|University Librarian, UC Santa Cruz, 1966. Photo by Ansel Adams.|
For the first time in nearly twenty years, an all-UC faculty discussion took place on the future of the public university system in California. Defying present discourses of short-term gain, crises, and austerity, participants from all ten campuses in the University of California system who met at UC Santa Barbara last February were asked to take a long view and to design the kind of University that they believe will meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The meeting’s basic premise, that “education is a public good, not a private benefit” and that it should be “treated as a resource, not a commodity,” may not seem radical, but it is. Recent years have seen a breathtaking public divestment in higher education that has been accompanied by a widespread rhetorical shift—often arising from university governance boards dominated by the corporate sector—that reframes education as a private benefit and personal investment. The Santa Barbara meeting was an attempt to counter this discourse by reengaging faculty in planning for one of the state’s greatest public resource—the UC.
The report of this all UC-faculty discussion entitled The Uses of the Public University in 2050 can be accessed at http://www.ihc.ucsb.edu/charrette2012/. The report details underlying principles that address the issues of teaching and learning in the twenty-first century, the role of research in a public university, the stewardship of the university and the university’s role in creating an informed, proactive and responsible citizenry.
These underlying principles are:
1. Public responsibility: In 2050, the University of California must deliver on the promises that have been made to the public, its primary constituency.
2. A system of campuses: In 2050, the University of California should remain a multi-campus system with common foundations and individual centers of excellence.
3. A new model of change management: In 2050, change within the UC system must be led by stewards, facilitators and collaborators dedicated to serving the public and to running the UC as a public university.
4. Meeting the needs of a diverse California: In 2050, the UC system should serve all of California’s diverse communities and play to the strengths of a range of talents, perspectives and ways of learning.
5. Teaching and research as the anchor: In 2050, UC must be characterized by instructional practices (including teaching, research collaborations, and other activities) grounded in an atmosphere of discovery, knowledge and stewardship.
6. A focus on the grand challenges and on serving the public good: As a public system, the University must frame and respond to grand challenges facing California and the world.
7. A dynamic, integrated, project-based curriculum: In 2050, a project-based approach to teaching and learning will be one of many approaches to instruction, intellectual exploration and applied learning; this approach will help instill a passion for discovery in students and faculty alike.
8. Evolving disciplines: By 2050, flexible departmental and organizational structures will enable and encourage faculty-driven collaborations.
9. Multiple forms of instruction, learning and teaching: In 2050, teaching and learning must take various forms, ranging from spellbinding lectures to intensive seminars to one-on-one tutoring to virtual classroom experiences.
10. Campus as place and non-place: In 2050, UC campuses will offer a variety of physical and virtual settings, as well as fixed and flexible spaces that inspire social learning, collaborative inquiry, and a sense of ownership and stewardship of the campus shared by students, faculty and staff.
11. A flexible reward structure: In 2050, promotion decisions should allow flexibility for professors who at various points in their career devote extra time to teaching, University service or public service.
12. Re-affirmation of core values: In 2050, education must be understood and acted upon as a public good, not a commodity. Creativity in research and teaching protected by academic freedom will remain central to the University’s mission.
The report’s title The Uses of the Public University 2050 refers back to former President Clark Kerr’s classic study The Uses of the University. Kerr’s book remains, as Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust recently stated, “the best explanation of how the American research university emerged and evolved, and why its commitment to the critical perspective and the long view is so important to our present and our future.”
The Uses of the Public University in 2050 employed the charrette model for facilitating faculty participation. The charrette is a collaborative, iterative and time-compressed planning method drawn from the field of design. In the charrette faculty worked in intense, short, focused periods. Their ideas were recorded graphically in diagrams that tracked the conversations. The results were collaborative, iterative, and non-linear.
The charrette was inspired by the thirty-year history of All-UC Faculty Conferences that took place between 1944 and 1976. During these annual meetings, faculty from all UC campuses and all disciplines came together for two days to discuss a topic of system-wide importance and long-range significance. Such gatherings were once part of the DNA of the UC’s famed system of shared governance.
While the All-UC Faculty Conferences were convened by the system-wide Academic Senate, the UCSB meeting was called by us (Catherine Cole and Ann Bermingham). The meeting was a purely grassroots effort, and the hope is that it will inspire more such endeavors. A website with resources to help faculty hold charrettes and to advocate for the public mission of the University is under construction.
For further information please contact us at either:
Ann Bermingham (UCSB) firstname.lastname@example.org