Comments for Gould Commission meeting 10 / 22 / 2009
Dear members of the Commission on the Future:
Let me begin by echoing some of the sentiments expressed by my predecessors regarding our state of ‘crisis’: it has been made abundantly clear to you that this crisis is not one of ‘finances’ but one of ‘confidence’ by students, faculty and staff in our Regents and President Yudof…and, I am sorry to add, at the moment, also in you as a commission reflecting the causes of this discontent.
Look at your composition: one sole humanist, compared to scores of professional faculty and administrators; no gender balance; no ‘campus-by-campus’ representation. Look at your stated mission: to come up, supposedly in three months, with “ways to maintain and even expand our substantial contributions” to the State of California, and to address through separate commissions the questions of: a) diminishing resources, b) educational delivery models, c) size and shape of the university, and d) finding alternative revenue streams…
Expand the contribution of UC to the state of California? Are you kidding? Making 24,600 $ out of each UC graduate—as you have heard / will soon hear from Prof. Nelson—is not enough for the State of California?
Then, to focus on ‘size and shape’ or ‘education delivery models’, divorcing these questions from reaffirming and discussing the guiding principles of this university? Is this not a foregone conclusion that will drive your thinking towards the ideas that have been already circulated publicly of separating functions among campuses, introducing distance learning techniques to maximize technologically-driven solutions etc.?
Similarly, to accept the premise of a diminishing public investment in the university as an incontrovertible and accepted fact, rather than a historical trend that is reversible? Does this not set you up as involuntary accomplices of a relentless process of corporatization that has been going on since the 1980s and has led us right into this crisis of confidence, this break down of collective support and understanding of the ‘cultural’ and not only material values of a public university system like this one?
Finally three months of tenure? What’s the hurry?... Oh yes of course, it is called ‘shock doctrine’: use a budget crisis to declare an emergency situation, give the man in charge emergency powers, and proceed with the overhaul of the system after the false pretenses of responding to the crisis. In the process, trump over all principles of shared governance, divide faculty from students, and faculty internally between wining-humanities radicals like myself and serious good citizens in the sciences. We have seen this script many times in history, and some of us have learnt its lessons, so we are here to tell you not to accept to be part of this design, but to redefine instead your mission, and gain legitimacy in the eyes of the university community by transforming yourself into a model of true shared-governance.
Let me thus end with some ideas on who to implement these two preliminary goals:
First, Redefine your mission by embracing publicly the California Master Plan as the principal guideline of your task. This will make you de facto the much needed conduit of communication not only between a very out of touch Board of Regents and President and an ever more unified UC Community around the goal of restoring the guiding principles of the Master Plan, but also between our internal discussions and a larger political arena in which gubernatorial candidates need to be made aware of our conversation, and need to be held accountable early on for declaring their views on what they will do to restore public funding and confidence in our university system.
Second, use this tour of Forums across California to send a strong message to the Regents before they commit another financial crime at their next meeting: a fee hike of unprecedented proportions that will send the final signal to legislators and perspective new governors that there is no need for their becoming advocates of public financing of higher education, because they can count on Regents to solve the problem by shifting the burden on the students.
Third, take stock of the history of mismanagement and progressive corporatization of this public university system and make your primary task to rethink its political structure and administration. Reorient your and trhe public view of UC students as ‘customers’ to be milked for all they are worth, towards an understanding of them as the principal ‘shareholders’ of this university, compared to the State’s investment that represents only 16% of the University’s budget. Reorient your and the public towards redefining role and composition of the Board of Regents away from their voluntary or involuntary position as hostages of a State government that they themselves call “an unreliable partner of the university.” Have the courage, that is, to discuss, for example, how to ensure that the Regents be no longer so distant from the sahred values of the university community they should respond to, by making for example half of the Board of Regents ‘elected’ from the ranks of UC faculty, systemwide. Above all make the office of Regents respondent to a ‘compact with the students’ that ties the university to a certain amount of investment in their education, rather than a ‘compact’ with the State, that is not only worth less than the ink on the page it was written on, but, as we have seen, is only an instrument of blackmail.
Fourth and last, give a strong signal to the Regents and to the State of California that you yourselves have come to refuse the logic of a ‘state of emergence’ when dealing with the ‘future’ of this institution, and make a resolution among yourselves that at the end of this consultation tour you will make yourself truly ‘part of the solution’ by requesting that the Regents reject the proposed fee hike at their November meeting and bringing to their attention the many alternative proposals that have been made by many prominent UC faculty members over the past few weeks and months, by prolonging your tenure to at least the full academic year 2009-2010, and by opening up membership in this commission to representatives elected by each academic senate that will function as transmission a chain to and fro their campus community.
I wish you a good listening day and a productive tour of our campuses.