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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
UCOP's budget request for 2010-11 was good (see the summary).  It goes looking for a big bounce - from down over $800 million this year, to in principle up over $900 million next year. It's a restoration budget, and is an improvement in tactics after years of being limited to 3% increases by UCOP's timid interpretation of the Compact such that it failed to use the mid-decade boom to get out of the hole dug by the previous bust of 2002-05.

We've analyzed the budget on this blog quite a bit: a July 11 headnote provides some background and links, and references a post that estimates the funding crash under a scenario called Extreme Arnold.  That post summarizes six scenarios for the UC budget and offers an overview of what's happened to our state funding.

The chart there was an update of those of the Futures Report (2007) (or see the slides) and the Cuts Report (2008).   Now my Futures Report co-author Henning Bohn, an economics professor at UCSB, has also updated the budget data. It's a draft, he reminds me, but it is nicely convergent with the updates noted above.  Henning also updates the calculation of state personal income, so that "benchmark" line is better.

First, there's the brown line that shows that actual state funding is below the worst case scenario imagined in 2007 - a "public funding freeze" otherwise known as privatization - (the scenarios are summarized here).


The governor and legislature's appropriate for 2009-10 is literally falling off the chart.  The brown dot is UCOP's 2010-11 target.  Note that it is still below the level funding guaranteed by the Compact with the governor - the one he unilaterally abrogated.

Now comes the interesting part.  When people ask why UC got whacked beyond anything seen in higher education in three generations, the answer is always the same: Sacramento has no money.  If you think about money in terms of Sacto's insane budget brokering - which produces fake closures and infinite mystery holes not seen in nature - then there is money for nothing, and the state can do nothing, and we are all being sucked slowly into the budgetary version of Poe's maestrom until we are a state of certified morons - because there is just no money.

Here's where another of Henning's charts comes in handy:


State personal income: that's how much money we actually have. This inspired, illuminating chart compares UC's general fund to the state's actual personal income.  When state funding goes down because state income goes down - because the economy tanks, people lose their houses and jobs - then the ratio between the two stays the same, and the line is flat.  When people get poor, but greedy government services continue to suck their blood, then we have an upsloping line - the university would be taking more of a share of people's money than before.  We see a Benchmark that would indicate where UC's budget would be were its General Fund to have remained the same share of state personal income as it had in 2001.  Then we see three phases:
  1.  a 5 -year decline in UC's allocation as a share of state personal income - the money people actually do have to spend on various things - prisons, cars, big screens, hootche-kootche, education.   2001's 0.28%  personal income for the greatest public university in the world was already pretty darn low, and lower than it had been in the past. But it went down and down until 2005-6.
  2. 2005-2008 -the Compact allowed 3% annual increases, less than half that of other state agencies (see Cuts).  This kept UC funding exactly flat in relation to state personal income - each went up between 3 and 4% a year, hand in hand.  But there was no recovery to the 2001 norm.
  3. 2008-10: the 25% GF cut.  UC's budget dropped  not just in absolute terms, but as a share of state personal income.
This means that UC didn't get poor because the state's people got poor.  UC got poor because Sacto  skimmed a piece of UC's traditional share of the state's wealth. Sacto took a slice, and UC got poor.  It got poor because Sacto took out UC's earned money even though UC was as a worthy, stable provider of state services for a deservedly stable share of state income.

Here at UC, we not trying to do anything fancy this year.  We're not talking about improving UC. We're not talking about innovation. So here are two unfancy strategies with Sacto, performed I hope by some not very fancy people.

1. establish a historical baseline share of state personal income.  Henning has already provided this. UCOP should adopt it.  It will go up and down with the state, but not off a cliff as it is now doing with the state standing there giving a push.
2. detail the multi-year financial objectives that this baseline translates into - e.g. what GF we need in 2013, given an expected number of students and rate of inflation. It will be a compact with the students and state alike, will allow future planning. The measure would be flexible in a downturn, giving the taxpayers a break . It would also encourage UC to detail what they are going to do with the money.

It's simple. It's easy.  Do it!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
To Enable the Young, Poor, and Sick to Contribute to Fixing the Budget

By Jonathan Lemuel

Everyone knows that California is facing a crisis. But the increases in fees for UC, CSU, and Community College students, the recent proposals of the Parsky Commission to shift the tax burden more onto the poor and the middle class, the legislature’s limited changes to California’s criminal justice system, and Governor Schwarzenegger’s half-hearted cuts of health services all reveal a failure of political will and imagination. Now, I do not claim to be anything other than a well-wisher to the Public Good, but I think that the cause of California’s budget problem is obvious: we have too many poor, sick, and young people roaming freely on the streets while expecting to be treated as if they possessed human dignity.

I would therefore propose that all children be sentenced to prison when they turn two years old. Such a proposal would simply speed up California’s normal process; it has become clear for at least two decades that Californians prefer to lock up young people (especially minorities) than to educate them. This proposal would simply make that policy more universal. It would eliminate the need for bureaucrats (judges, bailiffs, attorneys, perhaps even police) thus reducing the size of the State’s workforce. Given that Californians have shown themselves willing to pay more to imprison people than to send them to college it would be politically popular and therefore help unify the state. And finally, it would save the State money that would otherwise be spent building new prisons—California could simply transform schools into prisons and work with those physical plants.

The economic benefits are, therefore, clear. I realize that some might point out that it costs several times as much annually to incarcerate a person than to send them to college and thus question the economic logic of my proposal. I am not sure why this should be a concern since our State leaders have been spending money in this way for decades without complaint. But I think that their objection shows that they are not willing to “blow up the boxes” as the Governor likes to say; my proposal addresses costs nicely. First, if we sentence students to prison at the age of two then we would lessen the need for teachers and severely weaken the power of teachers unions—evil bureaucracies that everyone knows are a major cause of the budget problems and it would enable more authority to flow into the prison guards’ union. Given that the State recently cut educational and vocational programs within the prisons we would save money on useless things like books that teach our children dangerous ideas and stimulate their imaginations. And we would no longer burden hospitals or insurance companies with the distasteful task of treating the poor or uninsured since they would already be under the health system of the Department of Corrections. If we forced inmates to work on public roads and bridges we could even fix some of our infrastructural problems.

But there are moral and political benefits as well. Because while I am suggesting that all children should be sentenced to prison, I am not suggesting that they all should be committed to prison. That would be patently unfair. Instead we should allow those with sufficient money to buy their children’s freedom. If we set that price appropriately we would be able to raise sufficient funds to make the state prisons function for all of the poor, the young and the sick and have money left to protect the houses and property of those not in prisons. Since only those who could afford their children’s freedom would be sending their children to college we could easily raise the rates at UC and CSU—thereby ensuring their good bond ratings. This requirement would hurt no one since clearly only those with sufficient wealth could truly care for their children. I am convinced that this policy makes more sense than the proposal of the recent Parsky Commission to rely on an untested value-added tax to make working people bear more of the state’s tax burden. My proposal is much simpler and easier to enforce.

I have some learned friends who have proposed other possible solutions to the State’s crisis: imposing an oil extraction tax; splitting the rolls on Proposition 13 to allow homeowners to retain their protections while causing commercial property and development to pay a fairer share; some have even proposed that we institute majority rule in California! But none of these proposals make sense to me. First of all, they would all mean that we would no longer allow the Republican Party to control public policy and that seems cruel to such public servants. But, more importantly, these suggestions send the wrong message to the young, suggesting as they do that all citizens are equally worthy of support and assistance. But we know that isn’t true. After all, as Mike Genest, Governor Schwarzenegger’s finance director pointed out “Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” it is only the others who derive benefit from the public. It is time, and my proposal would do this, that we openly acknowledge what has been implicit in our social and economic policy: the wealthy are better than the rest of us. And we should get out of their way. Otherwise we might convince ourselves that we should be treated as their equals.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009
legitimacy and the great public absence
by Kris Peterson, UC Irvine

I just finished watching a YouTube video of Regents Bonnie Reiss and Eddie Island make a quick get-a-way to their vehicle at UCLA - just after they voted to increase student fees by an unprecedented 32%. They were surrounded and followed by students chanting, “Shame on you!” Reiss represents the banking and finance industry; and Island, a retiree of McDonnell-Douglas, represents the defense industry.  So, given that these two industries, with their ballooned subsidies and profits, have done nothing more than take this country down over the last several years, I’m thinking a lot about legitimacy. Not legitimacy related to governance. Rather, legitimacy in terms of representation and intent.

Let me go back in time. Between 1952 and 2007, UC had a vibrant relationship with its patron, the weapons industry. Over the years, some found this relationship egregious, as the public was concerned about nuclear proliferation and Cold War military conflicts throughout the world. Culminating in the 1970s, student protests against UC-managed Labs indexed these global events. Yet despite all this, the one thing that the weapons industry, and indeed the US military, had in common with a stellar, highly endowed, multi-campus, public university was the priority of research. Whether it was about NSEP language grants, private sector-federal government partnerships, or DOD and NSF funding that blurred the lines between foreign policy and military interests, a strong interdisciplinary research institution, writ large, was good for this industry.

But now we have a new relationship that constitutes a mix of patronage and competition. It’s been built with the finance industry, commercial real estate – Big Business generally – all of which the Regents represent. And what does the “bottom line” of these industries have in common with the project of education and research? Well, it doesn’t take much to bet up or down on whether the housing market will crash; and it doesn’t take much to figure out how student fees will secure your bond markets as Bob Meister has analyzed. The reasoning of the “bottom line” may be this: what kind of education is really needed once manufacturing and jobs have been exported? What kind of new knowledge for innovation is needed when the wealth of innovative industries has been transferred to the finance sector? What’s the role of public education for an economy that’s radically restructuring?

As we all know, state budget priorities have shifted dramatically over time. For example, Bruce Franklin has pointed out that in 1976, the last tuition-free university (CUNY) became a fee-based institution. From 1976 to 2000 - the moment when free education disappeared, on average, a new prison was constructed in the US every week - thus the extraordinary transfer of funds from education to prison budgets, as well as the extraordinary transfer of especially young Americans of Color from the potential and reality of education to prison (which could certainly increase with skyrocketing fees). Indeed, in the last few statewide cuts, the surveillance institutions sustained relatively few hits compared to the 20%-100% cuts experienced by other public services and institutions.

But I want to make a distinction here between the transfer of wealth between CA budget categories and the outright emptying out of the public sector. Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon privatization should be our guide:  after Reagan inflated the national defense budget, we never really imagined that these massive sums of money could be pushed into private hands under Bush II’s pretext of war, even though by then it was a model the US (and others) provided the Third World. Yet now this model has been adopted by California. So we are no longer explicitly facing the question of entitlement to funds within limited budgets. We are now up against a competition for resources, which can be crudely drawn between the public and private sectors – with the public sector losing out. The recent CA Budget Agreements (peruse the California Budget Project for details) clearly show that while the health, education, and human services sectors are being overwhelmingly dispossessed, corporations are increasingly privileged and raking it in.

So here’s the thing with legitimacy: the Regents as a simultaneous representative of both public higher education and Big Business is a real, big, stupid problem in the context of resource struggles. The state budget decisions that screw us are the same decisions that serve the interests of the Regents. This is a conflict of interest that makes the Regents’ decisions about fee hikes and budget cuts as well as the premise of the Gould Commission completely illegitimate. Furthermore, it’s perplexing that the Regents have been put in charge of setting our future agenda. They, in fact, should be subjected to public hearings that understand their plan to eliminate the "publicness" of the UC, even prior to the budget crisis.

And certainly the absence of the Legislature is stunning - their lack of accountability, their lack of responsibility in maintaining the integrity of higher ed, and in some cases their total ignorance. One of my colleagues here at UCI met with our Assembly Rep a couple months ago to talk about the prospects of higher education in the context of cuts and new changes. The point of the meeting was to convey how once you lose infrastructure you don't really get it back. Our Rep had no idea what was at stake - I mean, remarkably and unbelievably clueless. So, the Legislature needs their public hearing too.

In addition to pressuring the Regents, I would advocate in-depth public or town hall meetings that also travel throughout the state, perhaps from one school district to the next. Other modes of public engagement are of course possible, but while current efforts are gaining lots of momentum, we need to take this crisis to the public. Senate and Assembly members, media, unions, students, parents, civic groups, PTA and local boards of education (make the K-12 link), the CSU and UC communities, and the general public should all be able to participate and discuss direct and indirect issues impacting public education and the public sector more generally. Such dialogues could look for ways to advocate for the university's and public education’s growth rather than figuring out how to pound the last nail into the coffin. Right now, our only mode of engagement (outside of protests) is with UCOF, which, if the Regents even bother showing, limits the discussion between “us and them.” This makes it a private endeavor and contributes to the ongoing absence, if not ignorance, of the public (Michael Meranze’s recent post about the public’s ideas of saving the university is telling).

While some may argue that such an endeavor is too difficult or it’s something that should happen over the longer term – well, point taken, and I certainly don’t have all the strategic answers. But honestly, can we afford to leave this in the hands of the Regents and the Legislature who don’t feel knocked around by protests and who are answerable to more powerful interests? We have a real opportunity to initiate state wide discussions on what the public sector actually is, why we need it, why it’s being taken away, and what this means for Californians – something the national health care debates failed to adequately accomplish.

As I have heard and read many good arguments about public education as a cornerstone of democracy, as an entitlement that should remain in tact, as something that shouldn’t simply provide a direct route to the market place, and as a site that enriches “hearts and minds,” I don’t think these angles alone provide the kind of sway we need. Rather, we need to examine how economic structures are transforming in ways that will restrict entitlements currently taken for granted. As economy and entitlements transform, the question of society’s knowledge, labor, and educational needs are also changing. These fast paced events are meant to fit into an economy that’s less productive and that’s being recreated by massive job and home loss. Both are shrinking the middle class – the class for which, as Chris Newfield has pointed out, higher education was meant to expand.  So the argument cannot just rest with the preservation of the university for its own sake, it must argue against the very political and economic foundations driving the change. Shifting our efforts into the public realm may be our best hope.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

The only good news coming out of UCLA has been the student protests. They attracted lots of media coverage of the financial hardships caused by the 32% fee hikes - and of frustration with a closed decision-making process.  The coverage of the students was almost entirely positive. It included a photo of a little tasering going on next to the bushes, not long after the UCLA admin denied the possibility that students were being tasered.  The Regents did their work under police protection, and left under even heavier police protection, and they were all trapped together in the parking garage by students for 3 or 4 hours, which I doubt was enough time for them to ponder all the errors of their ways.

That's too bad, because UCOP and the Regents have made UC's finances worse, not better, with this fee hike.  A little history will help explain.

In Major Downturn 1 (1992-1995), UC lost about 20% of its state funding and raised fees (excluding campus fees) from $1624 to $3799, an increase of 134% in 3 years.

In Major Downturn 2 (2002-2005), UC lost about 16% of its state funding and raised fees from $3834 to $6141, an increase of 60%.

In Major Downturn 3 (2008-??), UC has already lost 25% of its state funding. This is by far the worst of the downturns, and is hitting the state workforce hard.  Fees started at $7126 in 2008. Were they to rise by the average of the two previous increases, or say 100%, they would be at about $14,250 by 2011-12 - up another $4000 from 2010-11 (set yesterday at $10,302).

Were the fees in this downturn to go up as much as they did in Downturn 1 (134%), they would stand at $16,685 in 2011-12.  If the downturn stays bad, more cuts will come and fee hikes will be even higher - to $20,000, with the usual stipulations about 33% return-to-aid.

The Regents this week all but locked us into this.  Here's why:
  1. Sacramento has another new deficit and opinions range from the Republicans calling for deeper and deeper cuts to the Democrats saying they don't see any way around deeper cuts.  
  2. Fee hikes take political pressure off Sacramento to restore funds.  Hikes do not make up for state cuts (UCOP estimates they make up for 1/3rd; I estimate this hike will net 2% new funds for UC's core budget.  But they create the public impression that UC has access to new non-state money, and will struggle a little but will be just fine. 
  3. Many in UCOP and on the Board of  Regents have convinced themselves "the era of public funding is over."   They correctly note that state government would like to minimize its contribution to higher ed in various ways, including through such means as reneging on its agreement to pay a share of UC's pension costs. This pessimism is, however, a self-fulfilling prophecy, and undermines strong proactive engagement before it begins.  The only alternative to public funding are large, repeated fee hikes.
  4. UCOP and the Regents have no critique of the Governor's slash-and-burn budgeting, no plan to howl about downgraded student dreams and reduced economic contributions, no game-changing plan in general, nor any announced intention to start one. 
In reality this decline is unnecessary.   Like many others I've made counterproposals (see the debate there too), and UC is full of faculty, staff, and student organizations with better ideas than what we heard from the Regents committees this week.

The first step is going to be the hardest: the Regents will have to figure out how to implement what the great majority of the UC community would like to see, rather than rejecting that every two months.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From SAVE UCLA: Subject:
TOMOR- ROW: PART II, Statewide Mobili-zation Against the Fee Hikes at Covel Commons!

Today was hard and unexpected, but tomorrow we will have 1000+ students and workers from all across the state to stand with us against the tuition hikes. TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO SHOW UP AND SUPPORT!

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW, IF YOU CAN, PLEASE SHOW UP AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE (6AM EVEN, THE EARLIER, THE BETTER):

6:30-7:30am - PICKET PREP
8-10am — REGENT'S MEETING PUBLIC COMMENT - PICKET AND CHANT
10-11am—REGENTS "TRIAL" - POLITICAL THEATER
12-1:30pm—RALLY (TO MARCH THROUGH BRUIN PLAZA +)

JOIN STUDENTS FROM BERKELEY, IRVINE, SAN DIEGO, SANTA CRUZ, SANTA BARBARA, RIVERSIDE, CSU FULLERTON, AND CLAREMONT COLLEGES!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If you are going to inflict pain on students, the least you can do is feel their pain.  The second thing you can do is broadcast their pain to the Governor and the legislature that caused it.    Maybe then they’d think twice about forcing more fee hikes with more cuts. Maybe even the fanatical governor would think twice, since he is promising still deeper cuts, and to go after “the high-hanging fruits.”

The Regents are expected to increase undergrad resident “Ed Fees” 32% over the next 18 months. They are also set to explode professional school fees beyond limits set by their own rules – from zero to $6000 for Environmental Design at Berkeley, zero to $6000 for Information Management, zero to $4000 for Social Welfare, zero to $11,000 for Physical Therapy at UCSF – a 2/3rd increase for Public Health at Berkeley, and 40% increases in Nursing at 4 campuses scheduled for 2010-2012. In responses, UC leaders are saying that 32% fee increases won’t affect students that much at all.  The Blue and Gold Plan press release says that over half of UC undergrads get grants averaging $10,300 per year - which would suggest to normal readers that half of undergrads will continue to pay no tuition.

In the same vein, the Regents' documents state that "financial aid program enhancements . .  meant that undergraduate students with family incomes below $180,000 experienced, on average, an increase of $1,200 - $1,500 in resources for education expenses” (Regents Nov F1 p 12).  Or a page later,  “UC projects that, on average, students with incomes below $180,000 will experience financial resource increases, either through gift aid or expanded tax credits, to cover the full amount of fee increases already approved and now proposed for 2009-10.”  This sounds a lot like UCOP is saying, the more fees go up, the better off all (but the richest) students are.

This is a script from a model sometimes called "high-tuition / high-fees," and at other times called "privatization." It is not a script based on student reality. Even UCOP’s rosy scenario leaves an average $11,000 gap in the cost of attendance, which is three times what "middle-income" familes ($50,000-$100,000) are able to pay for college and nearly five times the average outlays of lower-income families (Sallie Mae Figure 6). These gaps are filled with increasing student debt, and increasing student work while in college.  Private student debt tripled in the last downturn, debt overall continues to grow, 75% of the public college students who borrow have more than $10,000 in debt, with a median of $17,700.

Stats can be strung out for a while but let's cut to the chase. Debt reduces incentive to continue and reduces freedom of career choice and economic contribution. Excessive work lowers attainment for students who do attend.  Today I spent an hour with a first-generation student who pays for fees and rent at UCLA by working 38 hours a week as a shift supervisor at Starbucks. How much more exactly is UC going to ask her to do?

This gets us back to strategy.  The Ed Fee hike will net $330.0 million for UC (Display 3), which, as a percentage of 2 years of  UC's "core budget" (p 3) comes to 2%.  Is 2% really worth all this student grief?
Secondly, when the Governor and the legislature read that UC covers its fee hikes with financial aid, what reason do they have to rebuild public funds?  The logical effect is the opposite - to think UC can save itself with higher fees, and help low-income students with better aid.  UCOP has been sending a mixed message for years - we need more public money, but we can always raise private money through tuition increases. The effect has been a disaster for public funding - not the one cause of the disaster, but a major one.  In the ten years that have seen fees double,  public funding is now back exactly where it was (Display 4) - well below, actually, corrected for enrollment growth and inflation.  And with its soothing talk of managed fee hikes, UCOP is giving Sacramento no reason to change.

Here's what the Regents should do instead:

1.Recenter UC’s message on the reality that massive fee hikes are very bad. They are just plain bad - bad for students, nearly useless for restoring operating funds.

2.Hold state leaders responsible for the cuts that forced the hikes. The Regents should say this: We had a Higher Education Compact with the Governor. It held us to 3% annual increases, and then, when things got tough, the governor reneged on the deal. The same happened with the legislature: we got the bipartisan shaft. We are going to explain to every student and every parent just what you all have done to their university. We will ask them to ask you to explain how you will fix it. If you can’t or won’t fix it, we will ask them to vote you out of office – as enemies of students, of public higher education, and of the future of the state.

3. We have a new "Compact." It is not with Sacramento this time. It is a “Compact with UC Students.” Our Compact with them is this: we will not charge them more for less.  We will set a minumum investment per undergraduate student that maintains UC quality (as the Academic Senate recommended in 2008).  We will establish a multi-year strategy for sustaining this investment, with clear revenue goals.These will center on repeated increases in state funding requests. Any fee hikes will be strictly limited, devoted to enhancing educational quality, and their uses will be clearly defined. If we cannot do this with the current scale of enrollments, we will shrink enrollments. And we as UC leaders will join with students, staff, and faculty in tracing the problem to Sacramento, starting with Governor Schwarzenegger, because it is a problem no remotely affordable fee hikes can fix.

There are risks in this kind of strategy. But a loss of 40% of of enrollment-corrected state funding from 1990 to 2005, and another 25% in the past 2, says that the conflicted high-fee public model has failed - and has failed faster the faster that fees  rise.   UC's truly amazing students deserve much better than this, and the Regents need to do something besides pass the hikes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009
by Michael Meranze

As we head into this week’s Regents meeting and the imminent increase of student fees, Andrew Dickson is right to draw attention to the political and funding implications of the recent PPI poll on higher education. The results, as he makes clear, are sobering. The public, at least as represented in the poll, thinks well of the Community Colleges, CSU, and UC, believes that higher education is important for the state, and is concerned about its future. But a strong majority is unwilling to pay higher taxes to help higher education overcome recent cuts and a sizeable minority thinks that if we simply used funds more effectively everything would be fine. Dickson emphasizes the difficulties inherent in these poll results. I want to point here in another direction. The poll indicates, I think, that while there is no real consensus on how to move ahead and that public opinion is contradictory, UCOP’s plans to rebuild UC on the basis of student fees is a self-defeating strategy. Not only will it prove economically insufficient but it will likely start a death spiral in state support. In the end, the University cannot survive that spiral—at least not as a public university of 10 strong campuses.

The long-term task we face is to stop UCOPs strategy of trying to shift university funding from the State to the students. That will not be an easy task. There seems to be no end in sight for the continuing and worsening budget news. While some cuts—especially to education—were limited by Federal stimulus money that money will run out by next year. The Governor and his allies are threatening even more substantial cuts not only to education but to those most in need of state funds. Mike Genest, Schwarzenegger’s outgoing finance director (and source of support for President Yudof’s mantra that the state is not a reliable partner) revealed that he looked into the possibility of California giving up statehood in order to become a federal territory.

Given the crises of the State budget, the PPI poll offers a series of sobering points. As Andrew Dickson reports, the Poll results show that 56% of the public is unwilling to raise taxes in support of higher education. This fact does have some ambiguity to it: 56% of Democrats are willing to raise taxes whereas 58% of independents and 74% of Republicans are not. Republican opposition I take to be hard opposition—after all low taxation is an article of faith for the California Republican Party. The question is whether the numbers could be changed for the Democrats and the Independents. In the short run the answer seems to be no. The recession has hit the state hard and people are reluctant to add to their own economic burdens. The significant lack of confidence in State leaders (the poll suggests that only 21% approve of Arnold’s handling of higher education and only 16% approve of the Legislature’s handling of the problem) probably increases the public’s reluctance to commit to further funding. Moreover, while a majority of the respondents believe that the University needs both additional funding and to use its funds more effectively, there is a sizeable minority (38%) who believe that the University could solve its problems simply by being more efficient. On the other hand, 70% of the respondent’s indicated that they thought that the budget cuts for higher education were a “big problem.”

This sort of contradiction, of course, is nothing new to California politics nor is it limited to higher education. Since at least the 1980s Californians have assumed that they could gain high quality public services without having to pay for them. Moreover, there has been widespread misinformation about the tax system (which is far more regressive than most admit) and about the alleged effectiveness and wisdom of California’s commitment to mass incarceration (which as even Andrew Dickson’s conclusion suggests is a too easily accepted political meme. The structure of State governing power after Proposition 13 was all but designed to make the State inefficient with the predictable result of loss of confidence. But the Great Recession has made these long-standing problems more severe and it does no good to ignore that.

But there are difficulties peculiar to our situation. The difficulties are easy to name: the Regents and UCOP are determined to switch our funding onto students and private sources and the Oakland-based Senate Leadership are unwilling to resist that process (indeed all indications are that they are active supporters). The Regents have refused suggestions that the fee increases have a sunset clause or that an audit be completed before imposing higher fees. The Gould Commission is pushing ahead with its plans to remake the University in a matter of months (and it doesn’t seem coincidental that Russell Gould and Christopher Edley were opposed to slowing down the process—after all that might allow more alternatives to appear).

On the other hand, the protests and objections from students, staff, and faculty and the challenges from local Senate committees do seem to be having an impact. New questions arise continually about the use of student fees and about the colleges’ possible subsidization of the professional schools. UCOP has been forced to respond more and more to the dissatisfaction of the campuses. And President Yudof’s indication, on the eve of the Regents meeting to discuss fee increases that he would seek $913M in additional funding from the State suggests that he too is feeling the public pressure against explicitly giving up on the State.

It is in this context that the contradictions of the PPI poll take on their greatest importance. It is true that 56% of the respondents were unwilling to pay more in taxes but 62% were “very concerned” and 27% were “somewhat concerned” about raising fees for students. At the same time 57% were “very concerned” and 29% were “somewhat concerned” about admitting fewer students due to the budget crisis with almost identical numbers for reducing classes. When asked if they were willing to raise student fees to make up for budget cuts 68% said no (although to be complete I should note that 67% were willing to have a sliding scale for fees). Even more striking, at least to me, is that when asked what was the most important problem facing higher education, 31% thought student costs and affordability and 26% thought the lack of state funding while only 2% pointed to the politics of professors and only another 2% pointed to teaching or instruction. Despite all the summer fears about the hostility to the University and the professorate, the public doesn’t seem all that worried.

These results suggest to me that the University will pursue UCOP’s present strategy at great risk to itself and to higher education. The public is not in favor of fee increases to compensate for budget cuts (which appears to be President Yudof’s plans). If fees continue to be raised it seems likely that the public will become more alienated from the higher education, they will turn their backs on the institutions, and we will begin a race to the bottom for state funding. Nor can the University continue to raise fees indefinitely if it hopes to retain students. Already there are signs that private colleges are gaining enrollments due to the rising costs and decreasing offerings at CSU and UC. Without romanticizing what UC has been in the past we can be assured that if the Regents and UCOP continue their present strategy UC will cease to be the world-renowned system that it is now. CSU is equally stressed: their applications are increasing dramatically as they are forced to cut back on admissions. CSU leaders have been more outspoken in opposition to these changes than have the UC Regents. But they cannot reverse this process alone.

We may not be able to stop the fee increases in the short term. But there are possibilities to reconnect with the public’s desire for an open and excellent public university system funded by the state. Kristin Peterson and Mary Furner have suggested a variety of strategies to engage the public. These will, admittedly, take time. Our internal challenges—most especially in stopping the Gould Commission’s rush to judgment—will remain. But despite the cautions that Andrew Dickson has raised there is a reservoir of commitment to public higher education in the state. Californians remain committed to their system of higher education, continue to think that college education matters, and continue to think that the state’s future is tied up with its universities and community colleges.

We are facing a new version of the battle of the books. But whereas earlier battles concerned the ancients and the moderns ours is somewhat different. The Governor, the Regents, UCOP and UCOF seem to think that the only books that matter are accountants’ books. The public knows better. But we need to offer clearer accounts of how higher education matters and propel UCOP into doing the same—and these accounts need to come from all parts of the University. If we are unable to do this then we, UC, CSI, the Community Colleges and the State will be the losers. And in that case, I doubt that even the winners will savor their victory.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Department of English at Riverside has issued a letter of solidarity in response to the Budget Crisis. President Yudof has responded here.
Thanks to Bob Samuels for these notes on the UC Commission on the Future meeting this past week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009
Yesterday there was a Town Hall meeting at UCSD to discuss campus budget recommendations:
"This open forum will provide an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to communicate directly with members of the Joint Senate-Administration Task Force on Budget. The Task Force is charged with providing recommendations for sustaining UC San Diego’s academic excellence during budget reductions, while protecting our core missions of research and education through cost savings, increased efficiency, and increased non-State revenues. We encourage you to attend and share your vision and ideas regarding the UC San Diego of Tomorrow."
As might have been expected there were a number of well-argued statements as to why the University deserved more funds from the State of California. One of these referred to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) for which one of the findings was that:
Californians give high grades to their public higher education systems but are worried about increased student costs and state budget cuts.
At the UCSD meeting it was mentioned that the poll had been headlined on our local public radio station, and that the message was that the public were strongly supportive of UC. A tweet from Mark Yudof also states:
Meeting with the UC Commission on the Future here in Oakland. We are also reviewing the new PPIC poll that shows CA holds UC in high esteem.
Sadly, the poll itself is not so unambiguous. The actual question was "Overall, is the ___ doing an excellent, good, not so good, or poor job? UC polled as 13% excellent, 49% good. However, the community colleges polled a little higher (13% excellent, 52% good) while CSU was close (9% excellent; 52% good). Given the estimated 2% margin of error for the poll it might be fair to say (as PPIC did) that all sectors of California higher education are held in equivalent high esteem.

Unfortunately perhaps, the poll contained other questions (in addition to the oft-reported lack of confidence in state government). Some perhaps more problematic results (from the PPIC news release):

Given the high value that most Californians place on spending for higher education, what would they be willing to do to offset state spending cuts?

  • 68 percent are unwilling to increase student fees. Solid majorities across parties, regions, and demographic groups concur.
  • 56 percent are unwilling to pay higher taxes. Although 56 percent of Democrats are willing to pay higher taxes for this purpose, 58 percent of independents and 74 percent of Republicans are not.
  • 53 percent would support a higher education construction bond measure on the 2010 ballot. But support is lower among likely voters (46% yes, 47% no) for this hypothetical bond measure and would fall short of the simple majority threshold needed to pass such a measure. Here, too, a partisan split emerges, with 61 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents saying they would vote yes on a bond and 55 percent of Republicans saying they would vote no.

Half (50%) of Californians believe that major changes are needed in the higher education system— a 10-point increase from last year—and 39 percent say minor changes are needed. When asked the best method for significantly improving California’s higher education system, about half (52%) say a combination of better use of existing state funds and increased funding is the answer. Just 7 percent say increased funding alone is the key and 38 percent say just using existing funds more wisely is best.

So, UC is not considered special (or at least any more excellent than the other CA higher education sectors); there is a belief that higher education fails to use its existing funds sufficiently wisely; and there is a significant resistance to increasing taxes to support higher education in the state. At the same time, increases in fees are seen as problematic.

I suspect we ignore such views at our peril. Furthermore, despite comments I have heard lamenting the cost of our prisons, I still suspect many of our neighbors would rather see an unemployed professor sitting on their street corner than an unemployed felon!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009
Please note links featured in the blog's other columns: SAVE's petition to postpone fee hikes, and a survey and further information on travel to the Regents' meeting at UCLA Nov 17-19.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The UCSB student coalition demands are here.

See also the first issue of UC Solidarity Notes, a student-worker joint production.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009
By Anonymous

Part 1: Response to previous and current cuts

I am a faculty member in a research unit receiving a large amount of extramural and especially federal funding. We are primarily a graduate department, and only about a third of our teaching is currently at the undergraduate level. Since we offer few service courses, we have few TA positions available to provide a stipend and tuition remission to our graduate students. Instead, most graduate students are funded by federal grants and fellowships of various sorts. In fact, every grant proposal submitted out of our research unit is expected to include a request for graduate student funding. The graduate students in our unit not only do research for us, but they are the primary constituents of the courses we teach. The PIs in our research unit also support through extramural funding a very large number of postdocs, project scientists, and technicians. The majority of our budget comes from federal research grants, and core UC funding is only 14%. Unfortunately, it is this 14% that produces 90% of our headaches.

The more selective cuts that occurred during the previous recession hit our research unit harder than the rest of UC, so we are coming into the current crisis with scant buffer. Many staff members have already been laid off, and most institutional lab support has already been eliminated. The remaining UC funding is devoted to long-term matching commitments to federally-funded research infrastructure (which must be paid to maintain our central programs), salaries of support staff for core academic and business office functions (which cannot be reduced any more), and salaries of PIs. The last category, in fact, makes up the majority of our UC funding, so there is probably no way to accommodate further cuts without reducing faculty salaries even more than is the case with the current furloughs.

The suffering from budget cuts has been disproportionate across our research unit. Those PIs who were already supporting their research staff and lab facilities exclusively from extramural funds were not hurt when institutional support was removed. Those people paid 100% from extramural funds were unaffected by the furloughs. Those faculty members with enough funding to pay themselves on furlough days (two thirds of us) have not experienced any salary reduction. The availability of extramural funding may explain why faculty in the sciences have not been as upset about the handling of the UC budget crisis as faculty in the humanities. In fact, I heard a colleague state that it was a victory for shared governance that we were able to prevail upon UCOP to spare extramurally funded people from the furloughs.

to be continued
From Pat Morton, Professor of Art History, UCR

There are a number of activist groups working at UCR right now, including UCR Mobilize, Social Justice Alliance, and Concerned Faculty of UCR.  They emerged out of the September 24 Walkout and Teach-In, which attracted about 1000 people over the course of the 5 hour program.  (Chancellor White even came to the Teach-In and spoke supportively.)

UCR Mobilize is a small but very active coalition of students, faculty and staff that's been doing actions since the September 24 Walkout.  We meet weekly on Wednesdays and coordinate between faculty, student groups and unions.  The unions are already organized and have been fighting this fight for a long time.

For a few weeks after the Walkout, the students carried most of the momentum and started an education campaign of flyers, events and coalition building.  They've coalesced as the Social Justice Alliance, which coordinates with other activist groups on campus.  They are highly motivated by the fee increases, and plan a big presence at the November Regents' meeting, but they're in it for the long haul.  They've had three actions at the Bell Tower in the center of campus, including a Death of Public Education event on October 28 that featured a "Die-In" and rousing speeches from student activists.  There are many other student groups responding to the crisis (Students Against Sweatshops, Chicano Student Programs, MeCHA, UCSA, CCSA, Common Ground Alliance, etc.)

Concerned Faculty of UCR has been reactivated recently (it was originally formed to support labor actions at UCR). Last week, Chris Chase-Dunn, Karthick Ramakrisnan and I called a meeting about the Gould Commission of the Future visit to UCR, and 40-50 faculty attended.  We've been able to get the head of the Academic Senate to attend our meetings and join efforts to reach faculty. The next meeting is Friday, November 13.

At the November 3 Gould Commission "listening session,"  faculty from Concerned Faculty questioned the credibility of the Commission and the market thinking of its charge, and raised issues about access and the impact of privatization on our students.  Outside the pointed criticisms of the Commission, speakers affirmed UCR as a model for the entire UC, a campus that reflects California and produces "excellence" with diversity. 

Upcoming Events:


On Monday, November 16, UCR Mobilize plans two Teach-Ins (12 pm and 6 pm) to educate the UCR community about the crisis, its effects, and resistance, and mobilize for the November 17-19 Regents' meeting at UCLA.  Faculty, staff, and students will speak.

A large contingent of UCR students, union members and faculty will participate in the actions on Nov. 18-19 at the UCLA Regents meeting.

We're planning a series of events for the winter, leading up to the system-wide Day of Action on March 4 (Sacramento) and the Regents' meeting at UCR on March 17-19.

We're building alliances with CSU and CC campuses in the area, and I think there will be some joint actions.

The students have a web site and we have the beginnings of a web site for UCR Mobilize

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009
We received a query from Jessica Luk, and would appreciate receiving more news about new professional degree fees.  Similiar increases have been proposed for Berkeley's School of Social Welfare.
I'm a graduate student in the Masters of City Planning program, and our department is looking to levy a professional degree fee (PDF) on incoming students in the amount of $6,000/student/year. Unlike the business and law schools, which are justified as falling on higher incomes upon graduation, this PDF has been created to cover budget short-falls. Are the Regents leveraging the potential for higher cuts to induce departments to fundraise, and in this case, at the expense of the students and WITHOUT student input? This is tragic, and I wonder if there are similar movements going on in other departments/schools?
Jessica

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009
On Friday, November 6, the traveling medicine show called UCOF arrived in La Jolla to "listen" to the UC San Diego community. Commission members included UCSC Chancellor Blumenthal, Cynthia Brown, Mary Croughan, Keith Williams, CFO Peter Taylor of UCOP, and student regent Jesse Bernal.

The audience peaked at about 125 but was down to less than 100 by the time public comments began. There were approximately 12-20 faculty at the most (not counting the faculty/administrators who made formal presentations).

Each of the Commission members (except Cynthia Brown who deferred to Blumenthal) made opening remarks in which they began with standard boilerplate rhetoric about "excellence" and then described the charge of their workgroup. Some high and low points:

--Blumenthal's remarks were mainly about downsizing. He said not all campuses will have all programs, and coined a new term "inter-institutionality" that he claimed will replace interdisciplinarity in the 21st century.

--Croughan talked about "industry engagement."

--Williams talked about on-line education.

--Taylor actually spoke about the possibility of working for a "dedicated tax" for higher education (probably the most positive note from any of the commissioners).

--Bernal did not advocate for students as much as show that he is quickly learning how to use bureaucratic rhetoric.

Presentations by UCSD administrators were weak, ranging from banal boosterism to a pitch for more graduate and fewer undergraduate students (or we'll lose our prestige) to a fundamentalist reading from the privatization bible--more foreign and out of state students for revenue (Dean of our Business School, as you might have guessed). Staff presentations, on the other hand, were excellent. They advocated for students, argued for an "education model" instead of a business model, etc. It was pointed out that the absence of any regents made it hard to take the exercise seriously. The most valuable intervention was by one of our building maintenance carpenters who explained how he and his crew have to repair all the shoddy work done by private contractors hired by the University, thereby costing the University more money. He talked about lay-offs and shortened hours in his department. He talked about his life as a worker who had dedicated himself to UCSD and his son, a first generation college student in the UC, who was now in danger of having to drop out for financial reasons. Very powerful.

Public comments in general were good. One student pointed out that for many disciplines Blumenthal's notion of inter-institutionality will make interdisciplinary work on a single campus nearly impossible, a sharp irony given the endless UC rhetoric over the last decade about the latter. Another student said she felt betrayed by the UC system because of fee hikes and told the commissioners she did not trust them. There were about 12-15 public comments each limited to one minute. Very little exchange with the Commission afterwards. Croughan said regents did not attend because they will be visiting campuses later this academic year. Taylor was somewhat perturbed by an audience member's reference to Bob Meister's claim about how student fees are used. The Commission members then went off to have longer meetings with UCSD Senate committees.

In short, a kind of theatrical non-event for the campus community at large--another episode of the Done Deal.
Having learned that Berkeley's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is running losses that the campus administration was covering, the Division Senate voted 91-68 for an immediate end to loans and subsidies.  The Resolution starts on page 5 of the Notice of the meeting, and the Division had posted background materials.  ASUC also passed a resolution calling for an end to the use of any student fees for the "direct or indirect benefit" of Intercollegiate Athletics.  The Berkeley Senate has also posted background financial data on Berkeley athletics and the history of silently covering its financial losses.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009
by Toby Miller, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies

The phones are being turned off. The garbage is no longer being removed from offices. Student fees are rumored to be going up by 35%. Faculty salaries have been slashed by 4-10%. The entire place will be closed from mid-December for weeks. Dozens of chairs at the University of California, San Diego have signed a document proposing the entire closure of three smaller UC campuses because we’re not really research universities and we cost money that could otherwise be allocated to the flagships of the UC system.

That’s life at UC Riverside just now. A superb Executive Vice-Chancellor/Provost has resigned because she won’t administer these brutalities. Meanwhile, managerial homilies emanate from senior management in regular “letters” to the “community” using clichés of the kind I generated as a speech-writer to boring bureaucrats and businessmen in the mid-1980s, like “Doing More With Less,” “The Riverside Opportunity,” and assorted inanities. Are people truly still paid to do this, and are there any readers out there who are seduced by them?

My own department has seen the other senior professors leave; a high-quality junior faculty member denied tenure; and rejections of incremental advancement for other deserving faculty.

It’s a very tough time in what used to be the jewel of public higher education. As the flotilla sinks, people flee to safety. Faculty are looking around, and other schools are looking at them. The University of Texas system is rumored to be using a massive fund to hire talent. The University of Southern California, an immensely rich private school here in LA, has lost a billion dollars in the value of its endowment since 2008, but is still much better-off than a decade ago. This is a special opportunity for it to raid the UC for the best scientists in the world (the cost of good science is always a problem for private universities to meet, due to the high initial costs and ongoing refurbishment of equipment).

The question is how bad the long-term impact will be: whether counter-cyclical policies to retain key faculty will work if this is not a dip in the Cali economy but its demise, at least in terms of transfers to public service from the private sector. Put another way, even if the state had the wisdom to sustain the UC through the crisis until tax receipts picked up once more, would there be any point if the crisis in fact has no end point but is rather a brutal transformation that shrinks the public sector irrevocably, thereby finalizing the longstanding wish of the Republican Party to “starve the beast” (the “beast” being the population, understood as those receiving the support of tax-funded programs)?

You can’t blame students for looking on aghast and hoping it just gets better, or taking direct action such as occupying Dean’s offices. You can’t blame the professoriate for being struck dumb and hurting but doing nothing collectively, or organizing vigorously and criticizing all levels above them. You can’t blame the staff for refusing to accept furloughs thanks to union opposition, or wishing the union would let them do so and thereby protect their jobs. It’s a wildly contradictory time, when all of the above is happening.

That wildness of US capitalism is nowhere more fully-experienced than in the west coast of the country, were crazy asset inflation was the root of the global financial crisis. Depending on which evaluation you look at, my loft is worth between seventy thousand and three hundred thousand dollars less than a year ago. My street (in a beach suburb of Los Angeles, not in the harder-hit Inland Empire, where Riverside is located, 100 km due east) is littered with fancy residential buildings that lie empty even as homeless folks cluster by street lights holding banners inviting drivers to help them “stay drunk.”

So unlike your other foreign correspondents, I’m telling a story of doom and gloom just now, as the adventure of a system built with such hope just fifty years ago, that quickly produced dozens of Nobel Laureates, pioneering novelists, ethnic-studies innovations, Marxist-feminist enclaves, and medical schools the envy of the world, comes to a shattering end. To be here now is to be present at a turning point in educational history, when pages are torn from a playbook and lives are torn asunder. Dedicated scholars who had made the decision to join the ranks of the gentried poor rather than follow mammon find that the supposed trade-off—you can pursue your research secure in the knowledge that your basic welfare is secure—no longer applies. It’s a meltdown.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009
by Kristin Peterson, Anthropology Department, UC Irvine

On Monday, November 2, UCOF stopped off at UCI -  a very good post to this blog on the same day summarized this dire event.  At one point, the panel moderator asked the audience for ideas on how to lobby the California Legislature - ideas were needed to advocate on behalf of the UC. My colleague next to me was incredulous, "that's not our *job*!" Yeah, but whose job will it be? 

This question posed to the audience came after the panel detailed the strategies that each of their own committees were considering in terms of UC fundraising. External private and federal government funding as well as private industry partnerships were elaborated upon as if we were all having a pre-determined agreed upon conversation that imagined an already privatized university. There was no pretense to the absent role of the state in the public university or even the public sector. This was a Done Deal. Until a couple folks from the audience got up and implored the commission to rethink the role of state funding. Chancellor Drake was entirely amenable, I must say. Yet, it is extraordinarily disturbing to be in the midst of a dangerous and changing definition of the "public" where we must beg our own leadership to reconsider telling the state to do its job. It's even worse that the state's job has become debatable.

But truly the stupidest thing of all is that as an audience at these meetings we are expected to offer up suggestions on how to complete our obsolescence for them. At every turn, Chris Edley posed questions to folks - who were narrating the dire conditions of their environment - that essentially asked them to figure out how to downsize themselves even further: What should the size of a graduate program be? Should campuses have differential financial aid? Should Merced get less? Pathetic.

So what gets advocated in the context of the Done Deal? Of course, what should: restructuring the extraordinary inequity of the CA tax structure, Prop 13, minority rule in the Legislature, tax the rich - yes, I said it! - and the obvious list goes on. But more recently since September 2008, the successive CA budget agreements produced extraordinary slashes in the public sector while creating new tax breaks for corporations. The California Budget Project estimates that over $8 billion in revenue was lost in the Sept 2008 and Feb 2009 agreements alone.  This race to the bottom for foreign direct investment while slashing the public sector is classic Structural Adjustment, only the incredible thing is that California is gleefully agreeing to this, whereas historically, sane nation-states only complied while kicking and screaming and dying.

So, aside from Mark Yudof and the Regents having their pity party about the lameness of the Legislature, will they ever chain themselves to the gates of the University and demand that corporate tax loopholes be reversed, that California should have a progressive tax system, that Prop 13 should be abolished, claim that this is all robbery and demand that the public deserves to be restored to something resembling an entity that has a social contract with the state? Not in a million years. 

Not in a million years because those corporate tax loopholes and the tax system and our lame-o Legislature are all doing the Regents a big favor.  Lets' take a look: the industry most commonly represented by the Regents is finance/investment banking /securities; the second most commonly represented industry is large-scale commercial real estate. Others include business and regulatory law, defense, conglomerate corporate media, and corporate/foundation philanthropy. When you read each of the Regent's biographies, only three voting members, if I am generous, out of 19, plus Yudof can claim any experience in education. The ones who have no experience in education do not even mention the word "education" or mention it as an interest or concern in their bios.

So, while these UCOF meetings do the remarkable thing of actually constructing a sane conversation over the disappearance of public education - as if it is perfectly natural and ok by all of us - how will it be possible to advocate for education and the restoration of the public sector in the face of the Done Deal? Perhaps a People's Commission on the UC is in order, one that could refuse the terms of this conversation and one that could both compete and discredit what we all fear to be an already pre-determined outcome of our future.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I've posted reports on the most recent appearance of UCOP people and issues at UCSB.  They are worth reading. For a few years, UCOP was saying that employees needed to restart contributions to the pension fund in order to secure UC's great "defined benefit" pension.  Now, the Task Force is considering whether to get rid of DB pensions, with various permutations, even as they are still planning to restart contributions.  This would continue UCOP's central achievement this year - pay more, get less - and would eliminate one of the best things about UC employment - some would say now the only good thing, because security in retirement compensates in part for years or even decades of sub-par wages.  Folks should be following these developments carefully.
Sent October 2009

Dear Commissioners,

Thanks for agreeing to serve and for allowing the opportunity to comment. I have one overriding comment that stems from my research and teaching across disciplines.

Students increasingly approach their degrees as means to a prescribed end. I see this in social and natural sciences, medicine, law, engineering and less so in humanities. The pressures for students to be so oriented are immense. However, I have found that only the top 1% of those following a prescribed professional path, adequately imagine their discipline, their chosen field, their research question, as part of a larger body of intellectual pursuits. Instead, they learn how to think based upon the perceived - often accurately so - dictates of their aspired to profession.

The same could be said of research strategies whose horizon are simply the next grant or next publication. The risks faculty take are few, because we can ill afford it. Our reward structures are based upon market forces for certain kinds of knowledge.

While we could cater to this 'market demand' in each of the 5 key areas of the future UC, I submit that we do a disservice to our state when we allow market forces to shape what education and research have become.

My vision, and I hope to persuade here, is that education and research are inherently risky, curiosity driven endeavors. Only under these circumstances, structurally supported, can students be exposed to and appreciate the breadth and depth of human intellectual, social, cultural genius. And only under conditions of risky curiosity driven pursuits, can innovation spring.

I am deeply saddened to encounter students and colleagues who cannot argue the merits and flaws of their field of study with any conviction, let alone informed by philosophical, historical, social or empirical connection to debates in fields other than their own. This is not education.

The future of UC requires that the professorate and students swim in a soup of ideas untethered to a return on investment (ROI) strategy. If we free ourselves from this intellectual straitjacket, we can never to the scale and scope to which our premier UC campuses aspire.

Michael J Montoya
Anthropology, Chicano/Latino Studies
Public Health
Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community
UC-Irvine

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009
The Gould Commission came to UCI, with our own Chancellor Drake, Cynthia Brown, Mary Croughan and Chris Edley presenting the Commission's structure, its mission and its willingness to listen to a sparse audience, perhaps sixty profs at most with a smattering of students and staff. The Commission asserted that the policy recommendations that they were going to draw up were not to be reactive, but rather to be authentic projections of the better UC that we should become. As expected, Edley was by the far the most aggressive member of the Commission, cross-examining the former Chair of our Faculty Senate in his best lawyerly style when she insisted that the UC should not have differential tuition across the campuses. He turned it around and asked her if UC Merced should offer better financial aid, and if financial aid should not be differential across the various UC's. Jutta Heckhausen paused and said she had not thought of this, and considered UC Merced a special case. I thought that Edley was supposed to be LISTENING, but obviously he has a few ideas of his own that he isn't keeping so secret. At one point, he asked Carol Burke to go home and think about how big a graduate program at UCI should be, and asked her to email him the answer when she had drawn her conclusions. To Julia Lupton's eloquent statement about technology and distance learning as well as distribution of resources for instruction rather than on-line ed, Edley replied, "Of course our initiative will serve professors and instructors first." I was almost reassured, when the gloves finally came off and he expressed exasperation in response to my brief statement about the Commission's managerial ethos, which seemed to neglect an intellectual rationale or vision for the UC: Edley, "I've been in California almost five years four months and twelve days, and I am tired of the ROMANTICIZATION of the UC." To paraphrase, he went on to tell us we aren't all that, and that we need to be remade and reinvented. He was also responding impatiently to an Assistant Professor of Anthropology who had mentioned that the Socratic method had worked for 3000 years and that sometimes, education at the University took place simply as conversation in his office; Ann Van Sant of English suggested the Commission may not have the instruments to measure such interactions: Edley: "You just can't compare the excellence of teaching 400 students with the excellence of conversations you are having with three of them!" I WISH I had recorded his controlled rant about how blind we all are to our limitations, and how deluded we were about our past. Now there are enormous problems with the UC, but when one of the Gould Commission's members is already "tired" of our alleged self-mythologization then, the power that he has can indeed be wielded to destroy an institution's legacy in the name of his version of our futures. In addition, he urged us to have "charity for UCOP" because if we knew about how dire the budget situation was, we would be grateful indeed about how much money we managed to get from the State considering the depth of all the cuts that have been made. This seems persuasive on some level, but I wonder if Edley or UCOP recognizes what it is like for the rest of us. I would like the admin to be a bit more grateful that we are all working at a feverish pace at less pay, watching our community's most vulnerable members lose their jobs as staff and clerical workers live in fear of a pink slip. If I saw a bit more understanding of life on the lower echelons, I might be more inclined to feel "charity" for our leaders. I am already a philanthropist of my own time...to the tune of 7% of my paycheck. Drake seemed to be genuinely distressed when one speaker spoke of how poorly her students wrote and commented that large lecture courses of 400 were perhaps not the best places to learn the skills we assume college students should possess...One emeritus Medical prof suggested that what we should be offering as a University is something more general and broad than simple professional training. Yes, but Edley's 400 haunts us all...Managerial solutions have taken on the allure of a sovereign heroism...and the rest of us are seen as impractical malcontents, unable to fight the right wars, renounce our ideals or our romanticism and take on the new realities...Athenians in short.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009
By Michael Meranze

November promises to be a tumultuous month in the UC system. The beginnings of the Gould Commission’s flyovers of campuses, the upcoming Regents Meeting and the vote on increasing fees, the planned protests by staff, students, and faculty, all indicate that the month will be crucial moment in the re-definition of the University. Nothing will be solved in November, of course. But UCOP's and the Regents' vision of what the University is and what it should look like has come increasingly into focus. Between the Fee increases and that clarified focus, we will have both short and long-term tasks. We will need to offer an alternative vision of the University--how it should be organized and governed, what its ends are, and what is its relationship to the larger public—in short, a vision of Higher Education as a Public Good. I should make clear that although I am focusing on UC here, I don’t think that either the problems or any solutions are limited to UC. What is at stake over the next period is the future of the community colleges and CSU as well.

We should be clear what we are up against—both in Oakland and in Sacramento. Indeed, the ties between Oakland and the Governor are part of the problem. President Yudof’s latest public relations attempt to justify his proposed fee increases puts to rest any notion that he is capable or willing to defend the notion of higher education as a public good. In it, he continued his long-standing mantra that the State is an “unreliable partner” and that the University needs to shift the burden of its funding more heavily onto fees and private donations. In order to do so he refers to “the honesty of Mike Genest, California's state director of finance, who agreed with me — in public — that the state has become an unreliable partner.” President Yudof would like to portray this as an unfortunate and unchangeable situation. But to do so demands that he treats Genest as a neutral broker. But he isn’t. Instead, Genest, as Governor Schwarzenegger’s finance director, has been at the forefront of the governor’s program to redistribute the state’s burdens regressively. Genest, after all, famously told reporters, that “Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” indeed, “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.” Neither the rich nor the middle-class, of course, benefit from fire or police departments, clean air or water, roads, education, public health, or any other government programs. The Parsky Commission proposals—which the Governor, and one presumes his Finance Director has endorsed—will shift the tax burden of the state in a powerfully regressive fashion and lower the state’s revenues at the same time. Yet Yudof has chosen to ally himself with this world-view. If he honestly thinks that this is a neutral and objective—rather than an ideologically driven—view of the future of state government then it is no wonder that he has proven so incapable of articulating an effective defense of public higher education or of the necessity for state funding. To be sure, Yudof is most likely only doing what the Regents would like him to do. The Regents themselves have shown no inclination to break with the Governor. Neither the Regents nor UCOP will ever point out that the emperor has no clothes.

So where does that leave us? In the short run, it seems to me that at the minimum we need to try to prevent the present crisis from defining the nature of long-term policies. There are numerous ways to prevent the rushed redefinition of the University. But let me suggest a few.

First, the Regents should never have put the fee increases on the table without a firm commitment from the State that as the budget improves the cuts would be restored and the fees could be lowered. But they can, without such an agreement, formally make the fee increases temporary. Making the fee increases temporary, will not, I realize, help students in the present crisis. But it may help stop the notion that they are ATMs who can be pressed for more money on the way to de facto privatization. We should insist that the Regents to provide actual data on how much money will be raised by the fees with guarantees (with specific dollar commitments) that the increased costs will be matched for students whose parents earn up to $100,000.

Second, it needs to be made clear to the Regents that they face a genuine crisis of confidence and legitimacy within the University system. The Gould Commission needs to be slowed if not reconfigured. The notion that such a report can actually be delivered by March is ludicrous unless the plans have already been formulated. Local committees are already complaining that they do not have the data they need, administrators are providing them with a pre-set menu of choices (usually which programs to cut), other committees don’t even have their memberships set, and the notion that the Commission is going to spend 3 hours on each campus reveals, more clearly than anything yet, the contempt being manifested for the campuses and the people who work there. If there is going to be a discussion and debate over the future of the University it should be one that is open, from the bottom up, and in the best traditions of the University. It should not be done by a stacked commission looking for ways to let funding streams determine the shape of teaching and research.

Finally, we need to publicly challenge UCOP’s practice of defining the University primarily though its overall budget and the private/public partnerships that occur in the Medical Centers and some of the research activities. I am not advocating some attack on the Medical Centers or an attempt to undermine independent research activity. But in so far as UCOP is emphasizing and protecting those activities instead of the Colleges, in so far, as they claim that the State provides only a small proportion of the University’s budget—as opposed to stressing that the State provides a majority of the budget that goes to educational costs—they are accelerating an argument and program that suggests that UC does not need the State.

In the end, however, we will have to articulate our own vision of higher education as a public good. The Master Plan conceived of higher education as a means of social mobility, as a source for public debate and creativity, as a mechanism for developing new ideas and approaches to the natural and social world, to the arts and the humanities, and to the State’s responsibilities to help individuals live a full and meaningful life. In a word, the Master Plan insisted upon the State’s responsibilities to help students become citizens engaged in the world in the largest sense.

This Master Plan’s vision has been abandoned in multiple ways. Most obvious have been the erosion of the University’s commitment to access and its explicit and implicit redefinition of its responsibilities under the master plan. But it has also been abandoned in our narrowed expectations of what higher education should do and what we are preparing students for. In so far as we allow our jobs to be conceived as preparing students for work or for graduate training we have already lost an important battle to professional deans who think that on-line education can take the place of classroom dialogue. And in so far as we allow the value of research to be determined by its immediate usefulness to the corporation or the state we devalue the development of the imagination—whether scientific, humanistic, or practical. The defense of higher education needs to be made on the basis of the full development of the human imagination and of public higher education on the full development of the capacity and experience of the citizen.

Higher education as a public good means more than just higher education for the public good. The attack on public universities is, as Chris Newfield has argued, part of an attack on the notion of a public good in general. Defending the notion of a public good may be the most difficult task ahead. It will mean overcoming decades of ideological attacks, of erosion of a sense of shared responsibilities and burdens, and of deliberate attempts to imply that any public program is doomed to failure and inefficiency. But in order to prevent the University from becoming defined by its private flows of money and the burdens placed on students, staff, and faculty, we will need to overcome the public’s disengagement from the notion of the public itself.

I do not know what to suggest on this last point. And I recognize that my short-term solutions may appear too little, too late. But I offer them in the hopes that others will propose other ideas. We need more ideas on how to counter the present crisis, ideas that can counter the way that UCOP and the Regents have defined the problem and its solution. And we need them fast.