Friday, August 28, 2009

UCSB Senate Letter on Instructional Furloughs

August 28, 2009
Dear President Yudof,

I am writing on behalf of the Executive Council of the UCSB Academic Senate to express our deep disappointment in your decision, based in part on recommendations from most of the Chancellors and Executive Vice Chancellors, to go against the unanimous recommendation of the Academic Council regarding furloughs on instructional days. The approach recommended by the Academic Council is fundamentally consistent with UC’s mission as a research university, whereas the shielding of instruction from the impact of furloughs over-privileges instruction. The teaching mission is not paramount but must be balanced against the research and creative activities of UC that are being disproportionately impacted – weakening UC’s role as a primary economic engine of the State.

Most faculty at UCSB were unhappy about the furlough plan in general, but many felt that, if it did need to be implemented, it should include the option (or the requirement) that some furlough days be taken on instructional days. A substantial fraction of these faculty felt they should be able to choose when to take their instructional furlough days, feeling that individual faculty are the best judges of how to restructure their curricula to accommodate the furloughs and minimize the impact on the education of students. They are not happy that the freedom to choose has been taken away from them. There is another substantial fraction of the faculty who felt strongly that instructional furlough days should be declared campuswide, or possibly systemwide, to visibly demonstrate the true impact of the cuts and furloughs. In their view, UC has for too long accepted cuts in state funding while trying to claim that the same levels of service could be provided to the people of California. They argue that this behavior pattern has encouraged the State to continue cutting UC budgets and they stress the importance of taking a stand and sending a clear message that we cannot continue to provide quality education with severely reduced funding. Doesn’t denying that the furloughs have any adverse impacts on teaching seriously weaken the case that must be made for restoring UC’s funding in the next budget cycle?

Faculty are now asking what aspects of our jobs can be reduced, given that reductions in direct instruction have been proscribed. Should faculty spend less time preparing for instruction? This would inevitably reduce teaching quality. Most of us are unlikely to spend less time on our research or scholarship considering the important role that it plays in a research university. That leaves service, which may be easiest to reduce but will likely have unfortunate consequences for the functioning of the university and our relationships with the larger communities we serve.

President Yudof, I know you recognize that the excellence of UC rests on the outstanding quality of the faculty and their efforts in all three areas – teaching, research, and service. I think you would agree that we will need to call on all of the creativity, perseverance, and good will the faculty can muster to make it through the difficult challenges we are facing. The decision on instructional furlough days has seriously upset many faculty at a time when we most need their assistance, and I urge you to take extra time and energy this year to work on mending your relationship with the faculty. I have two specific suggestions. First, require the necessary planning at all levels in the university to ensure that the furloughs last no more than one year. Second, spend more time on the campuses talking with and listening to faculty. Both you and the faculty will benefit substantially from this kind of direct interaction.

Joel Michaelsen
Cc: Provost Pitts
Chancellor Yang
EVC Lucas
Senate Chair Croughan
Senate Vice Chair Powell

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