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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The New Normal: What Does it Mean to Work at UC Today?

Chris here. As part of the Free Speech Movement anniversary events at UC Berkeley last month, Michael and I had a two-hour discussion with Berkeley faculty and staff at an event sponsored by the Berkeley Faculty Association.  We are posting our slides here and we will provide a bit of commentary along the way.

We pointed out at the start of the talk that we don't think that the policies that respond to the "new normal" are very new. The situation itself isn't new either.  The combination of inadequate public funding and expanding dependence on private support has framed the entirety of both of our careers.

So we divided up our presentation.  We have a final slide, Option 3, that was meant to prompt discussion about how UC faculty in particular should respond.

Part I.

Our core concern here was with Impacts on faculty work life—and hence on the university’s academic productivity.  How are we all feeling? How is morale, job satisfaction, pleasure in the job, the “faculty experience”? 

There are some specific components that always get attention: (1) Salaries.  (2) Benefits. We are also preoccupied with (3) working conditions: hours per week, staff support, quality of time for research thinking, and particularly time for the unfocused reflection that finds and fixes problems in deadline work, and is the main source original thinking. Do we have the conditions for “depth” – for slow work, slow method? 

In addition, there's (4) Professional Autonomy. Is the university gradually making its faculty post professional? Or does the university still reflect the faculty's various educational and research visions? 

These questions are best answered with qualitative data. Here we invoke a few crude metrics just to illustrate the problem. One is compensation.  UC has a well-known salary lag.  I recently read a report in which the UC president claimed that "faculty salaries at the University of California already lagged behind our peer institutions around the nation by about 8 to 9 percent and are projected to lag about 16.5 percent come July.'’  The president was David Saxon, speaking to the Los Angeles Times in December 1982. 

For decades, UC officials have also pointed out that generous retirement and health benefits made up for lower salaries: while salaries lagged, "total compensation" was well above average.   Unfortunately, this last round of cuts has eliminated the advantage in total compensation. 

The slide below was recently confirmed by a Mercer compensation study that shows that UC faculty total compensation joins cash salary at subpar, both are in the negative 10-12 percent range. This means that the value of UC benefits has declined substantially in recent years.   And of course salary "scales" no longer function normally: departments we've spoken to now routinely add "above scale" salary to routine merit requests and more frequently request advances of more than one step.  Salary inequity and the "loyalty penalty" are both growing problems that salary scales, when properly funded, had at least partially solved.

Another major UC faculty issue is the state of graduate programs and funding, since they are the hallmark of UC as a research university. The next slide shows a decades-long decline in the system's share of grad students.

We didn't assert that UC grad students should be at a particular level--say, 20 percent of total student enrollments-- or quality is at risk. Our point was that UC has had a goal of bring all the campuses to the research intensity of the flagships, and that this is one of many core educational projects that have never been achieved because of insufficient funding.

Then there's faculty-staff relationships. Faculty need staff more than ever to do more complicated kinds of research and instruction. Both core activities are getting more collaborative, and require a wider mixture of skills. As just one example, use of instructional technology would increase more quickly if faculty could work with course designers to help make large lectures more effective. Instead, this has been the moment in history that universities like UC Berkeley used programs like Operation Excellence to split staff from faculty into "shared services" pools.

There's a potential staff partner now--trapped behind a pane of glass. Off-campus staff pooling could seem like a good operational idea only to business consultants who have no idea how faculty or educational staff actually work. We understand that the Berkeley campus senate is now finally looking into problems with OE.  But unravelling the worst parts of the program will cost money we don't now have.

Here's a summary slide for trends that limit traditional faculty autonomy without improving effectiveness.

We didn't go into depth on any of these trends, but each reflects the growing tendency for the ground rules of the core area of faculty sovereignty, instruction, to be set by non-teaching managers with little faculty input.  I'm particularly interested in the last two.   It's obvious to me that the 21st century world requires more complex intellectual capabilities than ever, and that these depend on integrating diverse forms of knowledge both within and between courses.  And yet this is the moment in which many think college should be more like a single-subject training module, or that more difficult or boring parts of courses can be thrown out in favor of a greatest hits approach.  We saw xMOOCs crash and burn because their marketing got so far ahead of their educational performance. We're getting set up for repeat performances in more obscure parts of the university. 

Nonetheless, the default political model for a university degree is increasingly community college job training--among Democrats as much or more than among Republicans. The current pathway is that many educational activities even at major flagships like UC Berkeley will be diluted and standardized, while most sponsored research projects will be protected. UC Berkeley is cutting against this with programs like Berkeley Connect, but the trend is towards concentration of resources rather than toward general quality through wide distribution. This is a normal effect of replacing public money--for general quality--with private funds, which are self-interested and targeted.

Part II.

We're suggesting through this sampling of trends that UC isn't on the mend, and won't heal by itself.  What are more positive options?

The California governor was giving his Inaugural Address, and alleged as follows:
false prophets have risen to advocate more and more government spending as the cure – more bureaucratic programs and higher staffing ratios of professional experts. They have told us that billion dollar government increases are really deep cuts from the yet higher levels of spending they demand and that attempts to limit the inflationary growth of government derive not from wisdom but from selfishness. That disciplining government reflects not a care for the future but rather self-absorption. These false prophets, I tell you, can no longer distinguish the white horse of victory from the pale horse of death.
This was not Ronald Reagan but Jerry Brown.  It was not the latter-day but the original Jerry Brown, in his 2nd inaugural address in January 1979. "Jerry Brown's mad as hell," all right, and still mad thirty years later.  He's mad at people who want public funding. This means YOU--the University of California. Whether it's the 1980s or the 2010s, Jerry Brown is the original Austerity Democrat.  

He's not going to restore anything. Not next year after his re-election. Not ever.

Gov. Brown isn't alone. Here's a Legislative Analyst Office slide that breaks down growth by category in state funding over the decade leading up to the financial crisis. The starting points are of very different sizes so the percentages are somewhat deceptive. But it tells an important story:

The two biggest losers at the state level are higher education and job training. California says it has a world-leading human capital economy. But it minimizes public investments in  human capital.

Of course California surfed a national wave of replacing state funding with tuition:

The whole country has been on a privatization binge.  Overall spending kept rising, but not for instruction or academic salaries.  Most of the increased spending in this slide comes from facilities competition, marketing, and related administrative functions demanded by privatization itself.

Here's a slide I've often updated for various posts on the UC budget. The story is always the same. The blue line tracks the growth in state personal income. Were UC's state funding to have grown merely at the same rate as actual state income, it would have matched the blue line.

Instead, UC has fallen $2 billion behind. (The general fund total is about $3 billion in 2014-15, but we now have to subtract the interest on construction bonds that the state used to pay and that is now, per UCOP's request, on UC's budget. So this chart is still current.)

In recent years, UCOP has started to quantify, in simple terms, the kind of rebuilt revenues that would get the system back to solvency. This one started to appear three years ago (Display 6).

The University needs about 16 percent increases per year, UCOP has been saying, to make up for past cuts and ongoing mandatory cost increases. (This is on top of cost reductions and other savings that haven't fully materialized, so this slide understates the problem.)  

Scenario 1 is a split, which means 8 percent + 8 percent each year from students and from the state. Scenario 2 is close to the Compact ratios that UCOP struck with Arnold Schwarzenegger--tuition increases of two or three times the state's increase. Scenario 3 is all tuition. There's a missing Scenario 4 that appeared in an early slide -- 16 + 0, where the state stops asking students to pay more and fills in the difference. UC is getting none of these.  It's getting 4 + 0, for the foreseeable future.

The result of revenue increases of ¼ of need appears in another UCOP figure:

This projects a $3 billion deficit only two academic years from now.

One of the best translations of this figure came from President Mark Yudof, when he addressed a Regents retreat in September 2012 (my transcription):
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.
UC is still on that path today.

Are the campuses tied closely to the fate of the system? We couldn't address this question in a short talk, and took a quick look at Berkeley. The flagships have better resources than the younger campuses, but even Berkeley has been struggling. It fell into deficit in FY 2013.

I think the appearance of an operating deficit in FY2013 resulted from running out of reserves that covered holes in previous budgets. But I am guessing. I also don't have more current numbers. The point here is that even the historic wealth of UC's oldest, most accomplished, and most established campus doesn't protect it from the effects of a broken business model, in which private funds are supposed to make up for public cuts, but don't.

We noted that the administrative responses are credible but inadequate. We can't blame people for trying to do something, and using the tools that are actually and hand.   Still, we would prefer that folks admit this stuff won't work, since that's the first step towards trying something else that might.

"Nickel" solutions is my shorthand for widely-advertized solutions that in reality generate about 5 percent in additional revenues on a current base, or close about 5 percent of a funding gap.

This slide has no math. Leave a comment if you want me to produce some. I noted that I think OE's savings will be negative as it is patched and partially reversed to fix the inefficiencies (not to mention the reduced job satisfaction) it has produced. There's a lot to say about NRT, which lets the state off the hook, is now producing an organized parental backlash, and externalizes costs onto other campuses who take the less profitable but qualified state residents that Berkeley rejects. And that's for starters. This is not a sustainable fiscal strategy, but I didn't belabor it so I'll control myself here.

The silver bullet is supposed to be non-resident tuition (NRT).  NRT is often described as essentially free money in the amount of $23,000 in fees that out-of-state and international students pay above the $12,000 or so base paid by residents. UCOP always says that NRT students don't crowd out residents, but instead subsidize resident education in a period when their state government no longer wants to.  The visual version of this claim looks like this slide from a UCLA's Senate deck in fall 2013.

No wonder people get excited if NRT allows 50 percent more mileage from resident tuition. But it doesn't.  Net resident tuition is being compared to gross NRT, while my calculation on the slide used UCSD's estimate of $10,000 net per NRT student.  Gross NRT was 8.5 percent of core funds at UCLA  (slide 4), which put net NRT back in the nickel range (and about 2 percent of overall campus revenues).  (The use of NRT increases inequities within the UC system, but we didn't go into this with our Berkeley audience.)

Another way of thinking about NRT is as compensation for state funding cuts.   At UCLA, gross NRT made up for about 1/3 of the state funding reduction in 2007-08 to 2012-13 (slide 5).  This money is a lot better than nothing--if it's free politically as well as fiscally. But it never has been, as we've argued here going back to 2009.  This fall, UC officials are finally admitting this in public. This particular nickle solution may have peaked. 

My summary of this section was that the New Normal is the Old Normal. In other words, the Old Normal is what current budget politics will keep delivering. Unfortunately, the Old Normal is broken, in the sense that it can't support the working conditions that made UC so good in the first place.

This unhappy thought brought us to Option 2, where Michael took over.

Part III.

Michael here.  One possible response to this pattern of state cutbacks and nickel solutions would be for faculty to look inward to their department-based projects and let existing shared governance take care of the "big picture."  That would be mistake.  Shared governance has declined, and as it is presently practiced can't redirect the institution towards educational improvement or professional development.  

I found two organizational charts that illustrate the problem.

This first is from a 1998 essay by John Aubrey Douglass, arguably the leading historian of UC, about shared governance.  Although simplified, it shows the central place of the Academic Senate (on a level with Chancellors), with its leadership at the top of the pyramid  (level with the Council of Chancellors).

Now compare that with a current organizational chart provided by UCOP online:

If you pull out your magnifying glass you will find the Academic Senate in the purple box off to the left.  The Senate is directly connected only to the President and has been crowded out by the multiplication of administrative authorities over the past 15 years.

The theory of the Senate's role has stayed the same.

Shared governance was built on the professional status and educational authority of the Faculty.  This status enabled the faculty to delegate authority to the Senate and then go about its everyday business in classrooms, labs, libraries, and departmental meetings.  During the decades-long period of expanding resources, both state and federal, fiscal crises were the exception.  Departments could assume that if staffing needs weren't met this year they would be met next year or the year after. This eliminated the need for faculty to survey and manage the consumption of resources in other people's units, since there was little zero-sum competition over the medium or longer term. Administrators were able to handle routine management and planning within a relatively clear-cut political and economic ecology.

Unfortunately, that situation no longer exists.  Austerity has become the rule rather than the exception, and its consequences include the following.

We now live in a situation where instability is normalized.  While in the late 20c, administrators had to deal with the state, some donors, and a diffuse but not particularly interventionist public opinion (except for specific moments of crisis) managers now negotiate with a range of funding masters, most of which they have sought out, including an expanded universe of donors venture capitalists, bond raters, and out of state parents as well as an openly skeptical Governor and Legislature.

For the past two decades, UC managers have responded to pressure by shifting burdens onto those without the clout to reject them.  Students get increasing tuition, faculty get more work in the form of new tasks like fundraising and old ones on a larger scale (e.g. increased class sizes).  Staff members are being called upon to perform more work with fewer numbers.

I summarized the effect of the new financially-driven style of management with this slide:

I don't need to go into the detail of all of these--I'm sure you know them all well enough.  The point was that over the course of the last decade, the Senate, especially at the system-wide level, has been marginalized in the process of policy formation.  The structurally-produced reactive role makes it easier to cast the faculty as the opponents of progress, even as the central administration at UCOP has acted to impose its positions on the system as a whole.  In some cases (online education and the Supplemental Salary Program) there has been the appearance of shared governance.  In others, most recently the invention of UC Ventures, UCOP has simply cut the Senate out and chosen to work through task forces or through conversations with individuals.

I concluded that in its current weakened condition, the Academic Senate is no longer in a position to formulate, much less implement, a strong academic vision of UC's future.

Part IV.  

Chris again. Our premise is clear from the title of this slide.  We have concluded that UC can be fixed only through an unlikely but essential change--the broad mobilization of its faculty to define and then continuously shape the University's development over the next ten years. We mentioned theater professor Catherine Cole's initiative two years ago, which brought faculty, staff, and administrators together for several days.  

We noted some of our premises: the idea that there's no money is ridiculous. Austerity is slowly strangling us (e.g. Michael and Chris).  Lowered expectations are damaging our imaginations.  We need to fight for genuine workplace needs.

This slide described five general areas of activity. 
The slide fulfilled its purpose as a conversation starter--the discussion went on for 30-40 minutes.  I'll emphasize a few major themes.  

One was the need to deal with faculty privilege--both the perception of it invalidating our critique and the reliance on it to remain passive. My own sense is that this can be neutralized when faculty visibly stand up for other people, which we didn't do, for example, when frontline staff were being carted off to shared services because of Operation Excellence. That precedent can be changed.  Another example was the panic about resources and completion in graduate programs.  Faculty should work more systematically on the protection and support of our masters and doctoral students.

A second was doubt about the "efficacy of stories." What can tales of the struggles of faculty or staff or students actually do, institutionally?  Some of the stories were in fact about faculty defeat--and of course our story is about the rise of managerialism to control (rather than rebuild) declining resources. Stories need to lead to mobilization and organization: how do these do that? They certainly don't do that by themselves. 

This led to a third major topic.  The New Yorker in the room said, "you guys need a union." So did someone from Cal State. A UC librarian noted how their union produce some wins for libraries: librarians have much less power than faculty, she said, and yet look what our organization did. A Berkeley faculty member defined the needed project as co-governance,  with structure of implementation TBD.  There was another call to join the Berkeley Faculty Association!   And so now what? Where things go from here depends entirely on us.


Bob Samuels said...

A big internal factor is that the majority of UC faculty now do not have tenure and therefore have limited academic freedom and roles in shared governance. As the tenured faculty get downsized, administrators step in and take over and suck up funds. Meanwhile, the tenured faculty have to do most of the service while the competition for research grants and publications increases. There is also an incredible amount of budgetary non-transparency that has to be countered by faculty. Meanwhile, virtually no one in UCOP or the Regents has any experience being a faculty member, and this opens the door for the monetization of all activities. Let us not forget the record level of university borrowing that has doubled in the last six years, which has served as a temporary fix, but some day someone will have to pay. Senate faculty have to push for non-senate faculty to have full voting rights in shared governance, and at the same time, senate faculty have to unionize to counter the administrative machine.

Anonymous said...

I was reading an article in the California Law Review this week, discussing the Michigan admission case (using race as a criteria). The article issued a warning about academic freedom and shared governance.

The author writes the Supreme Court suggested in its ruling in the Michigan case that voters ultimately control their public university systems. The article goes on to say that voters (either by initiative or through the legislature) could dictate that controversial views need not be presented and what's taught-such as not teaching about Evolution.

The article went on to discuss the Illinois case (where a particular professor was not hired because of his voiced views). It said that the whole concept of academic freedom could be a legal fiction. The high court has already ruled the First Amendment does not cover the speech of public employees if they're speaking in the course of their employment. It's unknown if the courts would extend that ruling to professors speaking in classes.

Michael Meranze said...

It seems unlikely to me, even with this court, that the Supreme Court would extend the Garcetti case to professors in classes. There is a lot of disagreement about whether Garcetti even carries over to issues of governance (which is where the the controversy lies mostly) with very different rulings coming from lower courts. In the Garcetti case the SC made it clear that it was not addressing what is traditionally considered academic freedom. But you are certainly right that there has been pressure from a variety of legislatures to punish colleges or programs for using books or teaching subjects that the legislators disapprove of.

Anonymous said...

Micheal, the article is "Unelected Faculty": Schutte v. Coalition and the Limits of Academic Freedom. The article is an interesting read especIally the last few paragraphs.

Michael Meranze said...

Thanks. Will try to track it down.

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