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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And Sometimes We Get Boethian Dream Visions

Headlines and Quotes
By Gerald Barnett

I was working through Chapter 8 of the Clark Kerr’s The Uses of the University and had just gotten to the discussion of how universities in Michigan and Texas were already viewed more as “private” when my head grew heavy and my sight grew dim and I had to put the book down and rest. I guess I must have actually fallen asleep right there at my desk, because the next thing I know, a newspaper is floating down from the ceiling and it lands on my desk. The front page has this huge headline, and it reads:


"Yeah, they canceled a bunch of lectures, but it doesn't matter because the lectures weren't that much help anyway," said UC Santa Barbara junior Rosalind Orlando.

“Oh, no,” sleeping-me thought, that’s not good. “How did those folks manage to get so twisted around in the press? Not only are they on the wrong side of the wrong issue, but the students don’t seem to care anymore. It’s like they have given up on expecting a great education at UC.” I was thinking that can’t be true when a second newspaper fell down right on top of the first, with an entirely different headline:


"UCOP forced us out of the classroom--we're really devastated at this failure to protect our time with students," said Professor Anon, a spokesperson for the faculty at UC Santa Barbara.

“Woah, that’s sure different,” I thought in my sleep, “How very clever, pushing the administration around to force instructional days off, and then putting the squeeze on them in the press. I was somewhat in awe, wondering how the faculty had pulled that one off and what they’d do next when yet a third newspaper, much heavier than the previous two landed with a thud on top of the others. It was a Sunday edition and the sales inserts were strewn over my desk and the floor.


"Out of this crisis we have created a bold new Master Plan for education that restores critical funding and reaffirms our commitment to world class public education," said Mark Yudof, President of the University of California.

"UC once again leads the nation in innovation in public education," added Lt. Governor John Garamendi, who brokered the arrangement to take 17 top professional schools and graduate programs across 7 participating UC campuses private while increasing transparency and public oversight.

"An exciting part of the new Master Plan," added Dean Edley of Boalt Hall, "is that we now have funding so that all curriculum materials for these 17 elite programs will over the course of the next three years be made freely available at a new open digital university portal, creating a virtual new UC campus available to the world."

"We were totally taken by surprise by this scope of this announcement, which goes well beyond michiganizing UC and which we have opposed repeatedly over the past two months. We are calling on the Academic Senate to investigate whether administrative procedures were properly followed," said Faculty representative Prof Anon. "We will sue to stop this if we have to," said another professor, asking not to be named.

“We cannot help but be pleased with this new model,” said CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, “It shifts vital state funding to the increased student load we will be carrying as a key player, and opens up the 23 campuses of our system to conduct applied research directed to the immediate needs of the people of the state.”

This was about all I could take—UC now with private parts talked about in the press—and working with CSU—it was all impossible, really, since the credit crunch will hit middle class students next. No one will able to borrow to pay for a private education. As I shook my head in disbelief, I realized I wasn’t alone. There, in the office chair beside me was Clark Kerr himself, hands folded in his lap on top of a pile of ads he had picked up off the floor, waiting for me to finish reading.

“Gerry,” he says, “what’s on your mind? You’re upset. And I see you’ve been reading my book.”
“Yes, very much so, Dr. Kerr” I reply. “I worked for six years in a building on a UC campus that carried your name. It was planned to be seven floors high, but they ran out of money after four and by the time they came around to finish it, the earthquake codes had changed and they had to leave it looking like a concrete bunker, complete with a sealed off third elevator shaft that goes to nowhere. But they did later find $6m in remodeling and security upgrades so the new chancellor’s office would be comfortably protected from potential protestors.”
“Ah, yes. That campus that was such a success for a time, and yet I was sad to list it in Chapter 5, with the reforms that failed.”
“But that’s not what’s upsetting me at the moment. It’s this headline in the paper—it seems like the politics of caution have blown away, but this seems more like financially successful programs pushing the rest out of the lifeboat. Can public education become essentially private like this, shifting the financial burden disproportionately onto students and their families rather than on all residents of the state, as if an education is merely a personal acquisition, like buying a car or a membership in a club, and not a vision for a society populated by trained intelligences from all walks of life and economic backgrounds?
“Well, yes, there is that,” replied Dr. Kerr, nodding his head, “The budgetary crisis is too great for the usual politics of caution, and UC was asleep at the wheel in its public advocacy, and the students have been useless this time in fomenting a creative rebellion. I suppose, instead of splitting today’s best from the rest, UC could....
But just as Clark Kerr was about to suggest a really great alternative, a fourth newspaper fell from the ceiling, and landed on my head with such force that I startled awake. I had caught just a glance at the headline and it has haunted me as much as anything…


“The savings alone will make up our remaining budget gap, and the freedom to develop our educational mission offers tremendous opportunities for the future,” said the new Chair of the Regents Chancellors Council, Michael Drake, “and with four campuses now fully private, and two more moving to the Cal State System’s augmented research program, we can concentrate on developing high quality state-funded programs at the remaining three public UC campuses.”


Jack Chen said...

Gerry, I didn't know what to title this. If you had something else in mind, let me know and I'll change it.

Gerry Barnett said...

"Headlines and Quotes". UCSC doesn't have much to do with it.

Gerry Barnett said...

or "We get stuff other than letters that we don't quite know what to do with"....

Jack Chen said...

Okay, I made some changes. I thought I'd go in a literary direction for the blog heading title.

Gerry Barnett said...

Neither hope nor fear....

AndrewD said...

Ah well, dreams 1 & 2 didn't come to pass as UC decided to forbid faculty from taking furloughs on scheduled teaching days! (see e.g., http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/budget/furlough/berkeley-faqs.htm under Academic Questions).

Amos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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