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Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gould Commission at UCI

The Gould Commission came to UCI, with our own Chancellor Drake, Cynthia Brown, Mary Croughan and Chris Edley presenting the Commission's structure, its mission and its willingness to listen to a sparse audience, perhaps sixty profs at most with a smattering of students and staff. The Commission asserted that the policy recommendations that they were going to draw up were not to be reactive, but rather to be authentic projections of the better UC that we should become. As expected, Edley was by the far the most aggressive member of the Commission, cross-examining the former Chair of our Faculty Senate in his best lawyerly style when she insisted that the UC should not have differential tuition across the campuses. He turned it around and asked her if UC Merced should offer better financial aid, and if financial aid should not be differential across the various UC's. Jutta Heckhausen paused and said she had not thought of this, and considered UC Merced a special case. I thought that Edley was supposed to be LISTENING, but obviously he has a few ideas of his own that he isn't keeping so secret. At one point, he asked Carol Burke to go home and think about how big a graduate program at UCI should be, and asked her to email him the answer when she had drawn her conclusions. To Julia Lupton's eloquent statement about technology and distance learning as well as distribution of resources for instruction rather than on-line ed, Edley replied, "Of course our initiative will serve professors and instructors first." I was almost reassured, when the gloves finally came off and he expressed exasperation in response to my brief statement about the Commission's managerial ethos, which seemed to neglect an intellectual rationale or vision for the UC: Edley, "I've been in California almost five years four months and twelve days, and I am tired of the ROMANTICIZATION of the UC." To paraphrase, he went on to tell us we aren't all that, and that we need to be remade and reinvented. He was also responding impatiently to an Assistant Professor of Anthropology who had mentioned that the Socratic method had worked for 3000 years and that sometimes, education at the University took place simply as conversation in his office; Ann Van Sant of English suggested the Commission may not have the instruments to measure such interactions: Edley: "You just can't compare the excellence of teaching 400 students with the excellence of conversations you are having with three of them!" I WISH I had recorded his controlled rant about how blind we all are to our limitations, and how deluded we were about our past. Now there are enormous problems with the UC, but when one of the Gould Commission's members is already "tired" of our alleged self-mythologization then, the power that he has can indeed be wielded to destroy an institution's legacy in the name of his version of our futures. In addition, he urged us to have "charity for UCOP" because if we knew about how dire the budget situation was, we would be grateful indeed about how much money we managed to get from the State considering the depth of all the cuts that have been made. This seems persuasive on some level, but I wonder if Edley or UCOP recognizes what it is like for the rest of us. I would like the admin to be a bit more grateful that we are all working at a feverish pace at less pay, watching our community's most vulnerable members lose their jobs as staff and clerical workers live in fear of a pink slip. If I saw a bit more understanding of life on the lower echelons, I might be more inclined to feel "charity" for our leaders. I am already a philanthropist of my own time...to the tune of 7% of my paycheck. Drake seemed to be genuinely distressed when one speaker spoke of how poorly her students wrote and commented that large lecture courses of 400 were perhaps not the best places to learn the skills we assume college students should possess...One emeritus Medical prof suggested that what we should be offering as a University is something more general and broad than simple professional training. Yes, but Edley's 400 haunts us all...Managerial solutions have taken on the allure of a sovereign heroism...and the rest of us are seen as impractical malcontents, unable to fight the right wars, renounce our ideals or our romanticism and take on the new realities...Athenians in short.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mala tempora currunt.

Ralph Spoilsport said...

What is the logic for better financial aid at UC Merced, or any other UC campus, and does Chris Edley propose to pay for it with higher fees at UC Berkeley? One would think that financial aid for UC students is a function of fees and the student's resources, an individual phenomenon, not which campus they attend. Hard to see what his point is, no doubt because we are blinded by delusions about our past. This process is seriously deficient and seriously off the rails.

catherine Liu said...

I think Edley was trying to say to Heckhausen, using the Socratic method that we may not support differential tuition, but then we shouldn't support differential financial aid for campuses like Riverside and Merced where students have more need. He was trying to demonstrate to the "crowd" that we profs are always using double standards. Heckhausen was taken aback by his line of questioning. From now on, when Edley starts asking questioners questions, we should politely give him push back and say "You're listening, WE'RE asking the questions." His tactic was obviously one of disorientation all the while asking for more feedback...

catherine Liu said...

By the way, this is my post, Catherine Liu here at UCI. I was using the editor monikor for another blog, and forgot to remove it. I have no reason to hide my identity.

Lupton said...

I spoke to Edley afterward. I showed him the text of the Commission's charge, which is written in the most managerial language possible. It speaks, for example, "of delivering quality education to more students more efficiently and effectively assuming fewer faculty and other resources."

I do not deliver an education. I teach students. Actually, to be more precise, I try to provide the conditions in which students can learn. But I realize that's expecting too much. He said that he had nothing to do with the language of the commission, and that they would pursue their task in terms they are developing through these kinds of visits.

Maybe.

But why is a law school dean heading the committee on education and curriculum? Shouldn't someone who has invested his or her life in undergraduate and graduate education in a non-professional school context -- ideally at one or more UC campuses -- be trusted with this charge?

Chris Newfield said...

Catherine - this is very eloquent: thank you. It's important that there were again zero Regents at their own committee's road show, which maintains the gap between them and the campuses that these visits were supposed to bridge. Same goes for the theme of blame-shifting that the perennially Angry Edley best articulates. UC has serious problems with management, information, and budgeting systems, with communication among campuses, and of course with its management culture, which is increasingly dominated by a belligerent, accusatory style of problem-solving to which the whole UC system is being subjected, one that never offers real solutions to real operating problems. If Edley speaks for UCOF overall, then we have to assume that it has already decided that the teaching, research, and support staff are the problem - the source of inefficiency - and that administrative functions, external relations, executive comp, incomplete and/or inexplicable budgetary information, are all just fine. This is blind, painfully defensive, and sadly self-exonerating for an Office of the President that has, as Julia Lupton points out, abandoned the attempt to recover resources that its strategies have helped to lose. What also seems to be happening is that what Catherine called the managerial ethos is turning faculty into oppositional labor in a system where faculty have never thought of themselves this way before. This is intensified by the figures from professional schools and elsewhere who sit in judgment over the activities of the campuses. This is going to turn out to be yet another miscalculation on UCOP's part.

Chris Newfield said...

for the Irvine folks: is there video of this? I couldn't find anything on line.

secondly, Yudof has talking about the "temptation" of mediocrity and resisting it. I assume he's talking about his own temptation and not ours, but did anyone discuss intensive, interactive, and immersive education as protecting quality and the Edley factory model as itself the temptation of mediocrity?

I would like to see much more detailed and concrete discussion of and stories about what we actually do on campuses with students and with each other as researchers, and their concrete impact on students. The attempt to turn back the clock to an industrial delivery model for 21st century public education seems self-refutingly dumb, but obviously it's not.

Chris Newfield said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

We should be very skeptical of pronouncements by Edley and others who have never run a department with undergraduate students, never had to rely on graduate instructors to teach a large and growing major with a declining number of ladder faculty, and probably never even taught an undergraduate class. We should be skeptical of managerial types who aim to “rationalize” a workforce by making it more “efficient” without first examining how it came to take the form and structure it now has. Since he and UCOP invoke “business models” as a rationale for their moves perhaps we should look to the many empirical examples produced by such models. For example, I worked at Xerox PARC in the late 1990’s through 2003 (before joining the UC). During that time a “management expert” (with a level of experience roughly commensurate with Edley’s) was hired to rationalize the vaunted Xerox sales force. This “manager” was convinced that the sales force would be more efficient if it were organized by industry instead of location (since it would enable the sale force to reach more companies with smaller teams). As we now know, however, this small change had the unintended consequence of destroying the sale force’s relationships (with customers) built up over 20+ years, and an all too predicable decline in sales and profits. The “expert” had failed to grasp Xerox’s sale force, and their carefully tended relations with customers (i.e., its network relations), was its mains source of value (since by that time other companies had also prefect xerographic processes – what sort of copier do you have in your department?). Of course this was easier to see in retrospect: after destroying what made the sales force so valuable, Xerox experienced a commensurate drop in sales numbers and its stock price tanked (from 60+ to below 20, where it remains to this day). Recognizing its mistake Xerox quickly returned to the “old model”, but it was too late: it never recovered.
We should keep such examples in mind when Edley asks, “how big a graduate program at UCI should be” – as if such a question could be answered on its own, without considering the implications this answer might have for undergraduate education, campus research activities, or even national rankings. It may come as a surprise to the likes of Edley, but there are people who study complex organizations – and networks -- and they universally counsel against the sort of top-down strategy he seems inclined to embark upon. Fortunately we are not Xerox; and it is therefore much more difficult for a single misguided person to destroy the value of the UC. The ideals of shared governance upon which this university was founded provide an important check on out of control hubris of which Dean Edley is only the latest exemplar. We must ensure that we do not give in to him. His disappointment and disillusionment (and dare we hope, departure?) are a small price to pay for saving the UC.

Michael Meranze said...

Nickname and Chris both point to the necessity of figuring out ways (for those campuses who haven't been visited and more generally) to counter the sort of Edley "I am a forward-looking Dean who with my limited experience know better than you stuck-in-the-past campus types to push back and respond. We need to get people to point out the costs to his approach, the things that will be damaged and for what? What exactly is UCOF's endgame? How will they find a way to educate students and produce new knowledge and ideas that are actually more effective than what is in place now? How would we change things? The ecology of learning and research is extremely complex and will need a lot more discussion at the level of the practitioners if it is going to work.

This was a great post Catherine. And last time I checked Athens still had a lot of influence on education. Even if UCOF would prefer Sparta.

Michael Meranze said...

I would also add that Edley was a member of the Parsky Commission, and one of the few Democratic members who signed off on the final proposal which is likely to be both regressive and reduce revenue according to the CBP. As with so many others at UCOP and UCOF it appears that he thinks that you can provide technical answers to all problems without really confronting questions of values and purpose.

Catherine Liu said...

Here's the thing -- it made the Commission actually kind of angry that we said the word "intellectual" next to "freedom." I said I was "upset" that there was no intellectual rationale for the "Future of the the UC." There was some discussion among the panelists, and I believe Mary Croughan said she used "academic freedom." Intellectual and academic are different: not all academics are intellectuals, not all intellectuals are academics...but it seems that the greatest threat to the UC comes not from the legislature, or from the public, but from the futuristic managerial types like Edley who "pretend" to listen, but who are actually suppressing and censoring oppositional points of view with two parts sophistry and one part intimidation.

Gerry Barnett said...

The critiques here drive deep into the heart of it. A helpful articulation of the general strategy might be found in Joan Roelof's Foundations and Public Policy: The Masks of Pluralism, which serves as a critique of "liberal" foundations from what might be called the left, or might be called the local. http://bit.ly/3A2XZ

Roelofs identifies a first step is to turn local interest, diversity, and passion into information and data. A second step to establish forums which while appearing inclusive actually serve to create dependencies that wean outliers from their own purposes to the pre-arranged desired outcomes.

A take home is that the language of liberalism can be deployed against liberal thought and practices, and thus one has to be mindful of not falling into such recursions on the theme. The one thing diplomacy cannot control is events. The pluralist gesture of having everyone participate to gain assimilation cannot accommodate local action that disregards it.

One might, therefore, consider even adopting conservative, even fundamentalist rhetoric and practice with regard to what distinguishes UC as a center of learning. The recursive liberal deployment is that these are mere sentiments, romanticizations. The suggestion is that UC no longer leads, but picks and chooses from other schools, does what is expedient to preserve the privileges of administrative business as usual.

The fundamentalist reply might be that these are beyond inquiry, self-evident truths, foundations on which to build not to ignore. Might be, assume UCOP is itself a failed compromise on these truths. "Imagine there's no UCOP...." That would be quite the fundamentalist move.

In the Organic Act, the office that matters a lot more than appears now is that of Secretary to the Regents. Back to the roots, the power grab for research, for outreach, and for world leadership in education for California is with the Office of the Secretary rather than with the Office of the President. Perhaps that's the undefended, undeveloped target to go after to restore the balance needed to realize the vision set out at the formation of UC. That would be truly conservative and fundamentalist, and yet clearly progressive and liberal in effect.

Chris Newfield said...

I'm struck by the links between the comments of Gerry and Nickname. I'm not sure we want to go fundamentalist, but the havoc wreacked by top-down and distant knowledge needs to be stressed more than it has. Nickname also hits the nail on the head around UCOP's management theory or lack thereof - the failure to really address and improve organizational operations, and the substitution of half-theories, not necessarily particularly current ones, for real study and interaction with the people who make the organization run. When I started UC in 1990 I used to joke that it seems like the GM of the 1950s. A couple of days ago, I found a quotation from longtime GM CEO Alfred Sloan on the Amazon page for "Innovation Killer." He supposedly one said to a meeting, "I take it that we are all in complete agreement on the decision here. Then I propose that we postpone further discussion...to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about." It made me wonder whether GM in the 1950s wouldn't actually be an improvement for us . . .

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