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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013
As Lindsay Thomas's critique of the American Academy's The Heart of the Matter makes clear, the increasingly conventional effort to justify the humanities in terms of a narrow notion of utility leaves a great deal to be desired.  Instead, people working in the humanities and social sciences will need to resist notions of utility imposed from without and also imagine their own way for developing new, intellectually creative, and expansive agendas for teaching and research.

One approach that is rooted primarily in the digital humanities is to remodel humanistic activity on the model of scientific groups and grants.  I have no problem with learning from the sciences especially from their practices of collaborative groups.  But the fetish for "grand challenges" while understandable from a tactical fundraising perspective ignores important parts of the purpose of the humanities and interpretive social sciences--particularly their relationships to ethics in the process of scholarship.

What I think is a far more interesting and challenging idea was raised by Eileen Joy in a post at the Medieval Studies blog In the Middle

Joy's starting point, to be clear, is a diagnosis of a bleak future.  As she puts it:

The university as a publicly-supported institution [in all of it various forms, from the Ivy League school to the community college] has long served as a critical site for some of the most important humanistic-scientific-technological-etc. innovations in human history, while it has also fostered the value and practice of lifelong learning, of critical thought, of experimentation, of open and perpetually unsettled inquiry, to what might be called the arts of everyday life. And I don't believe this institution is just going to disappear in some sort of cataclysm, although I would place my money on some severe, austere diminishments in the near future.

Joy's account of this likely "severe" and "austere" diminution is familiar:  MOOCs, reduction in public financing, worsening working condition for faculty--especially non-tenure track faculty--loss of control over our work through increasing corporate control of intellectual products, etc.

In response, Joy proposes a greater attention to those spaces outside of the university where intellectually creativity flourishes:

The fact of the matter is -- whether we inhabit student desks, tenure lines, adjunct positions, or post-graduate/never-graduate somewhere-other-than-here positions -- now might be the time to take a bit more seriously alternative spaces [which might never be "permanent" or "institutional"] for learning, for inquiry, and for knowledge-culture production.

But at the same time as she advocates this dispersive set of spaces, she also suggests something that cuts in a different direction. Against the generalized, if true, claim that we develop communicative and analytic skills, Joy calls attention to the specificity of the fields that we engage in:

At the same time, we insist on perversely-hopefully laying claim to specific subject areas -- medieval studies, for example -- as collocations of objects and trajectories of thought that we desire to hold close to us, while also placing them in certain perpetual tensions with everything else [even ourselves]. Forms of thinking matter, and there is no need to discard anything. Every area requires special curators and we should seek to increase the ranks of those, for this is a matter of the care as well as of the increase of knowledge. 

"Curating" is, of course, a complex term.  It harks back to churches and curates; it has an unavoidable ring of the spiritual.  But in this context, and despite Joy's training as a medievalist, I take its reference to be to the curating that takes place in museums and libraries as well as congregations.  Although Joy's post mostly emphasizes the creation of new spaces outside the university (like Punctum Books for instance) it seems to me that curating may be a way to rethink our practices within universities and colleges and also a way to think about the relationships between what we do in our institutions and what we might do outside our institutions.

Two preliminary points are crucial here:  first is the acknowledgment  that we are drawn to particular areas because of the issues or ideas embedded there (and not because it would make us good readers or contextualizers) and the second that the knowledge that we produce is itself worth defending because of the insights it brings to the world.  The humanities cannot survive as a simple set of capacities; it must defend its claims to knowledge and to think through the dimensions of that knowledge and its production.

As Joy notes, we tend--despite whatever commitments to method or theory we have--to take our specific research subjects seriously and personally.  To actually curate our fields today, though, means doing more than simply teaching or writing about them.  Despite (or perhaps because of) the growth of digital capacity, the basic infrastructure of humanistic knowledge is being dissected:  libraries cannot buy enough new books, journals and university presses are under intense financial pressure (and UC's open access policy will not help here), departments are being closed, fewer and fewer faculty are being hired on the tenure track.

All of this is well known of course.

But if faculty in the humanities and social sciences do not take more collective responsibility for the institutions that make our scholarship and teaching possible and work in solidarity with institutions or other departments then our students will find themselves without a sustainable field to work in.  We need to acknowledge the centrality of the sustainability of the humanities infrastructure and of the crucial task of the university as a place for conserving knowledge as well as producing it.  At the same time we need to recognize the importance of the traditions of thought and practice in our various areas.  Joy's notion of "trajectories of thought that we desire to hold close to us" is important here: we cannot succeed by turning away from what drew us to the humanities or interpretive social sciences in the first place.  And we need to articulate the meanings of those trajectories in their "untimeliness" today.

We can probably all agree on the importance of protecting resources for humanities research.  But the question of curating people is more complicated.  But I think that implicit in Joy's formulation is the notion that faculty will need to intensify their relationship with teaching, training, and developing students and not because our employers want a speed-up.  Faculty in many fields in the humanities and social sciences (and probably in the sciences as well although I am less sure) have benefited in many ways from the lack of system in programs.  But if we are going to find new ways to manifest the importance of humanities and social science knowledge we need to move beyond the consumerist model of course choice and begin to think about how to design programs.  Moreover, faculty at many research universities will need to assume more responsibility for advising.

To be sure, a great deal of faculty advising does take place.  At liberal arts colleges faculty are deeply involved with advising undergraduates and at research universities they are involved in advising graduate students.  But there is a large lacuna there: undergraduates at large research institutions.  In these situations students are left to overworked staff advisers.  In those settings (like UC) faculty will need to take more responsibility for the intellectual development of their students both undergraduate and graduate.  Disciplines in the humanities and social sciences often claim that their teaching and knowledge is designed for transformation; but without figuring out ways to make that part of the intellectual process of education it rings false.

If we are going to curate both objects and subjects we need to also recognize the personal dimension of our commitments.  We teach and write about them because we think that it is important that they be preserved and extended in some way.  But we do so because we find them personally engaging and challenging.  But insofar as we claim that our knowledge can be transforming, we might give more thought to how, and if, it is transforming ourselves.  One way, as I already suggested, is in taking greater responsibility for the conduct of our programs as they relate to students.  But another is taking greater responsibility for our conduct as it relates to the larger project that the humanities and social sciences engage in.  But that means, I think, making a collective project that links our commitments to our own specific subjects (and our commitment to curate them) to a larger project within universities to protect the wider range of humanities and social science scholarship.

The structure of the university and college now is such as to pit department against department and division against division.  But it is not hard to see that the struggle between departments, or the willingness of some to place their own self-interest against a more collective project will, no matter how successful in the short run end up weakening the entire range of scholarship.  And in a scholarly world where disciplines and subjects depend more and more on the knowledge of others this end will benefit no one.   

Finally I think we might take some lessons from museums and libraries because it is in those latter spaces that curators and librarians aim to develop public knowledge.  For in curating you not only preserve but you present. Let me give one example of the interplay between curating, knowledge, universities, and museums.  It is not singular (scholars work with museums all the time).  But it does offer an alternative to the now obligatory emphasis on the digital as the way to touch the wider world.  This fall, the New York Historical Society opened an exhibit honoring the centennial of New York's Armory Show of 1913.  The exhibit took up the issue of the relationship between art, society, and politics.  Central to the success of the show was the work of a historian (Casey Blake of Columbia) in tandem with art scholars, museum curators, planners, artists and the Historical Society leadership.  These sorts of exhibits raise dual challenges.  The first was actually producing the knowledge needed to help stage the exhibition and the second was figuring out how to convey that knowledge in ways that would engage the audience.  Now I understand that curators are faced with this all the time.  Indeed, in our classrooms so are we.  But these were designed to bring the work of university research to bear on an issue of public memory and interest.  And there is no shortage of people who are interested in these issues.

Just as important though, is the fact that exhibits like this are self-consciously about both producing knowledge and preserving subjects and objects.  Any effective defense of the Humanities will have to begin with the same self-consciousness and the same ends.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013
By Lindsay Thomas (Department of English, UCSB)

In June 2013, the American Academy of Arts & Science’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences released “The Heart of the Matter,” a report meant to “advance a dialogue on the importance of the humanities and social sciences to the future of our nation” and to inform policy makers and the general public about how best to support the humanities and social sciences (6).

Unfortunately, the report repeats some familiar tropes about the value of the humanities: tropes that ultimately may do more harm than good in advocating for the value of the humanities.

One trope on which the report spends much of its time is that the humanities are valuable because they teach us useful skills like “skills in communication, interpretation, linking and synthesizing domains of knowledge, and imbuing facts with meaning and value” (35). The report emphasizes that these are the skills employers today want because they are “essential for the inventiveness, insights, [and] career flexibility… of the American people.” (18-19, 33). In this view, the humanities are important primarily because they teach students skills that will be valuable for their future employment in other fields.

Another familiar trope the report repeats is that the humanities are valuable because they are the foundation of our cultural heritage and because learning to appreciate this heritage leads to personal fulfillment. The report claims, for example, that “millions depend on these disciplines in their daily lives as a perpetual source of pleasure and enrichment” (49). This understanding of the value of the humanities is so familiar that the title of the report itself gestures to it: the humanities are “the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic – a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common” (9). In this view, the humanities are important because they preserve our cultural heritage by teaching students skills of appreciation.

There’s a lot that has been said about the limitations of this narrow understanding of the value of the humanities. There’s also a lot that has been said about the value of instrumentalism in general. However, the problem here isn’t that the report frames the value of the humanities as utilitarian. This is a familiar argument on which many defenders of the humanities have staked their claims for years, and it’s not wrong. The humanities do teach students skills with practical importance, they do teach us to better understand other cultures and ourselves, they do show us how to live more pleasurable lives.

Rather, the problem-- which is by no means limited to this report – is that the humanities in both their employment and heritage forms are framed according to a particular understanding of utilitarianism: the transmission of specific skills. Defining the value of the humanities solely and most emphatically in terms of the skills they can teach empties humanities disciplines of their content. The implication is that the most important thing humanities disciplines can do is to teach such skills, and whatever discipline-specific knowledge they may also transmit along the way is simply a byproduct of teaching this set of skills.

The report’s emphasis on skills over content occurs even when it specifically addresses humanities research, or the production of knowledge, itself. For example, the most sustained definition “The Heart of the Matter” gives of humanities research is that research in the humanities “enables us to see the world from different points of view so that we may better understand ourselves” (38). This definition frames the purpose of humanities research as helping us to broaden our perspective and to understand ourselves better, not as making new discoveries and producing new knowledge about our past and our present. Such a definition, again, reduces the production of complex humanistic knowledge to the transmission of generally applicable skill-sets. This reaffirms one of the major criticisms leveled at the humanities today: that the subjects humanists study are impractical, useless, and unimportant. By defending the value of the humanities on the grounds that the most important thing humanities disciplines do is teach important skills, we concede the point that the specific knowledge humanistic disciplines produce is unimportant.

If we want to defend the humanities as academic disciplines – if we want to defend the university itself as the place where academic research happens – we need to alter this framing of the humanities. What would it look like to defend and advocate for the specific knowledge humanities disciplines produce, for basic research in the humanities? We could take our cue from the sciences, which have been doing this kind of advocacy work for a long time. For example, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has produced a poster that features a list of “29 Breakthroughs” the lab has made possible. These range from basic research like the discovery of dark energy to more applied work like the invention of a faster and cheaper water purifier. Theoretical advances in dark energy are not immediately “useful” in the sense that they aren't currently being used in any applications, but that doesn't mean they don’t have use value. This strategy is effective because it intersperses less immediately practical theoretical advances among more recognizably practical, high-impact work, showing the value of the full range of scientific research. Could we develop something similar for the humanities? Could we develop posters that feature, for example, high-impact or more immediately practical work in the humanities like the discovery of previously unread letters written by Benjamin Franklin or projects like Timeslips, which aims to improve the lives of people with Alzheimer’s through storytelling, alongside more theoretical advances in gender theory or topic modeling?

The humanities teach students valuable skills, yes, but they also produce valuable knowledge about the world, knowledge that is not always immediately “useful” but that has use value nonetheless. It’s time we started advocating for this knowledge itself – and its usefulness for our world – as a cornerstone of what the humanities can teach us and of what humanists do.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013
Why does it cost too much to build offices for medical faculty in Mission Hall?

UCSF is one of the country’s great medical schools, and after hitting space limits at its main Parnassus campus in San Francisco, and scattering itself around town, it acquired a prime piece of land near the city’s central waterfront on which to build a new campus, called Mission Bay.  The first parcel of about 43 acres was acquired in 1996.  It was followed by 15 more acres in 2007 on which to build what will be UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay. The new campus’s first building, Genentech Hall, opened in 2003, and it has continued to grow ever since.  The aerial photo shows what a wonder the whole thing is.  The new campus is actually getting built, and you’d think that everyone would be jumping for joy.

Instead, the office design of the next new building has caused a major faculty outcry, and produced some of the bitterest faculty comments about a university policy that I have read.  The reason is that the 700 faculty--and 800 staff--slated to move to this state-of-the-art medical building in 2014 are not going to have offices. They are to work from open-floor low-rise cubicles instead.

I. Planning the Open Office

Let's set the scene with some pictures.  Here's the building in question, initially named after the block on which it sits, 25A. It is directly across the street from the Medical Center that is going in just to the south, in the foreground of the photo.

You can see the placement of this building on the campus, in red.

The office building is across the street from several hospitals to come.

Now let's go inside the building.  The floor plan (not shown) is "open office": all faculty desks will be located in an open central area. The open space will be combined with three configurations of "focus rooms" whose doors can be closed either for solitude or for meetings.  Here's one view, with a faculty workstation at center-left, a large meeting room to the right, and a smaller focus room straight ahead, shaded in yellow.

A second image also stresses circulation through the faculty workspace.

The faculty member appears to be looking at a meeting taking place in the focus room directly in front of him.  A food court is off to the right.  To his right is a cabinet that is his storage area.

Although all faculty will have access to the focus rooms on a first-come-first served basis, only heads of departments and other administrators will have private offices. In other words, this shadow professor is seated in his office.

Update 11/25: An administrative participant tells me that "Heads of departments, other administrators and the Chancellor will have work stations only--not private offices."

While staring at the plans, I came to focus on three features. One is a high-density use of interior space:  the workstations are lined up with their ends towards the windows, so that most of the workstations are away from them.  Some of the exterior walls are taken up with focus rooms, but most of these rooms lack exterior windows as well.

Second, the design puts sociability ahead of everything else.  A couple of decades ago the model might have been a newsroom, but the model here seems to be an architecture studio or Google-Genentech, where executives sometimes enthuse that the open office stimulates collaboration and creativity.  The researcher will not have dedicated individual space with enough privacy for work that "requires intense concentration," as one commentator put it.  Nor will clinicians be able to offer mandated privacy to patients at their desks.  Update 11/25: I have been told that all patient contact will occur "in outpatient building or hospital across the street," and that per consultation with UCSF's Privacy Office, "patient charting and phone calls can be done at the workstations."

Third, sociability is defined as circulability and transparency.  It looks as though everyone is supposed to be able to see everything in the workspace at all times. The focus rooms have doors that close and walls of glass. I am told that the UCSF chancellor will have an office in the new building, with walls for security purposes. But her walls will be made of glass as well. Update 11/25:  I am now told that, in spite of these illustrations and other testimony, all focus rooms will have "sound proof, dry plaster walls" and doors made out of frosted glass, so that "it should be possible to know that a privacy room is occupied but not by whom or how many."  In addition, the Chancellor and her staff are said to be destined for workstations as well, with a glass security wall.

The official concept is the Activity-Based Workplace.  It made a formal appearance at the Regents' Grounds and Buildings Committee meeting on November 13, 2012, where it was described as follows:
In this project, UCSF is introducing a new Activity-Based Workplace (ABW) model for office workspace. An ABW is characterized as an open work environment, without enclosed offices. This environment supported by a rich array of alternative work and support spaces (including enough small private meeting rooms and unassigned offices to be used when quiet space is necessary) that can be used spontaneously without prior reservation when spaces for private communications, undisturbed concentration, or meetings are required.
Shared open interaction spaces are provided for every two floors to create “Town Centers” and vertical circulation between floors. Coffee kitchens and a variety of meeting spaces are grouped around each of these interaction spaces to create opportunities for academic interaction,collaboration, innovation, and discourse in a relaxed and social setting. These spaces strongly promote a ‘sense of place’ within the building’s open workstation environment. (page 4)
This is the theory.  To learn more about the history and the practice, I reviewed as many documents as I could find and spoke to half-a-dozen UCSF faculty and administrators.  I told one I wanted to ask her how she felt about the plan to put faculty into cubicles.  "They aren't cubicles," she replied.
"Cubicles" means you have half-walls that give you visual privacy. This is like working in a library with a 18-inch separator--only without the quiet.
OK, we'll use their term, Activity-Based Workplace?
No, it's not an activity-based workplace. No one did a functional assessment of what faculty do in their offices, which in the case of these faculty is an especially wide range of different things. This is an occupancy-based design. It is designed to get a lot of people into a set space at a relatively low cost. People are going to have a variety of needs and none of these were taken into account.
This was one of the milder criticisms I heard from faculty members. The written record is quite a bit worse.

II. The Faculty Describe Workplace Needs

The UCSF Senate set up a web page to collect faculty comments on ABW. By May 8th, the pdf version ran to fifty single-spaced pages (pp 17-67).  They were classed into 10 categories.  I'm going to quote a selection of them, at more then the usual length, before offering some thoughts on why ABW has happened in Parts III and IV below.  I provide these extracts here, and encourage reading the others, because the working life of university professions is a widely misunderstood public issue.  Even in the wake of studies showing that faculty work 60-70 hours per week on average (see, e.g.,  "Good and Bad in the Teaching Report"), politicians and others regularly exploit the suspicion that in the normal sense faculty don't work much at all.  The UCSF faculty have done us all the service of providing detail about what they do during their working day.

Many faculty were frankly stunned at what they saw as the obvious lack of fit between the proposed faculty workspace and actual faculty activity.
This is a terrible idea, clearly designed by individuals who have no idea what faculty do. Unless the administration's goal is to reduce faculty numbers this cubicle space concept should be scrapped. (p 30 of 50)
or this:
The plan for the new Mission Bay office building is untenable and unworkable. We have been meeting to try to figure out how it can be used, since it was presented as a fait accompli, but it will not work. We are an academic institution. Those of us, 80% of my division, who are involved in research, both lab and clinical, have 4-8 hours per day of conference calls and meetings with mentees and collaborators. Those of us with more administrative positions have confidential meetings 2-4 hour per day with applicants, staff, residents, fellows, and medical center issues. We cannot be running in and out of offices or talking with even one other person in public small cubicles. We will not be able to recruit from outside UCSF for new faculty and researchers. It is not too late to redesign the inside of this building, which is still a hole in the ground. (p 2 of 50)
Many comments claimed that the open office would make compliance with HIPPA patient privacy law somewhere between inefficient and impossible. 
I'm afraid that having this office arrangement for our treating physicians creates an environment that exposes HIPAA (PHI) and personal effects (laptops, phones, etc.) to unauthorized use, including theft. I am not certain whether this arrangement is HIPAA compliant and/or complies with JAHCO regulations, which if it does not (i.e. JAHCO sees this and finds that it is a risk to HIPAA / PHI), could open the Hospital up to fines and/or loss of accreditation. (p 3 of 50)
Another of this type:
As a physician scientist I cannot imagine working in an environment with limited or no privacy. I handle confidential patient related issues in my office, I have numerous confidential discussions with the individuals in my lab or with house officers and fellows discussing patients on my service when I am attending, and of course I need quiet but accessible (for patient and staff conversations) private space for writing grants, reviewing data, composing and responding to email, making and taking phone calls often involving confidentiality issues.  (p 10 of 50)
As in this last case, most of the comments treated the core issue of work quality even when focused on something else.  Faculty felt that the open office would interfere with their work processes, hamper their creativity, and reduce their productivity.
After taking the virtual tour, it is hard for me to imagine a less conducive work environment. While we do thrive on collaborations and interactions with our peers, so much of the work that academic faculty perform requires a quiet and private space where focused writing and thinking can occur. Reading, reviewing, and writing grants and manuscripts, as well as a relatively quiet space to meet with a student, trainee, or colleague one on one for sensitive conversations is critical. In addition, participating on conference calls and WebExs, which are frequent occurrences in this era of national and international collaborations, will be challenging. As a faculty who prides itself on creativity and productivity, we must resist the latest business trends that suggest that these environments allow full productivity. If I were to be assigned an office here, I would likely be spending a lot more time in my house, working from home. (p 5 of 50)
Another example:
As a new faculty member and physician scientist, I can see how an open model withcubicles could foster collaborations. However, the role of a PI requires a balance between individual effort and collaborative effort. The majority of my time is spent meeting with trainees, reading, writing, meeting with collaborators, and managing my patients. Having a private office is critical to successfully completing all of these tasks since many of these conversations are confidential (ie patient care; feedback to a trainee; current lab strategies) or require concentration (ie grant writing especially in this environment.) Can you imagine having these types of conversations or spending all of our time in an environment like a coffee shop? 
The university must support its basic researchers as well as clinicians in order to support the long-term health and success of the institution. Having some areas with an open design is appropriate for fostering collaborations and interactions, particularly since we already have multiple campuses. Having dedicated space (ie an office) for faculty to concentrate is critical for successfully achieving and maintaining our high research, teaching, and clinical care goals. (pp 10-11 of 50)
I am an 80% clinical investigator. On most days, I spend 6-8 hours per day in my current office where I use the space to write grants, papers, and clinical trial protocols. I also use the space for conference calls and in-person meetings. None of these activities can be conducted in an open cubicle without either distracting me from writing activities or distracting those around me. I anticipate that I will need to be in one of the private "shared" rooms all day.  Moreover, I use my office to store specialized supplies and pathology slides that support my translational research program. I have concerns that I will not have a place to store these items securely. (pp 5-6 of 50)
Another comment from someone with experience in an open office:
I currently work in cubicle-land, and I like my colleagues. Yet even polite, low level conversations adjacent to my desk are highly distracting, especially during grant writing and paper revision work, when it takes time to get into a good flow. We can all agree that constant interruption is counter-productive. I will often work late evenings and weekends, or in the worst-case I will squat in other unoccupied workspaces to avoid unnecessary conversations. Being chased out of my personal work-space to get work done is non-ideal, as I lose printer access and reference materials, and I am visibly absent. If a model of anonymous shared space is adopted for faculty, this would represent a step down from a situation that is already difficult to tolerate. (p 14 of 50)
A comment emphasizing the place of individual needs and cognitive differences:
Something of great concern to me is that this plan does not appear to take into consideration the individual needs of faculty, but rather seems to be address us a homogenous group with very similar workstyles, activities, and privacy needs. I believe that faculty are a very diverse group of individuals with very different needs for privacy, quiet, etc. The issue of losing the ability to pump when working with a nursing child is but one critical individual need I see raised here that deserves a great deal of weight. Had I not had a semi-private office when my child was young I doubt I could have managed to keep up with pumping given the schedule I managed, and I know this to be true for others as well. This is but ONE example of a necessary activity that would be very difficult to maintain in the proposed environment. There are many others. Has there been consideration given regarding faculty members with cognitive differences relative to distraction and noise? How would anyone be able to accomplish anything at all if every movement or sound in the open space they share broke their focus? Would these people be housed differently than other faculty? How will the University accommodate members of our community who can't function in such an environment without excluding them? Besides these issues of potential discrimination, the comments other colleagues have shared contain reason enough to recognize that this proposal has many concerns for many different reasons, across the community. (p 15 of 50)
A comment linking work needs, routine overwork, and feeling disrespected by the decision:
I have just spent a typical day here at UCSF. I met with postdocs to mentor them, I met with the administrator and an RSC about the grant we're preparing to put in, I met with one of my research teams, and then another research team. Finally now, I'm alone. Thus, from this morning until now (6:15 pm), I have been in nonstop meetings, in my OFFICE. How will this work in the new space we're being forced into? Will I have to demand that I get one of of the offices? (that there are only 1 for every 4 people?). Moreover, I work all the time - on the weekends, evenings, and university holidays. I work really hard for my pay! And then I look again at the photos above and I think of the movie "9 to 5", with all the workers in cubicles, a sea of cubicles. In fact, when the main character got a raise, she moved to....yup, an office! And us, those of us who bring in the grants that keep the university going - #1? And we're being told, nope, you're being put into "open space" (not even cubicles). Y'know, it truly does not feel that the university cares about us. And there's just ongoing confirmation about this since no higher-ups are doing anything to help us. From department chair on up. No one cares. It feels really sad to me. I've put in many years here, bringing in lots of money. But no one cares.  (p 20 of 50)
And there's this rather direct statement:
The Mission Bay Academic Building, with its 'activity-based workplace' consisting of 40  foot cubicles, is an ill-conceived, wrong-headed misadventure that will deeply, possibly irrevocably, damage UCSF. Its design is based on the utterly misguided and totally untested notion that the working environments used by the electronics industry for teams of baccaulaureate-level technicians and engineers, working together on specific projects, is somehow translatable to university-based academic physicians. It's not. University-based academic physicians are more than mere 'providers'. We teach at multiple levels; students, residents, fellows, junior faculty, in addition to nurses and other ancillary medical personnel – but one cannot teach in a beehive. We write grants, papers, book chapters, manuscript reviews, grant reviews, evaluations and letters of recommendation — but one cannot be creative in a phonebooth. And we discuss patient care with patients, families and other healthcare professionals – but we cannot do this in a public venue. No study has been made of UCSF faculty activities and what space and environment is needed to facilitate essential functions. No solicitation for opinion or advice went to the faculty; this is being forced down our throats with the same foresight and dexterity as the aborted UCSF-Stanford merger, and will be equally successful. No other University or medical center has tried this; it is terra incognita, and we are setting sail without a map, a compass, provisions or leadership. 
We are regularly asked to attend meetings to fine-tune the way we will live in these rat cages, which is analagous to asking those on a slave ship whether they want to be chained to a starbord or portside bunk. This is not a mere a generational issue; it is not that older faculty cling to books and papers like middle-Americans clinging to their guns and religion. The paperless office is a fantasy that exists only on Star Trek; there are endless examples, from the need for original signatures to the vast amounts of literature that are not available on line. My work has been substantially assisted by my computer, but it cannot replace the trove of information at my fingertips in my files. 
It is my prediction that 1) talented younger faculty will be more readily recruited away by other Universities; 2) recruitments will be substantially more difficult, especially at the level of division chiefs, who need offices for their myriad duties; 3) productivity, especially in grants and peer-reviewed papers, will fall; 4) this 'experiment' will ultimately fail, costing UCSF substantial money and lost presige. It is difficult to envision a more effective tactic for reducing UCSF back to the rustic quaintness of Toland Medical College. This is not the way a great University treats a great faculty. (p 7 of 50)
A number of faculty saw the degradation of workspace and of their creative process as reducing UCSF's stature, leading to new problems of retaining and recruiting faculty.
At least for research faculty, it’s not just a matter of having to break into work and leave one’s desk to take a phone call from a patient, but it is also difficult to picture not being able to temporarily stop work to have a short private meeting with someone. Faculty would expect to be able to stay in their chair with their work in front of them, have someone come in and close the door, have a few words, and the person leaves. This is basic. Being able to lock my office is important to me. If I have a visitor, they can lock their bags in my office while they give their seminar or do other things. I can feel comfortable that my own possessions are not publicly accessible when I’m not there. If I am concentrating on writing grants or papers, I need to be able to close my door, have quiet, and still be in my own space. If I did not have an office, I would probably work from home except when I had meetings or other commitments.  When writing NIH grants, we are supposed to include a Facilities and Resources page in which an entire category is called Office. Writing that I have a cubicle or creative work space or whatever euphemism one wants to apply will make the study section members not take me seriously. Lastly, it all comes down to STATUS. If I get a phone call from a colleague at Stanford or Harvard, or from a Program Official at NIH, or from a prospective graduate student, and I have to tell them to hang on while I go find a private place for a phone call, they will assume I have low STATUS. I will not be taken as seriously by my peers or others with whom I need to deal professionally. That alone is a deal breaker. As part of an academic’s career progression, an office is one the basics that we assume we will obtain either in our first independent position or shortly thereafter. UCSF is notorious for taking longer than most places to do this, but to not do it at all would seriously shrink the number of good people who might otherwise take a faculty position here. Given the promise of a position without an office, basic research faculty will only come to UCSF as a last resort. (p 32 of 50)
By my rough count, faculty sentiment ran 100% against the ABW office format. There were some comments that made helpful suggestions for adapting. But the number that actively supported ABW was zero.

In sum, a brand new office building is planned for years and receives final regental approval, only to be overwhelming opposed by the affected faculty. Why did this happen? 

III. Explaining the Open Office Decision

One reason is that that administration, its planners, and its architects, thought that ABW was a very good idea.  They still think this. A participant told me that UCSF has been running into space constraints for years and years--many of the staff and faculty slated to be moved into what is now called Mission Hall are currently working in leased office buildings in various parts of the city, and the new buildings would allow them to be brought back to campus. But the extra space wouldn't last long with traditional offices.

This worry was crystallized by a decision to consolidate off-campus research units, which meant using Mission Hall not only to house staff who worked in the new hospitals across the street, but also the staff, mainly clinical and field researchers, being brought home from leased office space. The stakeholders planning committee did consider two other options -- traditional offices, and a hybrid design with offices and workstations, but rejected those for at least two reasons: the latter would create the "political nightmare" of deciding who did and who did not get an office, and neither plan allowed for growth.  The administration was concerned that it would spend $118 million on this new building (page 135) and be up against a space limit almost as soon as everyone actually moved in.   

The designers also saw the open office as creative and inspiring. Rather than describing it as a symptom of UCSF's decline, one told me, they thought the statement was, "UCSF is innovative."
We're doing something unusual. It's original. And we won't have the problem of faculty offices that are 50% unoccupied even during the day.  It would be a comfortable space with good light. I wouldn't call this decline. I would call it a step forward in how to steward university and public resources.
Responding to my question about whether he saw merit in the concerns about privacy and concentration in the open workspace, he replied,
I understand their concerns, and I would have them too. They've never worked in a design like this.  But the open space is like a library.  You do your ordinary work there. But you can answer a phone there. There's a noise-cancelling system in this space. You can't understand people who are 20 feet away from you. You can certainly answer phones in these spaces, have low-volume conversations in them.  Because other people are there, you have to build a culture of quiet.  In other professions, like architecture and law, they work beautifully. People keep them quiet, and they do most of their work there. If you want to have a consultation or write a grant, you can go into a focus room. There are 376 of these focus rooms in the building. There's one focus room for every four workstations. there will be roughly 700 faculty in the building, maybe 350 at any one time, plus another 700 or 800 staff.  So there should be no problem with anyone having a focus room at any time. They are ten feet away from the workstations. You can turn your head and find an empty one.

But [I interrupted] there's no wood door you can't see through, behind which you can bang your head against the wall or burst into tears or whatever your ritual is.

No that's not true.  You can close the door. And you can stay in there for a week to write a grant. You can do anything you want with those rooms--except turn them into private offices.

This particular conversation took place at the end of October, so I'm assuming that most if not all of the administration still feels that ABW is a good idea, and that once faculty try it, they'll like it.
A second source of the conflict between the open office plan and its faculty occupants surfaced a month after the Regental vote ratifying the academic building project.  On December 18, 2012, Divisional Senate Chair Robert Newcomer wrote to an associate dean in the School of Medicine that the Senate had not only not been consulted, but had been actively excluded from the planning.  
Despite repeated efforts by the Academic Senate Clinical Affairs Committee (CAC) starting in 2007, faculty concerns about the need for faculty office space and education space in the new hospital were not addressed.  CAC eventually learned that faculty offices and education space would be located in a separate building; however, the plan for the activity-based workspace was not discussed with CAC.
Meetings with faculty and departments were "information only," not iterative consultations, and came late in the process. . . .[W]e know that there were no meetings involving the Pediatrics faculty or its leadership about this issue until it was a fait accompli, and the meetings were just for information, not input.  One meeting told us about the existence of the activity-based workplace model a couple of months ago, and another meeting described its structure and function.
There was no "upstream engagement" with the future users of the building--neither with the faculty in the relevant units nor with the Academic Senate as such.  The administration's consultation was with the "stakeholders committee," but the term "stakeholder" is vague enough to allow avoidance of the kinds of early "iterative consultations" with actual faculty that shared governance requires.

One administrative participant told me that this committee did have faculty members, but none represented the Senate and all were in leadership posistions--deans and department chairs among others. He agreed that the Senate should have been involved, but that faculty have never been involved in building planning before. Space design is a specialty in its own right that deserves respect. "Medical faculty don't understand it," he said. "They don't live it day to day. You can't possibly get your arms around it. How can somebody running an NIH-funded lab think about space everyday? I hope they're aren't thinking about space."  But, he added, "We will now have the Senate participating."

Medical researchers aren't thinking about space every day, but they are doing their jobs every day in specific spaces. This produces the deep experience about office needs on display in the responses I cited above.  Early iterative consultation would not only have unveiled the objections but may have produced a better design, one that won't have to be "mitigated" at additional cost.

A third source of conflict was a perceived inequity between deluxe research facilities and cut-rate office space. One scientist remarked to me,
Although there’s as much money coming to this campus from clinical as from bench science research grants, this design treats clinicians as second-class.  The bench scientists have new facilities with all these huge private areas. People who deal with patients or do field research—where UCSF is a world leader—are being stuck in non private spaces where they will struggle to do their basic job. This is terrible planning from that point of view.  Obviously the campus really values basic science. The lovely space is a recruitment device.  People associate labs with the biotech industry and think well, we’re losing money now, but when funding gets better we’ll have a huge group in place to churn out intellectual property and profits.
This has been a standard way of thinking about academic science—that laboratories are an investment with a future upside, while instruction and clinical research are costs that the institution itself does not recover. I’ve critiqued this revenue model elsewhere, but even were it correct, ABW uniquely concretized an implied hierarchy and intensified faculty resentment.

Finally, a fourth source of the conflict between the building plan and faculty offices is money.  There are multiple problems here, and I'm going to scratch the surface and make some educated guesses.

UCSF has been adding a new campus, and there is continuous pressure on the budget to cover a $1.1 billion capital program, of which $926 million is non-state funded (p 136).  UCSF built more of Mission Bay more quickly than it had expected: the 1996 long-range development plan (LRDP) projected total costs of about $200 million in the first 16 years, and slower use of the maximum permitted square footage.  UCSF also has two major buildings on the Parnassus campus that need seismic retrofits amounting to rebuilds, along with other repair and maintenance issues. UCSF's medical enterprise generated nearly $2 billion in gross revenues in 2011-12, and UC's immediate past president often praised "our medical business" as making money while the campuses were allegedly losing it. But this revenue comes with many costs, including the restart of employer pension contributions and other rising costs.  The campus ran $288 million in the black in 2011-12 (comparing Schedules A and D), but I am told that internal ten-year projections show UCSF's operations budget falling into the red by 2015 and staying there through 2021.

IV.  Limits of the Business Model

In January 2012, Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellman warned the Regents that UCSF costs were rising faster than revenues, and in the process tried to claw back some of the $49 million administrative tax her campus was to send to UC's Office of the President.   In a statement that you can watch at the link above, the chancellor described a highly complex business model in perpetual adaptation to a super-competitive medical marketplace.

Is the model fragile as well? That was my sense as I listened to the chancellor and then read quite a few capital projects documents (with valuable help from my non-UC research assistant Jessica Cronin).  The medical center sounds like it has low or at least unpredictable margins that could flip from black to red with a few changes in the policy environment.  Hospital revenues are an important source of capital projects funding: they are on the hook for $1.1 billion of UC's 2011-2021 capital projects (page 20). Construction funds, in short, are limited by the perpetual need to maintain reserves against both anticipated shortfalls and demand for construction funds.  One person told me, "seismic retrofits and other costs have chewed up the chancellor's reserves. She has lost a lot of leeway just when she needs it." ABW was being considered as the campus was looking not only to cover rising costs but also to rebuild reserves.
Of equal importance is the fact that UC capital projects are increasing underfunded from the start.   UCOP got 18% of need for state-eligible capital projects in the current year and is looking for 27% for next year (pages 7-9).  For 2011-2021, UCOP expects state resources to fund 33% of all UC capital projects (page 6).  Two-thirds of building costs need to come from somewhere other than the state, even for these state-eligible projects, and a growing share of UC construction is not state eligible. UCSF’s Mission Hall is one of these non-state projects.

UCSF's long range development plan for Mission Bay originally drew on UCSF working capital and Medical Center Reserves (together supporting 40% of costs in one period), external debt financing (another 32%), plus "novel, non-traditional sources" of income, including revenues from private-sector building tenants.  The latter will come only if empty space is reserved for them, putting permanent pressure on faculty space.

In addition, the overall UC funding model assumes continuous, large-scale fundraising campaigns.  Gifts are to provide around $2.1 billion of UC’s overall ten-year capital projects, in a budget where the state share is $4.8 billion (and where borrowing comes to around $4.7 billion). Fundraising was an issue for Mission Hall, according to one participant:

The problem is we have a hospital across the street where we have enormous fundraising activity going on. We're still $500 million in need there. We have the Sandler Neurosciences Building that we need another $100 million for--that's already up and occupied. We have another building called the Diller Cancer building and there's need there. So we have a lot of fundraising going on. For that reason we never planned to support this academic building with philanthropy.

UCSF philanthropy has a long record of success. But the campus has so many structurally underfunded capital projects that donor programs can potentially crowd each other out. A gift that funds a portion of a named building, as most do, can start a scramble to cover the rest of the costs with further gifts, external borrowing, and further demands for campus funds. At the very least, this system puts a hard cap on the size and quality of buildings that are too far down the status ladder to attract gifts—like an academic office building.  (Interestingly, official projects don’t expect gifts to make much contribution to UCSF’s capital projects (chart at left, page 21).  I can’t explain this very small number.)

Given this context, it’s reasonable to treat denser Mission Hall occupancy as both a cost-cutting and a revenue strategy, and to see ABW as a way of delivering on both sides of the ledger.

There’s a further wrinkle to the “occupancy-based” design.  Faculty based in the adjacent hospitals were always slated for the new building. Research groups in leased off-campus space are now being moved in as well.  One staff member put it to me this way:

Some of the groups going in need to be near the new hospitals. Some are there for reasons we don’t know.  My guess is that it has something to do with increasing the IDC [indirect costs rate].  If a research unit is off campus, the campus receives only 26% as the rate.  If the unit is on campus, the campus recovers double the IDC—the rate is over 50%. It’s true that there’s no rent on campus and that an off-campus UCSF research unit has to pay rent on the non-UCSF office space.  But rent is always less, usually a lot less, than the extra 26% or 27% that is deducted from an on-campus grant.  Also, rent is controlled by the faculty PI [principal investigator], and IDC are controlled by the administration.

I know the administration says that rents are skyrocketing and they don’t want us to have to pay them. But there’s a lot of leasing going on the new buildings- the new neurosciences building is leased. I think they’re not trying to reduce leased space, they’re trying to recover another big piece of IDC that will go directly to the administration and rebuild reserves.

Setting aside its impact on faculty and staff, ABW has a sound budgetary logic for the UCSF administration, since putting formerly off-campus faculty in open offices puts an extra IDC revenue slug into oversubscribed campus funds.  Reserving IDC revenues for overall campus needs rather than for a given grant's immediate support is as common as it is controversial with PIs.  ABW, particularly if refined and then applied to other buildings, would also allow for further occupancy-based revenue options down the road.

V. The Senate Proposes, the Chancellor Responds

UCSF faculty didn’t just express outrage at ABW. They also engaged and developed alternatives.  After writing an overview of the issues to its members on February 8th, Senate divisional chair Robert Newcomer sent ten recommendations to the chancellor on March 12 (page 11 of 67):

The process outlined here starts from the premise that simply refusing the open-space model is not sufficient. The faculty are ready to participate by offering alternatives to the open space design that are cost competitive. We outline below proposed steps that will lead to the review and consideration of multiple options, and ultimately to decisions that reflect financial reality and appropriate faculty consultation.

The Senate recommended that the Chancellor announce a moratorium "on the extension of the open-workspace model to campus buildings beyond Block 25a at Mission Bay," and the revision of the Block 25a building plans to leave two floors unoccupied pending the results of a study of ABW's impact.

On May 7, 2013, the Faculty Workspace Task Force, chaired by David Teitel, issued a White Paper with recommendations for a change in course, including an effort to "increase design flexibility" in the new building; a formal evaluation of whether an open office allows compliance with draconian HIPAA patient privacy rules (Appendix 1, page 10 of 67); a retooling of shared governance; and seven others.  The May 7th White Paper refined these recommendations to six.

Chancellor Desmond-Hellman responded on July 16th (author’s files).  She agreed to an occupancy survey focused on user productivity and satisfaction.  She rejected the moratorium on future ABW designs, explaining that the California Seismic Review board imposed deadlines on the Parnassus projects that would force the administration to design those buildings before Mission Hall’s ABW can be evaluated.

The Chancellor also noted new communication efforts, faculty committees, and ongoing HIPPA compliance.  She offered no assurances that she would or could honor faculty beliefs that ABW would, among other negative things, damage their creativity and productivity. Two participants confirmed to me that ABW is very much under consideration as an efficiency measure in the rebuilt Clinical Sciences Building and University Hall on the Parnassus campus.

Based on what I’ve heard and read this fall, my own sense is that open office will remain at Mission Hall, will be evaluated, will be mitigated and perhaps hybridized with some additional private offices, and will then be extended with these mitigations to the rebuilt portions of Parnassus.   I was told recently by one administrative participant,
the majority of the faculty accept this, including people going into the building. They're willing to try to make it work, and will do whatever it takes to mitigate any problems that arise, and of course there will be things that need to be fixed, as there are in all these buildings. The great majority of the faculty say, "ok we're in, let's go, let's make this work."  There are a few hotheads, and we're trying to work with them. But we haven't had faculty leave. We've been able to recruit into the building.

This of course begs the question of whether they should have to.

The whole affair raises three major issues:
  • Professional Authority: Will UC faculty and staff, including some of the most highly-trained people anywhere, be allowed to define what they need for their work?
  • Governance: Can UC administrative practice be changed to allow these work needs to be brought into the design process at the start?
  • The Business Model: Can UC's funding system still afford high-end work needs, a core element of historic quality?

Although I am a perennial optimist about the first two questions, I have become a pessimist about the third.  Jerry Brown has suspended the University’s traditional funding model and perhaps even terminated it.  The financialization of capital projects was fairly functional when it could assume generous and ever-increasing state funding.  It looks less functional now, as some of UC's most elite faculty are put into open office workstations on grounds of financial necessity.

UC certainly needs better collaborative structures among faculty, staff and administration. It needs to put the creative process of its large and brilliant workforce on par with the business model.   But UCSF's open office future suggests that UC as a whole needs to face the possibly that UC can no longer afford the facilities that allowed its people to make it a great university--and do something about that. 

VI. "I Used to have an office. Now I don't"

In the meantime, opposition to open offices in the corporate world is growing.  Los Angeles Times coverage of one conversion to open office revealed many misgivings. At Fast Company, which has never seen a business fad it didn’t like, editor Jason Feifer called for open revolt in his piece, “Offices for All!”

I’m not looking for your pity; I want your own righteous indignation. Because you, too, deserve an office.  We deserve better. We all deserve offices.  But it gets worse. We’ve been told that our small squat in the vast openness of our open-office layouts, with all its crossstalk and lack of privacy, is actually good for us. It boosts productivity. It leads to a happy utopia of shared ideas and mutual goals.  These are the words of imperceptive employers and misguided researchers.  The open-office movement is like some gigantic experiment in willful delusion. . .

This a trap.  This is saying, “Open-office layouts are great and if you don’t like them, you must have some problem.” Oh, I have a problem. It’s with open-office layouts. And I have a solution too: Every workspace should contain nothing but offices. Offices for everyone. . . Take those long tables, the ones currently lined with laptops at startups, and give them to an elementary school so children can eat lunch at them.

A few years from now, UCSF may be giving away some long tables too.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013
On Friday morning I along with the rest of UCSB's campus received an email from UCSB's Senate Divisional Chair Kum-Kum Bhavnani with the promising subject line, "Success with Tier 1 Provision in UC Care!"

"President  Napolitano just announced that there will now be a Tier 1 option in the Santa Barbara area with Sansum Clinic as a provider.  We are very pleased about this outcome.

"We are very appreciative of all the efforts of the Chancellor, the Health Care Task Force, the Universitywide Committee on Faculty Welfare, and the senior executives at the Office of the President.  Please read the attached memo of today from Vice-President Dwaine Duckett about Open Enrollment.

"Thank you for all of your support in our collective efforts to communicate our concerns.
"With best wishes,
"Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Chair, Academic Senate
"Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi, Chair, Council on Faculty Issues and Awards "

Well this is good news, I thought.  

And I pondered two further things.

First was my appreciation for the work of the Senate and local administration--and also for the work of the UCSB Faculty Association and CUCFA.  The FA led a public charge on the issue. Thanks to UCSB FA president Nelson Lichtenstein wrote the press release that got the Chronicle of Higher Education to cover the story, which then triggered a public defense by UCOP and helped to get what had been a back-channel discussion out into the open.  Thanks also to board member Bob Williams, who wrote an Independent op-ed that brought the issue to the attention of the town and of various officials.  Thanks to Aranye Fradenburg, who co-write various statements and kept people focused.  Because of these and other people, the FA forcefully articulated the inequity argument, and continued to write Janet Napolitano, as did the Riverside FA about their similar issue: no Tier 1 participation for their quality local hospital, which meant 20% payments (with Tier 2) rather than co-payments.  Other individual faculty galvanized local politicians. CUCFA president Pat Morton  wrote to President Napolitano just the day before this announcement, calling Tier 1 "grossly inadequate" as well as discriminatory. 

Then came an email from Aranye Fradenburg, who noted that although this is good news, "Sansum is not a hospital." 

This is the second issue.  Neither Chair Bhavnani nor Mr. Duckett mentioned the participation of Cottage Hospital.  But that, after all, was the real issue in contention.  Perhaps Cottage would be part of a longer document or will be the next step in fixing the problem?  So I pestered a few  people about the matter of whether Santa Barbara would have Tier 1 hospitalization, as well as Tier 1 at Sansum clinic..

One of them wrote to HR as follows:
Do you know what the situation with Cottage will be?  That is to say, if we are hospitalized by order of a Sansum Clinic doctor who uses Cottage, will we have to shift to Tier 2 or 3 for Cottage services?
And HR replied:
Services at Cottage hospital will be at the Blue Shield Preferred (Tier 2) benefit level.  You will have an annual deductible and 20% coinsurance.  The annual maximum for Tier 2 is $3000, that is the most you will pay in a year for services with Blue Shield Preferred providers.
Please let me know if you have questions.

I do have a question.  What happened to the idea of getting Santa Barbara's only hospital, Cottage, in UC Tier 1?  

I found the Chancellor's memo on the subject at the HR site. It confirmed that,
President Napolitano has just announced to our Academic Senate leadership that under her directive, negotiations between UCOP and Sansum Clinic have been successfully completed. As a result, Sansum will become a Tier One (Select Tier) provider in the UC Care plan.
There is further information about how "the Systemwide Human Resources and Benefits group is offering UC Santa Barbara community members the opportunity to make enrollment choices and changes through February 2014," although open enrollment still closes November 26th. 

I have written to senior administrators to ask whether the matter is now closed, with Cottage hospital locked into Tier 2.   I certainly hope not.  This would mean, to repeat, that UCSB does not have an in-area Tier 1 hospital, and that its employees will pay 20% of all charges up to their annual ceiling to use Cottage.

Since they did not acknowledge the ongoing Cottage hospital issue in their announcements, UCSB's Senate and administration may not be planning to continue the campaign.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013
Dear Colleagues,

The recent changes to the health care insurance plans available to UC faculty and staff have resulted in a radical reduction in both choices and quality of our insurance options.  In particular, UC Care, a new “self-funded” PPO medical insurance plan that replaces Blue Cross Plus and Blue Cross PPO, does not provide equivalent coverage for campuses that do not have a medical center, such as UCR. The UC Select (Tier 1) network of providers and facilities is grossly inadequate, excluding many of the best doctors and hospitals that were covered under the Blue Cross plans.

For example, Riverside Community Hospital, a partner with UCR's new medical school, and Loma Linda University Medical Center are NOT included in the UC Select network.  The nearest UC Select hospital, Parkview Community Hospital, does not have a trauma center and has twice almost gone bankrupt.  This leaves UCR faculty and staff with the poor choice of paying 20% co-payments for care at the best  facilities, using the facilities in the UC Select network or choosing another health insurance plan.

The Riverside Faculty Association endorses the Riverside Division Senate resolution protesting the paucity of choices available to Riverside faculty and staff in the UC-Care option:
The Riverside Division writes to register its outrage at both the health benefit options available to its faculty for the 2014-calendar year and the process by which these options were determined.  In particular, UC Care, which replaces multiple Anthem plans, leads to serious inequities between faculty and staff on those campuses with medical centers and faculty on those campuses without them.  As a whole, moreover, the new benefits raise concerns about recruiting and retaining faculty and staff. Therefore, we insist on an expanded set of tier 1 options under UC Care so that campuses without medical centers can provide the same level of care as those with medical centers.  We also insist on a more consultative process with regard to all future changes. Both the process and the result of changing our health care options are unworthy of the University of California.

In addition we demand that the Riverside Community Hospital and the Loma Linda University Medical Center be added to the Tier 1 option in the UC Care plan immediately. Otherwise many faculty and staff will migrate to Kaiser or other plans.  Adding these hospitals to UC Select must be done and announced before the closing of the open enrollment period on November 26, 2013.

The Board of the UC Riverside Faculty Association

This statement from the systemwide Academic Council outlines the inequities and problems with UC Care http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/reports/BJ_JN_UCCare_FINAL.pdf
November 14, 2013

Dear President Napolitano,

Last week our campus was visited by a delegation from UCOP – including Peter Taylor, John Strobo, and Dwaine Duckett – the purpose of which was to explain the new health care plans and to reassure us about the diminished options now available to us. As you may have heard, things did not go well.

Before the audience of faculty and staff intervened, the delegates had begun to deliver a self-congratulatory pitch emphasizing the fact that they had saved everybody in the UC system from higher premiums by dropping the Anthem plans across the board. When urged to get directly to the issue of most concern to us at UCSB – the termination of PPO benefits at the tier 1 level – they had little to say, except to encourage us to make the best of a bad situation, and to blame our local health care providers (especially Cottage Hospital) for refusing to accept UCOP’s terms. They also danced away from their failure to communicate effectively with Sansum Clinic.

Mr. Taylor had already made plain in comments published in the October 10 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as in a response to a petition from our Divisional Academic Senate, that his guiding principle in negotiations with the various health care providers for campuses without medical centers was to obtain discounts, insisting that physicians under contract with the UC system not be paid any more than the system pays its own. He was so committed to his principle – arbitrary though it was – that adhering to it was more important to him than the welfare of our campus community. When things did not go his way with the Santa Barbara providers, he and his subordinates made the coldly calculated decision to cut us loose from the rest of the system. In the Chronicle interview he said that he did not see the need to deviate from his principle in the interests of the “600” UCSB employees – actually more than 700 and their families – who would be affected. When questioned during his visit here he was unapologetic; indeed, he seemed to think we should admire him for his refusal to compromise.

The attitude and methods of Mr. Taylor and his subordinates are typical of the cynicism and arrogance that have prevailed at UCOP in recent years. The new health care plans were conceived by an inner circle of top administrators, developed, and negotiated without anything even approaching appropriate consultation with faculty or employees. With no regard whatever for the principle of shared governance, the Academic Council’s Faculty Welfare Committee and Health Care Task Force were kept in the dark much of the time and, as the formal announcement of the new plans drew near, the Faculty Welfare Committees on the individual campuses were pressured to maintain confidentiality. Our own Chancellor did not learn the terms of the new plans until the second half of August!

One is hard pressed to decide which is more deplorable, the reckless managerial swagger of Taylor and his team, or their sheer ineptitude. If the UC system plans to self-insure – to go into the insurance business – it had better find more competent administrators. We call upon you to remove Taylor, Strobo, and Duckett from further involvement in the process and to take the matter into your own hands until a new set of administrators can be appointed.

We hope that you understand the depth of our anger over this betrayal of our trust, and that we do not intend to let the matter rest. The employees of UCSB are facing discriminatory treatment that seriously degrades the quality of our individual lives and those of our families, as well as undermining the collective welfare of our campus community, and we are prepared to fight it with every means at our disposal, including legal action. We call upon you to exercise the leadership necessary to resolve this crisis in a manner that satisfies the needs of UCSB’s faculty and staff.

Yours truly,
Nelson Lichtenstein President,
UC Santa Barbara
Faculty Association (UCSB FA) nelson@history.ucsb.edu

Robert Williams
Board Member, UCSB FA

Aranye Fradenburg
Board Member, UCSB FA

Julie Carlson
Board Member, UCSB FA

Jorge Luis Castillo
Board Member, UCSB FA

Elisabeth Weber
Board Member, UCSB FA

Allan Stewart-Oaten Board Member, UCSB FA


Kum-Kum Bhavnani,
President, UC Santa Barbara
Academic Senate

William Jacob
Chair, Academic Council of the UC Academic Senate

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013
In her remarks at the UC Regents' meeting on Wednesday, UC President Janet Napolitano accepted Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal for a tuition freeze in 2014-15, and in effect promised to continue current UC Office of the President budget strategy.  The outcome of that strategy can be seen in the update of our traditional (simplified) chart of state general funds.

The chart compares the growth in state personal income to the growth or lack thereof in UC's general fund share. The idea is that were UC to have "grown with the state" -- and no faster --the University would be up about $2.2 billion above the $2.9 billion the Regents would like to receive in 2014-15.

What has this gap meant in practice? A tripling of undergraduate tuition, most obviously, and large fee hikes in professional schools.  According to the Finance Committee item on the 2014-15 budget proposal, UC will collect about $3 billion in tuition in 2013-14 (p 3), and about the same next year, given the tuition freeze. The missing $2.2 billion could have covered about 75% of that tuition bill.

Last February, Stan Glantz and I endorsed the principles we found in Gov. Brown's budget proposal--that the state must reinvest in public higher ed, that public universities should not charge high tuition, and that state personal income is a good metric for measuring this reinvestment.  But we noted the "huge gap between 'normal' general fund growth and UC's actual public funding level." The question UC has been facing again and again for years is what revenues could fill the gap and allow UC to "reinvest in academic quality"?

These new revenues will not soon consist of tuition. The Governor, along with the legislature's Democrat leadership have taken away the gap-filling option of tuition hikes.  But at the same time, Sacramento has now locked UC into a state fund trading range of 4-5% increases per year.   UCOP recently estimated that after the massive Schwarzenegger and Brown cuts visualized above, it needs 12% state funding increments year in year out (or 16% in a state-tuition mix) to avoid a massive structural deficit of $2.9 billion by around 2016. So once again, UC is facing permanent austerity and permanently lower academic quality as the result of this annual increment gap. Does the new budget proposal address this problem?

Yes, in that it takes the 5% base increase ($142.2 million) and adds in enough other targeted increases to get an increase of $263.4 million.  (The rest of the $383.1 million in additional funds comes from non-resident student tuition or from various university sources.   UCOP is counting savings from contracts and asset management as income, which strikes me as political outreach rather than accounting.)   So in fact UCOP is requesting a 10% increase in state general funds for 2014-15.

Obviously I hope they get it. This 10% is the minimum that would make a tuition freeze sustainable.

A major glitch is that much of Sacramento thinks that UC is the opposite of a hardship case--that it has used the crisis to raise more tuition money than it lost in the cuts. Assembly Speaker John Pérez said this loud and clear last January, and last month the Legislative Analyst's Office generated data showing UC's total state-related revenues going up steadily (figure 7).  If you look at the Budget for Current Operations 2014-15, you see the same relentless growth in UC total revenue (now closing in on $26 billion) that makes much of state government think UC should fend for itself--without further tuition gouging of students.

This framework douses the state's interest in reinvesting on the same huge scale on which it cut.  The result is that the state is now in effect deducting payments to specific university items from its general fund share.

For example, UCOP wants $64.1 million in additional funding for the state share of the pension fund, but the budget item reports that bond debt service savings of $100 million year "be used to address the University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP)'s unfunded liability" (page 4).

A bigger problem is that state leaders seem now to deduct Cal Grant increases and other financial aid against UC general funds. Gov. Brown spelled this out at the Regents' meeting in September:
Through the Cal grant program the state is adding $750 million. So the state is paying 39% of core teaching expenses. Every time you increase teaching you increase Cal grant. . . .  And now the legislature, under the leadership, or pressure, depending on how you want to look at it, of the speakers, is now going to add a middle class scholarship. That’s going to be several hundred million dollars.  That, on a yearly basis, is more than our increase to the university.  Maybe had you been lobbying a little more powerfully you would have turned that into a direct investment in the university.  But it’s not going to turn out that way. It’s going to turn out to be something called the middle class scholarship.

The California Democrat super-majority has terminated the traditional funding model of tuition hikes + state increases. This reflects a nationwide trend, in which politicians are saying no state funding restoration and no tuition hikes. Michigan-Ann Arbor is looking at 1.1% and Penn State at 2.76% for next year, and even the larger number barely breaks even with the Higher Education Price Index increase for the current year.

So rather than 6% + 6%, the state is offering UC 5% + 0%.  And when UC says 10% + 0%, the state will say OK, (10% - 5%) + 0% = 5% and you're lucky to get that, with the minus 5% being what we the state pay in financial aid to support the current frozen level of tuition.   In this Democrat model, future state increases will be held down by past tuition hikes.

Staying in this place will permanently change the University of California.  The same is true for the other segments.  But there will now be no state reinvestment unless the university can make some long-term commitment to real affordability, which will need to include tuition deflation or rollbacks.