Correia and Tyler Wall, Police: A Field Guide (London: Verso Press, 2018), p. 130.

[iv] Williams, Our Enemies In Blue, p. 204.

[v] Correia and Wall, p. 130.

[vi] See Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (London: Verso, 2001); Alex S. Vitale, The End of Policing. (London: Verso, 2017); Stuart Schrader, Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2019).

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0