Remaking the University

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A blog on higher education and related issues.Chris Newfield
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Faculty Principles for Senior Management Hires

Mar, 04/10/2016 - 17:00
Are senior administrators now less likely to involve faculty in major management decision than before?  The Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) is worried enough to have written "A Statement of Principles for Choosing New University of California Chancellors." The statement emerged from agreement among Faculty Association representatives from every campus.

CUCFA calls on officials to hire only those candidates who "support the value of public education." Everyone says they support this value, so CUCFA says what its members believe its components to be. First comes the recognition that "efforts at privatization have failed to sustain the University's central mission of education, research, and service for the people of California."  The statement spells out the elements of post-privatization: focusing on core mission rather than capital projects, serving more resident students rather than more high-tuition students from out-of-state, dialing back administrative growth while capping management salaries, "opening the budget to meaningful faculty review and input," and increasing contact with the surrounding society.

CUCFA's definition of "public" reflects national and international trends that have been slower to develop in California than elsewhere.  One is deprivatization. I first heard this term used to describe current changes in Poland's university system, but deprivatization is implicit in the Free College movement launched in U.S. politics by Bernie Sanders. The premise is that people can analyze the effects of privatization, and, if found negative, can lower tuition rather than raise it, raise public funding rather than lower it, reduce student debt rather than increase it, and expand research cost coverage rather than shrink it. Where there's a will there's a way, and the way here is particularly obvious.

 A second trend is postmanagerialism--or so I'll call it here. Large private and public organizations now operate under widespread cynicism about their good will and effectiveness. Decreasing proportions of U.S. residents think corporations are on their side.  Something similar is happening to public universities, some of which, like UC and CUNY, have tripped themselves up in a series of scandals that shed doubt on their devotion to public service.   You don't have to be familiar with the literature about learning organizations to believe that the low-information professor and the cognitively isolated senior manager each undermine universities.  Universities need smarter human systems that we have now, and strong shared governance can help bring that about.

A third trend the CUCFA statement reflects is the demand for epistemological diversity, driven in large part by academics working in the global South.  Societies are both internally diverse and quite different from each other, and need their university research to reflect variable demands--say for non-GMO pest-resistant crops, or for democratic theory that does not assume constitutional unity or a common language.  University diversity has, in recent decades, been undermined by audit culture, which norms universities towards "best practices" represented by the institutions that dominate global rankings, whose template is Anglo-American.  As part of its normal operation, audit introduces quantitative management practices that make collaborative governance seem unnecessary: a manager doesn't need to know her faculty and departments and make complex judgments based in large part on informal knowledge, but just have research output measures, impact factors, and rankings of departments and faculty members.  Such metrics make personal interactions seem superfluous, and intellectual diversity unnecessary.  Such standardization is now being contested and is likely gradually to be pushed aside. It will be replaced by multidimensional forms of evidence and judgment that require more rather than less interaction among members of universities, and more openness to one another.  CUCFA's push for shared governance makes epistemological diversity easier to achieve.

Our current, highly unrigorous definitions of the public university make sense if the future is going to extend the past two decades.  But it won't. The public university going forward will have to rediscover the effectiveness of shared resources, mutualized costs, and collaborative governance. It will need to discover much stronger meanings of public.  If this is right, then CUCFA's statement is ahead of the curve.
Categorías: Universidade

A Global Crisis of Faculty Faith? Two Berkeley Examples

Mér, 21/09/2016 - 16:29
I've always believed that university professors are willing and able to govern academics, but now I am not so sure.  I am worried about growing fatalism among even tenured faculty activists.  I'm concerned about the tacit belief that unstoppable historical forces have already destroyed the universities they want to keep.  From this standpoint, local resistance can work but remaking is futile, though remaking is the premise of shared governance and of academic freedom.

My summer travels took me to London, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Liverpool, Bonn, Cambridge, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Crewe, York, and Valencia, mostly for lectures and discussions with faculty members about the state of  universities in their country.   I was struck by the contrast between the great intelligence and professional commitments of the professors on the one hand, and their lack of hope for universities on the other.  Several of the visits revolved around higher education conferences, where I heard brilliant analyses of the nuts and bolts of national education initiatives that lacked a standpoint for faculty intervention.

Everyone was extremely busy teaching, running research centers, organizing outreach programs, testifying to government officials, and so on--there was never a lack of constructive activities.  But I sensed little confidence that any of the faculty activities would help improve their institutions or the policy environment. There are important exceptions to this rule, and I am always impressed by the great spirits who continue to be attracted into academia. When necessary, faculty would set up Temporary Autonomous Zones and hope that these spaces--labs, classrooms, offices--would escape outside attention long enough to succeed at getting their work done. It's not that faculty members saw managers as their enemy. They saw them instead as a fatal environment.

A few examples: in Denmark I heard stories both of a comedic inability of managers to return email from faculty who had major proposals before them and of the mandatory use of automated work output management systems that scored and ranked faculty members for university managers.  In South Africa, I encountered professors who were angry at their students for demanding #FeesMustFall rather than at politicians for failing to fund the higher education mission. in Britain, I worked with faculty who were responding to the post-2011 elimination of public funding for all qualitative teaching fields by reinventing entire programs nearly every year to be more appealing to the student market.  They were all great people who had reacted to challenges by creating better local solutions, but with no expectation that it would help the university system.

In most cases, output audit was replacing direct faculty-administration dialogue and the collaborative reimagining of that university's future.  The UK's Tory government has been the most explicit about its use of funding authority to replace professional judgment with market signals. In cutting central government funding for instruction to zero for most subjects, it has forced teaching to cater to student demand.  It uses impact assessments and other auditing techniques to norm STEM research to business needs.

Governments are ignoring the fact that universities are supposed to be way out in front of public sensibility in both technical and sociocultural subjects.  Universities can't be original unless they are out in front. Managing by audit, in contrast, readily norms the teaching of society, culture, and science to established mainstream views, whether that be commercial television's stories of the origins of terrorism or the pharmaceutical industry's preferences on the characterization of molecules. This norming reduces the university's non-market and social value. It ironically reduces its market value by emphasizing existing rather than future skills for students and well-known rather than challenging problems for research.

It was impossible for me to forget the University of California's travails no matter the distance, and I see two recent Berkeley issues through the gap I saw this summer between faculty reaction and faculty governance.  One issue is the budget: Berkeley's senior managers are apparently still saying that private revenue streams and more entrepreneurship will fix the budget deficit.  I interpret the evidence to show that the deficit came in large part from privatization and cannot be fixed by more of the same.   I also think that the admin's proposed solutions of "enrollment control, self-supporting degree programs, increased land utilization, entrepreneurship, and fundraising" expresses the conventional budgetary wisdom of our proverbial neoliberal era of the kind that universities exist to get beyond. Either way, the issue can't be resolved by meetings that offer spotty information about which faculty ask isolated questions and express frustration.  It can only be resolved by faculty bodies--the Senate and/or the Faculty Association and/or other groups--doing independent analysis with comprehensive financial information and building their own sustainable budget to advocate to the administration.  Faculty members haven't shifted from budget reaction to budget governance. Until they do, nothing will change.

Same goes for the Berkeley administration's suspension in the middle of the term of a student-taught course, "Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis."   Dean Carla Hesse suspended the course on the same day that  "43 Jewish, civil rights, and education advocacy groups" wrote to campus chancellor Nicholas Dirks to claim that the course was political advocacy, met the "government's criteria for anti-Semitism," had been approved and was being taught by anti-Zionist zealots, and was out of compliance with UC Regents policy.  And yet the course had been approved through a standard process in which faculty members have primary and ultimate authority over the curriculum--in this case the department's acting chair and the Academic Senate.  It also appears that the Berkeley administration would have taken no action without pressure from outside interest groups, and that the suspension was a response to this outside pressure.  The chancellor and/or executive dean in this case intervened in the faculty's core domain in response to an outside grievance, and they triggered national coverage of basic questions about academic freedom.  For the blow by blow of that issue I refer you to John K. Wilson's detailed analysis, Berkeley professor Samera Esmeir's commentary, and Dr. Wilson's critique of Dean Hesse's reinstatement letter.  My point here is that various kinds of internal pressure were brought to bear, from every student in the course and also from Berkeley faculty, which resulted in the course's reinstatement, and yet this kind of strong reaction is not going to be enough.

For the dean's reinstatement letter claims both that deans "review, but do not approve the academic content" of courses in this program and that this review legitimately asked about course content, that is, about "whether the stated objective for the course to 'explore the possibility of a decolonized Palestine' potentially violated Regents Policy by crossing over the line from teaching to political advocacy." The latter phrase does assert an administrative right to review content of these student-taught courses even when they are, as in this case, approved by the appropriate faculty.  Dean Hesse's position is thus that enforcement of University instructional policy does not lie with the faculty alone, but requires administrative supervision.   This remains a departure from standard AAUP-based principles of faculty self-governance of instruction.  It is consistent with the trend toward shifting the supervision of instruction reflected in the MOOC wave of 2012-13, where officials signed contracts with little faculty knowledge or input, and with the trend toward removing faculty from the university's reputation management that enabled acts like the Board firing of Professor Steven Saliata from the University of Illinois and of Asst. Professor Melissa Click from the University of Missouri.  While faculty reaction helped resolve the immediate UC Berkeley issue, faculty governance will be needed to reconstruct authority over curriculum in order to prevent such intrusions in the future.

The Berkeley student course on Palestine raised the question of whether society will allow universities to function as their over-the-horizon intellectual resource.  It represented academic inquiry that fulfilled the intellectual mission of being out in front of public sensibility on an important question. When a classroom, library, or laboratory houses original solutions, some factions will see them as impossible, outrageous, or offensive.  This is the routine impact of any avant-garde in art, science, and every field in between, whose members are treated as enemies before in many cases being lauded as pioneers.   All the outrage means is that the university is doing its job.

Since senior managers can apparently not be expected to stand up to influential outsiders, the tenured faculty will have to do it.  It would be better to do it by re-establishing governing authority over the conditions that make originality possible, rather than putting out particular fires on a global scale.
Categorías: Universidade

Corporate Universities are Shocked to Learn They have Graduate Student Employees

Mar, 30/08/2016 - 16:59
As you may know, a 3-1 majority of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Columbia University's Teaching Assistants (known at Columbia as Instructional Officers) are to be considered "employees" under the terms of the National Labor Relations Act.  As a result of this ruling, Columbia's TAs (and by implication those at other private universities) now have the legal authority to seek an election to select a union to collectively bargain with the University.  In so ruling, the Board Majority overturned a previous decision concerning Brown University but also, and more significantly, rejected the argument that if a graduate student's relationship with their university was "primarily educational" (6) they could not be considered employees when serving as Teaching Assistants.  Instead, using the legal equivalent of "if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck..." the Board Majority ruled that when graduate students functioned as common law employees (under the power and direction of managers subject to sanction and receiving compensation) then they should be considered employees.

Moreover, the Board majority noted quite correctly that whatever may have once been the case, in the modern corporate university graduate student employees provide important economic service to their university.  As the majority noted (16):

Teaching assistants frequently take on a role akin to that of faculty, the traditional purveyors of a university’s instructional output. The teaching assistants conduct lectures, grade exams, and lead discussions. Significant portions of the overall teaching duties conducted by universities are conducted by student assistants. The delegation of the task of instructing undergraduates, one of a university’s most important revenue-producing activities, certainly suggests that the student assistants’ relationship to the University has a salient economic character.
The Board thereby acknowledged the current structure of university labor--that Teaching Assistants (like adjunct faculty and tenure track faculty) provide important economic value to universities above and beyond the educational benefit they may receive.  That economic value is generated by teaching classes and sections that bring in tuition.  Without this revenue, private universities could not exist. Moreover, this  labor takes place under the determination of the university's needs and not of the educational logic of graduate education.

In doing so, the Board recognized the logic that has been systematically imposed by university managers onto their teaching forces for decades now.  As is common knowledge, a substantial amount of the actual teaching in higher education is done by graduate students and adjuncts (of course the amounts vary institution by institution).  Despite all the worries expressed about how collective bargaining will intrude inappropriate economic questions into academic life, it is, in truth, the changing labor strategies of universities that have already subordinated academics to economics.  The never ending cries to make universities more like "businesses" (i.e. lower labor costs) is only the most obvious symptom of this transformation.

Predictably, the managers of leading private universities have objected to this recognition of reality in the discussion of graduate student employment.  As Corey Robin has pointed out, Chicago, Columbia, Princeton and Yale all quickly released statements warning graduate students that they might lose their individual voice in the overweening collectivity of a union. Implicit in all of these discussions is the threat that if graduate students voted to be represented by a union on issues relating to their working conditions, these negotiations would interfere with the educational relationship of faculty and graduate students.  As Columbia's Provost John Coatsworth put it in a letter to staff: "For my part—and, in this, I speak for my colleagues in the University administration and for many faculty members—I am concerned about the impact of having a non-academic third-party involved in the highly individualized and varied contexts in which faculty teach and train students in their departments, classrooms, and laboratories."  But this claim is absurd on its face.  As Provost Coatsworth must well know, if the graduate student employees vote for collective bargaining it will be graduate students and not some "non-academic third party" conducting the negotiations in a situation in which universities have long let non-academic (financial) considerations shape their programs.

It is hard to tell whether these responses are a sign of managers' failures of self-awareness or truthfulness.  After decades of transforming themselves on the model of the financial industry (and ensuring that many of their students end up in finance), they now worry that economic interests may disrupt academic relationships.  But graduate student employees at Columbia and elsewhere are seeking an institutional mechanism to address a power imbalance between them and university management. It is in fact this power imbalance that is destroying the academy from within, and not bargaining rights designed to correct it.  The NLRB recognized that.  Reality made a rare appearance in the discourse about the economics of higher education.
Categorías: Universidade

What Berkeley's Problem is Not

Mér, 24/08/2016 - 22:43
As the Berkeley and Davis campuses seek new chancellors, they'll be looking for people who can deal with endless public university budget problems.  In Berkeley's case, there's the $150 million structural deficit that surfaced on outgoing Chancellor Nicholas Dirks' watch.  
What should the next chancellor do to fix the deficit? Chancellor Dirks raised the prospect of cuts to the academic core, but mostly stuck to the standard model of growing private revenue streams. This has meant more fundraising, more non-resident students, more high-priced "innovative master's programs and more executive education.  It also means using [public university] assets in more commercial ways." It will mean figuring out how to start raising tuition again while promoting the high tuition-high aid model.   The quotations are from Nicholas Dirks.  Privatization was what he was doing, and what he did well within the rules of the game, particularly in fundraising. Leaving aside his management mistakes to focus on the budget issues, should Berkeley look for Nick Dirks 2.0, Nick Dirks on steroids, some kind of Double Dirks? 
The deficit predated anything chancellor Dirks did. John Wilton, the campus's lead budget officer, had announced it in November 2013, and traced it to old and new forms of state underfunding.  The Schwarzenegger and Brown budget cuts did enormous damage to UC finances. For a while, budget shortfalls were covered by reserves, but several years into the era of subpar funding, these were running out. Vice-chancellor Wilton had also already factored in all non-state and private revenue growth projections. The UC Berkeley deficit has come from a combination of state, university-wide, and campus budget choices. In addition, that deficit was not going to be closed by the growth in private funding.  More on that issue below.
We get reports that senior UC Berkeley officials are pinning much of their deficit, up to $50 million a year, on a choice the university system imposed called "rebenching." This is a program to start to reduce inequities in the UC Office of the President's allocations among the campuses. For many years, a student at UC Davis received a much higher state outlay than did the same kind of student at UC Santa Cruz; the same was true for UCLA vs. UC Irvine, and so on around the system. A 2011 report by the California State Auditor found large cross-campus inequalities and no good reason why this was so. It also found that the campuses with a higher proportion of Black, Latino, and Native American students got less money per student. (See Table 6 and this post for figures and analysis.)  The pre-rebenching allocations were clearly unethical and arguably racist, and although UCOP's response plausibly denied racist intent, it worked with the Academic Senate to rebench allocations to improve equity.   
But was Berkeley supposed to pay for it all? Have a look at the 2012 report of the Rebenching Budget Committee.  The total allocated for the entire system’s rebenching was about $37 million per year, now stepped up to $46 million per year total for all campuses (page 12).  So even were the entire system being rebenched at Berkeley's sole expense, it still wouldn't come to $50 million a year.  
In any case, this is not how rebenching works. The equity funding comes
(1) from new state money (it is not redistribution but finally-equitable distribution), allocated by (2) weighted enrollments (more per-student money for campuses with large doctoral programs like Berkeley) after (3) "set-asides" for designated programs that adjusts each campus's base budget, leading to (4) a leveling up of all campuses to the top campus level (Los Angeles). 
The effect on Berkeley can be seen in my number 1 favorite recent UC spreadsheet, Appendix A of the rebenching report. First, Berkeley's reduction under the new system was a bit over $6 million (row U), far smaller than Davis's or Los Angeles' because it wasn't as overpaid, so to speak, by the established system.  Again that's much less than $50 million.  But that wasn't to be an actual loss because, after various considerations, Berkeley was to be rebenched up by about $28 million per year, or +10% on its original base budget.  The 2012 plan had rebenching giving the Berkeley campus $4,688,619 more each year for six years.  This was only half of the additional new money going to the two most underfunded campuses by equalized weighted enrollment--Irvine and Santa Barbara--but it was not a deficit maker.
Perhaps the actual allocations have not followed the plan. But if that is the case, officials should produce figures that show what has happened instead.
Here's a visual of rebenching over six years (Appendix B).
Berkeley was a bit over the old average, so seemed a loser in the socialist benchmarking paradise. But in reality it is below the new benchmark, and so is to benefit from rebenching like all campuses other than Los Angeles, which is to stay the same.  Note that this is only one of the campus's many revenue streams, does not include non-resident tuition which each campus keeps for itself, is based on weighted enrollment, etc. Note especially the deeper issue, which is inadequate state funding. This had been softened at the wealthier campuses but not at the poor ones.
Rebenching is not Berkeley's problem. So if the public system isn't sinking Berkeley, what is?
That would be a combination of public cuts, already mentioned, new costs incurred by campuses, and new costs that UCOP or the state has pushed onto the campuses in recent years. The new costs that UC campuses haven’t incurred themselves include:
  • Normal cost inflation.  VC Wilton estimated this as historically 3-4% per year, meaning the UCOP “deal” on state increases  (4% per year for a few years) is essentially a zero gain.
  • Capital projects.  The state has largely withdrawn from campus development.   
  • Pension contributions (up from zero to 14% of payroll since 2010).
  • Increased employer health care costs, including retiree health care.
  • Central administration, aka UCOP,  which is now funded via campus taxes to the tune of something close to 15% of state funding.
  • Subsidies for UCSF (a $130 million premium in enrollment-based allocations (Appendix A row J * row M)
There are also campus-based structural costs, particularly the practice of covering a large share of research costs (19% at Berkeley) with institutional funds. (Background on this can be found here.)

How do these costs hit Berkeley? A quick scan of the campus's Annual Financial Report for 2014-15 (pdf page 5) shows that pension contributions have grown from zero to $128.4 million per year.  “Other employee benefits,” which I assume is largely heath care, is up to $274.4 million.  Interest on debt and capital leases is $90 million a year (up $10 million year on year). In the realm of capital projects, "proceeds from debt issuance” fall short of “purchase of capital assets” by $140 million (and by $160 million in the previous year).   Grants and contracts income declined $40 million over one year (they  have since rebounded). At the same time, over two years, Berkeley's outlays of its own "institutional funds" to support research, mostly losses on extramurally-funded projects, increased $26 million (from $138 million to $164 million).   This is a partial list of the real contributors to Berkeley's $150 million annual deficit.  
What drives these expenses?  State politics for one: were the state to fund UC's employer share of pension contributions, Berkeley would fix $128 million of its $150 million problem.  There are also necessary growth and upgrades: some chunk of the capital project costs are in the category of always improving teaching and research. Research policy is another: federal agencies force universities to subsidize research and foundations and corporations are even worse. 
But a big general driver is what I call the price of privatization. It is expensive to compete with Stanford, Cal Tech, et al for corporate partners, non-resident students, research grants, wealthy donors, senior executives, and everything else. VC Wilton said it best: "Berkeley must now compete for its three most important revenue sources [philanthropy, students, and research] against the best private and public universities." He went on to assert, "Because 87% of our revenue does not result from a legislative process, the need to be market-competitive is essential." The decline of public funding has induced a preoccupation with competing to increase mostly private revenue streams and with covering all the costs of the market competitions on offer.
In the post-crisis scramble, where do managers draw the line between necessary investments and privatization boondoggles?  Which of the projects that created that $140 million shortfall for capital debt/assets is part of the core mission and which supports off-campus interests or a favored group? How big are the avoidable costs of competition? Which competitions should be avoided on the basis of costs? If a research and teaching mission lacks a competitive revenue market, do you tax it for the sake of someone else's market competition? When you don't really know where to draw the line, and money is cheap, do you try all of them, especially if you can launch them by executive order?  Faculty, staff, and students should be directly involved in answering these questions.  They are budgetary and also properly political.
Post-Dirks, Berkeley has a real choice between faster, better privatization (and its costs) or figuring out privatization's costs and cutting it down to size.  Ironically, dialing back is supported by the budget data of its advocates. VC Wilton probably was not telling Chancellor Dirks that privatization would work because fundraising and partnerships were magic bullets.  I think they saw it more as a muddle-through strategy designed to kludge the system for another 5 years (2013-2018) with gains from non-resident tuition, educational businesses, real estate, and endowment income, at which point UC would either start big tuition hikes again or Berkeley could gain its semi-freedom to charge its own higher tuition.
The full debate between privatization and its costs never happened.  This is in large part because of the managerial decisionism I won't discuss here, and also because, as Jacques Lacan would have expected, denial was an important part of the disclosure.  Wilton Part 1 disclosed budget strategy failure.  Wilton Part 2 hid it in plain sight.  While former Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was a true believer who could effortlessly suture the contradiction, Chancellor Dirks was perhaps unsettled by the double message that UC Berkeley’s administration has been broadcasting for a decade: we must privatize; we are more public than ever. Were this so, he would naturally seem indecisive, as though he “embrace[d] ambiguity.”   In fact, privatization is ambiguous.  It wants private money, especially high net tuition, and to keep its public subsidies, and to keep its public-mission image.  Chancellor Dirks' Chronicle of Higher Education article and his resignation memos are classic performances of the not-quite-convinced that make the model feel as unworkable as it actually is.  I assume he was following the established Berkeley administrative program.  He knew the formula.  But he hadn't swallowed the blue pill. 
Berkeley's problem isn't rebenching.  Berkeley's problem isn't the UC system. Berkeley's problem is unrestored public funding in conjunction with privatization, which raises costs while encouraging cuts.  How much does its own program grow the funding gap between what public education needs and what privatization makes us want?  I'm sure the campus can find a chancellor who is willing to find out.  

Categorías: Universidade

The Katehi Resignation

Mér, 10/08/2016 - 02:32
As you have probably heard, Linda Katehi submitted her resignation from the position of Chancellor of UC Davis today.  I don't have the time to offer an analysis of the central documents but I wanted to provide links for those of you who would like to look further into the investigative report and the various responses to it.

Chancellor Katehi's Letter of Resignation

Statement of Davis Academic Senate Chair Knoesen regarding the resignation.

Report of Investigation of Chancellor Katehi (with redactions).

Text of President Napolitano's Statement on Chancellor Katehi's Resignation.

Statement by Chancellor Katehi's Attorney Melinda Guzman in response to Report and Resignation.

On President Napolitano's confidential letter to the regents on Chancellor Katehi (Cloudminder)

Categorías: Universidade

Regents Propose Centralization Without Real Justification

Mér, 20/07/2016 - 03:50
As you may have seen, the Regents will vote July 20th on a proposed revision to their By-laws and the University's Standing Orders.  An original presentation was made at their May 12 meeting; tomorrow's discussion will be about a modified version of that proposal.  You can find the modifications here. Commentary on this has been provided by former Regent Velma Montoya (here and here), Hank Reichman at the Academe Blog has commented here, and the California Association of Scholars has sent a letter reprinted here.  I urge you all to read the various documents and commentaries but I wanted to clarify some of the important issues quickly.

The proposal combines two major sets of changes.  The first is a dramatic alteration in the Regents committee and meeting structure--an alteration that could reduce both public debate and oversight in important ways.  And second, the proposal begins a process that will likely result in the elimination of the Standing Orders of the University.

These proposed changes have led to a wide range of criticism. The weakness of the arguments in favor of these changes suggests more fundamental problems with the current status of the Board of Regents.

1) At present the Regents have 10 Standing Committees.  The proposal reduces this number to 6 and vests important internal power to the Governance and Compensation Committee.  In addition, the Chair of the Board, Chairs of Committees, and the President of the University are being given the authority to determine the scheduling of discussion whenever an individual Regent wants an item added to an Agenda (3).  Importantly, although Committee meetings are traditionally held sequentially under the new system, different Committees will meet concurrently during the 1st day of the Regents meeting, making it more difficult for newspapers, members of the University community, and members of the public to attend all the meetings they are concerned about. Interestingly, there will no longer be a Long-Range Planning Committee.

It is, of course, impossible to know how these changes will actually affect the Regents practice.  But having listened to the discussion at the May meeting, I am not confident that they serve any purpose other than the centralization of power.  In discussing the origins of these proposals, proponents suggested that they grew out of a Regents retreat and were a response to the sense that too much time at meetings was spent listening to reports from administrators.  I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone forced to suffer through an administrative filibuster.  But there is a simple way to avoid that--demand that all reports be in writing, sent in advance, and then read them before the meeting.  That way you can push back against the filibuster by asking intelligent questions or raising objections. If the individual Regents are too busy to do that then they should just decline the honor of serving on the Board.

Reducing the number of Committees and dividing up Committee presentations will not solve the problem of too much transactional activity--all it will accomplish is reduce the possibility of public oversight and also increase the specialization of Regents even if the second day has a long plenary session.  As with their reorganization of the Health Care Committee--where a report indicating a problem of communication internal to the Health Sciences enterprise led to an expansion of central power under the Regents--the Regents have identified one problem and proposed a solution to something else.

2) The Governance Committee is also proposing that the Standing Orders be absorbed into the newly drawn By-Laws.  Although I don't agree with the CAS that the Standing Orders function as some sort of legislative record, they are correct that they should not be folded into the By-Laws.  (It is the fact that they are not a legislative record that gives them their importance).  The Standing Orders as they stand now have been infrequently changed and they are extremely detailed.  It is their public detail that makes them so important.  To give only one example, when the Regents determined that they wanted to give President Yudof special furlough powers they needed to make explicit changes under public scrutiny--scrutiny that produced a great deal of debate.  To be sure, the Regents did what they wanted to do--as is their wont--but they needed to do so publicly and with their responsibility marked out. If you want wider input, then publicity is important. Of course if you don't, then having vaguer rules will have that effect. The new By-Laws are in fact much vaguer than the Standing Orders, which will allow for changes with less scrutiny. One argument made in favor of this change is that the By-Laws take a 2/3 vote to change while the Standing Orders only require a majority vote. But the simple answer to that is to make the Standing Orders require a 2/3 vote as well.

In a nutshell, the Regents are considering a set of changes that may make it more difficult for the public to see what they do at their meetings and allow for policy changes to proceed along vaguer than usual lines. At a time when UC administrators are under increased scrutiny and the University itself is viewed with greater suspicion of being out of touch with the State, the Regents are proposing a major overhaul of their organization and relation to the public without real justification or careful university wide discussion.  That one likely result will be greater control in the hands of fewer Regents is a cause for alarm. The whole process highlights fundamental problems with the practice of Regental governance.
Categorías: Universidade