• Hot Topics:
  • Contingent Faculty
  • Program Closures
  • Employee Benefits
  • Napolitano
  • Online Education

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
As Chris pointed out, there was a striking gap at last week's Regents' retreat.  On the one hand, there was a new discourse of educational decline--but it remained strikingly vague.  On the other hand, there were a precise set of financial proposals--but they were neither new nor up to the challenge.  As is so often the case with the Regents, their distance from the actual functioning of the University (especially as it takes place on the campuses) became clear.  But we would be hard pressed to think that the business officers were any better.

Appropriately, much of the discussion focused on the cuts in state funding and their effects.  It appears, that Oakland is finally recognizing that they can no longer issues warnings about the potential damage of future cuts but must instead begin to demonstrate the already existing damage resulting from prior cuts.  That recognition is welcome.  But if it is to lead to something new it must be accompanied by a second recognition:  that it is unclear that UCOP is prepared to act effectively on that realization.  There are what one might call an external and an internal dimension to this problem.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
The most important statement of the morning session of the UC Regents’ retreat came from President Mark Yudof, who for the first time that I have heard put the decline of UC academic quality at the top of the Regents' agenda.   He kicked things off (around 0:24 on the UC FA Blog's recording; Yudof Facebook version) by saying that the University of California is experiencing a “quiet but steady erosion of our academic quality at almost every level.”  He noted that people often express outrage at rising tuition, pension cuts, and various other UC policies. But where, he asked, is the outrage at the erosion of academic quality? He said that the board, in trying to cope with funding problems, had taken a series of passive decisions that damaged quality.
  
There were no board votes approving faculty salaries that are not competitive with peer institutions, . . .yet we are 10-20% behind in faculty compensation. There were no board votes approving a freeze on faculty hiring, but effectively that is what we’ve had over the last few years. There were no board votes approving a steady rise in our student-faculty ratio over the last decade, but in fact our numbers show a decline over the decade of 50% -- that is, we have 50% more students per faculty member than we did in previous decades. And in the past six years we have 30,000 more students without adding any new faculty at all, other than replacing existing faculty. You didn’t vote on any of that, but that is the consequence of the situation in which we find ourselves.   
The University of California with its legacy of trailblazing academic quality deserves better.  It is up to those of us at this table to reaffirm an active, immutable commitment to academic quality at UC, starting now.

This was music to my ears. The idea of fighting educational decline is not new, of course—the faculty senate committee for planning and budget (UCPB) started arguing in 2002 that threats to quality quality was the key argument against budget cuts, stated this directly to the Regents in 2007, and then the press began to cover quality problems during the fiscal crisis in 2009. What is new is the statement that declining academic quality is the university’s number one problem, or the declaration of a kind of educational quality emergency.  There is hope that rebuilding quality will finally get our undivided attention.

The retreat then turned immediately to balance-sheet and business strategies, led by Nathan Bostrom and Peter Taylor, at the head of business and finance respectively.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012
As you have probably seen (since it has been covered by the Financial Times, Business Week, the LA Times, Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other news outlets) the System-wide Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs suspended its review of the proposed transformation of the Anderson MBA from a state-supported program to a self-supported program.  Chris offered an analysis of the proposal's budgetary confusion back in June. CCGA offers a full menu of objections.

For those of you keeping score that means that both Senate Committees (UCLA's Graduate Council and CCGA) that had the time to do a thorough review of the proposal refused to approve it.  The Legislative Assembly at UCLA had supported it by a small majority in a June meeting.  But it should be noted that that meeting had a severely limited time for discussion, crucial financial details were only made available to the Assembly the day before the meeting, and the voting began before the discussion had actually finished (although the administration had been given its own time to speak).  Despite the seriousness with which the Legislative Assembly members approached their task, it is hard to see how they were provided with the opportunity for careful analysis that the Senate Committees had. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Just in time for the two major political parties to offer their different visions of austerity, the California Community College system released a report based on their survey of the effects of the budget cuts.  Not surprisingly, the cuts have dramatically reduced the ability of the Community College system to offer courses and opportunities for those seeking to enter higher education through the most affordable door.