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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Militant Chairs

Well more militant, anyway. I've reproduced redacted notes from a recent meeting on one UC campus of a meeting of department chairs. In my almost 20 years at UC, I've never heard of a chairs meetings that aired proposals for protests, labor actions, and flat opposition to UCOP policies.
All the chairs agreed that the salary reduction plan must be deferred or postponed until it can be given full consideration. None were in favor of granting President Yudof the extraordinary emergency powers that he seeks. Everyone wished to know more about the rationale for the 8% salary reduction, since UCOP has given none, and there was concern about the possibility that this percentage could increase in size by early next year. There was also great concern that there is no mention in Yudof's plan of a restoration of salary levels after June 30, 2010.

Everyone agreed that the salary reduction would mean that faculty with options on the marketplace would likely leave, initiating a devastating cycle of decline for the University.

If there must be a salary reduction, there was also unanimous support for the proposal that it be implemented as a furlough. Two proposals were discussed: either self-administered furloughs during the quarter (presumably tenth week) or a longer furlough in June 2010, during which there would be a shutdown of the university. This latter plan could take the shape of an unpaid research period for faculty, and might even be useful to retain some faculty. Staff concerns about furloughs were discussed, inasmuch as many staff prefer that furloughs instead be spread very widely over the year.

There was also unanimous support for a sliding scale of cuts, if these must take place. This would help assistant professors, staff and others who are paid less well than the senior faculty, yet must deal with the high cost of living in this area. The chairs wondered why the . . . administration could not acquire the necessary software, or use clerical labor, to implement such a scheme in a timely fashion.

The legal issues involved in promised salaries in contracts with incoming professors were raised, and it was agreed that the salary reduction would seriously hurt our chances of recruiting (assuming that there will be FTE again) top-quality faculty for years to come.

The chairs then examined the question of faculty workload and faculty evaluation. The administration is probably going to ask the faculty to teach more for less pay, while it is in our interest to insist that workload and pay must be downsized together. Paid holidays need to be kept as such; otherwise we have set a dangerous precedent for the future. Moreover, not only will the entire system of evaluation have to be reconsidered if faculty teaching is increased, but this could be a step toward downgrading UC from a research to a teaching institution. This downgrade, we all agreed, must be resisted.

Talk then turned to the fall. Assuming that there is a pay reduction with all of its negative fallout for the faculty, we should consider the possibility of a work action at some point in the middle of the fall quarter. This would preferably be in the framework of a general UC-wide mobilization. At the local level, the faculty should pursue teach-ins with students (starting with Convocation) and with the community concerning the eroding system of public education and the value of a great research university. The public and businesspeople need to understand the consequences of UC becoming uncompetitive as it loses its status as a world-class university that educates California's children. The chairs agreed that we need to show solidarity with the students, as well as with the rest of the California system of higher education, in the coming months. . . .

We will meet again in the near future to discuss the consequences of the Regents' mid-July meeting. In the meantime, everyone is urged to get their faculty to write to Yudof to stop the proposed salary reduction plan.
Personally, I favor the option for a university shutdown.


Janet Sorensen said...

Thank you, Chris--and divisional chairs. I found the description of this meeting heartening. It's really time to fight to protect higher education in this state. I'm wondering if there are plans afoot to present some version of these sentiments at the Regents' meeting? Given that divisional chairs seem united on these points, I think it would make a strong statement.
Janet Sorensen
Associate Professor
Department of English

Laurie Monahan said...

This is encouraging news -- one of the most important things that UCOP has failed to deliver is a program designed to educate the public and the legislature about the costs of these cuts to the citizens of California. When I hear mumblings about the legislature thinking we're all sitting around here raking in mega bucks (!!)for doing nothing (!!), UCOP seems to respond with the sound of one hand clapping. A UC-wide response that educates the public on what the institution actually does to serve them is essential. I'm hoping that the chairs, administrators and faculty from all campuses begin to organize and coordinate a public awareness campaign that really exposes these cuts for what they are -- the destruction of any kind of meaningful education in this state. This isn't just about salaries -- as if that wasn't bad enough -- it's also about the future of education from K through 12 to college/university. As Emma Goldman used to say, "the most violent element in society is ignorance." With education in the balance, we, as educators, need to make sure that the most powerful element in society is knowledge.

Laurie Monahan
Associate Professor
History of Art and Architecture
UC Santa Barbara

Patrick McCray said...


Thanks for providing this information. While I understand the calls for sacrifice, I'd like to hear some presentation from Yudof and the Chancellors as to what we sacrificing for...what is the long-term vision? What is UC to be like 5 or 10 years down the road? Or is this simply ad-hocracy?

Patrick McCray
Professor, History, UCSB

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