Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Master White Paper Executive Summary

Cooking the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs:
California’s Public Higher Education System in Peril
A Master White Paper for the CSU

Dennis Loo (CSU Pomona), Dorothy D. Wills (CSU Pomona), Yasha Karant (CSU San Bernardino), Mayra Besosa (CSU San Marcos), Päivi Hoikkala (CSU Pomona), Chris Nagel (CSU Stanislaus), Nicholas von Glahn (CSU Pomona), Ranjeeta Basu (CSU San Marcos), Ralph Westfall (CSU Pomona).

The crisis today in California’s public higher education, a system that until now has been the envy of the nation, is not the lack of money, bad instructors, or stupid students; the problem is that the executives in charge embrace values that will destroy the very system they are charged with representing. Their championing of a path toward privatization and corporatization of public universities is leading to the impoverishment of the student learning experience, curtailed research, and the degradation of the teaching and scholarly community, undermining the future of our youth and of our state. California stands at a crossroads. We face a choice between two radically different visions: those who uphold and celebrate private interests versus those who believe in the public interest and in public goods.
Learning and scholarship cannot be equated with the delivery of manufactured goods on an assembly line, like selling hamburgers at a fast food restaurant. The effort to emulate the assembly-line model will lead to the diminution not only of what university degrees mean but the general shrinkage of our people’s ability to think holistically, creatively, and to distinguish truth from falsehood. What is at stake, in other words, is not just the health and fate of our until now extraordinarily successful public higher education system. What is at stake is what kind of people and society we will be.
The faculty who author this policy paper present our criticisms and recommendations for the solution to the problems in the public higher education sector based upon our caring deeply for our students and for the future of the state, both of which are tragically and needlessly being jeopardized by the current austerity regime.
Our indictment herein of the leadership of the public higher education system and the State of California arises from our commitment as academics to the truth. Our observation that the current leadership has not been truthful about the major factors affecting us today, and the fact that they are leading us down a path of destruction, forces us to speak up, no matter what power is arrayed against us. It is not teachers, public employees, unions, or workers in general who have created the great recession. It is the grossly irresponsible financial sector, the gluttonous wealthy and their craven political representatives, and the unregulated, shortsighted business world who have savaged our economy. They have been rewarded for their recklessness and selfishness with massive tax breaks, historic bailouts, and more deregulation. In order to maintain the enormous gains being reaped by the wealthy and corporations, the State of California is taking a giant step backwards in deciding to decimate the public higher education system, along with other services that should be provided by the state. This is a fateful and fatal choice.
Thirty years of “reform” by the state and higher education administrators have not produced an improvement in the educational potential of higher education institutions or in students’ academic performance, learning, or knowledge. This is because the “reform” measures all lead higher education closer to the business models at the heart of the political philosophy that has dominated and degraded the country for over thirty years. While the teacher/scholars of higher education are expected to work for the love of education, the executives who actually run the system are recruited and retained on the basis of personal financial wealth and perks. You cannot run a system that is supposed to serve the public interest under the leadership of people whose primary interest is private enrichment. This upside-down value system mirrors the one that rules the business world. These values do not work for education and will destroy it. The faculty are the heart and soul of higher education and must have greater say in educational matters; the management that has made such a mess of things and who are attempting to make an even grander mess must take a back seat. Those who are in charge now should resign and those who would replace the current managers must be recruited and retained on the basis of their devotion to education and the public interest, not their envy and emulation of the CEO world.
The current contract bargaining process between the California Faculty Association (CFA) and the California State University System (CSU) has so far been characterized by CSU executives attempting to further strip faculty of power so that they can exercise even more control over education. They seek to rob the universities of all the values associated with academic careers: tenure (and thereby academic freedom), sabbatical leave, and any job security associated with length of service or seniority in order to implement their private over the public ideology. The CSU administration’s dream university would have a teaching staff of temporary lecturers who receive no benefits, can be fired at will, and earn poor salaries, and the doors that are now open to many students who seek and can perform in higher education will be closed. These executives wish to turn California’s esteemed public higher education system into a version of the University of Phoenix. Generations of experience with traditions such as academic freedom and tenure tell us that these elements are critical components of quality teaching, research, and an educated and sophisticated citizenry.
The CSU administration has conducted itself dishonorably and incompetently vis-à-vis the budget situation, shockingly opposing any measures such as AB 1326’s oil extraction tax which would solve the budget crisis for higher education, measures that have worked well in Alaska and Texas for decades. These administrators have done a miserable job of defending the university against destructive budget cuts and have failed to promote the fundamental interest of the public in educating our youth. These things must change. We call on all members of the public who care about their state’s future to join us in this effort. It will take a movement to accomplish these goals.
A.    Leadership.
1.     Problem:  “Shared governance” at the level of the individual university is a failure.
Recommendations:  Administration must consult with faculty on all matters that pertain to the educational and research missions of the university. Current administrators should resign, beginning with the Chancellor and his respective presidents and provosts, and their replacements recruited on the basis of their devotion to education and the public good, not their personal material enrichment. Pay for administrators should be brought closer to that of faculty and the other differentials between the two reduced drastically. The power shift to administrators away from faculty for the last thirty years must be reversed.
Results:  University will represent educational needs of students and the community and achieve greater cost effectiveness.
2.     Problem:  Board of Trustees (BOT) and system leadership have wrecked the CSU.
Recommendations: The majority of BOT should sit for popular election by the campuses; more faculty and student members.
Results:  CSU answerable to people it serves, not the special financial interests who export good jobs out of California.
B.     “Educational Management Organization” model.
Problem:  Thirty years of educational “reform,” all based on business efficiency thinking, have failed.
Recommendation:  Universities adopt a collegial, student-centered educational approach modeled on a scholarly community whose purpose is to expand knowledge.
Results:  University united in purpose, greatly diversified and decentralized in activity, not distracted by administrative fads and power grabs.
C.     Stratification of faculty.
Problem:  Decline of tenure-track faculty numbers has placed greater pressure on both them and lecturers, and increased tension between them.
Recommendation:  Tenure-track faculty should comprise ¾ of the teaching staff. Lecturers’ issues of compensation and security should be addressed seriously.  Research-qualified lecturers should be considered for tenure-track positions immediately.
Results:  Students receive instruction and advising from faculty who have a permanent commitment to the university and the time to give them full attention. Cost of national searches can be reduced by aggressive hiring from advanced lecturer ranks.
D.    Call things what they are.
Problem: Policies and programs with innocuous names disguise their true purpose. Examples, “re-structuring” = elimination of programs; “assessment” = measurement for executive control over faculty; “efficiency” = cutting resources, reducing quality; “doing more with less” = cutting resources and speed-ups that reduce quality. 
Recommendation: use terms that reflect their true purposes.
Results: Transparency that thereby enables accountability
E.     Support public programs, services, and institutions.
Problem:  Withdrawal of funding from public higher education is necessitated by nothing other than ideology and greed.

Recommendation:  Dedicated revenue stream (such as oil tax AB 1326).  Consider merging CSU and UC where necessary. Increase faculty participation in the process and distribution of private donations. Work to reverse the trend of privatizing public services.

Results:  Stable funding stream assuring reasonable class sizes, more tenure stream faculty, program growth, greater student access.

F.     Fix the middle class financial aid problem.   Raise the ceiling on grants and scholarships to accommodate the real cost of a middle class lifestyle in urban and suburban California.
G.   Revamp the administrative ranks.
Problem:  The system administration and campus administrations are too costly and wasteful; MPPs (Management Plan Personnel) are over-paid and too numerous, with many of their positions and duties unnecessary.

Recommendation:  Eliminate non-essential managers (whose functions are unrelated to instruction) and the expanding pay gaps, bring salaries and perks down to near-faculty levels, make some administrators part-time (especially those who can also teach and do research).

Results:  Greater efficiency, lower cost, more instructors and operational, not management, staff in critical areas.
H.   Regularization of actual programs of the CSU with actual RTP (aka RPT) requirements.
Problem:  Current practice for faculty job requirements and load is out of line with the original concept of the CSU, as a teaching university.
Recommendation:  Support the research mission of faculty by awarding Weighted Teaching Units to scholarly and creative activity.  Alternatively, return the description and requirements for retention, tenure and promotion to the original model (more like a six-year community college).
Results:  A university in which the actual mission under which Faculty are evaluated and expected to perform will be consistent with the mandated mission under the Master Plan.

No comments: