Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Continued- The Furlough Debates: Making the Cuts Visible

The debate does not reflect a refusal of UC employees to "do their part in the crisis." It is a response to all the things that the Regents' last meeting made invisible:
  • opposition to the all-cuts budget strategy from Senate agencies (above)
  • Prof. George Lakoff's 1000+ signatures in 5 days on a letter looking for better solutions
  • the "stop the cuts" petition (2700+ signatures in 5 days)
  • UC Faculty Associations' objection to the emergency powers (J1), and its demand letter claiming that passing the cuts (J2) would violate the Regents own standing orders.
  • the documents collected on this blog, by Option 4, and elsewhere
  • angry dissent from campus administrators that masks itself for official channels
The invisibility of faculty, staff, and students was continued by the membership of the Regents' Commision on the Future, which rounds up the principal authors of current policy, omits even one known dissident or independent voice, and has seven members from business, five members from the medical sciences, two JD's, one engineer, two others from professional schools, and not one dean, faculty, or staff representative from an actual campus.

There is also the background invisibility of two decades in which UCOP swept the negative educational effects of declining state funding under the rug. And there is the blind eye guaranteed by official rules that prevent the Regents from being addressed directly without their consent (Bylaw 16.10b).

This total sovereignty of the Regents over the huge UC community isolates them from the university's real life, impairs their knowledge, blocks the free exchange of ideas and information, and in general violates the basic precepts of the proverbial "learning organization."

That said, many faculty and staff are concerned that visible furloughs (e.g. UCSC's Senate proposal) will produce a public and political backlash that could lead to higher teaching loads. There is always this possibility, but the counterarguments are stronger:
  1. this is a prefab argument that can be made against anything that makes someone uncomfortable: "X won't like it"
  2. the Leg does not control UC teaching load. An increased teaching load would be the result of campus decisions in response to the Regents' budget cuts
  3. the Regents' cuts have already effectively raised our teaching loads (big cuts from TA and lecturer budgets -> increased class size, more grading, more supervision of independent studies and other workarounds for cuts)
  4. 20% cuts are politically possible only because there is no effective oppostion, and there is no opposition because the base constituency (students, their parents, extended families and communities) does not yet understand what these cuts mean.
Meanwhile, pro-furlough comments keep coming in. Some examples:

  • Cutting back on service. The Academic senate has not exactly distinguished itself recently in the battle to defend the University. It's reasonable to ask why we should volunteer our time and energy for administrative committees who do the work of, and work for, the UC leadership, not us? And are there ways we can de-bureaucratize ourselves without cutting too deeply into our own mission?
  • cutting the "pro bono" work we do when we supervise theses and dissertations, honors contracts and independent studies, and when we teach special Honors sections for lecture courses. A faculty member can have a half-dozen honors contracts from one course. Could we begin a conversation about how we feel about these volunteer activities under the current circumstances? I know we all feel that we hate to hurt our students, but our dedication is the petard on which we are always hoisted by those who don't value (public) education.
Further comments are of course more than welcome.


Kevin said...

My department, indeed the entire division, keeps track of thesis supervision and independent studies as part of our teaching load. The time spent may not be as "efficient" as large lecture classes, but it is not "volunteer effort". If your department is not properly recording and acknowledging what you do, then it is time to change the department practices.

California Prof said...

The Davis divisional senate is holding an online vote to decide whether some furlough days (6 to 9) should be taken on instruction days.