My mind began to wander. I thought of the audiences at the lectures I've given at universities this year. They seemed generally to agree that the current public university system is broken, and that the fixes I propose should be developed. But they usually don't think that we--faculty, staff, and students--can do anything to implement them. One reason is that only senior managers speak for the university to the political, donor, trustee, and executive classes. At UC, it's the president alone. So what can the rank-and-file educators actually do?
Here was an answer: UC's Eleven! Perhaps they came together to speak out on the Big Four features of the broken paradigm we can't get past. Still gazing at the signature list, I mused:
- Perhaps they grew tired of the "cost disease" fixation that obscures quality issues with false expectations for cost reduction. Maybe they read the UCSB memo saying "curb your enthusiasm" about teaching the surge, and realized that without further ado the Committee of Two deal would hinder instructional progress. So they wrote to demand 21st century quality for all UC undergraduates--and in solidarity with CSU and the CCCs. Their short letter might calculate the increased cost of individualized instruction for all, and quantify state increments that would get us there without increasing tuition and student debt. The Eleven call for Active Learning for All!
- Or maybe they were noting that UC had put all its eggs in the STEM basket, although at least half of its degrees are awarded in the arts, humanities and social sciences (SASH), and although all global problems have sociocultural as well as technological dimensions. Perhaps The Eleven were writing to call for new cross-disciplinary hybrids, and for campus funding rebalances to build the first adequate SASH research infrastructure. UC's Eleven call for funding for Quant-Qual Syntheses for Global Problem Solving!
- At the same time, universities have oversold the commercialization of STEM research. Perhaps The Eleven had become concerned that federal agencies, state legislatures, and their own campuses were slighting the great basic STEM research that had no future revenue potential. Perhaps they saw a connection leading from the long-term businessing of science to the stagnation of federal funding, to their own ever-growing internal subsidies (10.2.3), and to the regular voter's doubts about whether universities are on her side. So the Eleven were calling for Multiple Technology Pathways, in conjunction with Full Costing of Research by all extramural sponsors!
- Possibly UC's Eleven were worried that the state still didn't get that only the full reset of public funding would enable the required educational quality without high student debt. The state Master Plan had created free public universities when the state was 90 percent white. Universities started raising tuition around the time that more students of color were arriving. They then really jacked up tuition during the state cuts when Gov. Pete Wilson was whipping up anti-immigration sentiment and getting the UC Regents to eliminate affirmative action. No doubt this was a coincidence, but The Eleven could be putting all that behind us. They were calling for a Full Funding Reset to serve Post-Anglo California!
Well, I thought, maybe any one of these calls is too much to ask of a three-paragraph diktat. Perhaps they would be pledging new vigilance in rooting out sexual misconduct on campus, or agreeing to address administrative bloat, or reigning in non-resident enrollments, or capping executive compensation, or expressing commitment to employee and student privacy in electronic communications, or declining ever to serve on boards of companies that directly compete with (while being parasitic on) the University of California.
Or perhaps they would be supporting Jerry Kang, UCLA's Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, who has defended the right of "members of our Bruin community" to express support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) without being individually named "as a murderer or terrorist." The Eleven might have been endorsing VC Kang when he wrote, "the recent Statement of Principles Against Intolerance adopted by the UC Regents encourage quick and forceful response (Principles i and j)" to attempts to harass or intimidate someone or some group on the basis of "religious and cultural identity" or "political commitments."
I ended my reverie and re-read the actual letter. In reality, UC's president and all ten campus chancellors had come together to instruct a professional association that voting in favor of BDS is incompatible with academic freedom. (The American Anthropological Association's Resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions is here.) The eleven senior managers spoke in the name of the University of California ("The University of California believes that an academic boycott is an inappropriate response to a foreign policy issue . . ."; "An academic boycott goes against the spirit of the University of California.) As far as I can tell, the authors consulted with no one, may have breached the "Consultation with Faculty" requirement of Regents Policy 1500, and decreed the right answer in an ongoing national debate in which one side sees BDS as defending academic freedom, not abridging it.On top of the letter's improprieties, what a waste of the UC Eleven.