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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday, January 25, 2020
In recent weeks, supporters of Prime Minister Modi's government have increased attacks (both physical and verbal) against secular institutions of higher education in India--particularly in response to protests against the passage of a new citizenship law that is discriminatory against Muslims.  You can find a first person account at Academe and further coverage here.

In January, the Executive Council of the MLA issued a statement in protest of the violence against students and teachers.   You can find the link here.  I am also posting the Statement itself:

In January 2020, the Executive Council approved the following statement.
We condemn the physical assaults on students and teachers in India, most recently at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, and Aligarh Muslim University, and the continued violence against students and members of the press, the opposition, and the public, who exercise their rights of assembly and dissent in opposing the national Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). These protests question new steps that allow state discrimination against citizens purely on the basis of religion and thus contravene India's own constitutional commitment to secularism. The Indian government is advancing Hindutva (the idea that Hindus are united in a Hindu nation-state that privileges Hindus) while legitimizing discrimination against other denominations, fanning polarizing rhetoric in public discourse, and setting the stage for confrontation and violence that plays out on campuses and affects academic life. The CAA establishes expedited pathways to citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Christian (but not Muslim) refugees. It also excludes a range of refugees from Myanmar, Bhutan, China, and Sri Lanka. The act, which represents an escalation of Hindu nationalism, simultaneously and exclusively casts "Muslim" states as perpetrators of violence against minorities and does not recognize Muslim groups as victims of state violence on a par with those of other religions seeking asylum and, ultimately, citizenship. The Indian government has responded to protests against the act with unprecedented violence on campuses and in the public sphere and routinely criminalizes the assembly of five or more people in order to sanction its brutality in suppressing the protests.
We urge India, a signatory and drafting member of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, to consider the declaration's basic tenets, which the passing and implementation of CAA appear to violate (in particular, articles 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 14, 18, 19, 20 [1]).  We urge the government to honor the rights of assembly and dissent, to protect academic freedom, to protect teachers and students in its educational institutions against violence on campus, and to create stable conditions for open dialogue on any proposed changes in the university and on state policy, citizenship, immigration, and assembly. We urge the government to take immediate action to penalize the perpetrators of violence against students. We urge the government to give ownership of, and jurisdiction over, university curricula, research, and institutional positions to the faculty and to safeguard the basic rights of students and faculty members to pursue their educational goals without suffering violence, poverty, and the loss of life. We condemn, unequivocally, and call for the immediate cessation of sanctioned violence on campus in India and the assault on the democratic principles of equality, freedom, and the right to espouse viewpoints without fear of reprisal. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday, January 13, 2020
By Eric Hays (CUCFA)

Governor Gavin Newson presented his 2020-21 state budget proposal last Friday. The full budget summary is here; the detailed budget for higher ed can be found here.

UC Board of Regents Chair John Pérez and UC President Janet Napolitano quickly put out a statement wherein they essentially thanked the Governor for his generosity. The concluding sentence is “UC appreciates the governor’s strong continued support of higher education and looks forward to our ongoing partnership.”

While there is something to be said for the politics of maybe getting more of what you want by being polite rather than by being rude, I think there is real harm in UC making such a public statement as it probably gives the public the idea that UC is being generously funded by the state while that is absolutely not true. And this proposed budget, should it pass, will simply make things worse.

Let me start by pointing out that California public universities are provided less funding per student than any state except Florida (see the "Total Education Revenue per FTE" data).

Governor Newsom can, and did, at the his budget release press conference point to a 5.8% increase in general fund base support for UC to try to make this budget proposal look generous, but that ignores so many things.  The first point to make about the increase in funding to UC is that this is a 5.8% increase only if you just look at the general fund base budget. In past budget years, the state has provided UC with substantial one time funds. This year there is substantially less one time funding. So, when you look at total state funding of UC, base plus one-time moneys, the overall increase to UC is actually 1.3% in 2020-21 relative to 2019-20. This compares to a 3.5% increase in state revenue overall,and a 2.2% average increase in state spending across all departments,
indicating that UC is not a priority in this budget.

To be fair, the table on page 25 of the budget summary link above shows that, at the macro scale of looking just at the grossest division of expenditures in the state budget, Governor Newsom is proposing cutting spending to almost every program in state government except Health and Human Services, which gets a 13% increase, K-12, which gets a 1.6% increase, and Higher Education, which gets a 0.1% increase.  


Public higher education, and UC specifically, then are getting a small increase in funding, but such a small increase will likely be completely countered by inflation.  More importantly, while funding is growing modestly, enrollment is growing quickly. University wide headcount grew from about 200,000 in 2015 to 222,493 in 2018.  State funding for UC would have to grow at least as fast as enrollment is growing if we were just to maintain the current funding per student (and remember, California is 49th of 50 states on this metric), and this low rate of growth in funding to UC is just not going to do it.

What's more, the budget numbers above don't consider big portions of UC's budget that the state has basically walked away from since the recession: namely paying for UC's pension and paying for facilities.

The state used to pay pension costs for UC's state paid employees. But, after the contribution holiday (when the UC Retirement System was more than fully funded such that neither employer nor employee had to make contributions into it for nearly 20 years) ended in 2010, the state refused to restart their employer contributions to UCRS. Note that the state continues to pay its share of retirement contributions for other state employees, such as faculty at CSU. As 
UC's 2019-20 budget proposal indicates, the state has shorted the UC Retirement System a total of about $3 billion since contributions restarted in 2010. (160)


Newsom's budget last year included a $3 billion supplemental pension payment to pay unfunded liabilities of the CalPERS retirement plan over fiscal years 2018-19 through 2022-23 plus $2.9 billion for CalSTRS (the K-12 teachers’ pension) to pay unfunded liabilities over the same period. Although at one point debated, in the end there was no similar debt relief for UCRS in last year's budget. This year's budget proposes accelerating the payout to CalPERS so that the 2020-21 through 2022-23 moneys would be paid in 2019-20 -- but still no money for UCRS.

For facilities, the state is short $20 billion in education and general facilities capital funding for UC -- the buildings and other infrastructure that UC needs for its core mission of teaching and research (about 1/4 of which is seismic repairs and upgrades, 1/4 is repairs and replacement of aging plant, and half is needed for expansion of educational programs caused by past and ongoing rapid enrollment growth).
 
The bottom line is that California public universities have long had to do more with less, causing real long term damage, and this budget proposal is not going to change that.



Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday, January 10, 2020
Earlier this week, the AAUP issued a new statement entitled In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education.   In it, the AAUP offers both a defense of the importance of knowledge opposed to opinion and a critique of the growing efforts to undermine the authority of scholars and expertise.  It helps clarify the relationship between Academic Freedom and Free Speech and marks the importance of defending the ongoing collective work of scholarly and academic communities.  As it concludes:

In 1915 the founders of the AAUP characterized the university as “an inviolable refuge” from the “tyranny of public opinion,” as “an intellectual experiment station, where new ideas may germinate,” but also as “the conservator of all genuine elements of value in the past thought and life of mankind which are not in the fashion of the moment.” On that basis they asserted “not the absolute freedom of utterance of the individual scholar, but the absolute freedom of thought, of inquiry, of discussion and of teaching, of the academic profession.”21 They pledged, as do we, to safeguard freedom of inquiry and of teaching against both covert and overt attacks and to guarantee the long-established practices and principles that define the production of knowledge.
It is up to those who value knowledge to take a stand in the face of those who would assault it, to convey to a broad public the dangers that await us—as individuals and as a society—should that pledge be abandoned.
I urge everyone to read and share it.