Saturday, July 18, 2009

Contin: Budget Town Hall at UC Irvine - A Report

hi all, we just had a town hall meeting with chancellor drake, and i had a few thoughts/ideas that i wanted to share to see how we could proceed.

1. it was striking that all the groups that had unions, or in his words "representation," are not having the furloughs/cuts hit them until the admin negotiates with their reps. it seems like a good time to think about faculty unionizing so that the next round of cuts can't be imposed on us but rather must be negotiated. at least then we could demand a quid pro quo for any cuts, like free tuition for children or something. clearly our senior administrators are not able to protect the interests of rank and file faculty appropriately. any thoughts on this issue as i have not followed the faculty unionization issue/saga in the past.

2. i was able to ask the last question and i asked drake 2 things:. 1) why have the chancellors only yesterday at the regents made a strong public declaration of what this will cost us. why no full page ads in the major CA papers, opeds by senior administrators, etc. drake agreed that a lot more work needs to be done to take the case more aggressively to the people of california and admitted that this kind of advocacy was something that needs to be done, by faculty as well as senior admin. 2) what are we supposed to do as faculty with furlough days. if we don't do them on teaching days then neither students, parents, the public will even notice them. i specifically mentioned that there is discussion among many faculty about collectively not teaching x number of days/classes and letting the students know why etc, to make the ramifications of the furloughs as publicly experienced as possible.

3. in speaking with about half a dozen colleagues from different departments here, there seemed to be general support for doing something collective where we could make a statement. but i think for it to work it would have to be done not merely school wide, or even campus wide, but uc/csu/cc wide, and very publicly. one senior colleague, however, warned that there might be a boomerang effect with parents who already think we're just privileged knowledge workers who should suffer like everyone else, etc. and so be potentially counterproductive. but i think if we frame and explain our actions fully that won't happen and perhaps we could get support of parents but sharing with students the realities of what's going on.

4. based on my discussions i would like to throw out an idea to start a discussion of how we as faculty could respond to this situation at all uc/csu/cc campuses. the idea would include

- begin serious discussions about unionizing faculty in campuses/sysetms where they are not, so that we can better and more aggressively represent and protect ourselves when the next round of cuts happen.

- agree to go to our colleagues, first within our own departments and then schools, campuses, etc., with a plan to take our furlough days during week 10 of each quarter (perhaps week 14 on those campuses that are on the semester system). some of us might have 2-5 days per quarter/semester depending on our salaries, but if we all use them during the last week of class and specifically on teaching days, it will have the most impact. as one of my colleagues imagined it, we would show up for class on that week and explain to students that while the subjects to be taught that class/week are very important for the course and their larger education, because of the cuts and furloughs we cannot teach them what remains on the syllabus nor offer them support in their reading/work on it. and then we can use that class time to discuss issues related to the budget, the future of the university, how to more effectively motivate students and profs and staff together to challenge what's happening. perhaps organize sit-ins or teach ins at our chancellor's offices, or go to sacramento or go volunteer in public schools, or whatever. anything but business as usual.

- reach out to staff and student groups on our campuses and try to develop a coordinated response across the board. perhaps staff should also not work on week 10 where possible (obviously not including health centers and places that provide vital care functions) and students could 'strike' on them as well.

any thoughts?

finally, i am still not finding in one easily accessible place all the relevant data about issues such as

1. how much would it cost to fund all three systems at healthy levels?

2. what would this cost the average CA tax payer?

3. what is the negative impact of the budget cuts on the larger CA economy. what do bigger class sizes, less loans, less profs, closed programs, etc. cost the california economy--ie, is the cutting of x hundreds of millions of dollars actually costing CA more than that in lost productivity, taxes from college grads working better jobs (assuming there are jobs, of course), etc

i know in my own discussions with friends outside of the university, they still have no real grasp of what's happening and that the implications are for them and their families. without having an accessible argument to make with comprehensible data that impacts them, it will be very hard to get support from a public that is already suffering with its own immediate problems.

For some good data on educational decline and higher ed budgets, see "California at the Edge of a Cliff" (Part III for budgets).


Laran said...

Right before the statewide May elections, a friend suggested that the most viable organizing strategy with the broadest effects would be to work to reform California's constitution (which requires a simple majority) to redefine taxable property into two categories: residential--1st home and business-vacation such that Proposition 13 only be applicable to the latter. Needs legal work...but it might be the long term objective that could unify numerous sectors while building alliances and strategies to confront the present crisis.

Kevin said...

Don't expect too much of faculty unions. UCSC has had one for decades, and it is singularly useless. It is sarcastically referred to as the Santa Cruz Parking Association (rather than the the Santa Cruz Faculty Association), because parking is all they cared about for over 10 years. They've made noises about being interested in other things now, but fairly quiet noises that haven't been heard.

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