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Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

UCOF is Coming

This is a big week in UC admin.  The Regents are meeting at Mission Bay in San Francisco, and the UC Commission on the Future is to hear its first round of ideas in the five main areas under study.

A core question will be whether financial trends are driving UCOF's educational planning, or whether planning has some independence of thought. The separation of working groups could help, but freeing educational goals from immediate and systematic funding issues is a constant battle at UC, and it's especially hard to keep the institution's eye on education in our perennial state of fiscal turmoil. 

Nonetheless, most of the game consists in not tailoring UC to its current and currently imagined future means, a downsized version of 20th century mass higher ed that was struggling to keep up with changing public needs even before its budget got whacked.

It's interesting to look at our notes on Jane Wellman's remarks when she appeared at the first UCOF meeting last September. Her ninth principle was, "if you don’t have attainment goals then the financial questions won’t work."  You don't know what you need to pay for unless you know what you're trying to get. 

My translation is that if UCOF hasn't set goals that match future challenges and opportunities, and then pursued the right funding structure for them, the funding crisis will dictate shrinking goals.

My impression isthat  both funding and educational analyses have retreated into hundreds or even thousands of local discussions around the system.  Everyone is helpfully offering patches and workarounds, and chairs of research centers and departments are gradually adjusting to a new lower normal by force of the absence of anything else. Folks aren't thinking big or circulating information to tie their issues to the overall picture.  People feel a little embarrased imagining great public purposes although the state of California has never needed these more than now. 

Chairs and principal investigators whose units inevitably sit on a small piece of the UC labyrinth of side-deals special supplements and arcane cross-subsidies  naturally see no percentage for them in transparency, which could subject their particular arragements to unwanted scrutiny.  This is a recipe for the triumph of local financial self-interest over the larger mission. Unless there's momentum in the whole, each individual part instinctively tries to protect itself. 

The UC system desperately needs a moonshot vision from UCOF.  If it provides even fragments of that, we should all take our turn filling in the gaps.


Bob Samuels said...

Chris, Great post. I have posted on my blog an analysis of the funding group's proposals: http://changinguniversities.blogspot.com/2010/03/future-of-university-funding-options.html

The Constructivist said...

Chris, is UC going to take on larger issues like the ones I address in what SUNY needs from NY?

Chris Newfield said...

not so far! But thank you for the link - I've got your blog linked and this entry in a couple of places. You're a one-person SUNY-COF

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