Wednesday, July 15, 2009

UCLA Sociology Chair Responds to UCSB Critiques of "Tiering" Letter

Dear Verta and Howard,

It has been reported to me that a letter expressing UCLA Sociology Department's stance on budget issues has been distributed to other campuses and that some people have taken umbrage at suggestions about the status of campuses in the UC system. I've been told that people at UCSB are especially vexed. So I would like to take the initiative in reaching out to you.

First, I owe you an apology. The wording was ill-considered and intemperate. It is easy to see why the letter can be seen as advocating a weakening of UCSB.

Second, I would consider the sociology department at UCSB among the high quality programs that the university would want to sustain.

Third, and most important, the point we were clumsily trying to make is that the "one-size fits-all" principle that has made UC one of the best public universities in the world, will necessarily be revised, whether by explicit decision or de facto. There will be tough decisions that affect campuses and programs. The kind of changes I have in mind would include differential fees between campuses, greater campus autonomy, and fully vetted and negotiated division of labor among campuses. While each campus should have the core disciplines (including sociology) that any excellent university ought to have, many programs will have to be strengthened on some campuses and reduced or abandoned on others. That division of labor may have to be applied to departments. There are some things that your department does better than mine. Perhaps we should accept a division of labor rather than trying to compete in all areas. In response to the charge that the letter was advocating that non-UCLA/UCB campuses be relegated to Cal State status, my hope is avoid reducing the entire UC to Cal State status.

Unless serious structural changes are made, many of which will be painful on all campuses, there is the danger that the state of California will do to its system of higher education what it did to its public schools.

My biggest regret is that our letter is deflecting attention from addressing the challenges of our situation toward infighting among ourselves. The words in our letter were ill-considered and the thoughts behind them inappropriate.

I have great respect for your department and its faculty. Hopefully we can reconstruct a stronger relationship as time goes on.



William Roy
Professor and Chair
Department of Sociology
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1551

1 comment:

chriscd said...

dear california sociologists:
i agree with howie winant's analysis and comments. it is unfortunate that some of our colleagues seem to have responded to pressure by attacking their co-researchers on other campuses. the ship is not sinking. but there is a struggle over the control of the quarter deck. the california that howie sees is coming. lets try to be part of the solution.
chris chase-dunn, UC-Riverside