Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two Anecdotes on the Issues Facing the CSU's and Like Institutions

By Yasha Karant


Two recent anecdotes that help illustrate the issues, one from outside the CSU and one from inside.

From a tenured colleague at an R1 in the Southeast: (X is substituted for the institution, although the State is obvious from context)

However, we too have serious budget cuts heading our way again. At this point in time, I am fairly sure that the state provides less than 25% of the funding that we have to run X. The rest is provided by tuition, fees, grants, for-profit programs/degrees and our endowment. The one good thing is that as the state cuts more, the cuts affect us less and less. So far, we have not had to take pay cuts or increased teaching loads. However, it looks like starting next budget cycle (this fall) this will change. You must remember, I'm in the "Old South" where higher education is valued slightly below K-12 education which is valued way below fixing the potholes. And, given the winter weather this year, there are lots of potholes that need to be fixed. Furthermore, we are a "no new taxes" state. We only cut "optional" services, such as education (K-12 is being hammered in the new governor's budget). In all seriousness, with the exception of South Carolina and Texas, I think Virginia may be the most conservative state.

As far as PhD students goes, my "last" PhD student will graduate in August. The accountants, which control the PhD committee, will not accept any more IS students. Our IS PhD seminar has not been taught in 3 years and there are no plans to offer it in the future. However, the real scary thing has been our general lack of students in all of our programs. from what I can tell, at this point in time, we have less than 15, yes fifteen, students majoring in IS. That includes all undergraduates, masters, and our 1 PhD student. That is why I am now teaching mostly accounting students.


Prior to the current ultra-right Republicans, this colleague was a Republican fiscal conservative and originally from a State in the former Confederate States of America, and of the overclass racial/ethnic group of that region. I mention these facts lest one assume that he might be a "leftist" from a minority (underclass) group -- to give some context. As for funding, note that Virginia provides less than 25 percent of the funds. Note also that although he is in a primary R1 [Research 1] (not just PhD granting such as SIUC), he in fact has no PhD students. It is obvious from the discussion that he is in a business discipline.

My point of the anecdote is threefold: (1) non-PhD programs can continue alongside PhD programs, albeit one may have to "fight" for them; (2) it is an illusion to assume that disciplinary research may be conducted strictly on Stateside support; (3) the situation in some other States, even for R1s, is as bad as in California, save that these institutions have the right and ability to pursue viable funding streams (denied to the CSU under the Master Plan).

Second anecdote. I am of the firm opinion that RPT [Retention, Promotion and Tenure] guidelines must follow the actual mission(s) of the CSU, and that funding must as well. I noted on the door of a colleague in Mathematics an announcement for an Undergraduate Mathematics Conference, in part funded by NSF [National Science Foundation]. A senior tenured full colleague in Mathematics happened to be present, so I asked him the following question: would this conference count for Professional Growth in his Department for RPT (Professional Growth is the official CSUSB RPT category for research)? After much hemming and hawing, his answer was "no" unless the Faculty member specifically was appointed as Mathematics Education (K-12 education), not regular disciplinary Mathematics. Under the original Master Plan, and under a model in which the CSU returns to the CSC, this sort of conference precisely is the CSC category of "research", in part because all of the Mathematicians are supposed to be Math Ed. Yet, today, even in a Department without any PhD programs, this sort of conference is in fact devalued. Note that Mathematics only has three Math Ed faculty members, two of whom are tenured fulls and thus effectively immune to the RPT process.

My point is that as we craft the White Paper, I am of the opinion that we need to consider the reality of RPT criteria in the CSU as actually applied, not in some artificial context.


Yasha Karant

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