Remaking the University

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A blog on higher education and related issues.Chris Newfield
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I Will Not Work as a Strikebreaker: (UPDATED) Grad Strike Ends with Agreement 12/10

Lun, 08/12/2014 - 20:01
 by Matthew Dennis, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon

After a year of negotiations, the Graduate Teaching Fellowship Federation (GTFF) at the University of Oregon went on strike last week over the University's refusal to grant two weeks of automatically granted sick leave for illness or childbirth.  Kaitlin Mulhere has a good overview at "Inside Higher Ed." UO's faculty senate passed a resolution criticizing the administration's handling of the strike, focusing in part on admin's plan to bypass TA grading   in a way that would weaken academic standards "by administrative fiat."  The UO faculty senate is now investigating this issue. The grad strike coincides with a conflict between UO faculty and its Board of Trustees (pictured above) over faculty governance. The Board is planning to change 70 policies at its meeting this week, and some major changes in the UO Constitution have been proposed by the Board chair.  These and other issues are well-covered by the UO Matters blog, where their scanner processes official documents 24 hours a day.

UO professor Matt Dennis wrote an op-ed for the Eugene newspaper that lays out the issues. His letter to his students is below, in which he makes institutional issues part of his students' overall education.

Dear Students,

The Graduate Teaching Fellows union (GTFF) has declared its intention to go out on strike next week, on Tuesday December 2. I’m writing to you now to explain how this will affect History 201. The GTFF and the UO administration’s labor representatives have been in negotiations since last November (2013) and have hit an impasse. The GFTF has made a number of reasonable demands, which the administration seems unwilling to grant. As a result the GTFs have chosen to use the only real leverage they possess—to withhold their labor. Strikes are disruptive—that’s their point. We notice the critical contribution that the strikers—our GTFs—make to our educational lives, and we hope that the administration quickly realizes that as well and settles their conflict with the GTFF. It’s impossible to predict, however, how long the strike will continue.

Some will blame the GTFF for this disruption in undergraduate teaching, but the administration bears considerable blame for its unwillingness to compromise. They have likely spent more in their prolonged negotiations with the GTFF than it would have cost to fund the GTFF’s requested two-week sick leave policy. And it will cost much more to hire replacement workers to circumvent the strike. My personal opinion is that this approach is ill advised, counterproductive, irresponsible, and needlessly expensive. Though the central administration represents itself as “the university,” in fact the heart of the university is its students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and staff—most of whom have not had any say in the negotiations, even though we have the most at stake.

The administration seems willing to compromise the academic integrity of the university in the interest of “continuity.” I am not. It has recommended a number of “options” to work around the strike, including hiring others to grade your work, even suggesting advanced undergraduates, canceling exams and other assignments, transforming exams into multiple choice tests, or simply grading students on the work already performed. In History 201 this would entail abandoning the syllabus (my contract with you), and awarding final grades based on some 55 percent of the graded work completed so far. Because this course is designed to reach a large number of students—over 100—and because my other responsibilities already demand 100 percent of my time, I am not able to grade your work myself. But, on professional and moral grounds, I would not do so in any case. Your GTFs have done a terrific job, worked with you closely, and know you and are in a position to judiciously evaluate your performance. Under present circumstances I cannot do as well--as well as you deserve. Nor will I undermine their efforts to get a just contract. I will not work as a strikebreaker or “scab.”

Where does that leave us in History 201? The exam you took last Tuesday, November 25 (20 percent of your grade) is not yet graded, but it should be evaluated, and your grade on it should be counted in the calculation of your final grade. As should your final exam. Next
week, during the strike, I will deliver my final two lectures in the course as scheduled. The
discussion section meetings taught normally by GTFs, scheduled for week 10, will be
cancelled. The final exam (25 percent of your grade) will occur as scheduled on Tuesday,
December 9 at 8:00 a.m. I will proctor the exam myself and collect your examination books,
but the exams will remain ungraded until the strike is settled and the GTFs are able to grade them. Thus, if the strike extends into finals week or beyond, you will not receive a grade in History 201. Under these circumstances, with so much of your work ungraded, I am unable to file any grades ethically, responsibly, or fairly.

It’s possible that a representative of the administration might decide that filing grades—even indiscriminate ones—is more important than insuring the integrity and justness of such grades. Communications from the administration have suggested that in some cases it might usurp the role of “instructor of record” and file grades themselves. Such a move would be arbitrary and capricious, and a fundamental violation of academic freedom, but it could occur nonetheless. I certainly hope that this does not happen, and that the strike is quickly settled, that the administration treats you equitably and with the respect you merit, and that this mishandling of negotiations with the GTFFs doesn’t damage the integrity and reputation of the University of Oregon we have worked so hard to sustain.

You may be concerned about how all this will affect your academic progress or financial aid. I am empathetic. These are important administrative matters, requiring administrative fixes in these extraordinary circumstances. I encourage you to contact the administration, which should be able to find workable administrative solutions that do not compromise the
academic integrity of the university. It’s their responsibility—and it’s in their interest as well as yours—to ensure your ongoing eligibility for financial aid.

I will see you all next week and answer any questions you have then. I hope in the meantime that you have a nice Thanksgiving holiday and that somehow the strike is averted.

best wishes,

Matthew Dennis,
Professor of History and Environmental Studies
History 201

Chris here: this is the strike resolution letter, posted at UO Matters

Categorías: Universidade

I Will Not Work as a Strikebreaker: Letter of U Oregon Prof to Students about Grad Strike

Lun, 08/12/2014 - 20:01
 by Matthew Dennis, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon

After a year of negotiations, the Graduate Teaching Fellowship Federation (GTFF) at the University of Oregon went on strike last week over the University's refusal to grant two weeks of automatically granted sick leave for illness or childbirth.  Kaitlin Mulhere has a good overview at "Inside Higher Ed." UO's faculty senate passed a resolution criticizing the administration's handling of the strike, focusing in part on admin's plan to bypass TA grading   in a way that would weaken academic standards "by administrative fiat."  The UO faculty senate is now investigating this issue. The grad strike coincides with a conflict between UO faculty and its Board of Trustees (pictured above) over faculty governance. The Board is planning to change 70 policies at its meeting this week, and some major changes in the UO Constitution have been proposed by the Board chair.  These and other issues are well-covered by the UO Matters blog, where their scanner processes official documents 24 hours a day.

UO professor Matt Dennis wrote an op-ed for the Eugene newspaper that lays out the issues. His letter to his students is below, in which he makes institutional issues part of his students' overall education.

Dear Students,

The Graduate Teaching Fellows union (GTFF) has declared its intention to go out on strike next week, on Tuesday December 2. I’m writing to you now to explain how this will affect History 201. The GTFF and the UO administration’s labor representatives have been in negotiations since last November (2013) and have hit an impasse. The GFTF has made a number of reasonable demands, which the administration seems unwilling to grant. As a result the GTFs have chosen to use the only real leverage they possess—to withhold their labor. Strikes are disruptive—that’s their point. We notice the critical contribution that the strikers—our GTFs—make to our educational lives, and we hope that the administration quickly realizes that as well and settles their conflict with the GTFF. It’s impossible to predict, however, how long the strike will continue.

Some will blame the GTFF for this disruption in undergraduate teaching, but the administration bears considerable blame for its unwillingness to compromise. They have likely spent more in their prolonged negotiations with the GTFF than it would have cost to fund the GTFF’s requested two-week sick leave policy. And it will cost much more to hire replacement workers to circumvent the strike. My personal opinion is that this approach is ill advised, counterproductive, irresponsible, and needlessly expensive. Though the central administration represents itself as “the university,” in fact the heart of the university is its students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and staff—most of whom have not had any say in the negotiations, even though we have the most at stake.

The administration seems willing to compromise the academic integrity of the university in the interest of “continuity.” I am not. It has recommended a number of “options” to work around the strike, including hiring others to grade your work, even suggesting advanced undergraduates, canceling exams and other assignments, transforming exams into multiple choice tests, or simply grading students on the work already performed. In History 201 this would entail abandoning the syllabus (my contract with you), and awarding final grades based on some 55 percent of the graded work completed so far. Because this course is designed to reach a large number of students—over 100—and because my other responsibilities already demand 100 percent of my time, I am not able to grade your work myself. But, on professional and moral grounds, I would not do so in any case. Your GTFs have done a terrific job, worked with you closely, and know you and are in a position to judiciously evaluate your performance. Under present circumstances I cannot do as well--as well as you deserve. Nor will I undermine their efforts to get a just contract. I will not work as a strikebreaker or “scab.”

Where does that leave us in History 201? The exam you took last Tuesday, November 25 (20 percent of your grade) is not yet graded, but it should be evaluated, and your grade on it should be counted in the calculation of your final grade. As should your final exam. Next
week, during the strike, I will deliver my final two lectures in the course as scheduled. The
discussion section meetings taught normally by GTFs, scheduled for week 10, will be
cancelled. The final exam (25 percent of your grade) will occur as scheduled on Tuesday,
December 9 at 8:00 a.m. I will proctor the exam myself and collect your examination books,
but the exams will remain ungraded until the strike is settled and the GTFs are able to grade them. Thus, if the strike extends into finals week or beyond, you will not receive a grade in History 201. Under these circumstances, with so much of your work ungraded, I am unable to file any grades ethically, responsibly, or fairly.

It’s possible that a representative of the administration might decide that filing grades—even indiscriminate ones—is more important than insuring the integrity and justness of such grades. Communications from the administration have suggested that in some cases it might usurp the role of “instructor of record” and file grades themselves. Such a move would be arbitrary and capricious, and a fundamental violation of academic freedom, but it could occur nonetheless. I certainly hope that this does not happen, and that the strike is quickly settled, that the administration treats you equitably and with the respect you merit, and that this mishandling of negotiations with the GTFFs doesn’t damage the integrity and reputation of the University of Oregon we have worked so hard to sustain.

You may be concerned about how all this will affect your academic progress or financial aid. I am empathetic. These are important administrative matters, requiring administrative fixes in these extraordinary circumstances. I encourage you to contact the administration, which should be able to find workable administrative solutions that do not compromise the
academic integrity of the university. It’s their responsibility—and it’s in their interest as well as yours—to ensure your ongoing eligibility for financial aid.

I will see you all next week and answer any questions you have then. I hope in the meantime that you have a nice Thanksgiving holiday and that somehow the strike is averted.

best wishes,

Matthew Dennis,
Professor of History and Environmental Studies
History 201
Categorías: Universidade

The Impact of Tuition Hikes on Undergraduate Debt

Mér, 26/11/2014 - 20:12
The November UC Regents meeting featured a battle of the paradigms between administrative and student accounts of student finances. 

UC Office of the President (UCOP) officials, led by Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom, sustained their longstanding claim that generous UC financial aid protects all low-income and most middle-income students from tuition costs. The Berkeley campus issued a statement citing the main talking point:California students from families with annual incomes under $80,000 will continue to have tuition and fees fully covered by financial aid, and the vast majority of California students from families earning less than $150,000 a year will see no increase.Upping the volume on this message, the immediate past chancellor of UC Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau, claimed that this high financial aid depends on high tuition, so that "frozen tuition means ever-increasing debt for low-income students."
While senior managers focused on tuition, students focused on their total cost of attendance. This is what they have to pay overall while they are in school.  Grants can cover most or all of their tuition, and yet rent, food, transportation, health insurance, etc. run up the overall bill for attending UC.   Regular folks watching the livestream might wonder why the officials were so soothing while the students were so distraught.  But the officials and the students were talking about two different things.

Here’s a figure from a Legislative Analyst’s Office report that visualizes the experience gap in the regents’s boardroom.

For this student, from a family at around the median income, the University, federal and state programs cover all tuition and some expenses.  And in spite of fairly expensive aid, she is left that large blank space in the left-hand bar: nearly $10,000 to pay on her own. (Her total costs are lowballed here--as we'll see, they are closer to $35,000 at the coastal campuses).   

A bit of terminology will help:

"Student Responsibility" in the chart can also be called Self-Help Expectation, or Unmet Need, defined in a basic way as follows

Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need

FInancial Need minus FInancial Aid Awarded = Unmet Need

The first thing to note is that a university can say to a student, "we cover your full tuition" and still leave her scrambling to fund a gap in her grants, here of between $9000 and $10,000 per year. She will have to fill this gap either with loans or work.

Second, there is an ambiguity in the terminology. You might assume "Financial Aid Award" means grants.  But in fact university financial aid offices "award" loans as well.  They can, in this way, reduce a student's Unmet Need to zero, but only by inducing the student to borrow and/or take on additional work.  They can also include parental borrowing in the closing of Unmet Need.

I will follow what I believe is UC practice is calling the mixture of loans and work the student's Self-Help Expectation.  This seems like a more rigorous definition of financial need that is unmet by grants, but this is apparently not how UC uses the term so I will avoid it. 

Next, where does the financial aid system expect her to get this money?

I've spent quite a bit of time with financial aid analyses, but like most UC faculty have not done concrete aid calculations for particular students.  I got some help from an employee of UCSB's financial aid office, who was nice enough to send me some examples and comments. This person created the examples below without disclosing the campus's financial aid "parameters," which are apparently confidential. All of these examples presume a family of 4 with one student in college and no assets, savings, or non-salary income. It also assumes the student does not have outside scholarships.

Here is the cost of attendance (COA) for UCSB.

Tuition is about one-third of total costs, which are close to $35,000 a year.  A student can save about $4000 by moving off-campus, putting off-campus COA at $31,000.  I will stick with the on-campus first-year student: how does she cover these costs?

Example 1: Total Family Income = $35,000.
Expected Family Contribution = $0

This is a low-income student.  Her financial aid award letter (assuming on-campus housing) will break down like this:

$12,192    Cal Grant  
$  5,730    Pell Grant
$  7,736    UCSB Grant
$  3,500     Subsidized loan
$  2,000     Unsubsidized loan
$  1,700     Perkins loan
$  2,000    Work study

The student's COA is $34,858. Her EFC is $0, so her Financial Need is also $34,858.  Her grant total is $25,658.  She is left with a Self-Help Expectation of $9200.  She can supply $2000 of that with a work-study job. She needs still to come up with $7200 on top of that. 

This award letter has her borrowing the entire $7200 from three sources. Four years of this borrowing gets her a debt of $28,800. (In practice, annual loan offerings vary and generally increase each year, so $7200+ $6500+ $7500 +$7500 yields $28,700 after four years.)  If she took a second job to avoid taking on half of the loan--by earning $3600 per year--and she worked two eight hour days per week at $10 / hr take-home pay, she would need to work 24 weeks a year while graduating with $14,400 in loans.  

If you look at the charts of both UC Berkeley borrowing and national borrowing in my post "Free Speech and a Free UC," you can see that this is a conservative estimate. The average debt burden for a student in this income range is about $3000 higher than this amount.

Example 2: Total Family Income = $70,000
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = $7820

$12,192    Cal Grant  
$  5,730    Pell Grant
$  5,646    UCSB Grant
$ 3,500     Subsidized loan
$ 2,000     Unsubsidized loan
$ 1,700     Perkins loan
$  2,000    Work study
$11,520    Parent PLUS Loan

This student is no longer likely to receive a Pell but can still get a Cal Grant (which covers full tuition).  His COA is the same as the first student's, $34,858.  His family is supposed to kick in an EFC of $7820, so his Financial Need is $27,038 per year. His grant total is $17,838.   He has a Self-Help Expectation of $9200. Interestingly, this is the same expectation as low-income Student 1's. Student 2 is not eligible for work study.  His parents are eligible for PLUS loans, however, and together with his $5500 in loan eligibility, this financial aid award letter has the student and his family borrowing to cover both the EFC and his Unmet Need.  

Assuming his loan amounts increase and he accepts the maximum in each case, the total borrowing for Student 2 is $5500 + $6500 + $7500 + $7500.  Four years of that will leave the student with $27,000 in debt for a bachelor's degree.  He could avoid $6800 in loan debt by working the same 16 hour weeks during most of the school year, or avoid all of it with many more hours of summer work. He could also avoid $4000 in expenses each year by living off-campus.  But if he wants to spend work hours on studying, as critiques of reduced student study time like Academically Adrift are asking students to do (my LARB review offers background on this issue), he and his family together will have borrowed $27,000 + $46,080 for a joint total of $73,080 for his bachelor's degree.

Example 3: Total Family Income = $100,000
Expected Family Contribution = $19,760

$12,192    Cal Grant  
$  5,730    Pell Grant
$  5,898    UCSB Grant
$ 3,500     Subsidized loan
$ 2,000     Unsubsidized loan
$ 1,700     Perkins loan
$  2,000    Work study
$23,460   Parent PLUS Loan

This student's family income is more than 150% of median family income in California. She has a kind of "middle class scholarship" in the form of the UCSB grant. It runs slightly higher than that for the student with $70,000 in family income.  But she is eligible neither for the Pell nor the Cal Grant.  Her family EFC is $19,760, so she has a Financial Need of $15,098 per year.  Subtracting her Financial Aid Awarded ($5,898) from her Financial Need yields her a Self-Help Expectation of . . . $9200.  

As with Student 2, she can cover $5500 of that with her two loans, and cover the remaining $3700 with the balance of her parents' PLUS loan ($23,460 minus their EFC of $19,760 is exactly $3700).  Or her parents could take out a smaller loan and she could cover the balance by working a bit more than Student 1's 16 hours a week for 24 weeks a year.  

My source observes,
To make up a third of her need  [without borrowing], a student would need about 20 hours a week or more throughout the school year and that leaves very minimal time for academics and could also be a factor as to why students do not become involved in organizations or research on campus.  That in turn could affect their attendance in grad school or programs like EAP. It then becomes a question of "how much can I do in one day," and what gets left out is when a student has to work it almost always ends up affecting their educational goals. Whatever she decides, Student 3 will  graduate with $22,000 in loans after four years. Her parents will owe $93,840 on their PLUS loans, plus interest. 

This is how the situation appears to me:

The student's Self-Help Expectation is not an accident of an insufficient financial aid budget. It is built into all the calculations.  The parameters appear to be structured to generate this gap of $9200 for all students, including poor students.  While private colleges regularly "gap" at least their least desirable admits, say the bottom quarter, UC appears to gap all of its students. My source wrote, "I don't know the politics of the policies behind it. I just know financial aid offices are always leaving that 'gap' to be covered in loans or work."

Covering a Cost of Attendance that assumes a $9200 Self-Help Expectation requires plenty of work, or debt, or both.   That is true of low income students, as the aggregate data confirms. In other words, a full tuition scholarship is readily compatible with $15,000 in graduation debt. The "middle class scholarship," as implemented by a campus-based grant, produces $22,000 in debt in these calculations. 

Parents are taking on new levels of debt for their children.  A $100,000 family income might suggest resources to support college, and the PLUS loans promise to soak all of that up. Student 3's parents take on close to 100 percent of their annual income in loans for one child's public university B.A. degree.  A special program like UC Berkeley's Middle Class Access Plan (MCAP) would reduce Student 3's parents' debt by reducing the EFC from about 20 percent of annual income in that case to a maximum of 15 percent. That would bring their debt down to $77,840.  It would not affect the debt of the other two students.

Parental debt doesn't seem to be reducing student debt, but to be covering tuition increases for non-poor students. 

The portion of tuition increases not funded by student or parent debt is funded by the state or federal governments. Here's a figure that shows one reason why the state is so angry with UCOP.

Fifteen years of tuition increases has increased Cal Grant outlays to UC by close to a factor of 8.This encourages the state to reduce its general fund outlays for UC operations by the amount that it has to increase Cal Grant outlays. Gov. Brown has in fact already told the regents that Sacramento is putting money into student scholarships instead of making "a direct investment in the university."   (For further reading, see Katy Murphy's good overview of the issue). 

Health insurance costs seem very high for this generally young population. So does on-campus housing, which costs $4000 a year more than housing furnished by famously price-gouging Isla Vista landlords (a different cost estimate for off-campus housing is here). Student costs may be artificially increased if campuses are using on-campus housing as a profit center to generate cross-subsidies for other activities.

In short, in the clash between official reassurances and student anguish about tuition hikes, the students are right.  Covering Cost of Attendance has work, stress, and debt built into it. Putting the point more harshly, the high tuition / high financial aid system functions is a debt engine.  Frozen tuition means "ever-increasing debt," in Prof. Birgeneau's terms.  But so does increased tuition.  The current financial aid system is structured to translate both higher tuition and higher financial "aid" into higher debt.

Categorías: Universidade

Wild Day at the UC Regents: The Stakes of the Tuition Wars

Xov, 20/11/2014 - 08:19
Finally it wasn't about the money today but about the decline in quality.  And it was the students who explained the core issue as getting affordable quality in their education.   

Left: Felicia Garcia, Julian Mariano, and Kimmy Tran at UC Davis. Photo credit: Paul Kitagaki, Jr, AP).

One such student was Melvin Singh, AS VP for External Affairs at UCSB, who said students struggle to get into classes, to meet with TAs, to get academic help.  His counterpart at Berkeley, Caitlin Quinn, told KCRW's Warren Olney that money worries are "a huge factor in how you do in school" (13').  She said,
Students don't see the benefit of so many administrative positions.  At UC Berkeley it seems like there's a new vice-chancellor of something-or-other every week. . . . I think students are fed up with what they see as administrative bloat. They aren't seeing this supposed quality education. I've been here for three years and ever since I've been here students have been struggling to see the value of a UC education. We're in huge classes. I've been in classes as big as 800 people. I don't think there's more than one or two professors who know me by name. (16'00" - 16'28'')The regents seemed to hear the quality message loud and clear.  The problem is that almost no one thinks UC would direct new state money straight to education, as opposed to another new business scheme.  When the Regents' Committee on Long-Range Planning voted 7-2 to forward the 5-year, 5 percent annual tuition hike proposal to the full Board of Regents, they faced stone opposition from the elected officials and the students in the room.

The only good outcome in the renewed UC Tuition Wars will be a state buyout of the planned tuition increase (Stability Plan here). That would mean the planned 4 percent increase in state funding plus the proposed 5 percent in tuition.  This works out roughly to a 9 percent increase in state funding (figures here), and another year of frozen tuition.  But Gov. Jerry Brown made pretty clear that he won't go for both. And his Deputy Director of Finance, D.J. Palmer, confirmed that the tuition hike could void the 4 percent state hike, leaving a net 1 percent increase in UC revenues for next year.

This evening, UCOP's EVP for Business Operations Nathan Brostrom said that discussions will continue.  Earlier in the day, the Speaker Toni Atkins proposed a version of a tuition buyout with a lower state increase and many conditions.  When Gov. Jerry Brown announced in committee that he would vote against the tuition hike, he also requested a selected committee to consider a five-point plan for fixing UC, which involve three-year degrees, a "wide range of online courses enrolling large numbers of students far beyond the capacity of any seat-based classroom," and program consolidation among the campuses. In effect, Gov. Brown restarted parts of the UC Commission on the Future, and negotiations on those issue would go on for years.

Then the non-gov regents started firing back.  I have never heard them so frustrated and openly disgusted with the state.  When Regent-designate Pérez called the tuition hike proposal a kind of hostage-taking of students, he produced remarkable denunciations of state policy from Regent Reiss and of leadership defaults from student Regent Saifuddin.  My storify record is here--it's been the best Regents TV in quite some time, and is getting closer to the real issue of how public universities under incessant austerity are supposed to support their historic mission of mass quality.

So: why a 9 percent increase? Because it's closer to what UC actually needs to close its structural deficit. UCOP's estimates have varied and the situation continues to change, but the clearest quantification of the remedy was in a March 2011 budget presentation in which UCOP estimated it needed many years of 12.4 percent per year from the state just to close the deficit that had been created by the massive Schwarzenegger-Brown cuts (Display 46).  Here's the graphic, measuring impact on the deficit not the amount of increase.

This suggests a need for 16 percent annual increases when tuition and state funds are combined. Alternative C is more or less the Gov. Brown plan -- 4 percent state increases with frozen tuition.  The situation today, three and a half years later, has gotten worse.    On KQED's Forum, Mr. Palmer, agreed that the governor's plan in effect restored about half of the recession's billion dollar cut over a four year period. 9 percent is better than 1, 4, or 5 percent, but it still isn't enough for solvency, much less "greatness."

UC constituents have unfortunately failed to endorse a funding reboot of the needed size. Academic Senate chair Mary Gilly signed on to the tuition hikes but not to a full restoration, and as far as I can tell neither the Associated Students nor various unions are calling for full  state funding either.  

A major exception is the UC Council of Faculty Associations (CUCFA), which is recommending a complete reset of UC and CSU funding to 2000-01 levels.  This would put state funding and tuition back to trend ($4,717 for UC). Professor James Vernon, the co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, made the case in the Sacramento Bee, which is based on a straightforward calculation.  One of the authors of the calculation, UCSF professor of medicine Stanton Glantz, appeared at the regents' meeting to call for the reset. He declared, "You should not be arguing how much to raise tuition, but how to mobilize the public support to restore the California Master plan of low cost high quality higher education for all."

The reset is cheap-- $50 a year for the median taxpayer, or $384.30 extra for someone making between $100,000 and $150,000 and whose child will be borrowing fifteen times that figure each year they are at UC.  Given their desperate money worries, why wouldn't UCOP endorse a version of the reset? Why wouldn't everybody else at UC?  All the energy is going into blocking tuition hikes rather than into setting specific funding goals for Sacramento.

Some of the problem is a kind collective fatigue, if not depression.  UC leaders don't think the reset is politically realistic, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  On the other hand, few people think the governor, the legislature, UCOP, the regents, or the public are ever going to make things right.  Most of us who work at  UC, CSU and the CCC have become unconsciously resigned to doing crisis management for the rest of our lives in semi-distraction from our higher-level work.   Some of the problem is that the campuses don't like or trust UCOP any more than Sacramento does.  UCOP has become a kind of "third force," as UCI professor Rei Terada put it at Reclaim UC.  It didn't help itself with what many people, from student leaders to the Lt. Governor of the state, described as a secretive process. During a particularly good four-way discussion on KQED's Forum earlier this week, Mr. Palmer and Associated Students president Kevin Sabo shared identical complaints about UCOP's failure to develop the tuition proposals in partnership with them (Mr. Sabo at 18'; Mr. Palmer at 26').  Mr. Palmer said UC had failed to comply with the provisions of AB 970, which requires public notice and consolation around tuition increases.  UCOP is apparently resisting the calculation of undergraduate degree costs as required by AB 94, whose deadline was missed.  Throw in general resentment about executive compensation and recent increases of over 20 percent in some chancellors' salaries, and everyone has a reason to cut off their UCOP nose to spite their budgetary face.   

Although the budgetary discussion went nowhere, everyone seems now to see how serious the basic threat has become.  Under the epic title "A Battle for UC's Soul," the LA Times editorial board identified the long-term stakes for UC and other public research universities:
At issue is whether the 10-campus system will continue to rank among the nation's premier research universities, drawing top students and the best professors from throughout the world, or whether it will slowly shrink its ambitions, becoming a more utilitarian institution that concentrates narrowly on moving students to their bachelor's degrees and into the workforce quickly and efficiently.    What state leaders should be figuring out is not how to diminish UC's role, but how to preserve UC as a national example of great public higher education.That is not what state leaders are doing.  Regent-designate Oakley spoke at a recent forum about PPIC's ongoing concerns about workforce shortages, and the whole event suggested the focus of the state's establishment to be workforce training.  Lt. Gov. Newsom called for a fuller integration of the three segments in a way that would facilitate this, and Gov. Brown's proposals aim at the same thing.  Five years of five-percent tuition increases will merely make UC a more expensive pipeline segment.   The main effect of the new tuition wars will more shrinking not so much of ambition, which is obviously alive and well in UC students, but of the financial means of achieving them.

We're in year six of the official mediocrity threat, so it's not to soon for this to get everyone's undivided attention.  

We did get confirmation today on at least two of the preconditions for any real movement that Michael identified last week. One is the full re-engagement of the faculty, tenure track and non-tenure track, in defining and explaining the academic functions of the university.   What does research do for undergraduates? Why do graduate students do? What is research? Why does it cost so much? Why, really, do we need it? What, concretely, are the activities involved in being a "premier research university." UCOP and the regents can't answer these kinds of questions. But if faculty don't answer them now, the funding situation will never change, and the workforce mission will take over.

Second, UCOP will need to comply with AB 94, and account for the costs of undergraduate teaching, graduate education, various kinds of research, and administration. EVP Brostrom excused the delay again tonight, but Sacramento obviously isn't going to budge unless it gets real answers on costs that most political leaders believe are still way too high.  

Tearing off the band-aids wasn't pleasant, but at least now everyone sees the wounds.
Categorías: Universidade

HIKING TO NOWHERE: UCOP Doubles-Down on Losing Strategy

Xov, 13/11/2014 - 01:35
As you have no doubt seen, UC and Sacramento have already begun the public relations war over UCOP's proposal to hike tuition up to 5% a year over the next 5 years.  President Napolitano and Chair Varner took to the appropriately named "Soapbox" section of the Sacramento Bee to try to justify their plan.  If they hoped to win over the Governor, Sacramento, or students, their efforts clearly failed.  As both the LAT and the Sacramento Bee are reporting, opposition is already intense and the Governor's office is suggesting that the State may lower proposed funding increases if UC increases tuition.  The LAT has more on the long debate ahead.

First off let's admit that there is a problem.  UC's costs are going up and recent small increases in state funding neither make up for previous deep cuts nor keep pace with the costs of supporting undergraduate education or sustaining graduate training and research infrastructure. State General Fund funding in 2014-15 ($2,990,671,000) (in nominal dollars) will still be lower than it was in 2007-08 ($3,273,917,000).  This despite an increase of nearly 20,000 state residents on the general campuses.  For too long time the amount of money the state contributes per student has been in decline.

Not only has state funding per student declined over time but it has done so in unpredictable ways. Consequently, tuition has not only increased tremendously but has done so in a crazy fashion.  Take the following chart that you can find at UCOP:

Now it should be clear that this is not an acceptable situation.  The question is how to get out of it.

Jerry Brown argues that 4% increases combined with some cuts and the magic of online classes is enough. But Brown's support for online is symptomatic of a fundamental mistake: the notion that the rising costs relate primarily to undergraduate instruction.  Between increased class sizes and greater use of contingent faculty UC has been lowering the cost of undergraduate education for years. In fact, upgrades to technology have increased costs, as has expansion of student services that help the full range of students complete their degrees (something dear to the heart of Brown's accountability regime).  But these costs will not be lowered by online education which, if done well, will increase costs at least in the short run. Brown's position seems to be simply a continuation of his life-long mantra of austerity for its own sake.

UCOP wants to take the 4% from the state and then add a 5% tuition hike onto students, while also maintaining the current high level of non-resident students (or even increasing them).  It is important to recognize the assumption that state increases will continue: although most of the discussion and argument has been about the 5% figure UCOP's proposal actually leaves open the possibility of up to a 9% tuition increase if the Governor follows through on his insistence that he will only allow General Fund increases if tuition remains frozen. I am not sure if UCOP simply fumbled the roll-out (so that now the university will look even worse if it tries to increase tuition by more than 5%) or if it was trying to pin down the state.  But whatever the explanation, the possibility of further overburdening students is real.

Neither strategy makes long term sense for the State or the University or especially the University's students. Let me start with the University's because that is simpler.

The University has been committed for many years to a high tuition/somewhat higher aid model. Although the credit agencies prefer to have universities rely on tuition as opposed to state funding, the main argument for the model goes something like this: given the existence of return to aid for in-state resident tuition (but not NRT) it only serves the wealthier students to hold tuition down because financial aid pays the tuition of lower income students. What this argument overlooks is that the rise in tuition means that other funds (like Pell grants) that might have been used to cover non-tuition expenses will be diverted into tuition and that students will end up working longer hours and therefore taking more time to degree.   (Look for instance at "Sonja's" case here.)  I don't know of anyone who has has a way to calculate the number of potential low-income students who were discouraged from applying because of rising tuition and prices, but I doubt it is zero (although UC's figures suggest that the percentage of low income students did not decline in the years leading up to 2012-13 which is the last year that I could find figures for).  And UC acknowledges that the amount of debt taken on by students has risen in recent years. (Figures 1-15 and 1-25)  Chris has laid out the case against this model in this post.

Not only is UC's strategy bad for students but it is bad for the University.  Although the Governor likes to point out that UC's rise in tuition has more than compensated for the gross losses in state funding that overlooks the reality of the way that financial aid works.  As Bob Samuels points out in his own dissection of the UC tuition proposal, the net revenue from tuition is still below that provided by the State because 1/3 of in-state tuition goes to return-to-aid.  In fact, the latest proposal only intensifies the long-standing error on the part of UCOP of insisting that they could keep securing access and quality through the high tuition/somewhat high aid model (one of a series of errors Bob identifies in his post). UC has, in effect, allowed the Governor and the LAO to begin treating student tuition as public funding.  Unless UC is willing to turn its back on access and its public mission and only allow the well-off to attend the University it simply will be unable fund its way out of this situation on the backs of students and their families.  Put bluntly, the present strategy does not offer a way for UC to retain its proclaimed commitments to quality, affordability, and access.

Now I am not naive.  As I suggested at the top of the post, the Governor is not a friendly audience for requests for increased funding.  One of the uncertainties introduced by UCOP's tuition proposal  is whether the Governor will insist on reducing or eliminating proposed state funding increases in response.  If this happens either UC will receive little if any financial benefit from the added tuition unless it places even greater burdens upon students.

But the Governor's position makes no more sense than does the University's.  The problem lies in his indifference to, or ignorance of, the effects of his austerity policies.  To take only the most immediate example, the Governor placed his political capital and fundraising skills to pass his rainy day fund. Unfortunately for too many Californians the storm is still ongoing.  As Dan Mitchell has pointed out the latest figures for tax revenue while higher than the Governor predicted remain highly dependent on capital gains revenues; sales taxes--a better indicator of how the majority of the state's citizens are faring economically--remain low.  His obsessive parsimoniousness is exactly the wrong policy at the present time.

But there is a longer-term problem here.  The Governor insists that the state needs a larger rainy day fund and to hold back on counter-cyclical investments because of the volatility of tax revenue.  But the volatility of tax revenues is deepened by austerity because austerity deepens inequality and inequality exacerbates the volatility of revenues.  Although the overall effective tax structure of California is regressive the volatility problem exists because of the state's dependence on capital gains taxes.  The only long-term sustainable way to move away from that dependence is to create new ways to increase the income and opportunity for the mass of the state's population.  Cutting back state investment does the exact opposite; it insures that the state will become even more unequal and dependent on capital gains income that bears a tenuous relation with the state of the real productive economy.

One of the prime mechanisms for creating mass income, opportunity, and what used to be known as public happiness has been public education.  In the present state of society that needs to include greater--not lesser--access to higher education through the Community Colleges, CSU, and UC.

But just as it is reasonable to argue to Sacramento that it is in California's interest to reinvest in higher education to be able to break with the high tuition/somewhat high aid model it is also reasonable for Sacramento and the California public to insist that this not be done along the business as usual model proposed by UCOP.  Instead, something deeper is needed.

First, if UC wants to make a stronger case for increased state funding UC needs to stop insisting that even if it keeps raising tuition students will be fine. Instead, they should enter into negotiations by taking the position that what is needed is to increase state funding so that student tuition can be rolled back.  UCOP cannot take the "we need more money trust us" position that it has assumed in the past.

Second, UC needs to become more transparent in its budgets.  As Charlie Schwartz has been arguing for decades the budgetary categories UC uses (e.g. instructional costs; student services) are simply too vague.  UC's core activities are instruction and research but the University has never made a good enough case for the importance of State support for research nor have we done a good enough job in explaining why being at a research university is good for students.  UC also needs to genuinely confront managerial over-expansion.  UCOP likes to dismiss criticism by pointing to the relatively small amount of money that goes to senior management salaries.  But that is a red herring: the real issue is that senior managers bring in their wake ever increasing administrative staffs which generate their own tasks and costs.  It is the entire management ideology and structure that needs to be rethought.  

Third, it is time to have a serious discussion of UCOP role and structure in the contemporary moment.  I am not one to call for the elimination of UCOP.  I think that there are still important system-wide functions that it performs.  But we have to recognize that the question of why it performs the functions it does and at such cost is something that needs to be rethought.  Just to give you a sense of scale, the budget for UCOP in 2013-14 was about $587M.  The budget in the same year for the Santa Cruz campus was $633.2M.  Now granted, some of the UCOP budget is due to system-wide programs that happen to be sheltered under UCOP (especially agricultural programs). But do we really think that the Office of the President should have a budget nearly as large as an entire UC Campus?

Finally, as part of a larger public discussion of a new Master Plan for Higher Education UC needs to move beyond the missed opportunity of the UC Commission on the Future.  It is time to recognize that that effort was misconceived and wrongly organized.  Under the leadership of President Yudof, Regent Gould, Senate Chair Croughan, and Dean Edley, UC pursued the wrong effort with the wrong goals: top down, administratively driven, obsessed with online education and far removed from campus life.  As part of any new Master Plan UC needs to engage in a different sort of self-scrutiny: centered on faculty, staff, and the campuses; geared to re-energizing the teaching and research functions of the University, willing to mark out new ways to serve the public in realms far beyond the commodification fetish manifested in UC Ventures or Westwood Tech Transfer.

To regain this sort of public investment and to renew UC's public mission is, to be sure, a long-term endeavor and one without guarantees.  I think that by challenging the logic of continual cuts, President Napolitano has taken a step beyond the Eeyore like passivity of the previous administration. But more needs to be done to decide what the money is for.  If faculty want to regain their role in governing the university we need to take up the challenge in alliance with parents, staff, and students. And to do that we may need to invent new forms of organization and communication.

Categorías: Universidade

UC Health Care: What's Coming in 2015

Xov, 06/11/2014 - 21:31
What's coming are price hikes--big ones in UC Care.  (In contrast, the negative number at left is the subpar status of UC's benefits relative to market). That's the unloved UC self-insurance plan that was implemented last year over a hue-and-cry about its incomplete and inferior coverage.  On Tuesday, after voting in the midterm election, I went to the Santa Barbara Senate's forum on changes this year (prices here), which revealed the obstacles to improvements going forward--both at the system level and at UCSB.  Here I'll discuss UC and UCSB together.

The issue comes with a history that began last fall, with the gradual unveiling of new UC health care plans and of their various deficiencies.  The specific UCSB issue was the absence of the Tier 1 version of UC Care in the Santa Barbara area, which made medical costs higher for UCSB employees than for their peers on other campuses. After UCOP officials endured a large, angry meeting on the Santa Barbara campus, a patch was arranged.  Sansum Clinic would offer Tier 1 services for a year, with a possible continuation. But Cottage Hospital, the best and only full-service hospital in the Santa Barbara area, would be available exclusively under Tier-2 payment conditions for UC Care (and under normal HMO conditions for HealthNet clients).  Tier-2 has much higher payments for patients, but underlying cost inequities and access problems were not resolved.

(All our posts and links on the topic are listed here; you can find, for example, my initial review of UC Care changes and its tier system; coverage of UCOP's response; Michael's perspective from a medical campus; a Berkeley breakdown of UC Care's reduced services and increased costs; my cost estimate for a UCSB tier-1 fix (at the bottom); and a Spring 2014 summary of people's problems as they tried to use the new system.   We are still providing a forum for experiences at Share Your UC Care Story.)

On the eve of last Tuesday's Senate forum, the UCSB Faculty Association posted a statement on UC Care that itemized these ongoing inequities and problems. It called for Chancellor Henry Yang to appoint a committee empowered to meet with UCOP officials, including President Napolitano, in order to fix the health care plans. The goal would be for "Central Coast employees of UCSB [to] have access to quality health care on a basis that is not inferior to that at other UC campuses."  UCSB FA president Nelson Lichtenstein and other FA members came to the Senate meeting with copies of the letter, and repeated the call.

What are the chances of a real fix?  As far as UCOP is concerned, there is nothing to fix.  I say this because they declined Senate divisional chair Kum-Kum Bhavnani's invitation to send officials to speak with UCSB Senate members at the meeting, and because of a UC-wide survey their Human Resources department published in mid-October under the headline, "UC Faculty, Staff, and Retirees Satisfied with Current Medical Plan Offerings." Chair  Bhavnani presented the major findings.  Respondents saying they were satisfied or very satisfied with their plan, their new plan, their ability to see a primary care physician, or their ability to see a specialist, were all in the mid-70s out of a hundred.  For example, "77 percent of those enrolling in a new plan said they were satisfied with the new network."  Although there were early reports of prescription drug problems, satisfaction rates there hit 90 percent (slide 20).

Broken down by campus, Berkeley and Los Angeles have 76 percent and 75 percent satisfaction rates. The formerly unhappy Riverside comes it at 76 percent satisfied, above the medical campuses Davis at 74 percent and Irvine at 71 percent.  The only real holdout is Santa Cruz at 54 percent.  Santa Barbara, the least well-served, is in between, at 67% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they are satisfied with their plan.  The absence of a large dissatisfied minority may have enabled the price hikes I'll get to in a minute. In any case, the rollout appears in the survey as a major triumph.

The major exception to this pattern across the system was UC Care.  There, the percentage who agree/strongly agree that they are satisfied with their plan falls to 46 percent (slide 10).   UC Care is off the charts in dissatisfaction with access to correct information about the plan (slide 22).  In other areas UC Care is comparable, but it's obvious even in this survey that major work still needs to be done.

An implied question at the forum was whether UCOP is going to set systemwide health care policy on the basis of surveys like this.  My guess is yes, though that's a bad idea, partly because of the survey and partly because of the management theory behind it.  First, the survey has a fairly low response rate (26 percent), in part reflecting the fact that it was administered during a two-week window that began right at the end of the academic year for eight of the ten UC campuses.  Secondly, the health care system's biggest problems occurred at sites that are too small a percentage of the whole to budge the totals (the medical centers and national laboratories were included).  

Perhaps most seriously, the survey doesn't distinguish among levels of use, which artificially increases satisfaction rates.  I pay for UC Care but didn't use it once during my first year, so would have no reason to express dissatisfaction with UC Care.   The meaningful satisfaction figure is the share of active users of the plan, ideally broken down by level of use. Those numbers, if they exist, were not published.

The poor management theory behind surveys is that you can manage by majority opinion and set the minority aside.  That marginalizes individual experience, and in health care it is a way of favoring the healthier share of the population over the sick.  This strategy produced such serious cost and public health problems with the existing private health care system in the US that the Affordable Care Act, for all its public subsidizes for private providers, now regulates it.  The UC system doesn't reject sick employees, and yet this survey, normally construed, encourages UCOP to treat the dissatisfied as outliers who can be safely ignored.  Those outliers include the entirety of the UCSB workforce, who constitute about 3 percent of the system's healthcare enrollment.

Management by survey may have encouraged UCOP to end last year's policy of holding down employee contributions.  You'll remember that UC Care's premium, defined as lower than that of Anthem/Blue Cross, was a leading selling point.  I did some quick calculations before the meeting and discovered that my UC Care premiums will be rising by over 17 percent.  This is of course a systemwide price. Lower income employees will see a rise of about 20 percent.  In all brackets, UC Care prices rose from 2 to over 3 times the rate of HealthNet and other preexisting commercial plans.   Chair Bhavnani presented a spread sheet that displayed cost increases for all plans at all income brackets, and they are disturbing.  Will they be repeated for 2016 and again for 2017 and for the years after that? No one from UCOP was there to answer this or any other health care question.

I asked Chair Bhavnani about UCOP's justification for UC Care price hikes that are more than double projected cost increases for the medical sector as a whole. Several people chimed in, and the leading explanations were that the UC medical centers who provide UC Care's service (a) had new costs that they had to roll forward into this year;  (b) are actually not very efficient at providing primary care; and (c) have growing deficits that need covering in part from UC Care revenue streams.  

Of course last year UC proclaimed the readiness and superior efficiency of UC's medical centers, which were there to keep costs down. In addition, UCOP presented UC Care as a health benefit to UC's employees rather than as a way of creating a captive customer base for UC hospitals.   Was the point really to pull in tens of thousands of new customers and their ever-higher premiums for a medical enterprise of dubious solvency?  Nobody in the room wanted to contemplate the extent to which UC employees, faculty included, are regarded as little more than revenue sources by a UCOP that has not been candid about the fiscal problems facing one set of UC "businesses." Mid-career and younger faculty focused on the economic straightjacket facing them, and the difficulty they will have paying more (for less).

On the UCSB Tier-1 issue, Samsum will participate for 2015, but the agreement ends that year and there is nothing in place to extend it.  Cottage Hospital will remain outside of UC Care Tier 1.  An advisor to the chancellor said he doesn't think UCOP is actively negotiating with anyone in Santa Barbara, and that he couldn't get a straight answer out of either side about where the talks are.

Chair Bhavnani asked for a sense of the meeting--what did we want to see happen now? I asked that she post the price hike spread sheets on the Senate web site.  (As of this writing, this has not happened.) I expressed confusion about whether the Senate wanted to mobilize faculty on this issue, or not.  I also asked why we don't ask for premium reductions for UCSB's subprime version of UC Care.  Someone else replied she didn't want to pay less for Tier 2 UC Care--she wanted Tier 1.  A third person suggested a lawsuit, and I agreed. It's hard to think of what else would get UCOP to care enough to spend the money it would take to have the unified system we're supposed to have under standard insurance risk pooling principles.

The FA's Prof. Lichtenstein suggested that if there's enough pressure to get UCOP to cover UCSB with Tier 1 UC Care at Cottage, they'll realize UC Care was a bad financial idea and scrap it.  We could go back to providers that only raise rates 6.8 percent a year rather than 17 to 20. 

But again, where will the pressure come from? As physics professor Harry Nelson pointed out, UCOP didn't care enough to send someone back to UCSB to see how their plan is working for us. And they can shield themselves from criticism with their survey.  Furthermore, the turnout for this meeting was small (I think because no one has yet really checked the year-on-year price increases).   The UCSB Senate leadership in the room did not seem not interested in the lawsuits or in an official letter of protest of the ongoing inequity. 

Would the Senate start by endorsing the Faculty Association call for an official task force and delegation?  To express your opinion, you can write Chair Bhavnani via the UCSB Senate splash page. You can also write the systemwide Senate chair, UCI professor Mary Gilly at The chair of the systemwide Senate's Faculty Welfare committee is UCSD professor Joel Dimsdale at
Categorías: Universidade

Election Day 2014: Poll Taxes and Educational Suppression

Mar, 04/11/2014 - 19:05
The Center for American Progress released two reports on higher education recently.  One explored the dramatic state disinvestment in higher education that accompanied the Great Recession.  The other demonstrated the particularly intense effects of this disinvestment on community colleges. You can see the numbers for your state in this interactive display.

In most ways, these reports will not surprise anyone who has been following higher education news. As they make clear, the long term reduction in state funding to public higher education institutions has intensified since 2008. Tuition has gone up, the percentage of students taking on debt has increased, and between 2008-2012 the size of the annual individual debt grew about 25%. (1)  In the aggregate none of this will strike anyone as new.

But what is crucial in these reports is the focus on the impact of these changes on lower-income students.  And here the reports are telling.  For one thing, for decades the rate of lower-income college attendance grew, but that has now been reversed and in the last several years the rate has dropped nearly 10% (Note that Figure 1 below describes attendance rather than completion rates, which are far lower--compare Tom Mortenson's graphic in Chris's post on Free UC as a cure for low-income student debt.)

If we note that the community colleges have borne the greatest brunt of the cuts, we can give the lie to those arguments that claim that high tuition/high financial aid systems are enough to ensure that higher education is open to all and that it retains its role as a crucial site for delivering mass capability, social and intellectual mobility, and the democratization of knowledge.

That these reports came out during election season is not surprising, but that they came out during this election season is notable.  After all, this is an election year in which GOP controlled legislatures have taken repeated steps to suppress the voting rates of people of color, the poor, the elderly, and students, not primarily through outright repression (although sometimes that does occur) but through raising the costs of voting.  Indeed one recent study has argued that the costs imposed by the new voter identification rules are actually greater than the poll taxes struck down in the 1960s.  If we add that to the efforts to shorten or eliminate early voting, the reduction in the numbers of voting places, the threatening mailers, etc. we can see a concerted effort to raise the costs--economic and social--of voting to the end of discouraging participation.

Now, while the efforts to suppress voting is being done overwhelmingly in Republican controlled states, the process of higher education disinvestment is a bi-partisan endeavor (as shown over and over and over and over again by Governor Brown).  I don't think that the effort to shift costs onto students and discourage poor students from attending 2 and 4 year institutions is a conscious effort to decrease their education.  At least I don't think that yet.

But unpleasant parallels are there.  They point to a political and economic elite that is willing to use market or market-like mechanisms not to increase "choice" as they often claim but to increase burdens.  The results overlap: we have been seeing higher costs for accessing both the political and the educational systems. We have also been seeing a relentless growth of economic inequality, which is in effect a way of pushing more of the burden of a declining economy onto a larger and larger portion of our society. From this perspective, the entrenched sclerosis of our political institutions ushers higher education towards its new role of lesser mobility for the overcharged majority.

High tuition, state disinvestment, voter ID laws, reduced voting times--these are linked.  They are the common currency of politics and higher education policy from Sacramento through Oakland onto Tallahassee.  It is a linkage that must be broken.

Categorías: Universidade

The New Normal: What Does it Mean to Work at UC Today?

Dom, 02/11/2014 - 21:45
Chris here. As part of the Free Speech Movement anniversary events at UC Berkeley last month, Michael and I had a two-hour discussion with Berkeley faculty and staff at an event sponsored by the Berkeley Faculty Association.  We are posting our slides here and we will provide a bit of commentary along the way.

We pointed out at the start of the talk that we don't think that the policies that respond to the "new normal" are very new. The situation itself isn't new either.  The combination of inadequate public funding and expanding dependence on private support has framed the entirety of both of our careers.

So we divided up our presentation.  We have a final slide, Option 3, that was meant to prompt discussion about how UC faculty in particular should respond.

Part I.
Our core concern here was with Impacts on faculty work life—and hence on the university’s academic productivity.  How are we all feeling? How is morale, job satisfaction, pleasure in the job, the “faculty experience”? 

There are some specific components that always get attention: (1) Salaries.  (2) Benefits. We are also preoccupied with (3) working conditions: hours per week, staff support, quality of time for research thinking, and particularly time for the unfocused reflection that finds and fixes problems in deadline work, and is the main source original thinking. Do we have the conditions for “depth” – for slow work, slow method? 

In addition, there's (4) Professional Autonomy. Is the university gradually making its faculty post professional? Or does the university still reflect the faculty's various educational and research visions? 

These questions are best answered with qualitative data. Here we invoke a few crude metrics just to illustrate the problem. One is compensation.  UC has a well-known salary lag.  I recently read a report in which the UC president claimed that "faculty salaries at the University of California already lagged behind our peer institutions around the nation by about 8 to 9 percent and are projected to lag about 16.5 percent come July.'’  The president was David Saxon, speaking to the Los Angeles Times in December 1982. 

For decades, UC officials have also pointed out that generous retirement and health benefits made up for lower salaries: while salaries lagged, "total compensation" was well above average.   Unfortunately, this last round of cuts has eliminated the advantage in total compensation. 

The slide below was recently confirmed by a Mercer compensation study that shows that UC faculty total compensation joins cash salary at subpar, both are in the negative 10-12 percent range. This means that the value of UC benefits has declined substantially in recent years.   And of course salary "scales" no longer function normally: departments we've spoken to now routinely add "above scale" salary to routine merit requests and more frequently request advances of more than one step.  Salary inequity and the "loyalty penalty" are both growing problems that salary scales, when properly funded, had at least partially solved.

Another major UC faculty issue is the state of graduate programs and funding, since they are the hallmark of UC as a research university. The next slide shows a decades-long decline in the system's share of grad students.

We didn't assert that UC grad students should be at a particular level--say, 20 percent of total student enrollments-- or quality is at risk. Our point was that UC has had a goal of bring all the campuses to the research intensity of the flagships, and that this is one of many core educational projects that have never been achieved because of insufficient funding.

Then there's faculty-staff relationships. Faculty need staff more than ever to do more complicated kinds of research and instruction. Both core activities are getting more collaborative, and require a wider mixture of skills. As just one example, use of instructional technology would increase more quickly if faculty could work with course designers to help make large lectures more effective. Instead, this has been the moment in history that universities like UC Berkeley used programs like Operation Excellence to split staff from faculty into "shared services" pools.

There's a potential staff partner now--trapped behind a pane of glass. Off-campus staff pooling could seem like a good operational idea only to business consultants who have no idea how faculty or educational staff actually work. We understand that the Berkeley campus senate is now finally looking into problems with OE.  But unravelling the worst parts of the program will cost money we don't now have.

Here's a summary slide for trends that limit traditional faculty autonomy without improving effectiveness.

We didn't go into depth on any of these trends, but each reflects the growing tendency for the ground rules of the core area of faculty sovereignty, instruction, to be set by non-teaching managers with little faculty input.  I'm particularly interested in the last two.   It's obvious to me that the 21st century world requires more complex intellectual capabilities than ever, and that these depend on integrating diverse forms of knowledge both within and between courses.  And yet this is the moment in which many think college should be more like a single-subject training module, or that more difficult or boring parts of courses can be thrown out in favor of a greatest hits approach.  We saw xMOOCs crash and burn because their marketing got so far ahead of their educational performance. We're getting set up for repeat performances in more obscure parts of the university. 

Nonetheless, the default political model for a university degree is increasingly community college job training--among Democrats as much or more than among Republicans. The current pathway is that many educational activities even at major flagships like UC Berkeley will be diluted and standardized, while most sponsored research projects will be protected. UC Berkeley is cutting against this with programs like Berkeley Connect, but the trend is towards concentration of resources rather than toward general quality through wide distribution. This is a normal effect of replacing public money--for general quality--with private funds, which are self-interested and targeted.

Part II.
We're suggesting through this sampling of trends that UC isn't on the mend, and won't heal by itself.  What are more positive options?

The California governor was giving his Inaugural Address, and alleged as follows:
false prophets have risen to advocate more and more government spending as the cure – more bureaucratic programs and higher staffing ratios of professional experts. They have told us that billion dollar government increases are really deep cuts from the yet higher levels of spending they demand and that attempts to limit the inflationary growth of government derive not from wisdom but from selfishness. That disciplining government reflects not a care for the future but rather self-absorption. These false prophets, I tell you, can no longer distinguish the white horse of victory from the pale horse of death.This was not Ronald Reagan but Jerry Brown.  It was not the latter-day but the original Jerry Brown, in his 2nd inaugural address in January 1979. "Jerry Brown's mad as hell," all right, and still mad thirty years later.  He's mad at people who want public funding. This means YOU--the University of California. Whether it's the 1980s or the 2010s, Jerry Brown is the original Austerity Democrat.  

He's not going to restore anything. Not next year after his re-election. Not ever.

Gov. Brown isn't alone. Here's a Legislative Analyst Office slide that breaks down growth by category in state funding over the decade leading up to the financial crisis. The starting points are of very different sizes so the percentages are somewhat deceptive. But it tells an important story:

The two biggest losers at the state level are higher education and job training. California says it has a world-leading human capital economy. But it minimizes public investments in  human capital.

Of course California surfed a national wave of replacing state funding with tuition:

The whole country has been on a privatization binge.  Overall spending kept rising, but not for instruction or academic salaries.  Most of the increased spending in this slide comes from facilities competition, marketing, and related administrative functions demanded by privatization itself.

Here's a slide I've often updated for various posts on the UC budget. The story is always the same. The blue line tracks the growth in state personal income. Were UC's state funding to have grown merely at the same rate as actual state income, it would have matched the blue line.

Instead, UC has fallen $2 billion behind. (The general fund total is about $3 billion in 2014-15, but we now have to subtract the interest on construction bonds that the state used to pay and that is now, per UCOP's request, on UC's budget. So this chart is still current.)

In recent years, UCOP has started to quantify, in simple terms, the kind of rebuilt revenues that would get the system back to solvency. This one started to appear three years ago (Display 6).

The University needs about 16 percent increases per year, UCOP has been saying, to make up for past cuts and ongoing mandatory cost increases. (This is on top of cost reductions and other savings that haven't fully materialized, so this slide understates the problem.)  

Scenario 1 is a split, which means 8 percent + 8 percent each year from students and from the state. Scenario 2 is close to the Compact ratios that UCOP struck with Arnold Schwarzenegger--tuition increases of two or three times the state's increase. Scenario 3 is all tuition. There's a missing Scenario 4 that appeared in an early slide -- 16 + 0, where the state stops asking students to pay more and fills in the difference. UC is getting none of these.  It's getting 4 + 0, for the foreseeable future.

The result of revenue increases of ¼ of need appears in another UCOP figure:

This projects a $3 billion deficit only two academic years from now.

One of the best translations of this figure came from President Mark Yudof, when he addressed a Regents retreat in September 2012 (my transcription):
There were no board votes approving faculty salaries that are not competitive with peer institutions, . . .yet we are 10-20% behind in faculty compensation. There were no board votes approving a freeze on faculty hiring, but effectively that is what we’ve had over the last few years. There were no board votes approving a steady rise in our student-faculty ratio over the last decade, but in fact our numbers show a decline over the decade of 50% -- that is, we have 50% more students per faculty member than we did in previous decades. And in the past six years we have 30,000 more students without adding any new faculty at all, other than replacing existing faculty. You didn’t vote on any of that, but that is the consequence of the situation in which we find ourselves.UC is still on that path today.

Are the campuses tied closely to the fate of the system? We couldn't address this question in a short talk, and took a quick look at Berkeley. The flagships have better resources than the younger campuses, but even Berkeley has been struggling. It fell into deficit in FY 2013.

I think the appearance of an operating deficit in FY2013 resulted from running out of reserves that covered holes in previous budgets. But I am guessing. I also don't have more current numbers. The point here is that even the historic wealth of UC's oldest, most accomplished, and most established campus doesn't protect it from the effects of a broken business model, in which private funds are supposed to make up for public cuts, but don't.

We noted that the administrative responses are credible but inadequate. We can't blame people for trying to do something, and using the tools that are actually and hand.   Still, we would prefer that folks admit this stuff won't work, since that's the first step towards trying something else that might.

"Nickel" solutions is my shorthand for widely-advertized solutions that in reality generate about 5 percent in additional revenues on a current base, or close about 5 percent of a funding gap.

This slide has no math. Leave a comment if you want me to produce some. I noted that I think OE's savings will be negative as it is patched and partially reversed to fix the inefficiencies (not to mention the reduced job satisfaction) it has produced. There's a lot to say about NRT, which lets the state off the hook, is now producing an organized parental backlash, and externalizes costs onto other campuses who take the less profitable but qualified state residents that Berkeley rejects. And that's for starters. This is not a sustainable fiscal strategy, but I didn't belabor it so I'll control myself here.

The silver bullet is supposed to be non-resident tuition (NRT).  NRT is often described as essentially free money in the amount of $23,000 in fees that out-of-state and international students pay above the $12,000 or so base paid by residents. UCOP always says that NRT students don't crowd out residents, but instead subsidize resident education in a period when their state government no longer wants to.  The visual version of this claim looks like this slide from a UCLA's Senate deck in fall 2013.

No wonder people get excited if NRT allows 50 percent more mileage from resident tuition. But it doesn't.  Net resident tuition is being compared to gross NRT, while my calculation on the slide used UCSD's estimate of $10,000 net per NRT student.  Gross NRT was 8.5 percent of core funds at UCLA  (slide 4), which put net NRT back in the nickel range (and about 2 percent of overall campus revenues).  (The use of NRT increases inequities within the UC system, but we didn't go into this with our Berkeley audience.)

Another way of thinking about NRT is as compensation for state funding cuts.   At UCLA, gross NRT made up for about 1/3 of the state funding reduction in 2007-08 to 2012-13 (slide 5).  This money is a lot better than nothing--if it's free politically as well as fiscally. But it never has been, as we've argued here going back to 2009.  This fall, UC officials are finally admitting this in public. This particular nickle solution may have peaked. 

My summary of this section was that the New Normal is the Old Normal. In other words, the Old Normal is what current budget politics will keep delivering. Unfortunately, the Old Normal is broken, in the sense that it can't support the working conditions that made UC so good in the first place.

This unhappy thought brought us to Option 2, where Michael took over.

Part III.
Michael here.  One possible response to this pattern of state cutbacks and nickel solutions would be for faculty to look inward to their department-based projects and let existing shared governance take care of the "big picture."  That would be mistake.  Shared governance has declined, and as it is presently practiced can't redirect the institution towards educational improvement or professional development.  

I found two organizational charts that illustrate the problem.

This first is from a 1998 essay by John Aubrey Douglass, arguably the leading historian of UC, about shared governance.  Although simplified, it shows the central place of the Academic Senate (on a level with Chancellors), with its leadership at the top of the pyramid  (level with the Council of Chancellors).

Now compare that with a current organizational chart provided by UCOP online:

If you pull out your magnifying glass you will find the Academic Senate in the purple box off to the left.  The Senate is directly connected only to the President and has been crowded out by the multiplication of administrative authorities over the past 15 years.

The theory of the Senate's role has stayed the same.

Shared governance was built on the professional status and educational authority of the Faculty.  This status enabled the faculty to delegate authority to the Senate and then go about its everyday business in classrooms, labs, libraries, and departmental meetings.  During the decades-long period of expanding resources, both state and federal, fiscal crises were the exception.  Departments could assume that if staffing needs weren't met this year they would be met next year or the year after. This eliminated the need for faculty to survey and manage the consumption of resources in other people's units, since there was little zero-sum competition over the medium or longer term. Administrators were able to handle routine management and planning within a relatively clear-cut political and economic ecology.

Unfortunately, that situation no longer exists.  Austerity has become the rule rather than the exception, and its consequences include the following.

We now live in a situation where instability is normalized.  While in the late 20c, administrators had to deal with the state, some donors, and a diffuse but not particularly interventionist public opinion (except for specific moments of crisis) managers now negotiate with a range of funding masters, most of which they have sought out, including an expanded universe of donors venture capitalists, bond raters, and out of state parents as well as an openly skeptical Governor and Legislature.

For the past two decades, UC managers have responded to pressure by shifting burdens onto those without the clout to reject them.  Students get increasing tuition, faculty get more work in the form of new tasks like fundraising and old ones on a larger scale (e.g. increased class sizes).  Staff members are being called upon to perform more work with fewer numbers.

I summarized the effect of the new financially-driven style of management with this slide:

I don't need to go into the detail of all of these--I'm sure you know them all well enough.  The point was that over the course of the last decade, the Senate, especially at the system-wide level, has been marginalized in the process of policy formation.  The structurally-produced reactive role makes it easier to cast the faculty as the opponents of progress, even as the central administration at UCOP has acted to impose its positions on the system as a whole.  In some cases (online education and the Supplemental Salary Program) there has been the appearance of shared governance.  In others, most recently the invention of UC Ventures, UCOP has simply cut the Senate out and chosen to work through task forces or through conversations with individuals.

I concluded that in its current weakened condition, the Academic Senate is no longer in a position to formulate, much less implement, a strong academic vision of UC's future.

Part IV.  
Chris again. Our premise is clear from the title of this slide.  We have concluded that UC can be fixed only through an unlikely but essential change--the broad mobilization of its faculty to define and then continuously shape the University's development over the next ten years. We mentioned theater professor Catherine Cole's initiative two years ago, which brought faculty, staff, and administrators together for several days.  

We noted some of our premises: the idea that there's no money is ridiculous. Austerity is slowly strangling us (e.g. Michael and Chris).  Lowered expectations are damaging our imaginations.  We need to fight for genuine workplace needs.

This slide described five general areas of activity. 
The slide fulfilled its purpose as a conversation starter--the discussion went on for 30-40 minutes.  I'll emphasize a few major themes.  
One was the need to deal with faculty privilege--both the perception of it invalidating our critique and the reliance on it to remain passive. My own sense is that this can be neutralized when faculty visibly stand up for other people, which we didn't do, for example, when frontline staff were being carted off to shared services because of Operation Excellence. That precedent can be changed.  Another example was the panic about resources and completion in graduate programs.  Faculty should work more systematically on the protection and support of our masters and doctoral students.
A second was doubt about the "efficacy of stories." What can tales of the struggles of faculty or staff or students actually do, institutionally?  Some of the stories were in fact about faculty defeat--and of course our story is about the rise of managerialism to control (rather than rebuild) declining resources. Stories need to lead to mobilization and organization: how do these do that? They certainly don't do that by themselves. 
This led to a third major topic.  The New Yorker in the room said, "you guys need a union." So did someone from Cal State. A UC librarian noted how their union produce some wins for libraries: librarians have much less power than faculty, she said, and yet look what our organization did. A Berkeley faculty member defined the needed project as co-governance,  with structure of implementation TBD.  There was another call to join the Berkeley Faculty Association!   And so now what? Where things go from here depends entirely on us.
Categorías: Universidade

After the Freeze: UC Privatization Since 2012

Ven, 17/10/2014 - 17:35
by Amanda Armstrong, Rhetoric Department, UC Berkeley.  5th of 5 talks from The Operation of the Machine panel, UC Berkeley October 1, introduced by Prof. Colleen Lye.  Cross-posted from Reclaim UC
Photo: Outside the office of UC Berkeley's Vice Chancellor for Real Estate, October 1, 2014 
I’m going to be talking today about the operation of the UC machine then, versus its operation now. But notthen as in 1965. More like then as in 2009.
I still have vivid memories from fall 2009—a semester when students, workers, and professors built assemblies, walked out of classes, and took direct actions to challenge austerity measures being imposed by the newly-appointed UC President, Mark Yudof. These austerity measures included a 32% tuition increase, furloughs for faculty and staff, and layoffs of over 2,000 service workers across the UC system.
At one of the first walkout planning meetings I attended that fall, people were talking about something called the “Meister report,” which I later learned was named after its author, UC Santa Cruz Professor Bob Meister. The Report talked about how UC administrators were able to take out low-interest construction bonds because they essentially pledged to Moody’s and other rating agencies that they would raise student tuition if necessary to pay back the bonds.
The Meister Report challenged the official story of the 2009 tuition hikes, which claimed that the hikes were necessary given the state’s defunding of public education. The report suggested that, in hiking tuition so drastically, UC administrators weren’t only making up for state defunding – they were also showing bond rating agencies that they had the political will and capacity to deliver steep fee hikes if necessary. And they were protecting their ability to carry on with construction projects, even if this meant trimming funds for basic instruction and saddling students with more debt.
In this way, the Meister Report opened up questions about how and in whose interests UC administrators were managing the money they did have, and about why so many construction projects were moving forward even at a moment of financial crisis. 2009 was thus defined by the politicization both of UC real estate development and of rising student debt levels; it was also a period of significant political mobilization. Even so, we did not succeed in stopping the fee hikes, or otherwise reversing austerity on a large scale. There were some minor victories though: at Berkeley, some of the demands of those who occupied Wheeler Hall on November 20thwere realized. The University renewed its essentially no-cost lease to the Rochdale co-op, and a number of custodial workers who had been laid off were rehired.
The larger political victory came in 2011 and 2012. Facing another round of steep fee hikes, students linked their organizing against privatization to the larger occupy movement. We set up encampments on the campuses, and, after acts of police violence, held massive strikes at Berkeley and Davis. The movement broadened through the spring, with people in all sectors of education marching to the capitol building in Sacramento and occupying it, in order to build support for progressive taxation and for the refunding of public education and social services. Ultimately, a ballot initiative for progressive taxation passed and, with guarantees of more state funding, the regents agreed to freeze in-state tuition for at least four years.
Since the political victory of 2012, some things have changed. In the aftermath of the in-state tuition freeze, the priorities and practices of UC administrators have mutated somewhat, which, I want to suggest, presents an altered political context, and some ambiguities, for those of us interested in challenging University privatization. To begin to get a sense of this new terrain, we can look at recent bond rating reports and UC financial documents.
This year, two rating agencies, Moodys and Fitch, downgraded the UC’s bond rating. In explaining their decision, Moodys noted that, while “The university's debt doubled over the last eight years,…. Political and public scrutiny of the rising cost of higher education will constrain UC's ability to grow net tuition revenue.” They continued: “The university's relatively low cost compared to other market leading universities and expansive geographic draw of students help offset these pressures.” In other words, UC administrators aren’t politically able to raise enough tuition revenue to offset their debts, but at least they can make money on out-of-state tuition, and maybe sometime soon they’ll be able to raise in-state tuition as well.
These bond rating reports, in addition to vindicating Bob Meister’s analysis from 2009, help clarify and explain a couple strategies recently undertaken by UC administrators—strategies that are spelled out fairly explicitly in UC’s financial documentsFirst: In the absence of a political context conducive to across-the-board tuition hikes, administrators have nevertheless tried to increase tuition and fee revenues by admitting more out of state students and by increasing other costs students have to pay (including for housing and healthcare). And Second: In an attempt to decrease their debt levels, administrators have begun to aggressively promote the privatization of development. Instead of generally taking on debt to construct buildings themselves, they are now often working to rent out university-owned land to developers who are willing to build, and in some cases manage, dorms, labs, and other facilities.
In what follows, I will discuss these two administrative strategies, as well as some of their possible political implications.  
First, on UC administrators’ recent attempts to salvage tuition and fee income. This really varies by campus, and I’m going to focus mostly on Berkeley. Following the crisis of 2009, Berkeley administrators started actively recruiting out of state and international students, who paid more in tuition. In the last couple years, as the cost of out-of-state tuition has risen to almost three times that of in-state tuition, administrators continued to admit progressively more out-of-state students. Last year, a third of new admits came from outside of California.
Like other public universities, Berkeley has started “leveraging” student aid to compete to enroll higher-income, out-of-state students. The new Middle Class Access Plan, the cutoff for which was just raised to include those from families making up to $150,000, leverages relatively small grants in exchange for the higher return of out-of-state tuition revenues. Berkeley has also selectively increased housing costs since 2012, raising rents dramatically on the most desirable housing options, while keeping other rents relatively flat. This follows a period of dramatic rent hikes; between 2001 and 2011, room and board rates nearly doubled. Finally, as part of the restructuring of SHIP in 2013, Berkeley raised healthcare premiums by thirteen percent for undergraduates and twenty percent for graduate students—a cost increase that mostly falls on grad students in professional schools, whose tuition rates have also continued to increase.    
Thinking politically about this situation, it’s worth saying initially that a politics organized around the principles of racial justice, class equality, and affordable public education remain critical. Since 2009, the admission and enrollment rates of black students have declined even further than in the immediate aftermath of Proposition 209. Over this period, the class composition of the student body has also been shifting; there are relatively fewer low-income students but significantly more from the highest income brackets. Since 2001, the costs borne by all students have continued to rise, even for those receiving the maximum support from Pell Grants and the Blue and Gold plan. For these and other reasons, it’s critical that we continue to target the race and class exclusions that are only becoming more entrenched in the admissions process.
But I think we also should be thoughtful about how politically to address the fact that the bulk of new tuitionand fee revenues has been coming from out-of-state and international students, who now make up a greater percentage of the student body and have the potential to take on a greater role—as either protagonists or antagonists—of any student movement against privatization that might reemerge. Perhaps advocating for across the board rent and tuition reductions, including for out-of-state tuition, would be a generally compelling way to address affordability issues, which would push back as well against UC administrators’ post-2012 strategy for increasing tuition and fee revenues.            The second post-2012 administrative strategy concerns the privatization of development. In June 2012, right around the time the Regents announced that they would freeze in-state tuition if Proposition 30 passed, Berkeley housing administrators announced that, in order to limit their construction-related debt, they would begin seeking out private developers to build new dorms. This kind of privatization of dorm construction had been happening for some time at Irvine and Davis. And Berkeley had done something similar with the Blum Center, as well as in partnering with BP to fund the construction of the Energy Biosciences Institute building on Hearst and Oxford.
Just in the last couple of years though, the privatization of construction has significantly intensified across the UC system. The UC Office of the President recently posted on their website documents outlining the various partnerships, or rent agreements, the campuses are looking to make with private developers. At Berkeley, housing administrators announced that the Martinez commons would be the final dorm funded and built in-house, and they recently leased Bowles Hall to a private entity interested in redeveloping the building. They are working now on finding a developer interested in building and managing a new dorm on Ellsworth and Channing. The Berkeley rent stabilization board has expressed concern that such privately developed and managed dorms could further drive up student rents, especially when other privately-run dorms, such as the newly-constructed Metropolitan on Dana and Durant, charge rents higher than the cost of room and board. Construction workers’ unions have also raised concerns about the fact that, unlike building projects on campus, these development projects won’t be bound by state prevailing wage laws, and so could involve more dangerous and exploitative building practices.
UC Berkeley administrators have also been working to make arrangements with private firms for the development of portions of the Gill Tract, in Albany. So far, the efforts of Occupy the Farm have stalled this development, and have put on the agenda the conversion of the Gill tract into space for community-based farming, research, and education.
Berkeley administrators, including the newly appointed Vice Chancellor of real estate Robert Lalanne, are also working on coordinating a massive development project on 109 acres of land owned by the University in Richmond Bay. They are saying this project will involve private construction and management of some of the research facilities, and recently published an “Infrastructure Master Plan,” outlining ways for private companies to buy space and influence at the Richmond Bay campus. 
A coalition of labor and community groups has issued a number of demands around this development project including the payment of prevailing wages to construction workers, the promise that all service workers employed in the facilities will be represented by AFSCME, the opening up of space for community-based and community-driven research, that those profiting from the project help fund affordable housing in Richmond, and that formerly incarcerated people be hired for some of the construction and other work set to occur. These are demands that students and workers on campus can help amplify. And in general, I think it’s imperative that we respond to UC’s efforts to privatize construction by building relations of solidarity with local communities and making the case for a kind of public knowledge making.
I can imagine some ambiguities and difficulties that might accompany such a project, aside from just the myriad practical challenges of coalition building and of building power sufficient to interrupt administrative agendas. It might also be hard to know when to oppose new development outright and when to try and direct it to less damaging, more accessible and public-oriented ends. And there’s a question as well about federal research money, which is public in one sense but is often linked to military or other state interests. In a power-point presentation last spring, Robert Lalanne, the Vice Chancellor of real estate, noted that drone development and testing is part of the research agenda for Richmond Bay. Given the entailments of much federal research, how can we envision and struggle for a kind of public knowledge making that is resolutely anti-militarist?
Any renewed movement against university privatization will need to work through these ambiguities and difficulties. But if the last six years have shown us anything, it’s that concerted action on the part of students, workers, and instructors can fundamentally shift the operations of the university, and can block the worst effects of university privatization, if not reverse this process outright. So there is reason to try, and to hope.
Categorías: Universidade

On Sympathy and Professionalism

Mar, 14/10/2014 - 17:35
Chris here: This was too long for the comments section for Free Speech and Fre UC so I've posted it.

First, faculty attitudes themselves: The most systematic research shows that a majority are moderate liberals, that leftists are a very small minority.  See reporting on Gross & Simmons here and here (showing faculty centrism, rejection of political influence over hiring across the political spectrum, and the anti-"PC" views of a majority of faculty "stars").  These studies were conducted by investigators who went out of their way to find evidence of radicalism and PC views.  They found moderation, professionalism, and increasing conservatism as one rises in status and influence. (I also work through studies endorsed by David Horowitz and others in a late chapter and appendix of Unmaking the Public University.) This and similar research has been around for years.  It shows a relatively small number of self-identified conservatives on faculties, and moderates outnumbering liberals.  It does not show a professoriate that is unrepresentative of the electorate when you poll electoral views on particular issues.  I don't know party registration of UC faculty, but since Republican registration in CA is now at 28% , it's at least possible that UC is more Republican than the state of California. 

Second, there's the question of whether party affiliation or inferred ideological commitments affect professional performance in either instruction or research.   One of the insights of the "human sciences" over the past fifty years involves the ways that personal identity and social positioning affect perception and the structuring of knowledge itself.  So for human beings the answer for *indirect* influence of outlook on behavior including professional behavior is always yes.  This is one reason why professions exist, along with their cumbersome methodologies that are difficult for outsiders to understand or appreciate--protocols of various kinds are put in place to manage perceptions, insure regularity, create reproducibility, etc. 

The most important examples are not in the humanities but in clinical testing, where human subjects are in life-or-death situations.  There, "double blind" protocols among many other safeguards are put in place to control for the effects of human intention.  Something similar happens in non- academic professions like policing.  It would be wrong to assume that the party affiliation of police officers controls their professional conduct.  You can read on this blog a criticism of what I regard as the overpolicing of this past year's Deltopia event without finding speculation about officers’ ideological bias or dismissing the existence of their professionalism, which they both have in abundance and which affects their behavior.  In the humanities, various forms of peer review make the same kind of effort.  

Some non-academics have gotten in the habit of dismissing all of this with a wave of the hand as itself a kind of ideology, but that is because of lack of experience with the reality of these generally unforgiving methodologies, which are never applied in everyday conversation or to media discourse, little of which would survive the kind of tests to which academic publishing and teaching are subject. 
In short, there is really no evidence that faculty are unable to subject their own views to professional controls in their research or teaching, and, inflammatory exceptions aside, plenty of evidence that they do exactly this in the classroom--teaching by connecting conclusions to evidence, looking at evidence from various angles, making sure the evidence is relatively complete, and teaching students how to follow these procedures on their own.  There's quite a bit more to say about academic procedure and why it is so superior to American political discourse in our era, but I will let it go there. 

Third, there's the issue of whether citizens can ethically subject public agencies to party affiliation tests and opt out if they perceive, on an individual basis, an imbalance.  The answer is no. Police, fire, health, education, road maintenance units could potentially be subject to checks of one's party cards, but the Soviet-like nature of this gesture is obvious and I'm always surprised when conservatives go down the road of making a condition of proper funding (or of reversal of previous cuts in the case of higher ed) their preferred ideological balance on staff.  I assume that police officers are as a group more conservative politically than I am. I would never dream of making funding judgments about them on that basis, or think that it's ok for them to have their pensions cut or have inferior equipment because they don't vote like me.  Whether the issue is public safety or educational quality, the issue is the professionalism of staff, insured by peer review and qualified, procedurally explicit, systematic judgments, not their political beliefs.

Finally, the hostility of some members of the Santa Barbara community toward their local university is nothing sort of tragic.  It overfocuses on isolated (and often sensationalized incidents), and it ignores the fact that UCSB is the backbone of the middle-class economy for the overall county, both in terms of salaries and benefits and in terms of student expenditures in the local economy.  Some Santa Barbarans complain all the way to the bank, as they cash rent checks in the amount of $800-1000 per month per bed, with no interest in how the absence of cultural amenities or of even a basic friendly attitude towards students outside of their designated I.V. / Lower State playgrounds affects their behavior, their education, and their well-being.  Could we contain our older-and-wealthier disapproval of the younger-and-poorer long enough to actually help them get a proper start in the world, or simply to try to understand their concerns?  Will later Californians remember Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz as making active contributions to the future of the state or as dragging their feet the whole way? The most probable answer makes me sad. 
Categorías: Universidade

Free Speech and Free UC

Dom, 12/10/2014 - 19:54
by Chris Newfield, UC Santa Barbara

4th of 5 talks from The Operation of the Machine panel, UC Berkeley October 1, introduced by Prof. Colleen Lye

Members of the FSM had to fight for free speech on campus, as we still must. But they did not have to fight for a free university.  They already had one. They succeeded at winning specific free speech protections.  The free university, they took for granted. 

For UC students in 2009 and 2011, Free UC was a nostalgic memory, like 78-RPM records and episodes of Marcus Welby, MD. They had to fight to block massive tuition hikes.  They succeeded too—not in blocking those hikes, but in raising the political cost of hikes so high that UC & CSU tuition has been frozen for the past several years. 

The University isn’t really that happy about this.  They’ve used tuition hikes to top up revenues for decades now.  Faculty aren’t really that happy about it either.  Some of us oppose high tuition on the grounds that it damages access and the public functions of the university. But most faculty have given up on their senior managers’ ability to get correct public funding from the state.   Most see high tuition, coupled with what’s called high financial aid, as inevitable, fated, predestined, and necessary to restoring UC quality.

In this context, when you oppose continued tuition increases, you are told that you are being selfish and shortsighted, and that maybe you don’t understand the generosity of UC financial aid.   

You are told that low tuition is a subsidy to the rich. You don’t want to subsidize wealthy students, do you?

You are told that low tuition hurts the poor, because they have to subsidize students with their taxes.  You don’t want to hurt the poor, do you?

You are told that low tuition is a political “non-starter.”  You don't want to waste your time on lost causes, or tilt at windmills like Don Quixote, do you?

You are told that low tuition would undermine the high financial aid levels that have protected poor students from unaffordable fees, and that are now expanding to the middle class.  You don’t want to hurt aid for low-income students, I’m sure.

You are told that low tuition would undercut improvements in teaching and learning—that educational quality depends on high tuition, and on more non-resident students paying even higher tuition than residents.  You don’t want to lock in “limited learning” at Berkeley or anywhere else, I know.

So it looks like current tuition levels are a bare minimum, and that pretty soon they’re going to have to go even higher—we’re realists, and we agree that college graduates get the benefits of their degree so should pay most or all the cost.  Don’t we? 

But in reality, all five of these statements are wrong.  The right answers point not simply to freezing tuition, which is one cause UC free speech was used for, but to rolling tuition back.  

We can dispense quickly with first two statements—that Free UC subsidizes the rich by charging them far less than they could afford, and is a burden to the poor, by forcing them to subsidize students at Berkeley where they can’t go.  The way to deal with these is through progressive taxation at the state level.  For a family making between $300,000 and $400,000 a year, there could be a higher ed surcharge of $1700.18.  Someone making $17,000 a year would pay an additional $5.13—or nothing, if there were a threshold. I’ll explain those strange numbers in a minute.  For now, the main point is that the tax system can equalize burdens for all public institutions according to ability to pay.  That’s the basic idea of progressive taxation.

The third truthy statement is that low or no tuition is a political non-starter.  The truthiness part is that it is non-starter only for a portion of the political and business class, who have no interest in paying more taxes themselves to lower college costs for the masses of California students.  Regent Blum thinks low-tuition is a non-starter.  Regent Gould thinks low tuition is a non-starter. Columnist Dan Walters thinks low-tuition is a non-starter. Former President Yudof thought low tuition was a non-starter. Former Chancellor Birgeneau thought low tuition was a non-starter. On the other hand, in polls Californians think low tuition is a great idea. They think the tuition is too damn high--they’ve been saying this since the early 1990s. They think somebody should pay more taxes, and recently 40% said they should pay more taxes themselves.  The need for high tuition is a social construction, a fabrication, an artifact of a passing era, a conventional belief.  It can be changed. Changing beliefs is a purpose of free speech, of thought itself, of movements of the kind that have brought us together today.

But, they say, Free UC is a nice idea but we just don’t have the money.  Actually, we do! The Council of UC Faculty Associations did the math, and showed to get tuition back down to 2000-01 levels $5300 in today’s dollars), and state funding back up to spend 20001 amounts per student, would cost to the median individual California taxpayer , each year, a total of $50.  Restoring full quality and affordability for the state’s 1.6 million public college and university students would cost the state median taxpayer about the same as a holiday bottle of single malt scotch.  That would get us halfway back to a Free UC

So Free UC wouldn’t help the rich, and wouldn’t hurt the poor, and wouldn’t cost too much. We’re on the fourth defense of high tuition.  What about all that high financial aid—the Blue and Gold Plan, the Middle Class Scholarships, Cal Grants plus Pell Grants, Berkeley’s own programs--that have inoculated low-income students from high tuition? Well actually, they haven’t. 

As you know all too well, students must cover not only tuition but also the full “cost of attendance,” which includes rent, food, clothes, books, and similar everyday expenses.  On-Campus cost of attendance is over $33,000.   High overall costs make a huge difference in who gets to complete.  

High tuition means that degree completion depends on ability to pay, which depends on family income--and debt capacity.

Source: Tom Mortenson, PostSecondonary Education Opportunity 2010.

Nationally, 71% of the top quartile completes their degree. 10% of the bottom quartile completes their degree.  Note too that as you move from the top to the next income quartile (which starts at around $90,000 for a family and ends at somewhat above $50,000), attainment falls by half.  

What does the High tuition /high aid model do to fix this?  Does it give grants to low-income students so they don’t have to borrow? No. It gives them grants to cover a portion of their total costs of attendance. And then they have to borrow to cover the rest of their costs. Here's what that looks like broken down by income. 

Average Cumulative Debt by Parent Income Band: 2011-12 UCB Graduating Cohort

Poor students borrow about as much as rich ones.  Even more dramatically, they borrow a much higher share of their family income –over 60% in the lower brackets.  

(The situation is worse than it appears:  this chart folds non-borrowers into the averages, and it excludes parental borrowing through the PLUS and similar programs e.g. Figure 1-7).

UC Berkeley expends significant money and effort to mitigate the damage to affordability of the high tuition model, and yet after all that work it keeps borrowing to pretty close to the national average. 

Median Debt Levels of 2007-08 Bachelor's Degree Recipients by Income Level 

Source: College Board, Trends in College Pricing

High tuition does not fight inequality—it feeds inequality. High tuition does this by keeping college proportionately more expensive for low-income students—who are disproportionately students of color.  Since college is relatively more expensive for them, they are less likely to finish college.  High tuition is not worth keeping for its high financial aid.  The aid system is a debt system. It makes inequality worse.

Finally, wouldn’t low tuition undercut improvements in teaching and learning?  No again. The university’s limited spending on learning is what limits learning—we spend less than half of “core funds” on instruction (Display II-3).   Instruction is the one thing that public officials clearly understand the value of paying for. As tuition takes over paying for instruction, politicians have ever less incentive to rebuild public funding, or help UC keep enough places for California students.  

Other private sources expect their funds to stay with targeted projects.   This is true of philanthropy, where up to 99% of funds raised are restricted to special activities.  It is true of research funding, which must be spent on particular research—and which overall loses money for the university, requiring additional subsidies from internal university sources. It is true of instruction, where the state is now subtracting from the General Fund the costs of the Middle Class Scholarship program. University costs go up as the university tries to replace lost public funding, and little of that helps instruction.

In the fifty years since Berkeley students fought for free speech, all students have been steadily losing “free university.”  Every financial aid fix has been tried, every bank has devised a student loan program, every scam and for-profit rip-off has been deployed.  One result is the world’s highest cost of higher education.  Another result is the destructive explosion of student debt.  A third is decades of stagnating degree attainment.  We have in fact spent most of the last five decades privatizing public universities.  The results of the experiment are in.  Privatization has failed to deliver low costs, or low fees, or low debt, or more degrees for low-income students, or high quality.  Privatization in the form of high tuition has undermined the public purposes of public universities. 

Now we have reached a turning point. UC student protests froze tuition, and Gov Brown, the original austerity Democrat, is now enforcing this. Tuition freezes without funding increases aren’t sustainable.  The next step is to rebuild public funding.  It won’t work to say the university needs more money in the abstract, that we’ve been trying to save and have done our best.  What will work is laying out the student outcomes of recovered public funding.  

This is what the current no-tuition movement is about. It’s about inclusive, general, taxpayer based, whole-society-contributing public funding of the overall enterprise, and accountable to the overall public.   Public universities uncover and develop the individual brilliance of regular smart people, those millions whose large but previously underdeveloped talents transformed the economy and the society in the past, and whose talents, on a mass scale, are needed to transform it again. 

Now is not the time to scale back mass Bildung and return it to the ivory towers of our elite private universities that do excellent work in miniature.   We need the thousand-foot mural art of public universities.  This is going to require getting people to pay taxes for higher education again—an extra 50 bucks!  The real goal should be free public university—Free UC.  We need to use our free speech to call for that.

Categorías: Universidade

Free Speech is not for Feeling Safe

Xov, 09/10/2014 - 19:50
by Wendy Brown, Political Science, UC Berkeley

3rd of 5 talks from The Operation of the Machine panel, UC Berkeley October 1, introduced by Prof. Colleen Lye

I want to make two brief points this afternoon, one about freedom and one about speech. 

If forced to compress into a few sentences the contours of student freedom and its limits in public universities 50 years ago and now, those sentences might go this way:

Then:  Because developing the next generation of Californians as educated individuals, citizens and contributing members of society was widely valued as a public good, the university offered a free, high quality education to qualifying (mostly white) middle class and working class students.  Faculty (also mostly white and male) had significant power over large domains of university policy-- they determined what was to be learned and how, what counted as an educated person worthy of a degree, and much more.  But the university administration not only prohibited student political expression, it codified a panoply of restrictions as it sought to be a zone clear of politics, unmarried sex, illegal substances and, implicitly, non-whites.  Thus “the gears of the machine”—from racial exclusion to speech restrictions—were tangible controls that cast students as rightless children being prepared for educated participation in society, economy and politics.

That was Then.  And Now?  UC doors are open to anyone with the wherewithal, parental pressure or supplemental support structures to deliver the test scores, grades, and profile to compete for admission (or who have singular athletic ability, or are well-off non-residents). No longer a public good or publicly supported, UC is construed as a place to invest in oneself as human capital, and according to a set of calculations about what will appreciate or diminish this capital.  Courses are increasingly on offer like Walmart goods, and respond heavily to consumer demand.  And faculty power has receded to a few small corners of the plantation—students feel it most in the form of access to classes and grades.  In the domain of student political, social and sexual expression, just about anything is permitted.  

However, the burden is on each of you to invest your time and effort strategically, not only to gain high return on your expensive investment but to develop the little speck of human capital that is you and that is yours alone to develop.  

This burden is so great and so impossible to put down for anything —an alluring music class or other exciting course outside your major, let alone a political cause, or dwelling for uncounted hours with an idea, a question, a compelling bit of text. Thus, if there are few repressive rules or overt restrictions on what you can do or say, the conversion of the university from a public good to a private investment made by you and your family radically changes the coordinates of unfreedom faced by students today.  How much can you afford to think, learn, want or do that does not comport with enhancing your future value to employers, grad or professional schools?  What freedom to speak, protest or organize against injustice can you exercise that would not be suicidal for the human capital you are enjoined to develop here, into which you have invested family life savings or taken on debt, and which has become the supervening if not sole purpose of a university education? 
Thus, today, the gears of the machine don’t clang and grind out there:  they are are soft, quiet, and deep inside us.  And throwing our bodies on them in resistance requires a complex contortion and commitment.

Ok, that was freedom.  Now speech, where I will also mark just one of many major differences between then and now, or between what we might call the repressive liberal era and the putatively emancipated neoliberal era.  This one pertains to the ways that the neoliberal assault on public things—a public sphere, public goods, public life--has led both university administrators and would-be activists into a certain confusion about free speech as a distinctly political right, one born from political struggle and secured historically for political life.  We have seen a bit of this confusion in recent months when “civility” or “respectful listening” have been mistakenly declared an inherent entailment of free speech or academic freedom. Certainly civility and respectful listening may be expected at a dinner table, a university classroom or a department meeting—it would be good if they prevailed more routinely.  But they have nothing to do with the exercise of free speech in public, where (barring threats, harassment, or dangerous incitements), anyone may say anything…and no one must listen or listen well. 

A far more treacherous instance of contemporary confusion about our political rights comes from the Supreme Court in recent years.  From Citizens United to Hobby Lobby, the Court majority has been busily granting political freedoms—of speech, of religious belief-- to corporations who may now use their enormous wealth and power to overwhelm the last standing icon of democracy, elections, and withhold medical insurance for Constitutionally guaranteed reproductive rights.

This confusion, from high places, of whom and what our political rights are for, and what they do and don’t entail, would take hours to analyze properly.  But I want to consider one especially troubling version of it on college campuses today, one that we can do something about.  This is the effort to regulate public speech to protect certain vulnerable groups from offense, hatred, being retraumatized.  

This protection racket begin, alas, a couple of decades ago with well-intentioned feminist and anti-racist efforts to outlaw hateful or offensive speech and images.  But this tool, which aimed to shield the historically hated or subordinated from being hit again in the present, has not remained in the hands of the Left.  Indeed, while it’s animating the contemporary “trigger warning” madness (a discussion for another day) it has also become one of the more potent instruments of illiberal American ultra-Zionism today.  It is what dignifies the fallacious argument that publicly criticizing Israel on campus creates an unsafe or offensive climate for Jewish students.  

So what begin as a concern with subordinating or hateful speech has been appropriated to silence protest against power.  Of course any political argument can be flipped—Californians know this best from the legislation that ended affirmative action, which, you’ll recall, was called The Civil Rights Initiative.  But there’s something more troubling here, which is the confusion of the public sphere with therapeutic spaces or homes.  The domain of free public speech is not one of emotional safety or reassurance, and what you might hear in Sproul Plaza or up at this podium might be disturbing, uncomfortable, enraging, even offensive.  

Public speech is one of the most powerful weapons ordinary human beings have, and even the most civilly uttered sentences can disturb or terrify.  Certainly the speeches of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., or Malcolm X made neither white people nor many blacks feel safe.  Certainly the revolutionary slogan, “liberty, equality, fraternity” did not reassure either the French aristocracy or its minions in mid-18th century Paris.  Do you think Wall St Bankers felt safe when they walked past thousands of Occupy protestors decrying the obscene wealth, destruction of democracy, and carnage of public goods for which they were being held responsible?  Do you think closeted homosexuals felt safe when the Stonewall rebellion broke out? Do you think men who have pushed, drunk or drugged women into unwanted sex feel safe as women on campuses everywhere are finally speaking out against the commonplace of sexual assault?  Or that civil servants, police and other hired guns of regimes across the Middle East felt safe when citizens amassed in public squares to denounce them during the Arab spring?  Emotional safety is not what the public sphere and political speech promise.  It’s for cultivating at home if you are lucky enough to have one.  It is what you seek among friends and intimates where you expect your vulnerability to be taken into account. 

A university education, too, ought to call you to think, question, doubt.   It ought to incite you to question everything you assume, think you know or care about, not because those assumptions or cares will be jettisoned.  Rather, because, as those wild-eyed radicals Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill insisted, there is no possibility of knowing what’s right, justified, valuable or true unless you question deeply and relentlessly…unless you’re willing to consider whether your attachment to an idea or principle is really just a teddy bear you cling to, a comforting familiar.  The public sphere and a university classroom are not for hanging onto your teddy bears.  Your bears have their place, back in your room where you’re safe and restored.   But when we demand—from the Right OR the Left-- that universities be cleansed of what is disturbing, upsetting, enraging, “offensive” or triggering, we are complicit both with the neoliberal destruction of university as a place of being undone, transformed, awakened (rather than a place to get job training) AND with neoliberalism’s destruction of public spaces and the distinctive meaning of political rights, (rights that some in this room fought to bring onto campus 50 years ago).  

Let’s demand something far more important, which is to be provoked and challenged, every day and down to our very toes in what remains of this extraordinary institution.  Let’s have the courage to stand for that, and to be willing to withstand it.  
Categorías: Universidade

The Free Speech Movement and the Unfinished Work of Civil Rights at UC Berkeley

Mar, 07/10/2014 - 22:47
by Leigh Raiford, UC Berkeley
with thanks to Michael Cohen and Nzingha DugasPhoto credit: Harvey Richards
2nd of 5 talks from The Operation of the Machine panel, UC Berkeley October 1, introduced by Prof. Colleen Lye
Fifty years ago today, Jack Weinberg, a student activist, set up a table outside of Sproul Hall in direct defiance of the campus ban on political speech.  What followed is of course well-known: a campus police car drove into the middle of the plaza to arrest Weinberg, students surrounded the vehicle and occupied Sproul Plaza for the next 33 hours, Marios Savio climbed atop the car and gave a powerful speech….  And the Free Speech Movement was born.
What perhaps is not so well-known about this moment is that Jack Weinberg was the head of UC Berkeley’s CORE chapter.  CORE—the Congress of Racial Equality—was a frontline civil rights organization, that along with SNCC—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—had organized the massive black voter registration and education effort in Mississippi that year, known as Freedom Summer.  Weinberg, Savio, and numerous other campus activists had joined more than 800 other students from around the nation, mostly white, mostly Northern, and they lived, worked, and organized side by side with Southern African Americans against the Jim Crow system of racial apartheid.  These volunteers witnessed and experienced firsthand the violence and terror that maintained Jim Crow: the murder of four summer volunteers by Klansmen, the more than eighty people—including Savio—beaten by police as well as citizens, the hundreds arrested, and the bombing of scores of homes, businesses and churches.
When they returned to campus in the Fall of 1964, galvanized and also sobered by their experiences, they were eager to continue the struggle and to recruit others to join in the fight for racial justice.  But instead they found an administration that, in Savio’s words, was “out of touch.” 
Here [Berkeley and Cal campus] was one of the main outlets in the free part of the country…for recruiting people to go down there [to the South, and it seemed outrageous] that the University would presume to cut this off…because [the southern freedom struggle] was the most important thing going on in the country.  If the university could throttle politics on the campus, then in the spirit of “Which Side Are You On?’ they are saying… ‘we are on the same side as the state of Mississippi.’… It would be shameful not to stand up…
--stand up against UC’s ban on free speech and more specifically on what Savio biographer Robert Cohen has rightly labeled “the University’s attempt to disable the student arm of the civil rights movement" (pp 76-77).
I begin my comments here because I want to remind us that the legacy of the Free Speech Movement is the legacy of Freedom Summer; that the Free Speech Movement and Civil Rights are inseparable, and that the Free Speech Movement could not have happened without student commitment to issues of social justice beyond the campus.
So, Fifty years later, where are we now?  What is the legacy not just of free speech on campus, but of Civil Rights, integration and racial justice at UC Berkeley?
It is in an inescapable truth that since the passage of Proposition 209, the so-called California Civil Rights Initiative that ended affirmative action in the state, the University of California has failed the legacy of the Free Speech Movement.  Though we give lip service to diversity, more as a comforting image and corporate commodity, the messy work of a true diversity is no longer a priority at this university.  In the year after Prop 209’s passage, diversity at UC Berkeley completely collapsed, reducing the numbers of students of color by more than half in a single year.
For the last 18 years, the black student population has hovered at 3%, the Latino/Latina student population at about 11%, the Native American student population at about one half of one percent--in a state in which these groups make up 7%, 40% and 1.5% of the population respectively.  Eighteen yearsProp 209 is old enough to enter Cal’s freshman class.  What that means is that these numbers – evidence of an American legacy of racism and discrimination in education -- are seen no longer as constituting a Crisis.  But like the shocking rise of tuition, this situation has become the New Normal.  We can no longer delude ourselves into believing that the University has the will or commitment or imagination to honor the civil rights legacies of the Free Speech Movement, namely representation and integration.  It has, instead, fallen silent.
What are the ways in which we see this complacency manifest?
If we look to the 2014 UC Office of the President Campus Climate Report, we see that students of color, and African American students in particular, reported the lowest feelings of respect on campus.  This is something that those of us who work with students of color hear everyday and didn’t necessarily need a report to confirm. It is easy to see in terms of a persistently hostile racial climate, micro (and macro) aggressions both within and outside of the classroom, and general feelings of anti-blackness.  These include reported incidents of the hanging of nooses across from African American theme dorms and the racial profiling of students of color by campus police
The ongoing rise of tuition makes it difficult for all but the wealthiest and the very poor to attend UC, when we know that class divisions are very much articulated via racial divisions.
We also see the outsourcing of recruitment and retention work to the students themselves--work that the University itself is no longer willing or able to take on.
And we can also point to the fact that I am here, in part as a token, one of less than twenty black women faculty on a campus of more than 1400. 
But I want to speak specifically to two ways in which the campus’ failure to address the ongoing diversity crisis constitutes a violation of free speech.
That students of color constitute such a tiny minority on this campus squelches their freedom of speech at a most basic level. With such low numbers, students of color take on and bear an incredible burden of representation.
In most of the classrooms on this campus, students of color find themselves the only one of their kind in the room.  And when the subject of race comes up—you know, Ferguson, or immigration or President Obama for that matter—they are looked to, by professor and students alike, to act as expert and representative for their race, to stand in for their group, effectively to stand in for all those who have been excluded from campus.  This incredible burden of representation has the effect of silencing students of color, of further isolating and marginalizing them. 
Our new Executive Vice Chancellor Claude Steele has termed the associated fear “stereotype threat,” by which he means an anxiety that one will confirm or conform to all the degrading dehumanizing stereotypes held about one’s group.  A hundred years ago, WEB Du Boiscalled this problem “double consciousness,” the “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of always measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks along with amused contempt and pity.” And yet, the Development Office continues to use the silent images of these marginalized students —to trade on and sell their difference—as part of the “Thanks to Berkeley” capital fundraising campaign on banners all over campus in numbers disproportionate to their actual demographic.
The second example I want to cite is in light of the Task Force on Academics and Athletics’ report released last week.  In conversations with student athletes, a number of them have told me and other faculty that they are instructed by coaches and other athletic staff “not to do anything” which might jeopardize their eligibility.  This includes participation in student protest or political activity.  Now of course there is no written policy, but former members of revenue-generating sports teams (football, basketball) as well as other (non-revenue, Olympic or intercollegiate) teams have for years expressed their feeling of being silenced.  For black student athletes and for the black student population on campus, this has deep impact.  The University cynically uses alternative admission standards for student athletes and then uses these increased numbers of black students to pad already dismal diversity numbers.  By placing unspoken restrictions on the free speech of student athletes as a tacit condition of their eligibility, the university effectively isolates these students from the larger black student body, further marginalizing an already diminished population.  The cost of playing Cal sports while black is silence.
I want to conclude by returning to Mario Savio and the legacy of the movement Savio spent the Spring of 1964 protesting discriminatory hiring practices in San Francisco hotels.  He spent the summer of 1964 living and organizing against racial injustice in the Deep South.  His was an identity formed in community, a coming to self through working alongside others for the betterment of society.  Savio’s legacy in part is one in which we are reminded that to be our best selves, to create the kind of University community we aspire to, we must speak up and make space for the least visible and most silenced members of our campus.  This includes following up on the progressive recommendations of the Task Force on Academics and Athletics, continuing to fight for tuition reduction, and advocating for a more racially diverse campus.  What we remember and celebrate here is Mario Savio standing on a cop car speaking eloquently about fighting the machine.  What we need to remember is that it was the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for racial justice that gave Savio his voice and his community.
Categorías: Universidade

The Operation of the Machine: UC Then and Now

Lun, 06/10/2014 - 13:50
By Colleen Lye, English Department, UC Berkeley, and Co-chair, Berkeley Faculty Association.

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) at UC Berkeley, a student movement that since Mario Savio’s death in 1996 has gained increasing institutional acknowledgement as part of the campus’s celebrated history.

 The 50thanniversary commemorations, however, got off to an unexpectedly rocky start with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’s campus-wide message on civility. The free speech rights won by students in 1964 became the basis for time, place and manner regulations governing student conduct. It appeared to some that Chancellor Dirks’s comments suggested a misunderstanding of those rights, or a new policy reversal of them. With media attention already trained on campus because of the FSM anniversary, combined with the fact that the Salaita case at the University of Illinois had, over the course of the summer, turned “civility” into a hot-button word in a debate over faculty academic freedom, an avalanche of negative publicity required the Chancellor to quickly drain the force of his initial remarks in a follow-up message. In a meeting with the staff of The Daily Californian, which had run a critical forum on the Chancellor’s message on civility and his subsequent clarification, Dirks talked about how his own scholarship on colonial India had once analyzed the ways in which civility had been used by those in power to restrain the freedoms of the disempowered.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Berkeley faculty, staff and students returned to the business of commemorating the FSM, in light of which a large number of events have been planned for the fall. From the perspective of the Berkeley Faculty Association, FSM-50 represented an opportunity to take stock of the distance traveled since the time when the co-author of the Master Plan and the avatar of student free speech had once been primary antagonists in a drama that kicked off the Sixties as that period in which universities came to be conceived as a base from which to organize for broader social change. 
Is the increasing sympathy many feel for the position of Clark Kerr—as embattled liberal caught between a reactionary Sacramento and an insurgent student demand for their First Amendment right to express politically consequential speech on campus—indicative of the extent to which we are still fighting the battles of the Sixties but on ever weakening ground? Racial segregation is still with us, feminist reproductive rights are under siege, corporate power has seized extensive control of our democracy, preventing even modest government amelioration of growing economic inequality. The dismantling of the notion that higher education is a public good rather than a consumer choice, and the degradation of the link between democracy and education that follows from that, is something that our UC administrators—scrambling to patch public deficits by all available means on a short-term basis—seem unwilling or unable to combat.
Thus since 2009 it has fallen largely to UC students, staff unions and faculty to diagnose our structural situation from the standpoint of the public interest, with this blog serving as a primary outlet for expression. As part of this tradition, the Berkeley Faculty Association organized a teach-in entitled “The Operation of the Machine: UC Then and Now” on Oct 1, in commemoration of the day that thousands of students surrounded a police car on Sproul Plaza that held FSM activist Jack Weinberg, and refused to allow his arrest and removal. At our event last week, UC faculty and student speakers addressed a packed audience on some of the most crucial topics relating to the question of the changed relationship between freedom and the university since the 60s.
How does the heavy burden of tokenism placed upon the few African American students left at Berkeley since Prop. 209, and the fact that student athletes are constrained by their scholarships from participation in political protest, combine to rob underrepresented minority students especially of their freedom of speech? 

How is the conservative seizure of a therapeutic discourse of a safe campus climate functioning to regulate academic and campus debate in a way that fundamentally departs from an understanding of the university as a place of intellectual provocation and challenge? 

How is it that a free university education for Californians can seem so far-fetched when our current high fee/high aid model is contributing to relentlessly increasing student debt, and persists because of a lack of political will rather than an economic necessity? 

How is UC Berkeley’s increasing privatization of its real estate holdings likely to raise the cost of student housing and diminish campus community access to facilities and resources previously understood to belong to a university commons? 

Finally, what is to be done?
These questions and more were explored by Leigh Raiford, Wendy Brown, Chris Newfield, and Amanda Armstrong, whose talks will be published here starting tomorrow. 
Categorías: Universidade

William Deresiewicz and the Public University

Sáb, 27/09/2014 - 23:01
By Jennifer Ruth (Portland State University)
The conversation prompted by Excellent Sheep has turned into a referendum on “meritocracy.” Deresiewicz mercilessly takes meritocracy to task – “The meritocracy purports, like every ruling class, to act for the good of all,” he writes; “Its ethos is in fact, by definition, one of self-advancement: not duty or responsibility, not character or even leadership, but individual aggrandizement, a single-minded focus on the self and its success” (226). For Deresiewicz, meritocracy is the culprit behind the Reagan-era culture of “winner take all” that continues on today among our elites who are “brilliant, gifted, energetic, yes, but also anxious, greedy, bland, and risk-averse, with no courage and no vision ” (228-9). These political and business elites can’t wrap their heads around why they keep falling on their faces when they are so manifestly intelligent. Here’s Deresiewicz on Obama: “With his racial identity and relatively humble background, his election has been called the triumph of the meritocracy. The sad thing is that that's exactly what it was” (230). Obama is a failure because “he plays it safe, like every other product of the [meritocratic] system” (229).
Meritocracy’s defenders also do it no favors. Steven Pinker’s rebuttal to Deresiewicz’s New Republic piece “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League” starts off with a reasonable-sounding defense of the ethos of meritocracy as the prioritizing of ability and effort over various forms of inheritable privilege. By its end, however, Pinker’s piece has become a party in honor of standardized tests. Pinker believes that merit—defined as intelligence—can be measured objectively. The problem for him then is not that colleges follow a meritocratic admissions process but that, with their legacies and athletes and trombone players, their process is not nearly meritocratic enough.
Pinker doesn’t worry about wealth buying merit because he thinks it can’t. All those advantages the well-off give their children—from piano lessons to the best private schools to test-prep courses? They only budge their kids’ scores by a negligibly few percentage points, Pinker tells us. Ensconced at Harvard and annoyed that students prefer competing in lacrosse games to attending class, Pinker doesn’t seem to grasp the main issue. Isn’t the issue that entrenched inequality has destroyed any illusion that rewards are distributed meritocratically in American society? And, further, that if meritocracy did once act as a vehicle of redistribution, it acts to exacerbate inequality now?
Chris Hayes hammers this point home in The Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy (2012). Hayes discusses the structural tension between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. He argues that the generation that profited when we moved from an old boy patronage system to a meritocracy (or equality of opportunity) has pulled the ladder up behind them. Though the meritocratic culture once lead to greater equality of outcomes, in its second and third generations it has led to greater inequality of outcomes.
Each ruling class, it seems to me, is always in danger of devolving into a patronage system regardless of the nature of its original legitimation. The middle class Barbara Ehrenreich discussed in her 1989 classic Fear of Falling has been hollowed out but her analysis of a certain psychology applies to today’s elite. They do not want their children to have to experience a lower standard of living than they enjoy. The impulse to rationalize advantages and even game the system when people you care about are involved is irresistible for many. The fight against this—what Deresiewicz refers to as “self-overcoming”—is never-ending.
It’s not just parents with kids. I see it at the departmental level. People from relatively modest backgrounds who got into Stanford and Harvard and are now Professors of English or Cultural studies will push hard to hire friends or family. They not only don’t see a problem with this but they see themselves as doing something compassionate by championing the people they know over the people who are as yet words on a page. The ever-flawed striving for some modicum of objectivity—the holding at bay of connections and kinship—doesn’t come easily to any of us, no matter our personal trajectories. If we desire a fair society, though, we are doomed to repeatedly breaking up patronage systems—even patronage systems generated by meritocracies.
Hayes argues, however, that at this point simply breaking up patronage systems is not enough. We can only restore the equality of opportunity from which today’s elite benefitted by moving decisively in the direction of equality of outcome. This begins with redistributing wealth back to public education because, whatever it might be, a meritocratic society is certainly not one with such extreme and stubborn inequality that the vast majority of its 18 to 24 year olds are deprived opportunities for quality education, gratifying work, and socio-economic mobility.
Deresiewicz ultimately arrives at a similar conclusion:
If service workers can demand a $15 minimum wage, more than double the federal level, then those who care about higher education can insist on the elimination of tuition and fees at state institutions and their replacement by public funding furnished by taxes on the upper 10 percent. As with the minimum wage, the campaign can be conducted state by state, and it can and should involve a large coalition of interested groups: students, parents, and instructors, to start with. Total enrollment at American colleges and universities now stands at 20 million, on top of another million-plus on the faculty. That’s a formidable voting bloc, should it learn to exercise its power. Since the Occupy movement in 2011, it’s clear that the fight to reverse the tide of growing inequality has been joined. It’s time we joined it.
These words are from Deresiewicz’s essay “The Miseducation of America” in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The last pages of Excellent Sheep strike the same power-to-the-people note and, while I’m grateful that he concludes on such a note, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that he tacked on these pages after someone read the manuscript and asked: Okay, but what do you have to say about the nation’s students who really need help?
Deresiewicz justifies the attention he lavishes on the Ivy League cohort by pointing out that they become the elites who have outsized power over the fates of the rest of us. Fair enough. But until we restore funding to our public universities, it will be hard to resist the siren song of select schools. “The economist Caroline Hoxby has shown,” Pinker writes, “that selective universities spend twenty times more on student instruction, support, and facilities than less selective ones, while their students pay for a much smaller fraction of it, thanks to gifts to the college.” Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian’s higher education reporter, recently published a piece entitled “Are Oregon Universities Efficient at Producing Graduates?” Relaying the information provided in the the study "Trends in College Spending: 2001-2011" by the American Institutes of Research, Hammond reports that my institution, Portland State, “remains one of the most efficient public research universities in the nation, spending just $40,700 on education and related expenses for every graduate it produces.” Hammond’s use of the word “efficiency” has the bizarre effect of implying that the less a public university spends on its students, the more praise it deserves. The fact that state funding for Portland State Universitydecreased by 80% over the last two decades surely is a tragedy, not a case study in virtuous efficiency.
Is the problem the concept of meritocracy—a concept, after all, that demands that every effort be made to even the playing field before the games begin? Isn’t the problem that we’re no longer bothering to level the field by even so much as an inch?
Deresiewicz tells us that Ivy League students don’t hang out on the beautifully manicured campus lawns or brood over Rilke, because they have been trained to avoid activities that don’t further their careers. As the numbers above demonstrate, Portland State students do not have the same fertile environment to squander. Even if they did, most of them wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it since the vast majority of them work outside school. Many of them hold 30 to 40 hour a week jobs. They take these jobs to pay for their classes and yet the punishing work schedules turn their classes into just more obstacles on their weekly obstacle course.
Deresiewicz’s weakness for grand flourishes simplifies what’s at stake: “We’ve had meritocracy; it’s time for democracy,” he says as if we all know and agree upon what both “meritocracy” and “democracy” mean. But Deresiewicz is right about what he calls “the essential thing.” “The new dispensation must ensure--this is the essential thing—that privilege cannot be handed down;” he tells us; “The education system has to act to mitigate the class system, as it did in the middle decades of the twentieth century, not reproduce it.” If we want a society that plays more people than it benches, we have to win that campaign Deresiewicz talks about—the one to eliminate tuition and fees at state institutions and replace them by public funding derived from taxes on the upper 10 percent. Where and when is the campaign kick-off party?

Categorías: Universidade

Some Implications of the Regents' Proposed UC Ventures

Mér, 17/09/2014 - 15:17
My thinking about the formation of "UC Ventures" is influenced by the fact that today I am flying from London to Berlin to film some thin-film solar photovoltaic researchers and executives who have been living for years in the "valley of death" between important research results and commercial revenues. The photo is of the May, 2011 inauguration of the flagship building for Soltecture, one of the world's best thin-film PV companies that promised to bring zero-energy capabilities to old and new buildings a few years from then. When I stood in front of the building one year after this photo, it had closed, and the company was gone. 

Thus my questions about UC Ventures start with whether it will actually help avoid the collapse--or non-start-- of socially valuable technologies for lack of patient, long-term, adequate financial support.   Will UC Ventures be a "patient investor" that sides unequivocally with the technology--and with the future public that will use it?  Will it offer something special to late-stage technology by entering when others have left?  Will it help original, early-stage research with long-term commitments? Is it fish or is it fowl, or some other, political species?

Here's a bit more background, since it is missing from the Regent's materials.  Venture capital funds  socially-valuable technologies when they are likely to make a lot of money.  They avoid them, no matter how green or clean, when they aren't.  Around 2007, Silicon Valley VC declared clean tech to be the next mega market that VC would chase as it had semiconductors, internet software, and the like: Tony Seba's Solar Trillions (2009) caught the tone.  But energy technology is slow to develop and very expensive to make, unlike router software and apps, and by the time Solyndra went bankrupt in 2011, the Valley had moved on from clean tech to greener financial pastures.  No hard feelings: their job is not to save the planet but to make trillions for their investors, and if solar won't do that, then goodbye solar.  Literally--most advanced solar PV R&D has moved to Asia, often with technology they bought for pennies on the euro or dollar in Western bankruptcies. You can read Vinod Khosla's clear warning here; another denizen of Sand Hill Road assured me face-to-face that the Valley would not invest in clean tech just to keep the manufacturing here.

Soltecture and other thin-film PV companies demonstrate an important fact about the relationship between business and technology, which is that they regularly diverge.  Today's "shareholder" capitalism is all about short-term maximization of returns on investment.   If commercializing a technology will do that then it shall be commercialized; if not, it won't, and the technology will be abandoned.  Businesses exist to make money. Tech development loses money--until the product is finished and sold.  We often ignore this divergence, in spite of frequent critiques from environmentalists, public health advocates, and many many others, not to mention the many business books that discuss the way that the normal pursuit of returns on investment (ROI) conflicts with the R&D that leads to the returns (e.g. Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Solution, Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm, William Lazonick's Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy).  In spite of my recent criticism of Prof. Christensen for his bias against sustainability, I have always appreciated his brutal honesty about what shareholders demand, which is continuous sales growth that increases share prices by exceeding growth expectations.  That does not describe the life of high-impact, high-risk, high-difficulty technologies of the very advanced kind that create the breakthroughs and environmental solutions that we all want.

For a long time, all Very Serious People as Krugman calls them thought venture capital (VC) was the universal solution to tech commercialization in all fields: where universities left off, and mature companies couldn't move quickly, VC would provide capital to get a company from development to delivery to a large commercial market, offering management, development, financing, and marketing expertise along the way.  But VC enters "downstream," for products that are close to commercialization.  They have short time horizons - 3-5 years at most. They expect large multiples of returns on their initial investments, in part to cover their loses on their many bets that fail, in part because their core business is to get very large returns.  

Even this quick sketch reveals the problem: the road from "bench to bedside," from basic academic research to reliable product, is long and winding.  Though you can cash out on a good app in 3 years max, the Internet underlying it took 30 years of growth in the dark, with no market prospects and thus only government funding as the patient investor.  Even if the development frame is short, the social value of a product may greatly exceeds its market value to any given firm.  So firms will underinvest, producing "market failure," which then requires the fix of government support or rich corporations with decades-long horizons, like Japan seems still to have, and like the US used to have when monopolies like AT&T supported some blue-sky research in places like Bell Labs. I am not saying anything original here: mainstream economists like Kenneth Arrow and Richard Nelson began to analyze market underinvestment in research in the 1950s.

But when we talk about technology transfer (TT) from universities to business, we seem to forget this core lesson that business and its private investors are not there to insure the development of technology.  Writers like Joseph "Creative Destruction" Schumpeter and later apostles of "disruptive innovation" have confused the issue by making it sound like they are:  the right entrepreneurial spirit yoked to a big capital stock would automatically benefit society even as it created new wealth. But the bankruptcy of good--and socially valuable--companies like Soltecture, Q-Cells, or even Solyndra are the counter evidence.  Their death flows directly from the withdrawal of capital by investors who decide they aren't going to get major returns in the near future.  They may still love the technology and the company and believe in its enormous future market and great benefit to humanity, but they need to reinvest their capital right now for a higher return--sorry, no hard feelings.  Analysts usually blame the victim--bad management, overrated technology, unlucky price movements.  (If you think this conventional wisdom explains the Solyndra bankruptcy, we have a forty-page refutation that I'll happily send you.) The reality is that VC, start-up companies, and big shareholder-oriented companies (see Lazonick) aren't set up to support the full research and development process, which is better measured in decades than years.  The reality is that financial metrics do not measure science progress or social promise, period.

Like other research universities, the University of California's special contribution to the knowledge ecosystem is basic research--"upstream," early-stage, blue sky, high-risk, wild and crazy, stupid or brilliant, waste or genius, nobody knows in advance.  Yes, I realize universities do lots of applied research, and I certainly agree that no simple line should be drawn between basic and applied, that "Pasteur's Quadrant" is where applied questions produce basic results, etc.  But American capitalism has a huge bias towards both applied and especially the nearly-commercial because that is where the money can be made.  The system has already flushed basic out of the corporate world, which still gets more than 2/3rd of federal R&D funding to do D, making the university's role in basic R more important than ever.  Bear in mind too that STEM research funding is less than it needs to be, and that universities are struggling mightily to support it by digging deeper into their internal funds

Enter UC Ventures. How does it define the problem that its existence could solve?   The problem is said to be not enough VC for faculty start-up companies, which are a common--but risky and fragile--step in the commercialization process.   A Regental Working Group on Technology Transfer concluded, "UC should establish a mechanism to invest in UC start-up companies, either through the establishment of or participation in a venture capital fund or funds."  The regents went with the first option, starting their own fund, staked with $250 million from the endowment they directly control, and managed by a "Team" that will be appointed by the Chief Investment Officer while staying independent of that office and of UC in general. No UC employee will serve on the start-up investment Team.  UC Ventures is thus to "support the University ecosystem by providing capital to UC Startups."

Among various details, two others are of special note. The fund will invest in start-ups meant to commercialize UC inventions, but since UC is defined as an "ecosystem," it  includes former UC employees, UC alumni, UC donors, and I imagine anyone who can be designated a "Friend of UC." In other words, current UC researchers will not necessarily have first crack at the fund, so this is not an investment firm devoted exclusively to advancing UC science and engineering.  

The second detail is ambiguity about fund's main role. If it is more a VC fund under the CIO, then the fund's main job is to increase returns for the UC endowment, which is the CIO's actual job.  Accordingly, UC Ventures ultimately reports to the CIO and not, say, to the University Provost, the Office of Technology Transfer, or the Office of Research.  A venture fund, in that context, must have an overwhelming bias for research with near-term commercial promise in the largest market possible, preferably one with low costs. This means that it will necessarily pass over more or less everything that we could call basic research, but also over most late-stage, applied research as well.  If UC Professor Pharma has a start up for a molecule whose patent may yield a high monopoly price in high-income countries, and UC Professor Publichealth has a novel treatment regime for inexpensive drug-delivery in low-income countries, the VC fund, following normal investor practice, must pick Professor Pharma.  Whenever science and markets are at odds, or society and markets are at odds, the VC firm must favor markets.  

Much high-tech business talk dodges the problem by saying that markets, technology, and society all line up sooner rather than later.   But saying it doesn't make it true. The Regents' document takes the same kind of shot (page 3):
Specifically, UC Ventures will aim to maximize financial returns while leveraging the University's unique research and knowledge base, as well as the wider University community, to gain access to attractive opportunities emerging from the University's ecosystem.  The OCIO will design UC Ventures to maximize alignment of interests, minimize costs, and provide a long-term investment horizon.  The OCIO believes there is a compelling opportunity to generate attractive rates of return by selectively investing in early-, mid-, and late-stage companies arising from the UC ecosystem.There's a tone here of UC Ventures as an especially patient investor, but UC research is one big input in what must be the CIO's strategy to "maximize financial returns."   For late stage R&D, I don't see what advantage UC Ventures will have in the crowded VC world other than having first look at UC product.  For early-stage research of the kind that is harder and harder to fund,  UC Ventures is irrelevant.  (It is, however, already a major PR coup, having gotten quite a bit of media attention of the kind that accepts the popular myth that investing for maximum returns is the same as helping science's public mission.) 

US science needs countercyclical investment, which puts money where other people won't because the work has value Mr. Market can't see. VC firms are cyclical: they do try to get in first, but not too soon, as they don't make money on inventions whose coolness is visible only to them. They need other investors piling in to pump equity values, consumer interest for future sales, and in general a certain obviousness to the value that is never the case in the early or sometimes even in a late phase.  To take Solyndra as an example, when their private investors pulled out in late summer 2011, the Department of Energy, acting cyclically, pulled its loan guarantees.  

What socially valuable research needs--e.g. research like Solyndra's cylindrical solar cells for the flat-roof vastness of the industrialized worlds--is an investor that says, "OK. you've missed every one of your cost milestones, your manufacturing process doesn't work like you said, and five years in, your tech is still crap.  But it's important crap.  And your job now is to make it uncrap, and finally make this whole thing work.  So you said five years? You lied, to us and to yourselves.  So what--R&D is always like that. If it only takes 10 years total you'll be lucky.  So here's five more years of loans, so you can fix your strategy, get more and different engineers, start talking to your customers, create a social buzz around turning Wal-Mart green, do something about your oversensitive equipment, and get back to work."

DOE should have said that. They didn't.  Would UC Ventures ever say that? Not if it's a VC fund.  So what exactly is the research point?

It would be cleaner, and probably more effective, to use some small part of the endowment to have a regular VC fund and not make a big deal out of it, and then use another part of the endowment, say $250 million, to fund fundamental research at UC across the disciplines--in STEM and non-STEM--particularly where the research is so interesting and strange that no one else will fund it.  The seed funding we most need is not for start-ups, where there's no shortage of VC capital sniffing over late-stage ideas, but for embryonic ideas that no outside sponsor will fund.  That wouldn't do as much for UC's corporate image, but it would do more than UC Ventures for knowledge and innovation.

Categorías: Universidade

The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois Votes Down the First Amendment (UPDATED)

Ven, 12/09/2014 - 01:58
As you have probably heard, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois voted 8-1 against the appointment of Steven Salaita.  You can find a report here.

I don't have much to add at this point but others have offered commentaries and I am providing a few links.  If we find other links either to the Salaita Case or to the civility discussion we will add them.

Corey Robin comments here.

John Wilson comments on the arguments in favor of the administration's decision here.

You can find IHE Coverage of the Salaita vote here.

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers reports here and here.

The Good Enough Professor on civility and power is here.

Categorías: Universidade

The Order of Civility

Dom, 07/09/2014 - 17:25
On Friday, Chancellor Dirks of UC Berkeley released an open statement to his campus community that seeks to define the limits of appropriate debate at Berkeley.  Issued as the campus approaches the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, Chancellor Dirks' statement, with its evocation of civility, echoes the language recently used by the Chancellor of the University of Illinois, Urbana and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (especially its Chair Christopher Kennedy) concerning the refused appointment of Steven Salaita. It also mirrors language with the effort by the University of Kansas Board of Regents to regulate social media speech and the Penn State administration's new statement on civility,  

There are historical ironies here enough to make a satirist happy for years.  At Illinois, donors, alumni, and some conservative activists have argued that Professor Salaita should not be allowed to teach at Urbana to ensure that Jewish students are comfortable. They seem oblivious to the fact that it was alleged incivility of Jews that was used to justify the exclusion and marginalization of Jews at American colleges and universities in the 19th century and a sizable portion of the twentieth century.  To be sure, his critics are not calling for Salaita to be denied an appointment simply because he is a Palestinian-American; there is nothing so uncivil as that going on. But then Jews were excluded because of what their critics deemed their uncivil behavior. 

At Berkeley, Chancellor Dirks, in his efforts to set the limits of civility, appears not to see the ways that he repeats the 1960s demonization of the FSM (hardly praised in California in the early 1960s) as themselves barbarians at the gates of proper university discourse and debate.  Although each of these administrative statements have responded to specific local events, the repetitive invocation of "civil" and "civility" to set limits to acceptable speech bespeaks a broader and deeper challenge to intellectual freedom on college and university campuses.  Because it is forward looking it may be best to start by looking more closely at Chancellor Dirks' statement.

As with so many of these of these calls, Chancellor Dirks' aims to strike a tone of reasonable fairness and matter-of-fact common sense:

As we honor this turning point in our history, it is important that we recognize the broader social context required in order for free speech to thrive. For free speech to have meaning it must not just be tolerated, it must also be heard, listened to, engaged and debated.  Yet this is easier said than done, for the boundaries between protected and unprotected speech, between free speech and political advocacy, between the campus and the classroom, between debate and demagoguery, between freedom and responsibility, have never been fully settled.  As a consequence, when issues are inherently divisive, controversial and capable of arousing strong feelings, the commitment to free speech and expression can lead to division and divisiveness that undermine a community’s foundation. This fall, like every fall, there will be no shortage of issues to animate and engage us all. Our capacity to maintain that delicate balance between communal interests and free expression, between openness of thought and the requirements and disciplines of academic knowledge, will be tested anew.Specifically, we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility. Simply put, courteousness and respect in words and deeds are basic preconditions to any meaningful exchange of ideas. In this sense, free speech and civility are two sides of a single coin – the coin of open, democratic society.
As I read this, it was easy to nod at different points: yes, it is important to have ideas and problems "engaged and debated"; of course people should feel "safe" in presenting their ideas and positions; and of course the "boundaries" of many of the issues he raises "have never been fully settled."  But for me it is impossible to hold that moment for long.  Instead, what seems clear is the vagueness of the categories, the shift from the unsettled boundaries to the insistence on how one should debate, the paternalistic instruction in manners and the culminating gesture (further along in the letter) that "Insofar as we wish to honor the ideal of Free Speech, therefore, we should do so by exercising it graciously."  

And then I shuddered.

If Chancellor Dirks is right we would have to repudiate much of the intellectual traditions and practices he claims to be defending.  As the great English historian Edward Thompson put it in a review of Raymond Williams The Long Revolution:

Burke abused, Cobbett inveighed, Arnold was capable of malicious insinuation, Carlyle, Ruskin and D. H. Lawrence, in their middle years, listened to no one. This may be regretable: but I cannot see that the communication of anger, indignation, or even malice, is any less genuine.... And it is easy for the notion of “good faith” to refer, not only to the essential conventions of intellectual discourse, but also to carry overtones—through Newman and Arnold to the formal addresses of most ViceChancellors today—which are actively offensive.
Thompson's point--which he put without too much graciousness--is that the calls for civility are, in fact, not true to the intellectual traditions they claim to develop and respect. Whatever the immediate intentions of the chancellors, the emphasis on civility as essential to intellectual, and yes political, arguments render debate anodyne and could only be achieved by bowdlerizing many of the great intellectual interventions of the last few centuries.  

But the problem is broader than a misapprehension of the past.  The demand for civility effectively outlaws a range of intellectual, literary, and political forms: satire is not civil, caricature is not civil, hyperbole and aesthetic mockery are not civil nor is polemic. Ultimately the call for civility is a demand that you not express anger; and if it was enforced it would suggest that there is nothing to be angry about in the world.  The call for civility in discourse confuses the enforcement of administrative time, place, and manner restrictions with the genuine need to defend people from personal threat.  The result is that the administrative desire trumps all else.

These problems are expressed in two different ways in the Salaita case.

First, the justification that the Illinois administration and Board has provided concerns the incendiary and, for many, offensive nature of some of Professor Salaita's tweets.  Given that all the evidence I have seen shows that his tweets have no connection to his pedagogy or relationship with his students and his encouragement of them to think for themselves, there is no educational relevance to his twitter account.  It is, in part this confusion of venues that has led a remarkable number of professional organizations, from the American Anthropological Association to the American Historical Association through the American Comparative Literature Association to the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle Eastern Studies Association of America (to name only a few recent ones) to condemn the University administrations decision and its basis.  But the issue goes beyond this particular case.  As Natalie Zemon Davis pointed out--in her own letter to Chancellor Wise--twitter as a medium has its own rhythms and forms of engagement.  It is designed--when not simply providing for publicity or celebrity gossip--to be a form of provocation a call to alertness. Now, I don't tweet.  I don't particularly enjoy its form and I prefer longer-form modes of argument and elaboration.  But if you are going to evaluate statements in a particular medium then you must understand the rules of the medium.  If you don't then you risk following in the footsteps of those who condemned modernism as "decadent art."

Second, there is the imbalance in the relationship of the police and the policed.  The expressed concern at Illinois concerns the imagined possibility of Professor Salaita imposing political opinions upon his students or of making them feel unwelcome in his classes.  As I noted in my last post on the case this concern runs in the face of the actual evidence of his teaching.  But Chancellor Wise and the Board's concern for the closing off of debate seems remarkably narrow.  Who after all has the greater ability to curtail intellectual engagement: one lone tweeter or a University's management? This point is one made with great force in a statement by UIUC faculty from across the University's departments. Having described the background to Chancellor Wise's decision, the faculty point out that:

This makes it all the more troubling that the Chancellor and Board have described this decision as a victory for civility, academic excellence, and “robust debate.”  Their statements leave us to ponder how one upholds civility by overriding the decision-making of faculty members and deans without consultation or due process. How, we must ask, does one foster academic excellence by making academic decisions without the advice of scholars in the field?  Can it really be that debate is best served by secretive decision-making that silences dissent?  Recent reporting on this issue suggests that particular donors may have had an impact on this decision and that a task force will soon be charged to “develop a new process” for situations in which the chancellor “does not agree with a hiring decision.”  This seems to represent a radical departure from principles of shared governance which have been the bedrock of academic excellence on this campus.  
Civility in this context enables managerial intrusion into the academic review process and the dismissal of the measured evaluation of both faculty and academic administrators closest to the issue. Indeed, the evidence suggests that the drive to overturn the appointment came through back-door threats from donors to cease their contributions if Professor Salaita was allowed to take up his appointment. Secrecy and non-academic issues trumped the established protocols for making appointments.  All in the name of civility.

I understand (and indeed have argued in different contexts) that public universities have responsibilities to the public.  That is one reason for my opposition to the rapid expansion of out of state and international students at State universities.  

But it is a far cry from serving the needs of your state public and responding to the demands of selective donors who are using their financial power to demand intrusions into academic life.  Administrators can argue as much as they want that they are protecting the rich and open traditions of their institutions; but if they are even allowing the appearance--to say nothing of the reality--that decisions at a University can be sold to the highest bidder then they have failed their institutions badly.  To be sure, administrators are, and should be, part of the academic review process, but they must be administrators internal to the process and making decisions based on academic criteria.  When managers and boards seek to overturn an academic decision because of their fear of making donors and others unhappy, they are betraying the best traditions of the institutions they govern.  And they should be ashamed of themselves.

Sadly, I don't expect Christopher Kennedy to understand this point.  He is, after all, a person who can insist on the one hand that real discussion and debate requires "a lot more effort than having a shouting match or name calling," and on the other showed no reluctance to call James Kilgore a "domestic terrorist" for violent activities from nearly 40 years ago. Leaving aside the issue that the term "domestic terrorist" is an anachronism it is hard to see how calling Kilgore a "domestic terrorist" in the present is anything but "name calling" and as the Board of Trustees put it in their attempt to justify Chancellor Wise's actions in the Salaita case "disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice."  In the annals of academic managerial self-contradiction this one ranks high.  And while I can understand why Chair Kennedy might not have wanted to vote in favor of granting emeritus status to William Ayers it is hard to see how he wouldn't have recused himself from the proceedings--if his desire was for an open and non-prejudiced debate.  But because he speaks from the position of authority no one is going to police or punish him at the University.  The arbitrariness of civility and its uses is, one might say, a truth self-evident.

But I would expect Chancellor Dirks to understand.  The Chancellor is, after all, a noted scholar of Indian history.  Among his different works is a consideration of the Warren Hastings impeachment trial.  In it he not only engages at length with Edmund Burke's evisceration of Hastings (and Burke was hardly one for avoiding insults in his speeches and writings as the "nabobs" and "swinish multitude" knew well) but also with the ways that, despite Burke's intentions, the trial enabled a long period of English colonial rule justified under the terms of liberal civility.  As the Chancellor must realize, in the long history of its use, the demand for civility is not a demand to enable open debate but a tool for excluding those who don't abide by your standards.

It is for this reason that Chancellor Dirks' statement is so dismaying.  Not only does his attempt to define the terms of acceptable discourse extend beyond social media and enter into all interactions on campus; not only does it seek to catch students and staff (the least powerful on a campus) into its net; not only is its vagueness and terms a drastic reduction of the moral courage of the moment it insists it wants to honor, but it is a terrible missed opportunity.

For the Chancellor is correct when he insisted that the Free Speech Movement "made the right to free expression of ideas a signature issue for our campus, and indeed for universities around the world."  To honor that, though, requires a call not for a crimped vision of civility but for open and reasoned debate.  Members of the university community don't need to be told to behave; instead, we need to demand of ourselves that we support our claims with evidence and coherence.  We don't need to pretend that all debates are friendly ones or that there are not real interests in conflict.   If universities in general, and Berkeley in particular, are going to model intellectual discourse and life for the country, it is not going to be imposing some rule of tone; it is going to be by demanding of people that they argue with reasons.  

This is the challenge facing many upper administrators: do they wish to take up the position of managers from above or speak from within the university and campus they inhabit?  It is a particularly acute challenge at a place like Berkeley.   For 2009 made it clear what a managerial response to open debate and protest would look like.   The attitude of the present administration is unclear--at least to me.

We have then a tale of two campuses.  On one, the language of civility has been employed to override the outcome of the academic process and to intrude into the independence of academic decisions.  It has provoked a firestorm of protest.  On the other, it is a fall of remembrance of protest.  50 years ago the claims of free speech confronted the force of the police.  In 2009, student and faculty efforts to preserve the public purpose of the University were met again with force.  What 2014 holds remains to be seen.
Categorías: Universidade

The New Brutalism in Higher Education

Xov, 04/09/2014 - 17:28
Marina Warner has a fascinating essay in the latest London Review of Books. Seeking to explain why she resigned from her position at the University of Essex, Warner describes a rapid collapse of the University's traditions of scholarly openness and institutional democracy under the pressure of the Coalition government's new funding model and (lack of) scholarly commitments. As she reveals, the tentacles of the new audit technocracy are infiltrating the University by means of the faculty review process.

Describing a meeting presided over by the Vice-Chancellor Anthony Forster, Warner describes a situation that may sound all too familiar:
At the meeting, Forster was galvanising the deputy vice-chancellor, and his leadership style was making a colleague’s chin wobble in her eagerness to meet his requests. Others round the table hung their heads, staring sullenly at their laptops. The Senate had just approved new criteria for promotion. Most of the candidates under review had written their submissions before the new criteria were drawn up, yet these were invoked as reasons for rejection. As in Kafka’s famous fable, the rules were being (re‑)made just for you and me. I had been led to think we were convened to discuss cases for promotion, but it seemed to me we were being asked to restructure by the back door. Why these particular individuals should be for the chop wasn’t clear from their records. Cuts, no doubt, were the underlying cause, though they weren’t discussed as such. At one point Forster remarked aloud but to nobody in particular: ‘These REF stars – they don’t earn their keep.’
In England, as you probably know, academics have been subject for many years to a two-step system of accountability.  Individuals have been asked to provide proof not only that they are producing things but of their impact on society and on their fields.  It has led to a Kafkaesque system of evaluation and surveillance (with manifold levels of arbitrary categories masquerading as hard, quantitatively defined accomplishments) to force individuals, departments, and higher education institutions to prove their worth.  Without certain scores you receive little or no research funding.

But with the Coalition government's attempts to force a new market structure on Higher Education (considered as a consumer good) there is a new level of managerial intrusion at work.  For the government has cut direct funding for Universities and raised student fees (and loans) while effectively forcing universities to try to recruit international students to make good the shortfalls in funding.  As Warner's story of her personnel meeting makes clear, the upshot of this is that while academics are still being subject to the system of research surveillance, or in this case subject to a new system that they had not been prepared for, the demands for scholarship were increasingly irrelevant for the funding of the university or for the allocation of resources within the university:

At that stage, everyone in the university was still obsessively focused on meeting the demands of this year’s REF. By the end of 2013, all the evidence had been gathered, and the inventory of our publications fought over, recast and finally sent off to be assessed by panels of peers. Everyone in academia had come to learn that the REF is the currency of value. A scholar whose works are left out of the tally is marked for assisted dying. So I thought Forster’s remark odd at the time, but let it go. It is now widely known – but I did not know it then – that the rankings of research, even if much improved, will bring universities less money this time round than last. So the tactics to bring in money are changing. Students, especially foreign students who pay higher fees, offer a glittering solution.
In this new system scholarly activity was only worthwhile as a symptom of consumer desirability.  In England, you still needed to manage your REF profile--but only while you did more and more teaching to more and more students.  And it is the managers, not the faculty, who decide if you are desirable enough.

Warner began her account by describing the visit of a friend from California who noticed that the library (from the 1960s) had been built in the style of the "new brutalism" (Think of most old UC or CSU buildings). But as Warner herself notes, "new brutalism in academia was taking on another meaning."  Although it has happened with ruthless ideological will in England, it is not an alien story to the US.  Indeed, what has happened over the last few years under David Cameron is really just a fast-forward version of what has been going on in the US more slowly and in less centralized fashion.  We are in the midst of our own new brutalism.  Although not as centrally directed we have been witnessing it for years: the recent intrusions by governing boards at the Universities of Illinois, Kansas, and Virginia; the shuttering of small language departments; the dramatic rise in tuition at public universities; increasing student/faculty ratios; ever growing reliance on adjuncts; cuts in Federal support for scholarly research; and our own, albeit less developed, auditing system.  In England, the transition occurred with such speed as to catch most people off-guard (despite the efforts of individuals like Stefan ColliniAndrew McGettigan, or the Campaign for the Public University).  But we have no excuse.This is the time to master the details to be able to oppose the systems being put into place on campuses across the country.

Categorías: Universidade