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Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009
UCB Graduate Students have called for a system-wide strike beginning November 18, 2009 if the UC Regents approve the tuition hike. As of today, it has over 300 signatories. I am ambivalent about this idea, as I think it is supposed to be on-going and open-ended and I worry about stamina. I do believe at this point, that massive direct action is one critical way to get the Regent's, UCOP's and UCOF's attention. Their managerial ethos seems somehow fundamentally in ignorance of the aims of public higher ed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

By Michael Meranze

“These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feel’st, yet I alone deplore.
Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve,
Thus having been, that though shouldst cease to be.”

As the Gould Commission begins its rounds of the system’s campuses it is too early to say exactly what its recommendations will be. But it is not too early to take a measure of what it means and of its relationship to the changes that have occurred in the structures of authority within UC. For dramatic changes have occurred in the structure of UC Governance and whatever specific proposals the Gould Commission makes (and it is hard to be optimistic there) unless we find some way to push back on those changes more power will slip into the hands of UCOP. This slippage will secure the gap between UCOP and the Regents on the one hand and the campuses and those who work there on the other. And faculty will need to press both UCOP and the Academic Senate on this problem.

This picture is not, to be sure, the one that UCOP or the leaders of the system-wide Senate would like to paint. Interim-Provost Pitts, who to his credit has offered the most serious and formalized description of the present structure of University governance, has, having described his decision-making process on the question of furloughs on instructional days, insisted that “How and along what fronts we proceed will be a matter for rigorous debate and discussion in the year ahead. So long as I am provost, I can assure you that whatever decisions I take—even the most unpopular ones—will be shaped by robust, informed and inclusive consultation. Our shared governance is a hallmark of this great institution and it is a key to our progress through these difficult times towards a brighter future.” But the ideal of university governance was never about “consultation” or at least not simply consultation. Of course, for some members of the University community this attitude is not new. The Regents and UCOP have always behaved as if agreeing to consult was an act of nobility in the case of the Unions. In that case, the assumption in Oakland that unions were not really a part of the University community meant that UCOP and University Counsel resisted all attempts to open up decision-making and information concerning the working conditions of union membership and other staff and technical employees. Too many Senate members, we have to recognize, have been indifferent to this question in the past. What are new, however, have been the steps taken by UCOP and the Regents to effectively dismember the system of authorities that the Regents themselves had set up and embodied within the Regents’ own standing-orders. The University is turning itself inside-out; corporate governance has taken even more of the center stage.

Take the Academic Senate as a convenient example. As the Standing Orders of the University indicated “The Academic Senate shall authorize and supervise all courses and curricula offered under the sole or joint jurisdiction of the departments, colleges, schools, graduate divisions, or other University academic agencies approved by the Board.” Under this system how is it that UCOP can determine how class times are spent? Or whether a faculty member decides that his or her class should have spend each of its meetings? The short answer is that it couldn’t; indeed, to my knowledge Interim-Provost Pitts’ intervention in course scheduling was unprecedented. But by transforming a division of authority into the obligation to consult, UCOP has elided what is really at stake in the decision about furloughs and teaching.

I want to make clear that I am not here discussing whether teaching on furlough days was a good idea or not—that is a topic where faculty, students, and administrators have a wide range of positions. Instead, what I want to emphasize are the ways that the focus on the furlough decision and the insistence that nothing has changed if UCOP engages in consultation conceals a more egregious and far-reaching attack on shared governance: the granting of emergency powers in the first place. For if UCOP can claim that there was a serious disagreement about how furlough days should be taken and that therefore they stepped in to settle an uncertain issue, they cannot pretend that there was a disagreement about the reordering of University government that occurred in the granting President Yudof emergency powers. In that case there was overwhelming opposition to the proposal from Senate and Faculty committees across the system. In that instance shared governance was shattered not only by the complete disregard of faculty and staff concerns but by the clearly rushed manner in which the change was pushed through. Under the threat of a sudden crisis (as if it was not possible to foresee the problems with the state budget) the normal structure of authority of the University was transformed. Of course, that is not how President Yudof sees it. As he described his decision in a recent interview with students he insisted that when he discovered that there was no formal process for imposing “furloughs or salary reductions” he said “’That’s no good.’ I said what we need is a set of rules that says you have to consult with various groups and you have to declare that there really is a financial emergency and you have to go before the board of regents and it expires on its own in a year, even if nothing happens.” Consequently he insists that the point of the emergency powers was to limit the powers of UCOP and the Regents.

But once again, this story ignores a fundamental point: President Yudof could have established a process for planning for furloughs by drafting one and following it. It did not require changing the Standing Orders. But in changing the Standing Orders the President was granted, albeit for one year, “the authority, during the pendency of the Declaration and consistent with applicable legal requirements, to suspend the operation of any existing Regental or University policies otherwise applicable to furloughs and/or salary reductions that are contrary to or inconsistent with the terms the President deems necessary to the proposed implementation.” It is this grant of power that transformed all questions relating to furloughs and their implications into a matter of “consultation.” It also, shifted power over the organization of teaching to UCOP. To be fair, the revised Standing Order 100.4 is drawn narrowly to relate to implications of furloughs and salary cuts. I am not concerned here with proposing some conspiracy on the part of UCOP. And to be fair to UCOP, the system-wide Senate Leadership has walked hand-in-hand with this redefinition—going so far as to chide Yudof’s critics for their lack of faith. Simply having Senate leadership in Oakland will not solve the problem.

But whatever the intentions of President Yudof and the Regents, they have configured the present moment in such a way so that an immediate budget crisis is driving fundamental long-range changes in the University. Those changes, we are told, are going to take place under administrative direction with “consultation” with faculty, students and staff. That, after all, is the task of the Gould Commission. The membership is dominated by administrators with only token representation of “common” faculty; there is no presence of anyone known to be a critic of the course that the Regents have taken over the last decade—on the other hand there are well-known and consistent proponents of privatizing parts of the University such as Christopher Edley. The Commission is supposed to report by March but at this point not all the members of the various “workgroups” have been appointed nor is it clear that the workgroups will hold public meetings. What their charges will be, whether they will be granted real authority, whether they will have a predetermined set of options all remain unclear. And if the first campus meeting at UCSB is any indication, the idea that the Regents and UCOP will take input from the campus communities seriously appears fairly farfetched.

This then is the problem we face: the Regents, UCOP, the granting of emergency powers and the organization of the Gould Commission have transformed an immediate budget crisis into a process of a long-term transformation of the University and its structures. The assumptions that underlay this conflation of short-term shortfall and long-term reorganization are ones that I have to put off till another post. But one change has already begun: the shift in the nature of University Governance. UCOP and at least some Senate leaders would like to suggest that anyone who doesn’t recognize the justness of this consultation is simply a malcontent who doesn’t understand reality. . Perhaps these changes are in line with Yudof’s powerful image of himself as a crypt-keeper. But it is a strange model for an institution whose End has been to promote debate and inquiry, to critically examine pre-packaged choices, and which prides itself on its collective and open self-definition. Others changes will follow in its wake. That is unless we are able to publicly and forcefully push back against the process now unfolding. Can we defend the university’s End or will we see the end of the University?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009
The Regents' UC Com- mission for the Future came to UCSB on October 22nd. No Regents other than student Regent Jesse Bernal (from UCSB) actually showed up

Why would they schedule a meeting of the Regents' Commission on the Future when no permanent Regent would actually attend?  Were they planning to come but got put off by what was reportedly UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang's insistence that most of the time be allotted to statements from faculty, staff, and students?

The webcast shows that good talks fell on absent ears. See the texts by Profs. Sharon Farmer and Jack Sutton, History and Sociology;  Prof. Claudio Fogu, French and Italian; Prof. Songi Han, Chemisty, Prof. Harry Nelson, Physics; Prof. Mark Srednicki, Phyiscs; Prof. William Warner, English; Prof Elisabeth Weber, German and Slavic Studies.  Prof. Yunte Huang of the English Department read a poem.  There were many others, including some highly-praised student statements towards the end, and we will post more texts as they come in. We have linked to some excerpts of the post-mortem among some participants.

Our email traffic already favored the view that the UCOF roadshow - like UCOF itself -  is a diversion that allows the UC masses to vent while the real work of privatizing UC - making it smaller, more expensive, more oriented towards sponsor and donor money, more cut off from California's diverse majority - goes on behind closed doors.   Yesterday was a good day for this suspicion, as the Regents Commission had better things to do than go to their own Commission's forum, like perhaps attend meetings behind closed doors.

It as rude, thoughtless, somewhat insulting, and pretty dumb  for the Regents not to mix with the unwashed who actually do the teaching, studying, discovering, and many other necessary things like data entering on hundreds of thousands of tuition checks each and every one of which is written out to "UC Regents."  It's dumb because the Regents, if they paid attention, would notice that they are already in the shit with the greater UC community, which regards them as arrogant, out of touch, autocratic, and not too bright about money. 

The Regents are legally and procedurally insulated from the University over which they preside, and so may not care too much what the UC community thinks about them.  Last summer, when several Faculty Associations wrote to the Regents to ask them to show signs of life in response to the obvious crisis, the joint response from then-Chair Blum and President Yudof included this statement: "We appreciate your sharing your views and we welcome having them, but we do wish to remind you of Bylaw 16.9 of the University, which states that communications from members of the faculty to the Board of Regents must be presented through the President."

This Bylaw is more suited to a caste society than to a learning community.  In any case it makes it all the more important that the Regents show up to the meetings they call the rest of us to.  If they miss the next UCOF session, they should have to repeal Bylaw 16.9.  If they miss a third, they should just go ahead and democratize themselves.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

To Michael D. Smith,

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

October 20 2009

Dear Professor Smith:

I read with great interest as I am sure we all did your letter regarding Harvard's finances. It's a long document, many parts of which only a professional accountant could truly understand.

It reveals what could not be concealed. It could therefore have been at once much longer in some of its parts and in others, a good deal more short and plain. You make three basic and simple points:

1. The first is that this financial crisis is nobody's fault, really. Mssrs. Mr Summers and Rubin are never mentioned. The message is instead that other universities did even more poorly than ours, that we did the best a reasonable person could do, and so on. In brief, who did what to bring us to this juncture in our affairs is all water under the bridge. We move on.

2. The second is that the situation is now under control. Other people may be suffering, but basically, we are not doing that badly. None of us, after all, have been fired, and especially not in University Hall.
We should be prudent, of course, but we should not be too alarmed.  Things are OK. So, here again, then, we move on.

But the third point of your message  which has to do with the presence of an absence - is the one that interests me most: nary a word do I find in your report about the 275 people who were dismissed from our staff, 77 in connection to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. There too, is it your point that we should move on? I read your unwritten message to be that we have our problems, and that they have theirs: am I really mistaken in thinking this?

I was profoundly disturbed by these dismissals, as were many other members of the teaching staff. (It would incidentally have been nice if we had been able to discuss such a move on the Faculty floor.) As I see it, the implication of your silence on this issue has to be that although we are, by your own count, still worth 26 billion dollars, we could not find the money to keep on our payroll these employees who have served us well. And this in a society where unemployment often means the end of medical coverage, and even for some, homelessness, a sad reward incidentally for those of them who had faith in the reckless message of Mssrs Summers and Rubin, both of whom, incidentally, we might well want
to censure for their strikingly incompetent management of our fortunes, our investments, and especially, our expenses.

Your silence here is eloquent: what it tells us is that the world's richest educational institution, upon reflection, decided that it could not afford to keep its weakest members afloat. This is for me immensely discouraging. Your reasoning (i.e: "these cuts were painful, of course, but necessary") would perhaps have been wise if you were running some banal firm. Or bank. But you are not. In my view, your message is inappropriate coming as it does from for someone who is in charge of the
world's leading - and richest -educational institution, a university on a hill as it were, and a flagship for academic life world over.

I do not know what President Lowell did about our monies during the 1929 depression because that is not what now matters about his years at Harvard. But his approval of the violently contested execution of Sacco and Vanzetti does still matter, as do homosexuals driven to suicide. I know that the years of Mr. Conant's presidency marked the beginning of Harvard as a world University, for which we are all grateful; but I also remember his endorsement of the decision to destroy many would say murder not once, but twice tens of thousands of Japanese civilians by atomic war. By contrast, what Mr. Conant did with Harvard's wealth, few people today know or care.

World historical issues for a world historical institution like ours are not about millions or even billions. What will be remembered of your deanship is not the figures of your report, but the pain which in the name of false necessity you chose to impose on our community's least influential members. This is not a matter of life and death, obviously  I hope so in any case - but it is of some consequence.

When we emerge from this crisis, and have forgotten the arrogance, self-indulgence, and recklessness of our former managers, what will still matter is not the dry facts of your report, but its hidden spirit.
What we will all recall it is that in a moment of manageable crisis, Harvard University chose to become a cruel employer without much regard to those like myself who want to find it "sans peur et sans reproche."

In an age that prizes human rights and socially responsible employers, your decision will be remembered as a sad and unworthy moment in the historical annals of our University. It's not the present that should hold your attention: it is our future and above all else, our past, checkered at times but quite glorious also.

Your report should have two additional paragraphs. I urge you to add them as a footnote to your pages. The first would provide us with a precise figure: it would be a statement regarding the exact amount of
money that we secured by inflicting woeful pain on the University's staff, together with your justification of that decision. Had we kept them on, how far now would we be below our current 26 billion mark? A calculation made by exact tenth of one percentage point would be welcome.

And the second would be an assurance that no further dismissals will be made. Many other universities as you know have somehow managed to be more generous than we have been. Harvard must set the highest moral standards as well as highest intellectual standards for our nation. In this difficult time, in which so many Americans are suffering the consequences of irresponsible fiscal policies, Harvard really should do better. It is our silence that has allowed its former handlers to go forth, cynically, into the wider world. This is the moment also for our university to show America and the world that the riches of a great educational institution cannot be measured only in dollars and cents, in millions or billions. This is the moment for Harvard to show that true responsibility in a fiscal crisis means sheltering loyal and vulnerable by-standers instead of absolving the powerful. Such a move would widely hailed.

Patrice Higonnet '58 Goelet Professor of French History

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The University of California Pays for Itself
Harry Nelson
Professor of Physics
University of California, Santa Barbara
to the Gould Commission

The State of California has historically contributed about $40,000 to the 4-year education of each new UC graduate.  The precise figure has gone up and down over the past 20 years, but $40,000 is a good average, prior to the recent cuts.

Very few of us know that new UC graduates go on to pay the $40,000 back and more, because they earn higher salaries and so they pay more taxes.

To run the numbers, recent federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate that California college graduates make an average of $53,500 a year, while high school graduates make $32,400 a year.   A college degree is a classic win-win situation: not only does the college graduate benefit, but also the State of California benefits, because the graduate pays more State taxes.

The total State tax burden, including income, sales, and property tax is available from the California Budget Project, and is 8.7% for the college graduate and 9.5% for the high school graduate.

Each year the State of California is paid about $1,580 more in taxes from the college graduate than from the high school graduate, and that adds up over their careers.

The college graduate works for 43 years, and the high-school graduate for 47 years, until they both retire at 65.  Over that time, the State of California receives $55,600 more from the college graduate.

The University of California pays for itself, and more.

The State of California profits by $15,600 per UC degree.

The recent cuts, however, have reduced the State of California’s contribution by about $9,000 per 4-year degree, to about $31,000.

And thus raised the State’s profit from each UC degree to $24,600.

I’m pretty sure a UC degree actually makes the State a lot more than $24,600, because UC graduates are among the most talented and energetic college graduates in our State.

I ask the Commission to do a more thorough job of determining how much the State really makes, and to relentlessly publicize that number.

I don’t know why the State of California would ever want to be in the business of selling higher education for a profit.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009
By Michael Meranze

California’s budget crisis continues to worsen in the fall. In its wake a rough “common sense” emerged among the State’s political class and pundits. California, we are instructed, has reached the end of its ability to sustain its commitments—derived from the era of Pat Brown—to social support institutions and widespread, high-quality, low cost higher education, not to mention broad-based commitments to K-12 public education. The Great Recession, they insist, has put an end to this earlier vision of the Golden State. New economic realities compel us to scale back government action and commit ourselves more and more to a reliance on the private sector for increasingly limited social goods and services. To be sure, there is recognition that the crisis is not simply fiscal but political. California, after all, is hampered by a wide-range of structural issues that make governance more and more difficult: the requirement (established in Proposition 13) that any tax increase requires a 2/3 vote in the Legislature, an even older requirement that the State Budget requires a 2/3 vote as well, the imposition of term limits that have had the perverse effect of empowering lobbyists, not to mention the proliferating ballot initiatives have removed increasing numbers of spending and governing from the legislature. But our leaders insist "the people" will not change these structures in any significant way.

This conventional wisdom is significantly wrong. What came crashing down around us is not the Golden State of Pat Brown’s dream but the Iron State of Howard Jarvis’ imagination. What came paid this year is the vision of a State focused on corrections not social welfare, on the reduction of tax burdens not education and broad-based economic development, on established properties and people not the young and the future. California’s political leaders have spent the last 30 years cobbling together enough funding to keep at bay the full implications of the Iron State. The Great Recession has shattered those efforts.

As with so many stories of contemporary California, this one starts with Proposition 13. Proposition 13 has protected those on fixed-incomes from losing their homes to rising property taxes while enabling many others to minimize the negative effects of rising housing costs (at least once they have been able to purchase property). But it also has protected commercial property and developers while making it increasingly difficult (by imposing a 2/3 rule) to raise taxes of any kind. Stripping local governments of important sources of revenue shifted power for education and other locally organized public functions from cities and counties to the state. There they were caught up in the dysfunctional nature of state-wide politics. Proposition 13, appearing as a moment of “citizen’s revolt” actually served to centralize revenue and spending questions at the level of state government while simultaneously making it more difficult for those decisions to be made rationally.

But Proposition 13 was only the starting point for the Iron State. Between 1980 and 2000 California turned to mass incarceration as the criminal inmate population grew from just under 25,000 to just over 160,000. Today it stands around 170,000. The 3 Strikes initiative accelerated this upsurge but it began much earlier. Whether because of the “war on drugs,” fears of sexual offenders, or perception of an epidemic of violent crime, the penal system has grown by leaps and bounds. The logic of Proposition 13 (turning the state away from social spending, limiting a steady source of revenue, placing an emphasis on what was already in place over what might be in the future) and the logic of mass incarceration (incapacitation over retraining, emphasizing the punishment of past deeds over programs to encourage opportunities and lessen the temptations to criminal activity) worked in tandem.

Like the state’s polity more generally the correctional system is in a state of acute crisis. This summer’s riot at Chino State Prison was only the latest example of an overcrowded and unsafe penal system—unsafe for guards as well as inmates. Federal Judges have determined that the health system within the prisons is so inadequate as to be unconstitutional (endangering the health of inmates within the prison and the general public when inmates leave prisons); other judges have ordered the prison population reduced by 40,000 over the next two years. The multiple crises of the prison system have allowed for some discussion of reform of the correctional system. But as we recall the Assembly's Republicans were able to block passage of a meaningful prison reform act--preventing the establishment of a sentencing commission and severely cutting back on efforts to reduce the size of the inmate population.

So long as corrections remains at the heart of our social policy—rather than as a supplemental or marginal support as it was throughout most of United States history—it is the Iron State stealing from the future of the Golden State. For at least the last decade state funding has shifted from higher education to the correctional system. The reduction of state support for the UC and CSU systems have left them overburdened and underfunded; the recent budget cuts now threaten to end the renowned California system of higher education we have known. The Community College system is overwhelmed and the system of transferring from Community Colleg to one of the University Systems teeters on the edge of collapse. And despite the growth in spending on corrections the logic of mass incarceration has meant that the number of inmates always exceeds the capacity to house them adequately and safely.

The Iron State has succeeded in creating conditions that ensure that more people will be imprisoned and less people educated; that more will be unemployed and less skilled in new jobs; that more will be less productive and less find fulfilling work. Nothing reveals the logic of the Iron State more than Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision to cut funds from health care for the poor and those suffering from AIDS while refusing to impose an extraction tax on gas and oil that would have provided more than enough funds for these programs.

Unless we wish to descend into more and more social insecurity this policy logic needs to be overturned. We need new ideas and new forums for discussion. The Crisis besetting UC and CSU is not their crisis alone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Meister, UC on Wall Street                                                                                                                           

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009
by Anonymous:
Just to let you all know that I went by the anthro library in Kroeber at 5:20 pm this evening, and it was an inspiring scene.  There are painted paper banners hanging by the wide windows that say 'THIS IS THE CEMETERY SPEAKING"," "PUBLIC EDUCATION NOT A CORPORATION" and "YOUR UNIVERSITY"

Coming up the stairs, I ran into Tom Leonard, the Dean of the Library, who had just been in the anthro library for the opening of the "study-in" and some of Paul Rabinow's Q & A teaching-in (which was going on, very interestingly, when I came into the room).  Tom seemed pleased by how the event has worked out-- with permission for the anthro library to stay open; arrangements with the police (who I take it will keep a low presence); and librarians to be present- and PAID for their time on flextime arrangements (a librarian from UPTE at the earlier Solidarity Alliance meeting said they wer insisting on this-- and Tom said it was arranged).  Then I saw a pollce officer coming down the stairs, and spoke briefly with him, saying how pleased I was, as a faculty member hwo supported the study-in, that arrangements were made with the police, so there wouldn't be arrests or confrontation; he said he was glad it was working out that way.

There were students with laptops and books, quietly studying and conversing in the Kroeber hall leading to the library, and inside about 80 to 100 people, mostly students, a few faculty, listening intently as Paul Rabinow talked about privatization, how the Regents work, the politics of California, with give and take with the students, and Cori Hayden pitching in; also some union members there, also speaking up.  Grey Brechin was there, and I believe was going to speak next.   It felt very much like a continuation of the spirit of Sept 23 and 24th. Inspiring.

So thanks to those who signed up to talk tomorrow, and I think that if anyone else has time, they should drop by (it wraps up at 4 pm tomorrow- they have to be out by 5; there's a clean-up committee, and also folks looking out for security issues).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009
I'm really starting to like Robert Cruickshank at Calitics. Michael sent me a link to a piece that uses my beloved term "death spiral" to describe California budgeting, and then tops my claim that Arnold S is Hoover reincarnated with this: "But we must also work hard to stop the 121 Herbert Hoovers in Sacramento from doing further harm to an already stressed state."  121! Even worse than I thought.

Cruickshank also notes the pointlessness of all the Dem compromising, and here we would have to include UCOP and the Regents who aren't simply members of Team Schwarzenegger:
We've tried Republicans' neo-Hooverite solution. Democrats have insisted we had no choice to go along with it, but they have instead caused untold suffering and pain to the people of California without gaining anything in return.
and then he says:
 the first step toward fixing those structural problems is to articulate a clear vision for a fairer, more prosperous, and more economically secure California.
 Absolutely. Transformative vision comes before reform.   Ironically that is the Yudof Challenge: "if you have a better idea let me know." Until we do we are going to get more of the same.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009
Paul Krugman offers a very good summary of shocking educational declines that are familiar to readers of this blog, but it's always worth once again summarizing the sheer craziness:
  • in the 19th century, the US stopped being poor and backward by leading in universal basic education.  Now that progress requires universal higher education, it is disinvesting in that.
  • US educational levels are going down, not up. Younger people are becoming less well educated than older.  (The same is true in research, which suffers as public universities suffer.)
  • The US is now below average in attainment (with California tanked into the bottom 10)
  • the public sector has now joined the private sector in cutting jobs, insuring rising unemployment
  • the US has no obvious mechanisms to reverse the decline.  Knucklehead cure-alls like "work more" are the opposite of what we need to improve educational outcomes: US students already lose way too much time "in school" on paid outside jobs.
  • the stakes are huge: there "will be lifetime damage to many students’ prospects — and a large, gratuitous waste of human potential."
The waste of so many people, and not only in economic terms, is the core of the dumbness and immorality of this entire situation.

Krugman's solutions are another stimulus and a general awakening to our perversity.   I favor both of these. But this doesn't reckon with the people who will oppose another stimulus - every single House Republican, all of whom voted against the first one, and every Sacramento Republican, who have a lock on the Legislature. It doesn't reckon with people whose careers depend on maintaining perversity - single-issue politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose public policy vision consists of cutting taxes.  Arnold has done enormous damage to UC.  Nothing is going to change until the university community - including UCOP and the Regents - are willing to hold him accountable for the effects of his ideology and his acts.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009
Signs are growing that public universities are lowering standards in order to cut costs. Today's news brings word that the Austin campus of the University of Texas is reducing the language requirement from four semesters to three or two.  The piece cites the Executive Director of the Modern Languages Association:
 Studying a language for only one year, she says, is "like taking one year of piano lessons or math. It's just not enough to give you all the immersion that you would need to get some lasting and significant benefit."
Very very true.
There are two issues here.  The first is that public school Americans are being relegated to a linguistic backwater in which they can't interact or compete with their global peers. Speaking one or two foreign languages is "part of being an educated person" as one Swiss colleague recently said to me.  UC's Educaton Abroad program sends 4000 of UC's 170,000 or so undergrads abroad, and maybe 8000 total go in some kind of short or long-term program.  What about the other 165,000?
The second is that universities don't necessary respond to budget cuts by sparing cheap programs and cutting expensive ones. They are as likely to cut to make cheap ones even cheaper.    For a possible harbinger of worse in UC to come, read this eloquent and graphic description of how this has already damaged languages and the humanities in Australia.

The privates are doing it to.  USC is now enrolling more students in its on-line teaching credential program, MAT@USC, and insisting that it is "providing an education that is fully equivalent to [its] on-ground master's program."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009
"Budgetary transparency" hasn't been one of the great political slogans in world history, but better late than never.  We have a whole section on this blog about stories of UC decline, which continued this week in the New York Times and elsewhere, but UC is on the rise around general awareness of budget politics.

Budgets don't normally make good politics.  I've learned this the hard way trying to get folks interested in budget stories. But the sheer scale of the crisis and the sense of the undemocracy of this budgeting might make things different this time around.

The "failed state" of California is the US emblem of what happens when budgets are so non-transparent that even hard-core financial journalists can't figure out who is getting cut by how much, and then resort to "he said she said" coverage that makes everyone fall asleep.  Witness this confused account of California's budget in the Wall Street Journal. The only sure thing in the piece is that the full cuts will stick in one budget category, higher education.

The current budget trap was built carefully in a collaboration between politicians and higher education leaders - a marriage of selfishness and fear - following a homegrown version of the "Monnet method," named after one of the architects of the European Union.  Monnet convinced a lot of people that you had to build the entire EU infrastructure underwater, where the public wouldn't notice, with "small, apparently technical, steps focusing on economic issues."  By the time the apparatus appeared above the waterline, its foundations would be set in stone.

The EU is largely unaccountable but better than what was there before.  US higher ed's new structure made it worse:  an overly complicated funding hybrid that was excessively reliant on tuition-paying students, meaning that the entire social contribution of higher education - including scientific research - increasingly depended on the ability and willingness to pay of any given year's actual students. 

Diverse distresses may converge: 1) ever-higher fees; 2) pay cuts and declining quality of both teaching and research; 3  the US's declining status in higher ed. Policy people may not care about 1 and 2 but they care a lot about 3.  They now wake up to echoes of World War II headlines with a whiff of the yellow peril, like this week's Chronicle of Higher Education cover that screams "As U.S. Retrenches, Asia Drives Growth Through Higher Education.": "America Falling: Longtime Dominance in Education Erodes."; "Asia Rising: Countires Funnel Billions Into Universities."  This week another in a series of pieces on US research decline also appeared, this one on "human capital leapfrogging" in the Asian countries that are making major public investments in higher ed.

What the US is losing is the sheer scale of high-level attainment that it needs to keep moving ahead.  That was the magic of US public higher ed.  That was the magic eroded by the private hybrid. 
Every constituency may finally be equally upset.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009