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Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Statement from Three Members of Academic Council on Preserving Quality (7/16)

The statement below was drafted by the following members of the Academic Council, but it has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Council. It is what we intend to keep saying in meetings, and it is what we would like to see the Senate say, at every opportunity.

Jim Chalfant, Chair, University Committee on Planning and Budget
Mary Gauvain, Chair, Academic Senate, UC Riverside Division
Susan Gillman, Chair, Academic Senate, UC Santa Cruz Division

When state budget cuts force UC to choose among access, affordability and quality, we believe that the Academic Senate should fight for quality as the University’s top priority. This means taking all possible measures to prevent further erosion of UC’s excellence, especially for undergraduates, and to prevent jeopardizing the future of the University as a whole. The state’s abandonment of the Master Plan extends well beyond consequences for the public and private shares of the cost of a UC degree.

The faculty of the University of California has the responsibility to ensure that students receive the highest quality education, grounded in research excellence. To do so calls for continued rejection of efficiency measures that emphasize throughput and degree production, while ignoring the quality of those degrees. It calls for protecting the research excellence that supports a UC-quality degree. The faculty cannot stand by and accept further diminutions in quality and will not enable the state or the University to hide the effects of the cuts from public view. Erosion of instructional quality is visible in the form of decreased course availability, fewer specialized elective courses and reduced student involvement in research, increased class sizes that reflect higher student-faculty ratios, decreased feedback to students on written assignments and during office hours, decreased faculty size and layoffs of temporary faculty and staff: in the aggregate, a watered-down education.

Budgets and measures such as student-faculty ratios are clear to all as indicators of the problem, but it is the faculty who also see first-hand the many cutbacks and compromises that are hardest to measure and continue to deprive students of opportunities that earlier generations enjoyed. The withdrawal of state funding thus forces students and their families to shoulder more of the financial burden of a UC education, at a time of decreasing educational quality.
We believe that the University must urgently communicate the alarm of both faculty and administration at the state's retreat from its responsibility to preserve UC as the world’s leading public institution of higher education. Beyond communication, as Senate faculty we advocate continual monitoring of other potential, longer term effects of the cuts on the quality of undergraduate instruction. This requires monitoring not only critical measures such as time-to-degree and campus selectivity, but also developing measures of the quality of UC degrees—a set of lagging indicators that will become evident only after the damage is done.

Despite the damaging effects of years of fee increases, we support the Academic Council statement of June 30, 2011. We must stand for academic quality rather than pretending it is possible to maintain access, affordability, and quality with grossly inadequate state funding.


Anonymouse said...

Let me fix this for ya:

"When state budget cuts force UC to choose among issues that more directly bear on our students than on faculty salaries and perks, we believe that the Academic Senate should fight for faculty salaries and perks as the University’s top priority."

Not only is "prioritizing quality" while throwing accessibility and affordability under the bus a weak move -- who would ever argue for a low-quality education? -- it also comes across as patently self-serving. Sure, we all want our students to have a "quality" education and we want the research we're doing to be "quality" research. But let's be honest: if tuition goes up or access becomes more restrictive, it won't affect most (any?) faculty members' livelihoods. But if "quality" goes down, all of a sudden we're talking about consequences not just for students, but for faculty, too: larger classes, shrinking salaries, higher teaching loads, and less research money. And preventing this, apparently, is what needs to be prioritized at all costs.

Engaging in the rhetoric of quality is the first mistake. Has anyone, on any side of this debate, even attempted to define quality in any real terms? Not really, because it's the kind of word you can use to sound like you're serious without actually having to engage in the hard work of tackling serious problems.

I'm not saying that we should abandon quality, or not fight for it. But we must approach this particular manifestation of quality with caution. Setting it up *against* affordability and access is entirely artificial. It's not really a fair match, but more like a dogfight between a pitbull, a chimp, and a kangaroo -- the fighters aren't just in different weight classes, they're different species.

Affordability is pretty tangible: tuition can go up or down and translates directly into terms we understand (dollars). Access is pretty tangible, too, since it can be quantified and measured in relatively easy and understandable ways. But what about quality? It's actually extremely difficult to quantify and measure, and in many cases resists tangibility. Obviously there are lots of attempts to actually make quality quantifiable (K-12 education has us beat hands down there), but I think this gambit needs more push back from us than resigned acceptance. The more we allow quality to quantify, the easier it becomes to pit quality against affordability and access, to pit faculty against students.

Instead, we need a robust defense and redemption of quality for quality's sake. This would include decoupling it from these artificial oppositions and forcefully making the (not unintuitive) argument that access and affordability are actually two core *components* of a quality university, not impediments to it. The biggest threat to quality at the university is not the distribution of cuts, but the relentless attacks on students, staff, and faculty, the very people in whom the UC's quality manifests. This memo just continues that trend, though does so in a very indirect way. The kind of fractures these AC members are proposing are actually far more damaging to quality than the shadows they're shaking their fists at.

Chris Newfield said...

Anonymouse - it's good to have you back!

Jim, Susan and Mary - this is similar to UCOP's official position, as I understand it. Could you be more specific about what you are proposing in terms of amount of tuition increases over what period of time?

Unknown said...

Deeds not words are needed from UCLA Chancellors, Faculty: wages concession that align Unioversity salaries with depressed California wages and capacity of California to pay.

Pitch in to save UC!

Anonymouse said...

Thanks Chris. It's been a while since I've commented, but I got a little bit of this feeling this morning:


which may have made my tone a little harsher than I intended.

Gerry Barnett said...

Anonymouse is spot on.

Folks in positions of power are clearing space in state budgets for things way more important to them than university budgets. It's not fair and right, but leave that aside for a moment.

The folks in power have concluded that quality and excellence at UC are in surplus, and their money should go to places of *need* rather than of *excess*. The folks at state *agree* with the rhetoric about UC quality, and it is their *agreement* that gives cover to their budget cuts. There is no point in raising an alarm about it now.

The critique of all this has to uncork the following argument: "We agree that UC has an overabundance of quality and excellence in research and instruction--now administrate it for a lot less. Try being more efficient. Or find money elsewhere to support the excess quality and excellence. We don't care, really."

The administration has tried variously withholding faculty and staff pay, cutting staff least able to withstand being pushed out, raising tuition on students, and proposing digital courses in all their impersonal, atonal, maladaptable glory. To adapt Churchill--"You can always count on administrators to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

Just, I'm not sure the adaptated version rings true.

Susan Gillman, Jim Chalfant, Mary Gauvain said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim Chalfant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim Chalfant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan Gillman, Jim Chalfant, Mary Gauvain said...

Part 1
While the Senate has warned about the increasing degradation of educational quality throughout the years of budget cuts (see the Futures, Cuts, and Choices reports), UCOP is finally starting to use the very same language. But alas, their message is too mixed and tentative. The two most visible items on the UCOP web site today highlight the savings from Working Smarter and the news of the 9.6% tuition increase. And most UCOP statements about quality seem to say that the next round of cuts could threaten quality, as if that hasn’t already occurred.

Our purpose in our comment was to try to raise more alarm than is coming from official UCOP communications. Degradation of UC quality does not loom as a possible future problem; quality has already been compromised, and more so at some campuses than others, because of uneven historical allocations of tuition and state funding. The new “Funding Streams” model for budgeting, promised by UCOP to be the first of two phases of systemwide budgetary reform, solves the problem of allocating tuition by returning all revenues generated by a campus to that campus. It’s the state fund allocation that now needs to change.

As for our own tuition recommendations, the three of us have served on an Academic Council task force focusing on enrollment management. The task force has recommended basing the allocation of state funding to campuses on a measure of the average cost per student for delivering the curriculum at a UC level of quality. This average cost needs to be covered by a combination of tuition, net of financial aid, and state support; when one is decreased, the other one needs to increase. We can’t just decide to lower the average cost figure to accommodate budget cuts without increasing tuition.

This is the approach we advocate for the second phase of budget reform, “Rebenching,” which will address the state fund allocation to campuses.

Susan Gillman, Jim Chalfant, Mary Gauvain said...

Part 2
Our post did not address the apparently widespread hostility to public employees or public spending, but that hostility obviously extends beyond UC and beyond California. Both Anonymouse and Gerry seem to prefer that we solve that problem, and we wish we could. Rather, our focus remains on talking about the effects of cuts---as Chris and others did before us. If we can develop a transparent, defensible measure of our costs, and an understandable framework for how state funds are allocated, we can then make a stronger case for public funding. It is essential that, at the same time, we become more vocal about the effects of cuts.

We agree that no one is arguing in favor of lower quality, but there are, nonetheless, many proposals out there to accommodate the budget cuts that do harm quality. It is the faculty who perceive the effects of cuts and compromises already made, and who can speak most persuasively to the effects of the cuts. We need to continue to monitor these effects, and, when possible, mitigate them in the classroom. For example, it is short-sighted to reduce UC’s dependence on lecturers, especially in the short run; we think Senate faculty should support better working conditions for lecturers, and should recognize that preserving their role is part of a short-term accommodation to budget cuts that minimizes the effect on students. Hiring more lecturers does not bring more Senate faculty, but it should help time-to-degree by preserving course offerings, and help mitigate unsustainable increases in class sizes.

We think that the recent budget cuts have defined a level below which UC cannot go. It would be a mistake for anyone to think that UC is indifferent about the source of its funding; there are many adverse consequences from a high fee, high aid model, including a strong incentive to complete degrees as rapidly as possible. That doesn’t occur without a loss in their quality. We also favor reshaping our message to the public to address the harm inflicted by both budget cuts and tuition increases. We don’t want to talk about efficiency, we don’t want to talk about private fundraising, and we don’t want to talk about administrators’ salaries. We want to put the focus on what matters most: finding a framework for funding each campus at a level that preserves UC’s excellence, and using it to demonstrate our true funding needs to the state. The "cost" of undergraduate education across the system differs from affordability for individual families. Historic inequities in total tuition dollars that flow to the campuses have been redressed by Funding Streams; the next, and most urgent, phase of Rebenching will complete the reform of the budget by reviewing and recalibrating the model for allocating state funds. In our view these actions go hand in hand with efforts to sustain the quality of the University of California as a whole, and to advocate for the importance of doing so. What happens in discussions this coming year in the form of Rebenching will be at the heart of this process.

Bronwen Rowlands said...

To Susan, Jim and Mary:

What perks have you been promised to perform as dancing mouthpieces of the UCOP Dog & Pony Show?

Dance harder; try not to use words like "throughput" when you're talking about human beings.

TB said...

To Bronwen Rowlands:

Try keeping argumenta ad hominem out of this blog, particularly if you think that the goal of this blog is to achieve some sort of mutual understanding rather then simply vent our personal frustrations.
I have no doubt that a carefully thought through opinion expressed by Susan, Jim and Mary is their own honest opinion. It may have also been influenced by other faculty members they talk to in their capacity as Senate leaders. The fact that the faculty concerns are not always aligned with those of the staff and students is hardly surprising. Certainly, we (the faculty) are not free of ulterior motives. Are you? Are the students and their families?
No need to personally attack the other side just because you perceive them as better off.
How about any constructive opinions?

cloudminder said...

Part 1 of 2
was just gonna say that it looks like the earlier comments that were removed included an important section about "we don't want to talk about administrator's salaries, we don't want to talk about x, or y, or z etc."

--and there also was a section that referenced the world wide attack on the middle class public worker and how the three faculty members could not really solve that issue, beyond their control to address it-some sort of patronizing sentence like that-

was gonna say that those were pretty important sections to remove - but that it's your (Chris', Michael's et al) blog, do what you want- but those comments were important to understanding their thinking, decision making process and how the three authors come to rank their priorities, sphere of control.

but now (esp. in light of Brownwen's comment) -- would just like to further add that there is always a portion of faculty that shoots itself in the foot over and over when it writes stuff like that and then starts musing about all the ways they can "reshape their message to the public"

who do they think they are going to advocate to?
who do they think comprise "the public" ?
who do they think "the parents", "the students" are?

it makes this sentence "It is the faculty who perceive the effects of cuts and compromises already made, and who can speak most persuasively to the effects of the cuts." hard to believe/tolerate...and - as alum- it simply isn't our experience. sometimes staff, GSI, GSR fellow students understood better than faculty the administrative failures- and other problems- that were impediments to our learning and used their skills in persuasion -or their own story of their own 'work around'- to fix some of the problems. and, yes,sometimes faculty stepped in, but it was rare...

cloudminder said...

part 2 0f 2

Perhaps we need to cut to the heart of the matter, go for something more visceral. Some of the faculty are quite angry about the public salary database-- but they all search it to see how their colleagues are paid- and that tool allows many to see some of the cronyism at work. It cuts right to the heart of the matter. The cronyism and all the other ills present. The impact on tuition also obvious. When you want to advocate, stay in that space.

we think it goes w/out saying, we all agree: We need the best faculty compensated fairly, we need controls to curb corruption, waste, fraud, abuse that IS present. We need staff and low wage workers to be treated fairly and we need the tools to fight against exploitation of graduate students and post docs when we see it happening.

We have only just begun to work on these issues. if you look at some recent legislation that was just passed it is evident-- we have gone for years with allowing UC "constitutional autonomy" to rule all questions and not fully realized the negative consequences for how that was playing out. (Talking about legislation on finally giving state protections to UC whistle blowers, tranparency on auxiliaries, and now campus pay raises during cuts.) The public read the headlines- and understand them. If you only want to talk about x and not y and not z-- you will be talking/ advocating to a very, very small audience- and that audience will be looking at you sideways, b/c they read the headlines, too- but perhaps your advocacy is only geared to turn on an elite vote among the public and in the CA legislature. good luck with that...

(why not just say "we want to focus on" , rather than "we don't want to talk about..."?
We completely understand if you don't want to take up the interests of these other stakeholders/constituency groups, we don't agree with everything they say either, nor they us etc - but why do you have to poke them in the eye as you advocate for whatever it is you advocate for (state bench marks on UC funding etc)?

and, yes, we know a great many other faculty members "get it"...)

also the talk about wanting to hire more lecturers but not discuss the growth of online left us wondering - you do understand that those trajectories merge in the likely plans of the admin? are you going to address it? some say the model is USC's...

Michael Meranze said...


If you follow the comments below you will see that they were re-posted. I had removed them because there was a technical glitch and they had not appeared in proper order. If in the re-posting something was changed it was because the authors were trying to be as precise about their points in a way that they thought was best given the space. No one is suppressing anything here.

cloudminder said...

yep, saw that they were re-posted. didn't think that anything was being suppressed - thought they were removed because the multiple posting was confusing (which it was) - but wanted to make sure certain key phrases were not missed. precisely b/c i knew that the wording in those earlier comments would push buttons and that that should be explained-- so that folks would perhaps understand the catalyst/origin. it's cool. enjoy the weekend!

Anonymouse said...

You say "Both Anonymouse and Gerry seem to prefer that we solve that problem [widespread hostility to public employees or public spending], and we wish we could."

I won't speak for Gerry (though I'm sure he'd agree), but I'm under no delusion that all we need to do is mount a simple public appeal and large sums of state money will start flowing into UC's coffers. My views on the political problems facing the UC and the state are pretty sanguine. At the same time, though, I don't think my job as a UC faculty member should require me to carry water for the high-level apparatchiks who've maneuvered us, at least partially, into this situation in the first place. We know we can't *stop* the momentum and trajectory this fiasco is taking, but we can at least provide *friction* to slow it down or nudge its course.

You also say "It is the faculty who perceive the effects of cuts and compromises already made, and who can speak most persuasively to the effects of the cuts."

Sure we feel the effects. But we're obviously not the only ones. In fact, I'd disagree that we can speak most persuasively on the topic. For that I'd probably turn to the unfortunately large number of my students who were forced to leave school a couple of years ago to start saving for higher tuition rates, only to find their original goals pushed more and more out of reach because of perpetual tuition increases. Or maybe I'd ask some staff members -- no, not the ones who lost their jobs, but the ones who are still around doing the work of two or three people, without any increase in pay.

I think my main problem with these statements is their tone deafness. To me the idea that affordability and access can somehow be extracted from quality is patently absurd and should not be taken seriously. But worse, the idea that quality is somehow a concern that impacts faculty uniquely undermines the very project we all seem to want -- finding a solution that improves the university as a whole, which last time I checked involves more than Senate faculty.

It's frustrating because when I read the original statement and the subsequent response, I can sense that we're all pretty much on the same side here. But there's so much acceptance of the administration's obfuscatory rhetoric that it's hard to be sure. I don't know where everyone else is, but personally, when it comes to what's coming out of Oakland, I'm still at step 1, where I was in 2009: if it smells fishy, it's probably a fish, not a "deeper reality" dressed up in a fish costume.

Gerry Barnett said...

The increased tuition/fees don't contribute to the direct budgets of extramural research (sponsors pay for that). And the tuition is not going to instruction (there is less instructional support) or department staff (there are layoffs). So where is the new money going? What was the state actually funding (despite the rhetoric)?

The money is going to administrators and non-instructional programs, to low priority items, as far as public *education* is concerned. When the State pulls funds, administrators cut instruction first instead of their own salaries, positions, programs. It is easy to smell the skunk.

State powers have decided that instruction and research can be done to good effect without so much administrative finery. It is up to administrators, then, to figure out that the State budget cuts are directed at *them,* not at faculty, dept staff, or students.

The CA legislature is prohibited in dabbling in UC budget. It allocates funds (or doesn't) but does not tell UC where to apply those funds. It is up to UC to report to the legislature (and the public) where it spends. It clearly *cannot* and *will not* do this. It is entirely UC's doings to cut lecturers or departmental staff, and not to cut senior administrators' salaries.

Why is it so difficult to see? The public outrage (if it can be called that) is because most anyone can see that UC administrators have chosen repeatedly to hurt core programs rather than to sacrifice something of their own status, pay, and positions. They have failed--miserably--a public moral test.

The talk is about how the cuts *UC has chosen to make* hurt "quality." UC has chosen to hurt its own "quality", not the State: "We have pushed out defenseless dept staff, have hammered students with fewer courses, instructors, counselors, have sharply raised tuition--now that we have shown how misplaced our values are, and what damage we are capable of, RESTORE OUR FUNDING!"

It is no loss of quality or excellence or reputation to roll back the salaries and programs at senior administration. It may be that UC is now "too big to succeed".

We see not only a compromised and failing administrative strategy, but it is an ugly, deformed, grasping strategy. It is, for all practical purposes, immoral, in the sense of Joan Didion's On Morality morality.

Unknown said...

Did you all know that UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau displaces qualified for public university education californians with $50,000foreign students.
Is this Cal Chancellor Birgeneau's solution to excellence?
As the Japanese demonstrated to us in the auto industry spending more $ (higher salaries for workers) does not result in increases in quality.
Cuts in bloat at Cal serve Californians

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