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Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012
2012 was like all years full of heroic efforts and thoughtless abetting of great evil.  In American higher education, it was the year in which the worst didn't happen.

Here are my candidates for this year's major trends. My New Year's Resolution is not to let my higher ed thinking be shaped by major trends. Resolution 2 is to map a comprehensive alternative funding structure and agenda. But that's for 2013.  Here's 2012.

1.Mitt Romney defeated.  Higher education won't have to face the ice-age austerity that Romney-Ryan would have imposed on higher ed along with the rest of the public sector, or his plan to reprivatize student loans among other things.

2. Austerity from Obama.  Now that he has been liberated from the need to win elections, Obama is doing exactly what he did before this liberation, which is negotiating in back rooms over how few resources to restore to the middle classes and public agencies.  Although various public university officials have called for new federal support for public universities, there was no sign of any interest in politics in additional support for public universities.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012
As Scrooge leaves his counting-house on Christmas Eve, he encounters his cheerful nephew, who tells his Uncle Scrooge that Christmas is one of those "many things from which I might have derived good, [but] by which I have not profited, I dare say."   The good, the nephew continues, is to have the one moment in the year in which "men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

Scrooge dismisses this feeling and, with a final dig at his long-suffering clerk, leaves his office, only to be confronted by two amiable gentlemen who are soliciting "some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time."

Scrooge asks them, "are there no prisons?"  "Plenty of prisons" one replies.  "And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operaton"? Yes, he hears.  "The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour then? said Scrooge." Yes.  Well that is enough then, Scrooge replies.  "I help to support the establishments I have mentioned--they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."  The gentleman responds, "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."  "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012
For some time now, the humanities and the interpretive social sciences have been the canaries in the mineshaft of higher education.   Language departments have been eliminated or consolidated, plans put in place to charge students higher tuition for taking the time to study the humanities, a general mantra of the irrelevance of humanistic knowledge for the job market has descended upon our heads from politicians, and administrators continue to insist that the humanities are a drain upon university budgets.  Apparently the fact that you can make more money as a doctor than as a translator is a sudden and blinding insight that demands a fundamental rethinking of the value of knowledge.  The humanities now are supposed to return to being an ornament for the rich.

At the heart of the attack on the humanities is the assumption that the new global economy and the rise of the digital makes what we do indulgent and unproductive.  From this perspective, the support of the humanities and the social sciences was an effect of the modernist welfare state that followed the New Deal.  In that world of publicly endowed solidarity and expert knowledge, the humanities and social sciences flourished because they were signs of the shared possibility of social life and crucial aspects of society's steering mechanisms.  But that world, so we are told, is now gone forever: the state may exist as a military and political entity but it cannot control its economy and the global economy's destruction of all that seemed solid condemns everyone to an existence bound at most by family.  In this world view, the humanities are at best a distraction and at worst a block to the development of economy and technology.  The triumph of short-term finance over long-term management has succeeded where the culture war failed: with the delegitimation of the knowledge produced in the humanities.

But none of the attacks on the humanities, from their alleged irrelevance, to their elite qualities, on to their drain on university finances are true (well it is true that doctors make more money than translators but aside from that..).  Chris has just commented on some of the infrastructural problems with countering these false images in the world at large.  But I want to approach the problem from another direction:  suggesting that those of us working in the humanities and social sciences have simply been too defensive about the concrete social utility of what we do.  And that we need to stop being defensive if we are going to change the arguments and debates over the humanities and humanities funding.   Humanities scholars need to name their knowledge as such and to insist on its deeply productive role in the contemporary world.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012
I agree with Mark Yudof: one of many reasons never to leave Austin Texas is the "easy access to breakfast tacos."  

After an excessive helping of these, and before my anti-devolution lecture on fixing public universities, I spent an hour drinking coffee with some UT Austin grad students, along with several faculty and an undergrad who could have been getting his PhD for all I could tell.  Inevitably we got into the status of the humanities, since grads are the first to feel the effects of funding cuts and have been doused with the general backwash of disrespect for their forms of knowledge and practice.  As one put it, "I'm already doing way too much to acquire the difficult specialized skills that nobody wants."

My response was that they don't know that they do want them because they don't know what those skills are.  They don't know the knowledge that these skills produce. They don't know this because we don't do a good enough job of telling them.  (They also often don't want to know, since humanities findings challenge so many orthodoxies, but we didn't go down that road.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012
As part of the continuing effort to remake UC in the vision of modern advertising and finance where the only important activity is the constant exchange of meaningless images, UCOP has decided to remove the old seal of the University and replace it with a brand new pointless logo.  Welcome to the 21st Century University I guess:

Let's see: on the left there is a book, a name, a tradition, and a commitment to increasing knowledge and to disseminating knowledge.  On the right there is.....

Maybe this is what Peter Taylor means when he talks about transparency and innovation at the University

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012
By Toby Higbie, Department of History, UCLA

Mulling over Jerry Brown’s recent comments on the disruptive impact of digital technology on education, I’m reminded of the lead character in the Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski. Another spokesman for the California Dream, The Dude lumbers through a mystifying course of events that seem to be related, but are not. At one point he thinks he’s figured it all out and quips, “My thinking had become very uptight.”

Yes, Governor Brown’s thinking has become very uptight, myopic, and apparently funneled through the tiny screen of his iPhone. When he thinks about the digital revolution in education, he sees only online courses. When he reads an old out of print book on his iPhone, he sees Only Google Books and not the library that contributed the book. When he Googles “university education online” he just reads the hits, and doesn’t see the educational infrastructure that trained the computer scientists who wrote algorithms and designed his iPhone.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

by Toby Higbie, Prof. of History, UCLA

At the last Regents meeting, Governor Brown mounted the digital barricades and sent a shot across the bow of every University of California professor and administrator.  Tossing a mixed green salad of metaphors about technology, education, capitalism, and revolution, he warned us to embrace online education or go the way of the Post Office and the daily newspaper.  Fossilized. Downsized. Out of business.  Also, we need to "fix this" in the next two years, and don't expect any money from Prop. 30.  

Helpfully, he's planning to recruit business and technology advocates of online education to make an hour-long presentation to the next Regents meeting (and maybe faculty will be able to reply).  Thanks Governor!

Listening to this eight-minute clip from the Regents meeting, I was struck by the reality that UC faculty should not count on our administrators to defend our interests, or those of students.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012
I understand why Gov. Jerry Brown went to the University of California and California State University board meetings this week. He wants to protect the political meaning of his Proposition 30 victory, which is that state funds will not be cut, so student tuition should not go up.  He knows that in the death grip binding higher ed officials to state politicians, fee increases are annual and automatic. Naturally, the UC Regents and the CSU Trustees were slated to celebrate the Prop 30 victory with some variable tuition increases for professional degrees.  Gov. Brown headed these off by saying they need more study.  Hence Nanette Asimov's headline writer at the San Francisco Chronicle entitled her coverage, "Brown Makes Sure Regents on the Right Path." Gov. Brown was cast in the role of the Regents' AA sponsor keeping them away from the fee-hike vino.

But they were also supposed to stay away from the state-funding mineral water as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Florida Governor Rick Scott's "Blue Ribbon Task Force on Higher Education Reform" has finally issued its final report.  Designed "to advance the State University System's Constitutional charge to operate, regulate, and control, and be fully responsible for the management of the whole university system" the report has already generated considerable controversy.  And well it should, because the Report proposes two fundamental changes in the relationship of higher education and society each of which are ideologically driven with little, if any, evidence to suggest that they make sense.

About 10 minutes ago, I dropped into the Finance Committee discussion (streaming here), to hear either Peter Taylor or Nathan Bostrom, UCOP's finance chiefs, talking about savings to campuses from e-purchasing and strategic sourcing in the hundred of millions of dollars.  The published figure is $20 million. A comment from President Yudof clarified that the $300 million or  so expected savings this year is on the $23 billion total budget and mostly concerns medical centers and other non-campus operations.  So Finance is being taken up with the same exact discussion the Regents have every two months about administrative savings, which in fact have very little to do with UC's actual campuses.

Back to my real job.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012
Since the passage of Proposition 30 prevented another 10% cut to state funding for the University of California, blocked similar cuts to CSU, and blocked still larger ones to the community colleges, the higher leadership guidance has been "curb your enthusiasm." 

The new head of the California Community College system, Brice Davis, said, "We are guardedly optimistic that we're beginning to find a bottom here in California." UC president Mark Yudof stated that the vote "put public higher education back on a pathway toward fiscal stability."  These are obviously not battle cries but expressions of relieved exhaustion.  What does that look like, for UC?

Here's a simplified version of our traditional chart, since you love to see it as much as I love to update it:

As we know, investment in UC has long been falling behind growth in state per capita income.  This is not a response to downturns but is an erratic yet secular trend of disinvestment.  After years of turmoil, UC is slated to wind up next year exactly where it would have been had the state capped its share at 2005-06 and never increased this sum for enrollment growth or inflation.  What we have had for years, and what we will continue to have with the Prop 30 track, is de facto privatization.   It is privatization American style, will a hefty dose of public subsidy, but however much we don't like to say it, that is what it is.

This won't work, it sticks us with a new normal of assured mediocrity, its coping mechanisms will suppress new state investment, and it guarantees that students and faculty will gradually seek and find better venues than UC for that unique prerequisite to a non-plutocratic society that we call public higher ed.  We now need to fight the Prop 30 norm as hard as we worked to install it.  

 First, in this post, let's look at where the UCOP budget proposal puts us.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012
The Regents are meeting this week.  Among the central issues they will discuss are the short- and long-range budgetary situation of the University of California.  We will have more extensive discussion over the coming week but I wanted to provide you with links so that you could start reading for yourselves.  The bottom line: UCOP continues to be more forthright about the damage that defunding has done to the University although they refuse to take full stock of the damage done to access and affordability.  But despite their insistence that the University needs to improve its undergraduate education, their actual budget proposals will do little more than maintain the University in its present diminished state.  And that is true only if the State provides the funding that the University is hoping for.

The Executive Summary of the Current Operations and Capital Budget Proposal for 2013-14 can be found here.

The full Current Operations Budget Proposal can be found here.

The Capital Financial Plan can be found here.

The full Potpourri of Regents' discussions can be found here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012
"University of California President Mark G. Yudof announced today (Nov. 8) that he has selected Nicholas B. Dirks, Columbia University’s executive vice president and dean of the faculty of  Arts and Sciences, as UC Berkeley’s 10th chancellor." The rest of the official statement is here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
With close to 99% of precincts reporting, Proposition 30 has won with 53.9% of the vote, or nearly a 7 point spread.  KCET's map is at left, with green indicating a majority of Prop 30 yes votes. It trained by over four points at the start of the night.  For everyone wanting to avoid another 10% cut to UC's general fund, and similar cuts to CSU and the rest of California's already lagging education sector, this is an obvious relief.  Many thanks to all of the people who were part of the ground game that got this fairly solid result. Molly Munger's Prop 38 lost by a surprisingly large margin of nearly 3:1.

Kevin Kiley's coverage at Inside Higher Ed gets the right tone:
After four consecutive years of appropriations cuts, tuition increases, constricted enrollment, and concern that one of the best systems of higher education was suffering a death by a million cuts, higher education leaders in California got a bit of good news Tuesday night when state voters passed a tax hike that averts what many called potentially disastrous cuts. . . .
The measure's passage is not a panacea for the problems California higher education faces. Because the measure was designed to address previous cuts, and because the state is still struggling with multiple fiscal challenges, including entitlement and public safety costs, there is a a chance that the state's colleges and universities could see further cuts in coming years.
Quite true. There were some positive statewide shifts for education, including a possible Democratic supermajority in both houses of the legislature. But have a huge amount of work to do.

I'm speaking about next steps at a UCLA FA panel today, and we'll be back with more analysis when we've had a chance to go through the data. I'll enjoy the results at least for today.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Both of the education propositions on the California ballot may lose today.  The higher ed communities have focused on Gov Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, whose passage will avoid "trigger cuts" that will reduce Cal State and UC state funds by another $250 million beyond the cuts that Gov. Brown has already delivered to them. (Failure for Prop 30 will also mean another $338 million cut to the community college system.)  Prop 30 "buys out" any tuition increase this year for UC students. Prop 30's failure will result in a mid-year tuition increase for UC students: the number I keep hearing is a tuition increase of 20%. Given UC's ongoing structural deficit, this would put in-state tuition on track to rise to $20,000 by around 2015-2016, if not sooner

If Molly Munger's competition Prop 38 gets more votes than Prop 30, it nullifies Prop 30 even if Prop 30 has majority support.  Both propositions have quite a bit of money for K-12 but Prop 38 has more.  Prop 30 mixes seven years of income tax increases for the top brackets (starting at $500,000 for joint filers) with four years of a quarter-percent increase in the sales tax.  Prop 30 is also linked to the state budget, and is to provide $6 billion to balance the budget we are already in.  Hence its failure would require cutting $6 billion mid-year, and 98% of the cuts will come out of all levels of education.

Prop 38 offers more thoughtful support for schools, and funds quite a bit of early education (see the LAO analysis). There are also requirements that local school boards consult with their community over budgetary decisions and that they put their budgets on line, presumably so that parents can monitor the share of school funds that goes to instruction and related programs as opposed to administration and so on.  The duration of the income tax supplement is nearly twice as long, and it is a general tax on the population.  I find that politically and philosophically preferably to soaking the rich (all should pay for all). I would prefer a much more progressive income tax structure than California has, but this is beyond Prop 38's control.

I have disliked Prop 38 partly because it does nothing directly for higher education--which the Schwarenegger-Brown Axis of Mediocrity has been slowly strangling--and also because I am revolted by the plutocracy politics that has enabled two children of Warren Buffet's business partner Charlie Munger to saddle us with two propositions (Prop 32 and Prop 38) that they can fund with tens of millions of their personal dollars, and in general manipulate the political process as though they were landed aristocrats of ancient times.  I was also worried that Prop 38 would beat Prop 30 and cancel it.

I've changed my mind.  Prop 38 addresses a range of real problems with primary, secondary, and preschool education--now funded 47th out of the 50 states-- and does so relatively well.  It's polling well behind Prop 30, so I am less worried that it will trigger the shotgun that Jerry Brown has kindly trained at higher ed's head. On Warren Olney's show that covered the two propostions, Munger noted that Prop 38 sets aside around $3 billion for contributions to the state General Fund, which the legislature could freely use to reverse cuts to the three higher education systems it has been gouging for years.   There is of course no guarantee.  So I'm swallowing my irritation will both of these propositions and with the asinine education politics that has completely destroyed California's educational advantage and am voting yes on both.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Two recent polls, one by the Public Policy Institute of California and one by LAT/USC offer dispiriting news about the prospects for Proposition 30.  The PPIC poll still shows more support than opposition for Prop 30 but its support has fallen below 50% (48% in favor, 44% opposed, 8% undecided). (9)  According to the USC/LAT poll the numbers are similar (46% in favor, 42% opposed)  (4-5)  For a proposition to be trailing a week from an election bodes very, very badly for its passage.  Unless there is some turnaround or a more significant effort to get supporters to the polls, both K-12 and Higher Ed will be facing devastating cuts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

As with the Presidential contest, the California elections offer the choice between continuing the dispiriting new normal and an accelerated descent into a new Gilded Age of publicly supported private inequality.  But, in California, the significant action is in the propositions: specifically Propositions 30 and 32.  

Proposition 30--the compromise between Governor Brown, students, and unions--raises money for education.  It increases the marginal rate on income over $250,000 (for a single filer) for 7 years: in other words, rates on all income below $250,000 will remain at the present rate, on the $50,000 between $250,000 to $300,000 will rise 1%, on the $200,000 between 300,000 and $500,000 will go up an additional 1%, and the income over $500,000 will go up another 1%. (2)   It also raises the sales and use tax by 1/4 cent for 4 years. (1) The expectation is that Proposition 30 will generate on average an additional 6 Billion dollars of additional annual revenue, 89% of which would go to K-12 and 11% to the Community Colleges. (3-4)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012
1970s California was no utopia, but I do get whiplash going from giving a UC budget talk yesterday at a UCSB Faculty Association forum to preparing for my senior seminar at noon by re-reading the Issacson biography of Steve Jobs. Jobs famously stood for the fusion of art and technology, not today's desperate and sterile fixation on building STEM with no regard for its interconnections with the arts and humanities.  Jobs was also famously obsessed with making things truly great.
Atkinson taught his team to put Jobs's words through a translator.  "We learned to interpret 'This is shit' to actually be a question that means, 'Tell me why this is the best way to do it.'"
Another example:
"If someone didn't care to make their product perfect, they were a bozo."  At the West Coast Computer Faire in April 1981, for example, Adam Osborne released the first truly portable personal computer. . . it worked well enough.  As Osborne famously declared, "Adequacy is sufficient. All else is superfluous." Jobs found that approach to be morally appalling, and he spent days making fun of Osborne.  "This guy just doesn't get it," Jobs repeatedly railed as he wandered the Apple corridors.  "He's not making art, he's making shit."
Fast forward thirty-one years to yet another UC budget crisis forum, where the academic equivalent of making true art was as plausible as proposing that UC launch its own mission to Mars.  I showed slides of how far we have sunk: since the MacIntosh was released, the states have cut their real-dollar investment in public higher ed by about 25% (SHEEO Figure 3), and in California it's quite a bit worse.  Proposition 30 is a meager stopgap, but it is essential in order to prevent yet another cut to UC's and CSU's state funding--the "trigger cut" would be another 10% or so for UC. 

The overall panel discussion centered on engagement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Please come to the Arbor at noon Tuesday to support UC-AFT's UC Day of Action for Prop 30 and Against Prop 32.  UC-AFT President, Bob Samuels, will be speaking along with Nelson Lichtenstein, Das Williams, Hannah-Beth Jackson, A.S. President Sophia Armen, and Juan Donato.

Passage of Prop 30 is critical to education funding at all levels in California. UC faces a guaranteed $250 million cut this year if it fails to pass.  The UC Regents have already discussed a 20% fee increase for UC students if Prop 30 fails.  

Prop 32 would completely ban union political contributions, while leaving most corporations free to spend on politics. 

If you teach in the morning tomorrow, please let your students know that passage of Prop 30 could save them about $2400 in tuition increases this year, and encourage them to attend the rally tomorrow at noon at the Arbor to learn more.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012
By Pat Morton, UC Riverside

Timothy White, Chancellor of UC Riverside, announced yesterday that he will become Chancellor of the California State University system at the end of this year.  The surprise announcement was greeted with unalloyed delight by activists on campus.  This response might seem strange to those who know little about Tim White, whose public persona is relatively untarnished by scandal or controversy.  He has never been publicly vilified like UCD’s Chancellor Katehi, nor has he ever faced calls for his resignation or a vote of no confidence from the Academic Senate. In fact, White’s positive public image is probably one of the chief reasons he was chosen by CSU.  By carefully managing this image as an affable, nice guy despite presiding over a period of budget cuts, student protests and declining educational quality at UCR, Tim White has been able to keep his real agenda undercover.

In spring 2011, Tim White disguised himself as “Pete” and posed as an assistant chemistry professor, a track coach, a library worker and a campus tour guide for the reality TV show “Undercover Boss.”  The stunt attracted enormous press attention for White and UCR, and prompted an outpouring of uncritical affection for this Chancellor who proved he was capable of being just like us.  To see the episode in this light, however, you had to ignore the condescension that permeated his interactions with staff and students, and the fundamentally corrupt premise of the show, which allowed White to dole out money and special favors to his unsuspecting interlocutors.  Leaving aside the propriety of a Chancellor appearing on a reality show in the first place, the display of his selective largesse was particularly distasteful at a moment when UCR faced a $50 million budget gap resulting in staff layoffs, work time reductions, huge class size increases, decreases in student and academic support, reductions in faculty by attrition, mergers of academic units, and other draconian measures that eroded educational quality.  

The bread-and-circuses approach worked to distract attention from White’s policy decisions, such as the pursuit of a new Medical School that has taken millions of dollars and more than a dozen FTE out of the campus budget.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Cross posted from the Huffington Post

Mitt Romney had two simple jobs in the first presidential debate. First, he had to be the defender and not the privatizer of Social Security and Medicare. Second, he had to be the candidate of the middle class rather than of the rich.  He'd dug himself a big hole with the kind of statements that appeared in the leaked video that had him claiming that 47% of Americans are dependent on government, and with running-mate Paul Ryan's obsessive variations on his theme of how America's makers are burdened by its takers.  Romney also had to be for things that women voters favor, like public education, although, as I pointed out in the Chronicle of Higher Education, his world doesn't need it.

On the other side, Barack Obama had to cement his small lead as the sane, moderate candidate whose genuine great strength is that he doesn't have contempt for most Americans, especially those whose everyday life is a constant struggle.  He had to show Gov. Romney to be an extremist who will cut taxes for the rich and make the declining middle class pay for them with the mortgage check they would have given to the bank if the bank hadn't taken away their house, and then cut Medicare and give that to the wealthy too. He had to challenge Romney's credentials as a pragmatist businessman who was simply going to do what works.

Gov. Romney couldn't have counted on what happened October 3rd, which was President Obama freezing and folding, allowing Romney to pose endlessly as the friend of retiree and worker alike.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
As Chris pointed out, there was a striking gap at last week's Regents' retreat.  On the one hand, there was a new discourse of educational decline--but it remained strikingly vague.  On the other hand, there were a precise set of financial proposals--but they were neither new nor up to the challenge.  As is so often the case with the Regents, their distance from the actual functioning of the University (especially as it takes place on the campuses) became clear.  But we would be hard pressed to think that the business officers were any better.

Appropriately, much of the discussion focused on the cuts in state funding and their effects.  It appears, that Oakland is finally recognizing that they can no longer issues warnings about the potential damage of future cuts but must instead begin to demonstrate the already existing damage resulting from prior cuts.  That recognition is welcome.  But if it is to lead to something new it must be accompanied by a second recognition:  that it is unclear that UCOP is prepared to act effectively on that realization.  There are what one might call an external and an internal dimension to this problem.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
The most important statement of the morning session of the UC Regents’ retreat came from President Mark Yudof, who for the first time that I have heard put the decline of UC academic quality at the top of the Regents' agenda.   He kicked things off (around 0:24 on the UC FA Blog's recording; Yudof Facebook version) by saying that the University of California is experiencing a “quiet but steady erosion of our academic quality at almost every level.”  He noted that people often express outrage at rising tuition, pension cuts, and various other UC policies. But where, he asked, is the outrage at the erosion of academic quality? He said that the board, in trying to cope with funding problems, had taken a series of passive decisions that damaged quality.
There were no board votes approving faculty salaries that are not competitive with peer institutions, . . .yet we are 10-20% behind in faculty compensation. There were no board votes approving a freeze on faculty hiring, but effectively that is what we’ve had over the last few years. There were no board votes approving a steady rise in our student-faculty ratio over the last decade, but in fact our numbers show a decline over the decade of 50% -- that is, we have 50% more students per faculty member than we did in previous decades. And in the past six years we have 30,000 more students without adding any new faculty at all, other than replacing existing faculty. You didn’t vote on any of that, but that is the consequence of the situation in which we find ourselves.   
The University of California with its legacy of trailblazing academic quality deserves better.  It is up to those of us at this table to reaffirm an active, immutable commitment to academic quality at UC, starting now.

This was music to my ears. The idea of fighting educational decline is not new, of course—the faculty senate committee for planning and budget (UCPB) started arguing in 2002 that threats to quality quality was the key argument against budget cuts, stated this directly to the Regents in 2007, and then the press began to cover quality problems during the fiscal crisis in 2009. What is new is the statement that declining academic quality is the university’s number one problem, or the declaration of a kind of educational quality emergency.  There is hope that rebuilding quality will finally get our undivided attention.

The retreat then turned immediately to balance-sheet and business strategies, led by Nathan Bostrom and Peter Taylor, at the head of business and finance respectively.

The Regents love these guys, and they are indeed both very articulate and also good at encasing budget strategies in a language of educational goals.  But the morning passed in a parade of previously rehearsed small-time revenue measures.  The second piece of good news was that the Regents seem finally to be tiring of the mismatch between the revenue problems and these business-process solutions.

The scheme that brought out some frustration was “parking securitization.”  The actual ownership structure remains undecided and unclear, but the basic idea is to bundle most of the parking spaces at all the campuses and transfer the concession, valued at maybe $1 billion, to the UC Retirement Program, which would then feed UC systemwide parking revenues into the pension fund.  The relevant slide (10) suggests selling bundled systemwide parking to a 3rd party, which made many people immediately think of the disastrous sale of Chicago’s parking meters to a company that has screwed everything up.  Mr. Taylor insisted no 3rd party would be involved, but this did not quell the uprising.

For example, Regent Schilling commented, “I assume the campuses rely on this revenue?” Mr. Taylor said well yes, but the revenues they rely on for maintenance and operations would stay on the campuses and another portion would go to UCRP – you “can slice and dice this any number of ways.”  Regent Schilling said that she'd asked because, “I just want to be careful that we don’t screw the campuses.” Not screwing the campuses quickly made the plan more confusing and also chopped away a any likely returns.

Raising another core issue, another regent said it’s strange that this is the exact opposite of the Luskin hotel and conference center we just voted at UCLA.  There, he noted, we are trying to build new assets for the future when we could get the same thing—hotel rooms—for a lot cheaper right now by going down the road.  With parking, you’re proposing that we get rid of assets we already have. How do these opposite strategies fit together?  Regent Blum chimed in by saying that as much as he admires UCOP's creative financial team,  parking securitization is a very bad idea.  The real problem, he said, is we haven’t paid into the pension fund for twenty years, but that doesn’t mean we should transfer assets.  Overall, parking securitization went nowhere.  Since the campuses do indeed skim parking for all sorts of local operational needs, this scheme will encounter massive resistance and is very unlikely to happen.

Most of the other business ideas have been around for a while—a controversial kind of bond restructuring ($50 million in annual savings, slide 8); moving of short-term funds from lower- to higher-interest instruments ($30-$50 million, or $40 million on slide 9); the taking by UCOP of accumulated interest from thousands of campus “funds functioning as endowment” (FFE) (a one-time $20 million, slide 7); the use of standardized systemwide vendor contracts ($50 million annually at the medical centers, with another $50 million estimated for the campuses); and finally, cuts to unfunded state-mandated programs. About two hours for all revenue increases that don’t involve further cuts to faculty, students, and staff.

No one who spoke in the meeting  believed that you can add up these savings and get something like $200 million in new money that could be put into instruction and research.  Regent Blum pointed out with some exasperation that the umbrella contracts were proposed by a previous consultant five years earlier, and that a now-retired UCOP official had worked full-time on savings that never materialized.   Say with great effort that $100 milion were saved. That would amount to about 5% of the cuts plus mandatory cost increases UC has suffered since 2008.

So following Mr. Yudof's great kick-off, the discussion got sidetracked from the issue of reversing educational decline by getting UC out of structural deficit mode and into a full budget.   The obvious first problem with these business strategies is that the scale is too small by an order of magnitude.  The second problem is that UCOP keeps circling like a moth to the flame around ideas that involve a reach-in on campus resources, in the campus's worse financial period since the Great Depression. Mr. Taylor joked several times that for what he is about to propose he will need to hire bodyguards.  So why keep making this kind of proposal?

This gets us to the third problem, which is a flawed managerial epistemology.  It says in effect that management expertise bring with it a higher-order wisdom that creates new value by overriding local practice.  UCOP's plans always link efficiency to centralization. In reality, centralization is as likely to cost money as it is to save it, since coordination requires time and more money while at the same time suppresing tacit knowledge, concrete relationships, accumulated know-how, on-site experience--the whole craft practice involved in particular administrative jobs in specific communities that address distinct needs.  The centralization override is not only painful and frustrating for the affected employees, but is destructive of the knowledge that resides in them.  CFO Peter Taylor is eloquent on the beauty of standardized contracts that leverage size and scope—I have never heard better speeches on the virtues of vendor consolidation. But finance people aren’t often great students of humanistic management theory, which does grasp both the ethics and the value-added of freeing up employees to structure their own work and make their own decisions in horizontal collaboration with each other. Under questioning, Mr Bostrom and Mr Taylor did concede that campuses and departments may sometimes be right to say that they know what they’re doing.  Once this truth is admitted, many of the expected financial savings disappear.

The fact is that educational quality comes from the campuses, will be fixed there, and will be fixed from the bottom-up.    Possible administrative savings of $100 million via better vendor contracts and interest rates should be seen as financial officers doing their jobs, not as pathbreaking reforms.  The latter will count only when the affect the quality of a UC education. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012
As you have probably seen (since it has been covered by the Financial Times, Business Week, the LA Times, Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other news outlets) the System-wide Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs suspended its review of the proposed transformation of the Anderson MBA from a state-supported program to a self-supported program.  Chris offered an analysis of the proposal's budgetary confusion back in June. CCGA offers a full menu of objections.

For those of you keeping score that means that both Senate Committees (UCLA's Graduate Council and CCGA) that had the time to do a thorough review of the proposal refused to approve it.  The Legislative Assembly at UCLA had supported it by a small majority in a June meeting.  But it should be noted that that meeting had a severely limited time for discussion, crucial financial details were only made available to the Assembly the day before the meeting, and the voting began before the discussion had actually finished (although the administration had been given its own time to speak).  Despite the seriousness with which the Legislative Assembly members approached their task, it is hard to see how they were provided with the opportunity for careful analysis that the Senate Committees had. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Just in time for the two major political parties to offer their different visions of austerity, the California Community College system released a report based on their survey of the effects of the budget cuts.  Not surprisingly, the cuts have dramatically reduced the ability of the Community College system to offer courses and opportunities for those seeking to enter higher education through the most affordable door.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012
Just in time for the fall rituals of orientation and enrollment, the Center for the Future of Higher Education in conjunction with the New Faculty Majority Foundation has issued a new report entitled "Who is Professor Staff, and How can this person teach so many classes?"  The report points again to the centrality of contingent labor for the present organization of higher education.  It details, in important ways, the impact of the present labor system not only on those who teach but on those who learn. The report is based on a survey of contingent faculty carried out by the Center.

As "Who is Professor Staff?" makes clear, the majority of teachers in higher education are not only contingent faculty but are part-time contingent faculty.  Moreover, a majority of those the Center surveyed taught at more than one college or university, some taught in several institutions.  This prevalence of part-time faculty is not simply an effect of the overwhelming predominance of two-year community colleges--over half of the respondents taught at a four-year institution (even if in addition to a two-year institution). (4)  Despite the common perception of higher education populated with tenured and tenure-track faculty it is the reality of contingent and part-time faculty that is the dominant fact in the labor system of higher education.  Reliance on contingent faculty is also the prime mechanism through which university and college managers have sought to cut instructional labor costs.  And, of course, this point does not even address the  importance of Graduate Student Instructors at the university level.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012
Bain passes judgement on UC. 

CA Democratic party formally opposes Prop 32--the measure designed to weaken unions.

Some reflections on "leaving academia."

Business officers wade into academic affairsHere is some of their reasoning.

Are professors really obsolete?

Harkin releases committee report on For-Profits.  If you are looking for summer reading here it is.  Another Congressional report notes that profits not learning drives the pay of For-Profit executives.

Coursera has a recruiting party.

Court rules Michigan State rule violates constitutional protections for free speech.  It tried to punish anyone who disrupted an employee at his or her work.

Bill Keller wants to protect the wealthy and the war machine, lower everyone else's living standards.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012
Is UC "starving the humanities"?

In another display of leadership, UC Berkeley scrambles aboard the MOOC bandwagon.  Bousquet offers thoughts on the MOOC model.

Irvine to start new School of Education.  (t/h Cloudminder)

Berkeley negotiates new Federal ICR rates.  I thought UCOP was supposed to do this sort of thing for all campuses?

Physical campuses remain essential.

Is UC Davis facing another scandal?

Memo to digital zealouts: it turns out that computers are NOT the best metaphor for the human brain.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
A recent Bain & Co report on higher ed, on sustainable funding, has irritated some people as much as their equally flawed analysis of admin costs at UC Berkeley irritated us. Most critics are responding not only to the report's claim that 1/3 of the country's colleges are financially unsustainable, but to the fact that this unsustainable group includes the richest universities on the planet, including Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.  This does suggest on its face that their methodology doesn't make sense.

Yet the report also makes true and important points which I'll get to below, before discussing how the corporate consulting community is likely to use their interactive websites and exploding hairpieces for educational evil and not for good.

What the authors do is look at two ratios of financial health and locate the 1700 universities they reviewed on a nine-cell matrix.  Each institution is rated by its increase in expenditures to revenues (the "expense ratio"), and its decrease in assets to liability (the "equity ratio"), both of which are bad.  Unfortunately, the data behind their equity ratio ends in 2010, before endowments (and later, real estate) had started to recover, making schools look poorer than they are.  As for expenses, the poorest UCs, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, are more "sustainable" than Harvard and Princeton because they have lower expense increases, which in public Us we call "budget cuts."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012
The latest on the Colorado movie theater assault.  The alleged shooter graduated from UC Riverside.

Campuses outline the effects of the funding cuts.   The Regents--with the exception of Russell Gould--vote to support Brown's tax initiative.  But they still raise professional school fees.

The Regents cave on UCLA hotel.  

UCLA Committee on Academic Freedom supports professor against allegations of political bias.

CSU Board approves pay increases for new campus Presidents.  But they are still considering raising tuition, reducing enrollments, and laying off people.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and DOE release report on private student loans.  It isn't a pretty picture.

The Recession is destroying Public Universities.

Oregon Bill proposes to give universities more autonomy but to limit annual tuition increases.

What online education can't do.  But its promoters do hope to make money.  Subsidized by others' labor of course.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Wendy Brown
Outgoing Co-Chair, Berkeley Faculty Association

On July 16th and 17th, The New York Times featured stories on the launching of Coursera, a blockbuster online higher education project emerging from a spectacularly successful Stanford experiment two years ago.

Still in the early stages of development but already reaching hundreds of thousands of learners, Coursera promises to disseminate academic knowledge for free to anyone with access to a computer. The courses are not offered for credit although certification of completion is available. This "impediment" (which reminds us that online learning is not a direct substitute for classroom learning) does not seem to be one. Millions around the world are registering for fall 2012 Coursera courses.

Many elite universities have signed on to Coursera, including Princeton, Stanford, Penn, Duke, Hopkins and a range of publics, among them Illinois, Michigan and Virginia. The University of California (with the exception of UCSF) is notably missing from the list of participating universities.

Where is UC? As you will recall, last year Berkeley Law School Dean Edley borrowed $7 million from UCOP to launch a UC for-profit online higher ed project, one that he promised would lead the way in the elite higher ed market, reap hundreds of millions of dollars for the university AND produce social justice as it extended a UC education to those who could not
afford to leave home.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012
The central facts about UC's budget for next year are first, that tuition will not go up, and second, that the state will provide no new operating funds after last year's 25% cut.

Both of these outcomes remain hog-tied to the passage of Gov Jerry Brown's tax initiative in November.  If it fails, UC will receive a "trigger cut" of another 10% of its remaining state funding (or $250 million), and students will see tuition go up, probably around 20%.

UC's status as a political football puts it in the company of the entire educational sector of California. The California Budget Project offers a graphic (above) showing that Jerry Brown's trigger cuts would fall on education in a proportion of 98.4 percent. 

Politicians continue to trumpet their commitment to an educated California workforce, since it is obviously stupid to produce an ever-less-qualified population in a global economy in which everyone else is elevating theirs.  But in practice, both parties have lumped all levels of education together with public health and welfare and downgraded their quality and scope year after year.  The reality of the New California is reversion to a (declining) American mean.

In the context of the state's well-known failure as a political entity, it's understandable that UC officials would want to decouple the University from the state. But this decoupling only further degrades UC's fiscal, educational, political and ethical position, and we have to say for the hundredth time that the Office of the President needs to resist the decoupling temptation.

This month's proof comes in the form of the lousy budget deal itself.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012
As those of you who read Jim Chalfant and Susan Gillman's recent post will remember, the systemwide task force on Rebenching recently completed their work.  Although UCOP has not made public the results of their deliberations (I will leave it to you to speculate on why not) the Senate has now posted the report at its website.   This report is a proposal that develops and specifies ideas broached in last summer's report from the "Implementation Task Force" on the rebenching process.

As Jim and Susan indicated, "rebenching" is one of two steps UCOP is taking to reorder the way that funds are distributed within the system.  The first step, the "funding streams initiative" was designed to enable individual campuses to retain more of the funds that they generated.  This second step of "rebenching" aims to overcome historically generated inequalities in the distribution of state funds in order to ensure that any given student is funded at the same rate as any other student within his/her category (so that all undergraduates, all professional school students, all graduate students, all health care students etc are funded at the same rate) no matter what campus they are attending.

This proposal on Rebenching has now been sent to all of the Campuses for discussion within their Senates this fall.  Its final form will affect faculty, staff, and students on all campuses.  So it is worthwhile to read it and to let your local senate and managerial leadership know what you think.  Please feel free to use the comments space here to open discussion or to raise questions.  Hopefully, people with information might be able to address questions. 

At the same time, though, we need to recognize, that "funding streams" and "rebenching" are really only two legs on what needs to be a three-legged stool.  If UC is to achieve the goals of these initiatives it must be able to convince the state to increase state funding.  If UCOP does not succeed in making its case to both the Governor and the Legislature and succeed in persuading the people of the state that it deserves that funding, these twin initiatives will not succeed in holding the system together and improving students' education.  The lack of additional funding will undermine the effort to increase resources to the underfunded campuses without causing the wealthier campuses to fracture the system further in search of increased revenues that they could keep under funding streams.

To make these initiatives work to strengthen the University, it is crucial that the university for the first time in memory begin to articulate a convincing case for the importance of a public research university to the state and to those who enroll at UC, and make that case in terms of the education that will be offered only with additional funding.  In the present economic situation this effort will not be easy of course.  But UC can only succeed if it actually tries.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012
Protesting the July Regents Meeting.

Some info on the California Ballot Propositions.

California cities slashing services, looking towards bankruptcy.

UC Berkeley settles law suit alleging anti-Semitic behavior.

Don't even know where to start about Penn State.

In 2010, small rise in the percentage of young people completing associate or bachelor degrees.

Higher Ed is good business.  And smart for society.

Is College Unaffordable? The Debate continues.

Is the decline of public education deliberate?

College attainment shifts to Asia.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Yudof to tell Regents:  If Tax hikes don't pass, tuition may go up 20%.

Community Colleges consider new enrollment priorities.

San Bernardino declares bankruptcy.

Field Poll:  Californians are pessimistic about the economy's future.

Brown to sign foreclosure relief bill today.

The NLRB impounds ballots in the Duquesne Union election while they decide what to do. 

Surprise!  Wealthy Universities are really, really wealthy.  Public Universities...not so much.

More tech transfer going on in the great Northwest.

And there is a battle over faculty salaries up there as well.

Seattle Swat team raids the apartment of Occupy organizers.

Are MOOGs really all that?

The importance of listening.

University applications in UK drop as fees rise.  

Where exactly is Mitt's money?

Canadian scientists protest Government's attempt to sideline scientific research in the interest of opening up natural resources for development.  Sound familiar?

Spanish Government decides to intensify austerity.  I guess because it has worked so well elsewhere.