Simmons did say at the forum that he opposes changing from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution plan and he re-stated that position during our small meeting with him, but he also gave himself some wiggle room, saying that there were arguments in favor of the DC option and that UCOP was now exploring the possibility of a combination of the two. I'm not convinced he won't get bought out in the end. More disturbing still was the idea of co-ordinating with Medicaire, which I don't quite
understand (Gayle understands: Gayle, please explain!)
We were able to tell him, at the smaller meeting, that many of us felt betrayed by the conduct of the Senate leadership, esp. Mary Croughan, and that things must change, and he kind of admitted that we were right, but then he started in about how this year, the Senate leadership is just great (even tho' Powell wrote that stupid letter to AAUP about the walkout) and will be much more open to our feedback. I didn't have time to point out tohim that at the forum a few minutes before, he'd said that the Senate had ALREADY expressed its support for starting our contributions to the pension fund at a HIGHER rate than the one proposed by UCOP! Already endorsed it, even tho' I, for one, have heard nothing about it! They are obviously still making important decisions without consulting or even informing the rest of us!
Most disturbing of all was the admission that some of the student fee increases will be used to pay for our salaries and benefits. Divide and conquer. He seemed positively gleeful when he pointed out that no state legislators have spoken out in opposition to the fee increases, but after the meeting I wrote to my contact in Leland Yee's office, who told me that Yee and others oppose the fee increases.
One more thing: Simmons told us about the origin of the Gould Commission. He said that at first, Yudof wanted the Academic Senate to be responsible for researching and developing proposals for the future of the University, but that Mary Croughan told him that the faculty was incapable
of doing it!
I think we should propose a resolution at the upcoming Senate meeting calling for the removal of Croughan from the Gould Commission. I think we need to send a signal to the new regime that we will not tolerate Senate leaders who do not believe in faculty governance.
I've been hearing good things about the smaller meeting with Simmons. If my info is correct, however, he remarked at that time that Yudof simply had had no idea that the furloughs and fee hikes were going to cause so much trouble and it was just because he didn't know us.
I think it's important for us to remember, when we hear this kind of apology, that Yudof has a long history of behaving in this way. Granted, he may have learned nothing from those experiences.
I found the afternoon forum a little on the disturbing side. These are the things I thought I heard:
1. I thought I heard Simmons say that contracts and grants were a revenue flow into the university, but could no longer be relied upon to help fund retirement. I said, "I thought I heard you say....but since when have contracts and grants not also cost the university a good deal of money to support?
2. I thought I heard Simmons say that one virtue of defined contribution retirement options was that they would actually serve many faculty really well. Those of us who remain here till our fifties are kind of stuck here--they would lose so much retirement if they quit now that it wouldn't be worth it to go elsewhere. But for young people who don't have permanent positions, defined contributions are really great. (My translation: if more and more faculty are lecturers without security of employment, this will all work out just fine.)
3. I thought I heard it said that 80% of UC's retirees had never had to contribute a dime to the retirement fund--as though this were remarkable and possibly slightly unjust.
4. I thought I heard it assumed that additional revenue would not be coming from the state, so that none of the alternatives being considered by the Task Force will include restored public funding. I believe this is what we are saying is a basic problem with the Gould Commission.
5. When asked how the Task Force members viewed the problem of how to recruit faculty without good benefits, they replied that they would be doing market studies to see whether the strategies they're thinking about would reduce UC's competitiveness.
6. When asked how broad their search for new approaches would be, they said they would be studying the way other universities have dealt with retirement costs. [This brings no joy to my heart. I would like UC to begin a turning of the tide whereby other universities couldn't get away with this stuff anymore. The attitude is, why should we have anything better than other universities?
7. I thought I heard a flat denial that the UC Retirement fund investments had been mismanaged. Market forces, like the bursting of the tech bubble, or like right now, have of course made things very difficult, but we actually lost less money this year than some institutions to whom we like to compare ourselves. Our strategy became MORE conservative in the early 2000's, not less. The reason the fund was at one time at 143% of the money needed to honor commitments and is now funded at about 100% isn't anything important. It never needed to be at 143% and actually shouldn't have been, it wasn't handled properly.
8. I thought I heard that they would report only to Yudof and their proposals would just be advisory. So they don't even have to go to the Regents, presumably, if Yudof doesn't like them.
Does this sound like what other people heard? Any additions, corrections, clarifications?
1. This Task Force is a very bad thing. They've been given lots more time to do their job than the Gould Commission. If the latter proves to be a face-saving device for all concerned and we don't have to worry about it, I get the feeling this task force will be working in the back room planning plenty of damage. There was a jovial, let's make-jokes-about-how-tough-the-times-are attitude that made very clear (to me) that the Task Force is working entirely within the restricted imaginings we don't want to accept. Tell me if I'm wrong.
2. We need to let the Task Force know of these concerns and alert other campuses.
What do you think?
Thanks so much for this summary. I was unable to attend the meeting, so I found it most helpful--and, sadly, not at all surprising. People pushing to switch from defined benefit to defined contribution systems always have the same line--it will be better for all but those close to retirement who don't have time to make a killing in the stock market.
Well, we heard that when Bush tried to privatize Social Security, which even his duplicity could not achieve. And we saw between March and December 2009 how quickly those stock market gains could evaporate. One small compensation for the lifelong sacrifice of earning capacity that public employees endure is the assurance that they will be able to sustain much of their modest incomes in retirement. In the past the best and most competitive universities have picked up both the individual and the university contributions to retirement programs, which I suppose one could say the UC system did during the years when faculty made no contributions. But in those very years there were several in which the lack of COLAs left the incomes of those without merit bumps in those yeare diminished. It is total balderdash that the loss of retirement funds does not suggest mismanagement. The fund should be compelled to disclose the extent of its investment in derivatives.
On the basis of your summary, I suspect you are right that this "task force" is a bigger deal actually than the Gould (Ghoul) commission, and therefore one that needs to be called into the spotlight in every way that we can.
Aranye's summary of yesterday afternoon meeting made me sad (most striking indeed: why can it not be that UC leads the way, as if it would be so terrible if UC offered a more excellent education more affordably). The following report in Chris's blog makes me angry. I cannot help but conclude that it has much to do with the composition of the commission - faculty of medical schools (Croughan, Powell) and law schools (Edley) leading the way. If the commission had more scientists (incl social scientists) and humanists, I cannot imagine that the conversation would be the same--maybe I am romanticizing scientists, or maybe not. Those who understand that the driver of much if not ALL of what we do is true idealism and love for education AND the research that we conduct, would not dare to say that we are "romanticizing" UC. One should send the Sharon Farmer's article in The Independent to Edley, and tell him that this is the sentiment of many. Edley has no idea that all of us work extra hours and more than what we are asked to do written in any rule-book, if there was one, because we love our profession, because we truly romanticize our profession. Alienate the faculty, try to drive them to work "efficiently" by telling them individual meetings with students are not "economical", many faculty will for the first time find the red binder and read up what the rules are: then Edley, see what you will get as a result.
You know how you can best recognize a mediocre school or mediocre department? Measure the degree of bitterness among faculty, or the lack of enthusiasm, or how much they talk down their institution. We are not quite there yet, but one change is stunning. If you asked me 6 months ago what I thought of the University of California, I would have said it's the most beautiful institution that I know, and I am lucky to be here. Ask me now. I would say, a wonderful body of faculty and student led by corrupt politicians and money makers.