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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Are senior administrators now less likely to involve faculty in major management decision than before?  The Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) is worried enough to have written "A Statement of Principles for Choosing New University of California Chancellors." The statement emerged from agreement among Faculty Association representatives from every campus.

CUCFA calls on officials to hire only those candidates who "support the value of public education." Everyone says they support this value, so CUCFA says what its members believe its components to be. First comes the recognition that "efforts at privatization have failed to sustain the University's central mission of education, research, and service for the people of California."  The statement spells out the elements of post-privatization: focusing on core mission rather than capital projects, serving more resident students rather than more high-tuition students from out-of-state, dialing back administrative growth while capping management salaries, "opening the budget to meaningful faculty review and input," and increasing contact with the surrounding society.

CUCFA's definition of "public" reflects national and international trends that have been slower to develop in California than elsewhere.  One is deprivatization. I first heard this term used to describe current changes in Poland's university system, but deprivatization is implicit in the Free College movement launched in U.S. politics by Bernie Sanders. The premise is that people can analyze the effects of privatization, and, if found negative, can lower tuition rather than raise it, raise public funding rather than lower it, reduce student debt rather than increase it, and expand research cost coverage rather than shrink it. Where there's a will there's a way, and the way here is particularly obvious.

 A second trend is postmanagerialism--or so I'll call it here. Large private and public organizations now operate under widespread cynicism about their good will and effectiveness. Decreasing proportions of U.S. residents think corporations are on their side.  Something similar is happening to public universities, some of which, like UC and CUNY, have tripped themselves up in a series of scandals that shed doubt on their devotion to public service.   You don't have to be familiar with the literature about learning organizations to believe that the low-information professor and the cognitively isolated senior manager each undermine universities.  Universities need smarter human systems that we have now, and strong shared governance can help bring that about.

A third trend the CUCFA statement reflects is the demand for epistemological diversity, driven in large part by academics working in the global South.  Societies are both internally diverse and quite different from each other, and need their university research to reflect variable demands--say for non-GMO pest-resistant crops, or for democratic theory that does not assume constitutional unity or a common language.  University diversity has, in recent decades, been undermined by audit culture, which norms universities towards "best practices" represented by the institutions that dominate global rankings, whose template is Anglo-American.  As part of its normal operation, audit introduces quantitative management practices that make collaborative governance seem unnecessary: a manager doesn't need to know her faculty and departments and make complex judgments based in large part on informal knowledge, but just have research output measures, impact factors, and rankings of departments and faculty members.  Such metrics make personal interactions seem superfluous, and intellectual diversity unnecessary.  Such standardization is now being contested and is likely gradually to be pushed aside. It will be replaced by multidimensional forms of evidence and judgment that require more rather than less interaction among members of universities, and more openness to one another.  CUCFA's push for shared governance makes epistemological diversity easier to achieve.

Our current, highly unrigorous definitions of the public university make sense if the future is going to extend the past two decades.  But it won't. The public university going forward will have to rediscover the effectiveness of shared resources, mutualized costs, and collaborative governance. It will need to discover much stronger meanings of public.  If this is right, then CUCFA's statement is ahead of the curve.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 1

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
I've always believed that university professors are willing and able to govern academics, but now I am not so sure.  I am worried about growing fatalism among even tenured faculty activists.  I'm concerned about the tacit belief that unstoppable historical forces have already destroyed the universities they want to keep.  From this standpoint, local resistance can work but remaking is futile, though remaking is the premise of shared governance and of academic freedom.

My summer travels took me to London, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Liverpool, Bonn, Cambridge, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Crewe, York, and Valencia, mostly for lectures and discussions with faculty members about the state of  universities in their country.   I was struck by the contrast between the great intelligence and professional commitments of the professors on the one hand, and their lack of hope for universities on the other.  Several of the visits revolved around higher education conferences, where I heard brilliant analyses of the nuts and bolts of national education initiatives that lacked a standpoint for faculty intervention.

Everyone was extremely busy teaching, running research centers, organizing outreach programs, testifying to government officials, and so on--there was never a lack of constructive activities.  But I sensed little confidence that any of the faculty activities would help improve their institutions or the policy environment. There are important exceptions to this rule, and I am always impressed by the great spirits who continue to be attracted into academia. When necessary, faculty would set up Temporary Autonomous Zones and hope that these spaces--labs, classrooms, offices--would escape outside attention long enough to succeed at getting their work done. It's not that faculty members saw managers as their enemy. They saw them instead as a fatal environment.

A few examples: in Denmark I heard stories both of a comedic inability of managers to return email from faculty who had major proposals before them and of the mandatory use of automated work output management systems that scored and ranked faculty members for university managers.  In South Africa, I encountered professors who were angry at their students for demanding #FeesMustFall rather than at politicians for failing to fund the higher education mission. in Britain, I worked with faculty who were responding to the post-2011 elimination of public funding for all qualitative teaching fields by reinventing entire programs nearly every year to be more appealing to the student market.  They were all great people who had reacted to challenges by creating better local solutions, but with no expectation that it would help the university system.

In most cases, output audit was replacing direct faculty-administration dialogue and the collaborative reimagining of that university's future.  The UK's Tory government has been the most explicit about its use of funding authority to replace professional judgment with market signals. In cutting central government funding for instruction to zero for most subjects, it has forced teaching to cater to student demand.  It uses impact assessments and other auditing techniques to norm STEM research to business needs.

Governments are ignoring the fact that universities are supposed to be way out in front of public sensibility in both technical and sociocultural subjects.  Universities can't be original unless they are out in front. Managing by audit, in contrast, readily norms the teaching of society, culture, and science to established mainstream views, whether that be commercial television's stories of the origins of terrorism or the pharmaceutical industry's preferences on the characterization of molecules. This norming reduces the university's non-market and social value. It ironically reduces its market value by emphasizing existing rather than future skills for students and well-known rather than challenging problems for research.

It was impossible for me to forget the University of California's travails no matter the distance, and I see two recent Berkeley issues through the gap I saw this summer between faculty reaction and faculty governance.  One issue is the budget: Berkeley's senior managers are apparently still saying that private revenue streams and more entrepreneurship will fix the budget deficit.  I interpret the evidence to show that the deficit came in large part from privatization and cannot be fixed by more of the same.   I also think that the admin's proposed solutions of "enrollment control, self-supporting degree programs, increased land utilization, entrepreneurship, and fundraising" expresses the conventional budgetary wisdom of our proverbial neoliberal era of the kind that universities exist to get beyond. Either way, the issue can't be resolved by meetings that offer spotty information about which faculty ask isolated questions and express frustration.  It can only be resolved by faculty bodies--the Senate and/or the Faculty Association and/or other groups--doing independent analysis with comprehensive financial information and building their own sustainable budget to advocate to the administration.  Faculty members haven't shifted from budget reaction to budget governance. Until they do, nothing will change.

Same goes for the Berkeley administration's suspension in the middle of the term of a student-taught course, "Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis."   Dean Carla Hesse suspended the course on the same day that  "43 Jewish, civil rights, and education advocacy groups" wrote to campus chancellor Nicholas Dirks to claim that the course was political advocacy, met the "government's criteria for anti-Semitism," had been approved and was being taught by anti-Zionist zealots, and was out of compliance with UC Regents policy.  And yet the course had been approved through a standard process in which faculty members have primary and ultimate authority over the curriculum--in this case the department's acting chair and the Academic Senate.  It also appears that the Berkeley administration would have taken no action without pressure from outside interest groups, and that the suspension was a response to this outside pressure.  The chancellor and/or executive dean in this case intervened in the faculty's core domain in response to an outside grievance, and they triggered national coverage of basic questions about academic freedom.  For the blow by blow of that issue I refer you to John K. Wilson's detailed analysis, Berkeley professor Samera Esmeir's commentary, and Dr. Wilson's critique of Dean Hesse's reinstatement letter.  My point here is that various kinds of internal pressure were brought to bear, from every student in the course and also from Berkeley faculty, which resulted in the course's reinstatement, and yet this kind of strong reaction is not going to be enough.

For the dean's reinstatement letter claims both that deans "review, but do not approve the academic content" of courses in this program and that this review legitimately asked about course content, that is, about "whether the stated objective for the course to 'explore the possibility of a decolonized Palestine' potentially violated Regents Policy by crossing over the line from teaching to political advocacy." The latter phrase does assert an administrative right to review content of these student-taught courses even when they are, as in this case, approved by the appropriate faculty.  Dean Hesse's position is thus that enforcement of University instructional policy does not lie with the faculty alone, but requires administrative supervision.   This remains a departure from standard AAUP-based principles of faculty self-governance of instruction.  It is consistent with the trend toward shifting the supervision of instruction reflected in the MOOC wave of 2012-13, where officials signed contracts with little faculty knowledge or input, and with the trend toward removing faculty from the university's reputation management that enabled acts like the Board firing of Professor Steven Saliata from the University of Illinois and of Asst. Professor Melissa Click from the University of Missouri.  While faculty reaction helped resolve the immediate UC Berkeley issue, faculty governance will be needed to reconstruct authority over curriculum in order to prevent such intrusions in the future.

The Berkeley student course on Palestine raised the question of whether society will allow universities to function as their over-the-horizon intellectual resource.  It represented academic inquiry that fulfilled the intellectual mission of being out in front of public sensibility on an important question. When a classroom, library, or laboratory houses original solutions, some factions will see them as impossible, outrageous, or offensive.  This is the routine impact of any avant-garde in art, science, and every field in between, whose members are treated as enemies before in many cases being lauded as pioneers.   All the outrage means is that the university is doing its job.

Since senior managers can apparently not be expected to stand up to influential outsiders, the tenured faculty will have to do it.  It would be better to do it by re-establishing governing authority over the conditions that make originality possible, rather than putting out particular fires on a global scale.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 9

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
As you may know, a 3-1 majority of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Columbia University's Teaching Assistants (known at Columbia as Instructional Officers) are to be considered "employees" under the terms of the National Labor Relations Act.  As a result of this ruling, Columbia's TAs (and by implication those at other private universities) now have the legal authority to seek an election to select a union to collectively bargain with the University.  In so ruling, the Board Majority overturned a previous decision concerning Brown University but also, and more significantly, rejected the argument that if a graduate student's relationship with their university was "primarily educational" (6) they could not be considered employees when serving as Teaching Assistants.  Instead, using the legal equivalent of "if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck..." the Board Majority ruled that when graduate students functioned as common law employees (under the power and direction of managers subject to sanction and receiving compensation) then they should be considered employees.

Moreover, the Board majority noted quite correctly that whatever may have once been the case, in the modern corporate university graduate student employees provide important economic service to their university.  As the majority noted (16):

Teaching assistants frequently take on a role akin to that of faculty, the traditional purveyors of a university’s instructional output. The teaching assistants conduct lectures, grade exams, and lead discussions. Significant portions of the overall teaching duties conducted by universities are conducted by student assistants. The delegation of the task of instructing undergraduates, one of a university’s most important revenue-producing activities, certainly suggests that the student assistants’ relationship to the University has a salient economic character.

The Board thereby acknowledged the current structure of university labor--that Teaching Assistants (like adjunct faculty and tenure track faculty) provide important economic value to universities above and beyond the educational benefit they may receive.  That economic value is generated by teaching classes and sections that bring in tuition.  Without this revenue, private universities could not exist. Moreover, this  labor takes place under the determination of the university's needs and not of the educational logic of graduate education.

In doing so, the Board recognized the logic that has been systematically imposed by university managers onto their teaching forces for decades now.  As is common knowledge, a substantial amount of the actual teaching in higher education is done by graduate students and adjuncts (of course the amounts vary institution by institution).  Despite all the worries expressed about how collective bargaining will intrude inappropriate economic questions into academic life, it is, in truth, the changing labor strategies of universities that have already subordinated academics to economics.  The never ending cries to make universities more like "businesses" (i.e. lower labor costs) is only the most obvious symptom of this transformation.

Predictably, the managers of leading private universities have objected to this recognition of reality in the discussion of graduate student employment.  As Corey Robin has pointed out, Chicago, Columbia, Princeton and Yale all quickly released statements warning graduate students that they might lose their individual voice in the overweening collectivity of a union. Implicit in all of these discussions is the threat that if graduate students voted to be represented by a union on issues relating to their working conditions, these negotiations would interfere with the educational relationship of faculty and graduate students.  As Columbia's Provost John Coatsworth put it in a letter to staff: "For my part—and, in this, I speak for my colleagues in the University administration and for many faculty members—I am concerned about the impact of having a non-academic third-party involved in the highly individualized and varied contexts in which faculty teach and train students in their departments, classrooms, and laboratories."  But this claim is absurd on its face.  As Provost Coatsworth must well know, if the graduate student employees vote for collective bargaining it will be graduate students and not some "non-academic third party" conducting the negotiations in a situation in which universities have long let non-academic (financial) considerations shape their programs.

It is hard to tell whether these responses are a sign of managers' failures of self-awareness or truthfulness.  After decades of transforming themselves on the model of the financial industry (and ensuring that many of their students end up in finance), they now worry that economic interests may disrupt academic relationships.  But graduate student employees at Columbia and elsewhere are seeking an institutional mechanism to address a power imbalance between them and university management. It is in fact this power imbalance that is destroying the academy from within, and not bargaining rights designed to correct it.  The NLRB recognized that.  Reality made a rare appearance in the discourse about the economics of higher education.
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 7

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
As the Berkeley and Davis campuses seek new chancellors, they'll be looking for people who can deal with endless public university budget problems.  In Berkeley's case, there's the $150 million structural deficit that surfaced on outgoing Chancellor Nicholas Dirks' watch.  

What should the next chancellor do to fix the deficit? Chancellor Dirks raised the prospect of cuts to the academic core, but mostly stuck to the standard model of growing private revenue streams. This has meant more fundraising, more non-resident students, more high-priced "innovative master's programs and more executive education.  It also means using [public university] assets in more commercial ways." It will mean figuring out how to start raising tuition again while promoting the high tuition-high aid model.   The quotations are from Nicholas Dirks.  Privatization was what he was doing, and what he did well within the rules of the game, particularly in fundraising. Leaving aside his management mistakes to focus on the budget issues, should Berkeley look for Nick Dirks 2.0, Nick Dirks on steroids, some kind of Double Dirks? 

The deficit predated anything chancellor Dirks did. John Wilton, the campus's lead budget officer, had announced it in November 2013, and traced it to old and new forms of state underfunding.  The Schwarzenegger and Brown budget cuts did enormous damage to UC finances. For a while, budget shortfalls were covered by reserves, but several years into the era of subpar funding, these were running out. Vice-chancellor Wilton had also already factored in all non-state and private revenue growth projections. The UC Berkeley deficit has come from a combination of state, university-wide, and campus budget choices. In addition, that deficit was not going to be closed by the growth in private funding.  More on that issue below.

We get reports that senior UC Berkeley officials are pinning much of their deficit, up to $50 million a year, on a choice the university system imposed called "rebenching." This is a program to start to reduce inequities in the UC Office of the President's allocations among the campuses. For many years, a student at UC Davis received a much higher state outlay than did the same kind of student at UC Santa Cruz; the same was true for UCLA vs. UC Irvine, and so on around the system. A 2011 report by the California State Auditor found large cross-campus inequalities and no good reason why this was so. It also found that the campuses with a higher proportion of Black, Latino, and Native American students got less money per student. (See Table 6 and this post for figures and analysis.)  The pre-rebenching allocations were clearly unethical and arguably racist, and although UCOP's response plausibly denied racist intent, it worked with the Academic Senate to rebench allocations to improve equity.   

But was Berkeley supposed to pay for it all? Have a look at the 2012 report of the Rebenching Budget Committee.  The total allocated for the entire system’s rebenching was about $37 million per year, now stepped up to $46 million per year total for all campuses (page 12).  So even were the entire system being rebenched at Berkeley's sole expense, it still wouldn't come to $50 million a year.  

In any case, this is not how rebenching works. The equity funding comes

(1) from new state money (it is not redistribution but finally-equitable distribution), allocated by 
(2) weighted enrollments (more per-student money for campuses with large doctoral programs like Berkeley) after 
(3) "set-asides" for designated programs that adjusts each campus's base budget, leading to 
(4) a leveling up of all campuses to the top campus level (Los Angeles). 

The effect on Berkeley can be seen in my number 1 favorite recent UC spreadsheet, Appendix A of the rebenching report. First, Berkeley's reduction under the new system was a bit over $6 million (row U), far smaller than Davis's or Los Angeles' because it wasn't as overpaid, so to speak, by the established system.  Again that's much less than $50 million.  But that wasn't to be an actual loss because, after various considerations, Berkeley was to be rebenched up by about $28 million per year, or +10% on its original base budget.  The 2012 plan had rebenching giving the Berkeley campus $4,688,619 more each year for six years.  This was only half of the additional new money going to the two most underfunded campuses by equalized weighted enrollment--Irvine and Santa Barbara--but it was not a deficit maker.

Perhaps the actual allocations have not followed the plan. But if that is the case, officials should produce figures that show what has happened instead.

Here's a visual of rebenching over six years (Appendix B).

Berkeley was a bit over the old average, so seemed a loser in the socialist benchmarking paradise. But in reality it is below the new benchmark, and so is to benefit from rebenching like all campuses other than Los Angeles, which is to stay the same.  Note that this is only one of the campus's many revenue streams, does not include non-resident tuition which each campus keeps for itself, is based on weighted enrollment, etc. Note especially the deeper issue, which is inadequate state funding. This had been softened at the wealthier campuses but not at the poor ones.

Rebenching is not Berkeley's problem. So if the public system isn't sinking Berkeley, what is?

That would be a combination of public cuts, already mentioned, new costs incurred by campuses, and new costs that UCOP or the state has pushed onto the campuses in recent years. The new costs that UC campuses haven’t incurred themselves include:
  • Normal cost inflation.  VC Wilton estimated this as historically 3-4% per year, meaning the UCOP “deal” on state increases  (4% per year for a few years) is essentially a zero gain.
  • Capital projects.  The state has largely withdrawn from campus development.   
  • Pension contributions (up from zero to 14% of payroll since 2010).
  • Increased employer health care costs, including retiree health care.
  • Central administration, aka UCOP,  which is now funded via campus taxes to the tune of something close to 15% of state funding.
  • Subsidies for UCSF (a $130 million premium in enrollment-based allocations (Appendix A row J * row M)
There are also campus-based structural costs, particularly the practice of covering a large share of research costs (19% at Berkeley) with institutional funds. (Background on this can be found here.)

How do these costs hit Berkeley? A quick scan of the campus's Annual Financial Report for 2014-15 (pdf page 5) shows that pension contributions have grown from zero to $128.4 million per year.  “Other employee benefits,” which I assume is largely heath care, is up to $274.4 million.  Interest on debt and capital leases is $90 million a year (up $10 million year on year). In the realm of capital projects, "proceeds from debt issuance” fall short of “purchase of capital assets” by $140 million (and by $160 million in the previous year).   Grants and contracts income declined $40 million over one year (they  have since rebounded). At the same time, over two years, Berkeley's outlays of its own "institutional funds" to support research, mostly losses on extramurally-funded projects, increased $26 million (from $138 million to $164 million).   This is a partial list of the real contributors to Berkeley's $150 million annual deficit.  

What drives these expenses?  State politics for one: were the state to fund UC's employer share of pension contributions, Berkeley would fix $128 million of its $150 million problem.  There are also necessary growth and upgrades: some chunk of the capital project costs are in the category of always improving teaching and research. Research policy is another: federal agencies force universities to subsidize research and foundations and corporations are even worse. 

But a big general driver is what I call the price of privatization. It is expensive to compete with Stanford, Cal Tech, et al for corporate partners, non-resident students, research grants, wealthy donors, senior executives, and everything else. VC Wilton said it best: "Berkeley must now compete for its three most important revenue sources [philanthropy, students, and research] against the best private and public universities." He went on to assert, "Because 87% of our revenue does not result from a legislative process, the need to be market-competitive is essential." The decline of public funding has induced a preoccupation with competing to increase mostly private revenue streams and with covering all the costs of the market competitions on offer.

In the post-crisis scramble, where do managers draw the line between necessary investments and privatization boondoggles?  Which of the projects that created that $140 million shortfall for capital debt/assets is part of the core mission and which supports off-campus interests or a favored group? How big are the avoidable costs of competition? Which competitions should be avoided on the basis of costs? If a research and teaching mission lacks a competitive revenue market, do you tax it for the sake of someone else's market competition? When you don't really know where to draw the line, and money is cheap, do you try all of them, especially if you can launch them by executive order?  Faculty, staff, and students should be directly involved in answering these questions.  They are budgetary and also properly political.

Post-Dirks, Berkeley has a real choice between faster, better privatization (and its costs) or figuring out privatization's costs and cutting it down to size.  Ironically, dialing back is supported by the budget data of its advocates. VC Wilton probably was not telling Chancellor Dirks that privatization would work because fundraising and partnerships were magic bullets.  I think they saw it more as a muddle-through strategy designed to kludge the system for another 5 years (2013-2018) with gains from non-resident tuition, educational businesses, real estate, and endowment income, at which point UC would either start big tuition hikes again or Berkeley could gain its semi-freedom to charge its own higher tuition.

The full debate between privatization and its costs never happened.  This is in large part because of the managerial decisionism I won't discuss here, and also because, as Jacques Lacan would have expected, denial was an important part of the disclosure.  Wilton Part 1 disclosed budget strategy failure.  Wilton Part 2 hid it in plain sight.  While former Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was a true believer who could effortlessly suture the contradiction, Chancellor Dirks was perhaps unsettled by the double message that UC Berkeley’s administration has been broadcasting for a decade: we must privatize; we are more public than ever. Were this so, he would naturally seem indecisive, as though he “embrace[d] ambiguity.”   In fact, privatization is ambiguous.  It wants private money, especially high net tuition, and to keep its public subsidies, and to keep its public-mission image.  Chancellor Dirks' Chronicle of Higher Education article and his resignation memos are classic performances of the not-quite-convinced that make the model feel as unworkable as it actually is.  I assume he was following the established Berkeley administrative program.  He knew the formula.  But he hadn't swallowed the blue pill. 

Berkeley's problem isn't rebenching.  Berkeley's problem isn't the UC system. Berkeley's problem is unrestored public funding in conjunction with privatization, which raises costs while encouraging cuts.  How much does its own program grow the funding gap between what public education needs and what privatization makes us want?  I'm sure the campus can find a chancellor who is willing to find out.  

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 9

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
As you have probably heard, Linda Katehi submitted her resignation from the position of Chancellor of UC Davis today.  I don't have the time to offer an analysis of the central documents but I wanted to provide links for those of you who would like to look further into the investigative report and the various responses to it.

Chancellor Katehi's Letter of Resignation

Statement of Davis Academic Senate Chair Knoesen regarding the resignation.

Report of Investigation of Chancellor Katehi (with redactions).

Text of President Napolitano's Statement on Chancellor Katehi's Resignation.

Statement by Chancellor Katehi's Attorney Melinda Guzman in response to Report and Resignation.

On President Napolitano's confidential letter to the regents on Chancellor Katehi (Cloudminder)

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 4

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
As you may have seen, the Regents will vote July 20th on a proposed revision to their By-laws and the University's Standing Orders.  An original presentation was made at their May 12 meeting; tomorrow's discussion will be about a modified version of that proposal.  You can find the modifications here. Commentary on this has been provided by former Regent Velma Montoya (here and here), Hank Reichman at the Academe Blog has commented here, and the California Association of Scholars has sent a letter reprinted here.  I urge you all to read the various documents and commentaries but I wanted to clarify some of the important issues quickly.

The proposal combines two major sets of changes.  The first is a dramatic alteration in the Regents committee and meeting structure--an alteration that could reduce both public debate and oversight in important ways.  And second, the proposal begins a process that will likely result in the elimination of the Standing Orders of the University.

These proposed changes have led to a wide range of criticism. The weakness of the arguments in favor of these changes suggests more fundamental problems with the current status of the Board of Regents.

1) At present the Regents have 10 Standing Committees.  The proposal reduces this number to 6 and vests important internal power to the Governance and Compensation Committee.  In addition, the Chair of the Board, Chairs of Committees, and the President of the University are being given the authority to determine the scheduling of discussion whenever an individual Regent wants an item added to an Agenda (3).  Importantly, although Committee meetings are traditionally held sequentially under the new system, different Committees will meet concurrently during the 1st day of the Regents meeting, making it more difficult for newspapers, members of the University community, and members of the public to attend all the meetings they are concerned about. Interestingly, there will no longer be a Long-Range Planning Committee.

It is, of course, impossible to know how these changes will actually affect the Regents practice.  But having listened to the discussion at the May meeting, I am not confident that they serve any purpose other than the centralization of power.  In discussing the origins of these proposals, proponents suggested that they grew out of a Regents retreat and were a response to the sense that too much time at meetings was spent listening to reports from administrators.  I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone forced to suffer through an administrative filibuster.  But there is a simple way to avoid that--demand that all reports be in writing, sent in advance, and then read them before the meeting.  That way you can push back against the filibuster by asking intelligent questions or raising objections. If the individual Regents are too busy to do that then they should just decline the honor of serving on the Board.

Reducing the number of Committees and dividing up Committee presentations will not solve the problem of too much transactional activity--all it will accomplish is reduce the possibility of public oversight and also increase the specialization of Regents even if the second day has a long plenary session.  As with their reorganization of the Health Care Committee--where a report indicating a problem of communication internal to the Health Sciences enterprise led to an expansion of central power under the Regents--the Regents have identified one problem and proposed a solution to something else.

2) The Governance Committee is also proposing that the Standing Orders be absorbed into the newly drawn By-Laws.  Although I don't agree with the CAS that the Standing Orders function as some sort of legislative record, they are correct that they should not be folded into the By-Laws.  (It is the fact that they are not a legislative record that gives them their importance).  The Standing Orders as they stand now have been infrequently changed and they are extremely detailed.  It is their public detail that makes them so important.  To give only one example, when the Regents determined that they wanted to give President Yudof special furlough powers they needed to make explicit changes under public scrutiny--scrutiny that produced a great deal of debate.  To be sure, the Regents did what they wanted to do--as is their wont--but they needed to do so publicly and with their responsibility marked out. If you want wider input, then publicity is important. Of course if you don't, then having vaguer rules will have that effect. The new By-Laws are in fact much vaguer than the Standing Orders, which will allow for changes with less scrutiny. One argument made in favor of this change is that the By-Laws take a 2/3 vote to change while the Standing Orders only require a majority vote. But the simple answer to that is to make the Standing Orders require a 2/3 vote as well.

In a nutshell, the Regents are considering a set of changes that may make it more difficult for the public to see what they do at their meetings and allow for policy changes to proceed along vaguer than usual lines. At a time when UC administrators are under increased scrutiny and the University itself is viewed with greater suspicion of being out of touch with the State, the Regents are proposing a major overhaul of their organization and relation to the public without real justification or careful university wide discussion.  That one likely result will be greater control in the hands of fewer Regents is a cause for alarm. The whole process highlights fundamental problems with the practice of Regental governance.
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 3

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016
Although overshadowed by North Carolina's recent HB2 (forbidding transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choice), the state's Republican majority has proposed a bill that could seriously undermine the colleges and universities that have traditionally served North Carolina's minority population.  Despite its proclaimed aim to address the problem of student debt, SB873 likely will exacerbate the state's inadequate funding of Higher Education in general (a reduction of over 23% in State funding between 2008-2015) and potentially devastate the finances of four institutions that historically focus on African-American and Native American students. It would also encourage them to increase the number of their out of state students and overturn decisions made by students about projects they wish to support with their fees.

Although notable for its explicit emphasis on institutions that serve primarily minority populations within the state, the North Carolina proposals are simply the latest in a series of legislative interventions into the decision making of public universities.  These interventions combine a reduction of state funding with increasing micro-management in the name of the interests of students.  As with recent cuts in Wisconsin and Illinois, North Carolina's Republican legislative majority has assumed a populist mantle while pursuing policies that would have their greatest negative effects on those colleges and universities that have the fewest resources and that serve the poor and people of color.

SB873 has several key elements:

First, the law institutes a regime that would ensure that tuition prices and student fees are held constant for students who complete their program in 8 semesters (10 for those in 5 year program), and for a time to be determined for transfer students.  There is no provision about tuition raises for each entering class nor any indication of increased state funding, so one likely result is that institutions will expect those who enter later to subsidize those who have entered earlier.

Second, it would simultaneously force a cut in student fees, starting in 2018. Strikingly, the law requires that student fees be cut between 10 and 25% below 2016 fee levels.  Apparently this would all but prevent the construction of a new student union at NC Central in Durham--a campus and location known for its traditions of political activism, especially around civil rights.  It may be a coincidence.  I'll leave that to you.

These first two elements--in the context of North Carolina's reduced funding for higher education--threaten to further undermine the overall quality of the state's higher education system. On the question of fees, which are often voted on by students, it represents the legislature's continuing intrusion into university life and their undermining of the University System's autonomy.  On both questions it remains unclear how Margaret Spellings, recently appointed as President of the University System, will react.

But the real heart of the Bill is in the sections dealing with the colleges and universities that have traditionally served North Carolina's minority populations.

1) SB873 lowers the tuition per semester for 5 institutions to $500 per semester. 4 of these institutions have made it their mission to serve historically under-represented groups (the fifth, Western Carolina University, has not had the same mission).  To give an example of the effect, one of the institutions (Winston-Salem State University) currently charges $1619 per semester.  So the law would reduce tuition revenue by over 2/3.  Although the prime author of the bill has indicated that the legislature might raise funding to compensate, there is no such clause in the bill or anything on the horizon. The University's Faculty Assembly estimates that this clause of the bill will cost the four minority institutions roughly 60 Million dollars annually.

2) At the same time as the bill would cut tuition revenue from residents, it also encourages the 5 institutions to increase their reliance on non-resident students. Currently, there is an 18% cap on non-resident student populations.  The Bill urges the campuses to reconsider this cap and to consider seeking more out of state students if it would "increase the number, academic strength, and diversity of student applications at those institutions." (3)  The likely result, as the Faculty Assembly notes, would be "non-minority students displacing minority students in the admissions applications pool." (4)

3) The Bill also encourages the University System to consider changing the names of these institutions.  This suggestion is a real puzzler unless the purpose is to ensure that people no longer connect these universities with their historic missions.

4) The Bill does include new funds for merit scholarships to help a small number of students to attend either North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and North Carolina Central University (40 in-state and 10 out of state students at each institution).  These are the State's other two HBCUs and they are currently on a stronger footing. By providing some increased incentive to attend NCA&T and NCCU while cutting tuition at Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University it appears that the State intends either to push the latter four institutions from their tradition mission of access or into financial insolvency.

Jelani Cobb has suggested that North Carolina's efforts to control access to public bathrooms is a haunting return to the late 1950s and early 1960s battles over civil rights--including the conflict between federal and state authority, and the declaration of state's rights and God's morality against a minority seeking equal access to public facilities.  SB873 is more than an echo.  After all, passed it threatens to undercut access to higher education for North Carolina's minority population while prompting targeted institutions to shift their demographics to out of state students or to students with less connection to the Universities' traditional missions.  Although done in the name of populism, it is a reactionary populism.

If North Carolina's legislators are really concerned with ensuring access at low prices to all of the state's students then they should fund the freeze, as Nicholas Fleisher has argued regarding similar developments in Wisconsin.  Otherwise their professed concern for students is simply empty rhetoric.

You can find the proposed law HERE

Analysis by the University's Faculty Assembly is HERE

UPDATE:  In response to criticism from the University of North Carolina System and the individual universities, the lead sponsor of the Bill has withdrawn the 3 Historically Black Universities from his proposal of a dramatic tuition cut although UNC Pembroke will still be covered..  Inside Higher Education has the story HERE.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 4

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday, May 1, 2016
The simplest political question posed by the ongoing Katehi crisis is, "Can state government trust the University of California to clean its own house?"  The non-firing of Linda Katehi says, "No."  It's hard to imagine a better targeted confirmation of UC's reputation in Sacramento for poor management. If we didn't have the Katehi Affair, Jerry Brown would have had to invent it.

Yes she deserves due process, yes women chancellors deserve it as much as male chancellors do, and yes the campus view should be decisive rather than UCOP's.  But UC's bureaucracy should have prevented the chancellor's "mistakes" before they happened, or an internal investigation should have caught them before the Sacramento Bee did, or President Napolitano should have completed her investigation before she tried to fire Chancellor Katehi, or she should have succeeded in firing her on the basis of the preponderance of the evidence she already had.  None of these things happened.

Dense corporate controls entangle every regular UC employee on a daily basis. It takes dozens of person-hours in a half-dozen offices to set up a post-doc contract.  A researcher can wait 6 months--at least I once did--to get final approval on an outside vendor contract when there is a wrinkle, like a specialized foreign researcher who doesn't carry liability insurance.  The Katehi affair tells the public that senior managers live by different rules. It says the same thing to UC employees.  

This fragmenting of the university polity goes deep.  It's an effective short-term managerial technique, since it divides and demobilizes.  It does enormous long-term damage.  We can't measure that with existing metrics.

One type of damage appeared in CHE coverage of faculty views, where the faculty seemed not just divided but individually ambivalent and unclear.  The title of the piece could have been, "What's Going On?" The interviewees were not working from an explicit standard of management behavior that they felt they should enforce.  Contrast these views with the UC Davis students whom Amy Goodman interviewed and aired on Friday.  Seniors Parisa Esfahani and Kyla Burke (pictured above) produced precise, detailed explanations of the conduct they were protesting. They tied that to their big picture policy issue, "the normalization of the privatization of the university," which they said was subordinating education to money making.  They offered an integrated analysis of the range of Katehi "mistakes" as symptoms of a worldview that they did not accept.  The sense of belonging to the university, and the right / obligation to establish principles to which its leadership would be held to account, has come from the undergraduates.

I thought Linda Katehi should have resigned after the pepper-spray incident in 2011. I thought this not because it "happened on her watch," but because she was unable or unwilling to fix it afterwards. The officer in question, John Pike, earned global fame for the casual contempt with which he doused seated protesters with pepperspray, marking them as outside of the universitas, outside of society. Chancellor Katehi didn't rush to the students' defense, and/or condemn the act (even with the using "pending a full investigation"), and/or discipline wrongdoers in a direct and forthright way. Her eventual reaction became her trademark: slow, calculated, and unsatisfying.  This helped spread the damage through the system, as UCOP hired celebrity chief Bill Bratton's then-firm Kroll Security, with its own conflicts, to investigate UC overall.  She seemed not to take hold of the real issue--obvious police misconduct leading to the violation of the civil rights of the protesters, and of their human dignity. "These are our students, or our neighbors. And this is a university," she did not say.   She did not convene the university as a community with the permanent, historic obligation to understand itself.  My gut feeling was that she presided over "UC Davis" without connection to it.  I was struck by her walk through the silent crowd of students, at night, surrounded by bodyguards, unable or unwilling to speak, as though enfolded in a martyrdom of her own making.

I won't rehearse her current errors--they have received much attention, including Angus Johnston's definitive anatomy of the inane Internet scrubbling contract.  But I will note that her board service was not like that of the other chancellors.  She accepted positions at institutions that are directly opposed to UC interests. King Abdulaziz University games rankings with cash payments to prominent researchers for quasi-no-show jobs in exchange for sharing their citation credit, in order to leapfrog universities that have built reputations over decades. Wiley thrives by overcharging universities and their students for their own research results. DeVry prospers more when UC's public funding is less.  Such board payments are not invitations to internal critique--these institutions get abundant external critiques for free--but to use public servant stature to legitimate for-profits. Chancellor Katehi has shown serial poor judgment, and to me all the incidents flow from the same failure to understand how people think and feel when involved in public service.  She's not a bad person. She just doesn't get it. 

My diffuse but fundamental concern is the general aura or ethos that Linda Katehi has helped sustain. It's not so much the petty self-dealing, culminating in putting her reputation ahead of that of the entire university's, as it is the short selling of what a university is.  The university should stand for justice, enlightenment, and the continuous reconciliation of our private interests with the general welfare.  It should constantly trace great teaching and research back to open communication.  It should benefit student finances rather than hurting them. It should be a public good in the existential sense, where, for starters, regular citizens feel like the university is on their side.  It should model democracy, starting with managers possessed of generosity toward the role of student protesters in having prompted the investigations, and of enough epistemological humility to learn from critics.

This is the university I want. I'm convinced the wider public wants it too.  We have already learned what happens when we don't deliver it.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 7

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
President Napolitano has placed UC Davis Chancellor Katehi on "investigatory administrative leave." This action follows weeks of debate about the Chancellor's decision to serve on various corporate advisory boards and reports that UC Davis had hired media consultants to "scrub" the internet of reports on the UC Davis Police Department's infamous use of pepper spray on non-violent student protesters in 2011.

Here is some of the news coverage.

From the Sacramento Beehttp://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article74181532.html

From the Los Angeles Timeshttp://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-uc-davis-chancellor-20160427-story.html

From Fox40.comhttp://fox40.com/2016/04/27/uc-davis-chancellor-linda-katehi-placed-on-investigatory-administrative-leave/

From Davis Enterprisehttp://www.davisenterprise.com/?p=647883&preview_id=647883

We will add information to this post as it becomes available.


President Napolitano's letter to Chancellor Katehi: http://www.sacbee.com/latest-news/article74371162.ece/BINARY/UC%20President%20Janet%20Napolitano%20letter%20to%20UC%20Davis%20Chancellor%20Linda%20Katehi

From Inside Higher Educationhttps://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/04/28/uc-davis-chancellor-placed-leave-over-employment-daughter-law-and-son

From The Chronicle of Higher Educationhttp://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/uc-davis-chancellor-is-placed-on-leave/110781

From the New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/29/us/uc-davis-chancellor-accused-of-violations-is-removed-from-post.html?hpw&rref=education&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0


From the Sacramento Beehttp://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article74801327.html

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 3
by Linda F. Bisson, Former Chair, Davis Division of the Academic Senate, 2006-2008; 2011-2012
Rachael E. Goodhue, Chair Elect, Davis Division of the Academic Senate 2016-2018

Dear President Napolitano:

We want to express grave concern over a pattern of negativism in the press and social media regarding women Chancellors and senior administrative leaders. 

There are strong parallels between the singularly intensive criticism of our Chancellor Linda Katehi and that previously of Chancellors Fox (UCSD) and Denton (UCSC), and of UC Vice President Greenwood. Yet, the activities that are being criticized clearly fall within the standards of UCwide practice.  This pattern is exemplified by a 2006 LA Times article that criticized compensation practices for senior UC executives: those singled out for criticism for “extravagant pay practices, perks and privilege for top executives” are all women. 

The intensity of the criticism at the time ended in tragedy for Chancellor Denton. Chancellor Fox’s term was equally framed as fraught with turmoil, turmoil apparently not experienced by her male colleagues who were facing identical issues due to budget cuts and lack of diversity and inclusion. In an article in the San Diego Union Tribune written on Chancellor Fox’s decision to step down, she is described in terms steeped in implicit gender bias, including the quote ascribed to former President Richard C. Atkinson:  “She handled that as well as she could have handled it” – not as well as anyone could have handled it or as well as it could have been handled.

Women in leadership positions are often the victims of intense implicit bias and, as a consequence, of the phenomenon of “single storyism” - the reduction of their actions to a simple narrative that appeals to the biases of a broad section of society, in this case implicit gender bias and women being incompetent for their position. Whatever they say or do in response is twisted to fit the “single story.”  We think the LA Times article listed above illustrates perfectly the problem of the single story experienced by senior women administrators at UC.  If the LA Times story were rewritten today, Chancellor Katehi’s name is likely the only one that would be added to the list.

All of UC is richer because of the participation of women and underrepresented groups at all levels. We know you and your leadership team share this belief. We are concerned that UCOP does not recognize that senior administrators who are identified with an underrepresented identity vital to our diversity are subject to vilification in the press simply because of that identity.  We are also concerned, as recent press regarding our Chancellor Katehi demonstrates, that Chancellors and other senior administrators are not well-equipped to deal with single storyism, nor is there the recognition that others, such as UCOP, must step in to address the criticism as well.

The absence of factual information on UC policies and practices with respect to external compensation for all senior administrators has led to speculative and negative public debate regarding a single senior woman, when the practice of external involvement is widespread. We would like to request clear articulation from UCOP of both the formal policies and the informal practices as they pertain to executive compensation (e.g., have senior managers been encouraged to participate in activities outside UC). We note that legislators are calling for the same review. UCOP's understanding of the broader issues involved is essential to informing these external discussions. The need for UCOP to take action is urgent.

We thank you for considering this request.
c:  AndrĂ© Knoesen, Chair, Davis Division of the Academic Senate
     Dan Hare, Chair, Academic Senate
     Linda Katehi, Chancellor, UCD
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 11

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016
We post two faculty responses to the letter that the University of California's president--in the company of all ten campus chancellors--sent to the American Anthropological Association to express their "concern about the Association's proposed resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions." The AAA membership vote on the resolution opened on April 15th. Materials on the Association debate can be found at AAA Resources Regarding Engagement with Israel/Palestine.

Letter 1, from Professor Fogu to Chancellor Yang, has been endorsed by the UCSB Faculty Association.


To: Chancellor Henry Yang
From: Claudio Fogu, Dept. of French & Italian, UC Santa Barbara

I am writing to express my concern for your signing—along with the nine other UC Chancellors—a letter drafted by UC President Janet Napolitano, dated April 19, 2016, urging members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) not to ratify a proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions. I am fully aware of the fact that along with many other universities, the University of California, in the person of its president (Policy 1300), has already expressed its opposition to “academic boycotts” in the past, and has the right to do so. I question, however, both the inclusion of chancellors in signing this letter, the lack of any consultation with UC faculty about its content and/or the wisdom of sending it, and, most importantly, the timing of it.

If Policy 1300 does give our President the right “to speak for the University,” this right comes to her from the Board of Regents, and it presumably refers to all matters of administrative and public representation of the University as an institution. On the other hand, the University of California also has a long-standing tradition and commitment to shared governance, especially when it comes to questions impacting academic matters. The two principles are clearly at odds with each other and it is therefore a delicate matter of interpretation and political acumen for a President to decide when it is appropriate to speak on behalf of the University. The fact that President Napolitano asked all ten chancellors to sign her letter indicates to my mind that she was not certain of having the authority to send that letter and therefore sought to buttress her right by involving the chancellors. At a time in which shared governance has been eroded for several years in the system, it is particularly disturbing to witness this instrumental use of authority and lack of consultation with UC Senates and faculty on matters of great concern to the faculty.

I am not referring to the actual merits of the academic boycott under consideration by members of the AAA, but to the very serious interference with the voting of a resolution by members of a scholarly association who are employed or may be employed by our university. It is one thing to speak for or against resolutions taken by scholarly associations in favor of the academic boycott of Israeli universities, as it was the case with the American Studies Association in 2013. The protest came after the vote had taken place, and, whether one agrees with it or not, it did not interfere with the actual voting procedures. To send a letter that explicitly claims that “the University of California believes that an academic boycott is an inappropriate response to a foreign policy issue and one that threatens academic freedom and sets a damaging precedent for academia,” and therefore “urge(s) Association members to consider the boycott’s potentially harmful impacts and oppose this resolution,” is not only misrepresentative of the percentage of UC-system scholars who support the boycott, but also a far cry from the right to public critique and from the defense of academic freedom invoked in the letter. For an institution that hires the members of an association to urge them to vote one way or another is at best interference, and at worse intimidation.

With all due respect I hope you will consider consulting at least with the head of the Academic Senate next time you are invited by UCOP to sign a letter on behalf of UCSB.


To: President Janet Napolitano and Chancellors Dirks, Katehi, Gillman, Block, Leland, Wilcox, Khosla, Hawgood, Yang and Blumenthal
From: Mark LeVine, Dept. of History, UC Irvine

I am writing to express my strong concern and anger at your April 19, 2016 letter to the American Anthropological Association regarding the ongoing vote of the organization's membership on whether to endorse the Academic Boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Let me begin by pointing out that when the ten chancellors of the UC system and its President can't even remember the correct name of the organization they are writing to criticize—you called the AAA, one of the oldest and most prominent learned societies in the United States, the “American Association of Anthropologists”--it does not auger well for the accuracy and cogency of the arguments that follow. Sadly, this fear was confirmed by the contents of the letter. As has already been expressed by colleagues at UC Berkeley after former Chancellor Birgeneau and EVC and provost Robert Breslauer attempted to interfere in the AAA vote late last year, it is “unacceptable that [senior UC Administrators] would lend their voices to the organized intimidation of critics of Israeli state policy, and we particularly worry about the effect of such intimidation on our junior and more vulnerable colleagues.”

Far from being the private opinion of academics concerned about the potential actions of colleagues, you are speaking directly and officially for the University when you declare that “the University of California believes that an academic boycott is an inappropriate response to a foreign policy issue and one that threatens academic freedom and sets a damaging precedent for academia.” Before even offering a critique of your arguments I find myself compelled to point out that while you have come together to take a highly public, united stand against a boycott of academic institutions complicit in a five-decades long occupation, you have shown nothing close to this level of attention or unified voice to condemn the very real violations of academic freedoms associated with the ongoing systematic sexual harassment (and worse) suffered by women at UC, dozens of new cases of which have come forward in the period between the Regents' much condemned attempt to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in its March 23 policy statement and your present letter. I would like to know, How can you justify the amount of time and energy spent coordinating this letter when no similar collective letter from all of you has been issued surrounding the clear and ongoing dangers faced by women at UC, not to mention the harassment experienced by various minority communities on campuses across the University? (In fact, such collective letters on issues not directly related to the University are an unusual occurrence.)

Turning to the letter, I would like to ask, by what right and upon what evidence can you, without a vote of the Academic Senate, make an explicit declaration of what the “University of California believes”? As far as I can tell, whenever members of the UC community have expressed their collective opinions on the issues of academic boycotts or BDS more broadly, large percentages of those participating in such discussions have endorsed them, as evidenced by the votes of the Associated Students of UC (ASUC), the system-wide student Senate, as well as several campus AS Senates, in support of divestment resolutions. Moreover, the publicly available evidence clearly shows that substantially more UC professors are on record either endorsing BDS or at least refusing to label it as anti-Semitic then are their colleagues offering the criticisms outlined in your letter. This was most recently made clear by the overwhelming opposition to the Regent's universally condemned attempt to classify anti-Zionism (and particularly BDS) as a form of anti-Semitism. Nowhere does your letter mention the diversity of opinion at UC on the issue you are making such a definitive pronouncement.

While as individuals you have every right to speak your views on BDS or any issue, you clearly do not have an imprimatur to speak on this issue on behalf of the UC community on the issue of BDS, never mind adopt a position that is clearly at odds with the majority of its publicly expressed opinions. Your letter can only be understood as reflecting a troubling disregard both for shared governance and for academic freedom and honesty as well. By using your power as the senior leadership of UC to declare an official policy that is in opposition to the expressed opinions of a significant share of the UC community without any discussion of the issue by Academic Senate, you are potentially causing significant harm to members of our community. This is especially true of students, staff and junior or non-Senate faculty who might feel intimidated by your declaration of official policy into silencing their constitutionally protected opinions.

Your letter is also extremely troubling because it seriously distorts the nature and meaning of the BDS call under discussion by the AAA and other professional organizations and, as important, utterly ignores the disastrous situation faced by Palestinians during half a century of Israeli occupation. Beginning with the latter, as the newly released State Department annual report on human rights once again makes clear in its second paragraph (and which is supported by the regular reports of every major global, Israeli and Palestinian human rights monitoring organization there is), Israel systematically denies Palestinians the right to education and more broadly “discriminates against Palestinian [citizens] in almost every aspect of society,” while engaging in “unlawful killings, use of excessive force, and torture” against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. And these actions are merely an addition to the mundane brutality and crimes associated with the massive ongoing settlement enterprise whose perpetuation and intensification is the Occupation's acknowledged goal.

Indeed, your description of the Israeli occupation as merely a “foreign policy issue,” as if it was a trade dispute between WTO members, betrays a particularly shocking ignorance and disregard—I do not know which is worse—of the brutal realities of the Occupation. How, may I ask, can you write a letter expressing such concern over a well-established protest strategy with a long and proven history while saying nothing about the world's longest occupation and all the very real harm it does? I would like to invite all of you to come to the Occupied Territories and experience life as a Palestinian, particularly a student or professor routinely and systematically denied the right to pursue her or his education, research or teaching, and then explain to the UC community how this debate is merely over a “foreign policy issue.”

Turning to Paragraph 2, you argue that “free expression, robust discourse, and the vigorous debate over ideas and principles are essential to the mission of academic institutions worldwide.... These freedoms enable universities to advance knowledge and to transmit it effectively to its students and to the public. The University of California has a strong tradition of free speech and the free exchange of ideas, and it is our responsibility to defend academic freedom and our scholars’ ability to choose their research and colleagues. Limits to the open exchange of knowledge and ideas between our universities stand in direct opposition to our values and goals.”

This argument is riddled with empirical flaws and inaccuracies that are quite frankly inexcusable coming from senior academics in your positions of administrative power and public prominence.. To begin with, as all the debates over BDS in professional associations such as the AHA, ASA, MESA and now AAA make clear, in no way does the call for an academic boycott entail restrictions on free expression, robust discourse or vigorous debate. In fact, just the opposite is true. The very act of bringing BDS before our professional organizations has stimulated unprecedented debate around the Occupation and the larger conflict.

Moreover, in no way does the BDS call advocate restrictions on “our scholars' ability to choose their research and colleagues” (to speak for myself, I continue to do research, write and otherwise collaborate with many Israeli scholars). What it does do is suspend institutional cooperation and collaboration with Israeli institutions that are in any manner complicit in the Occupation, which sadly most Israeli universities clearly are. Yes, this policy demands a sacrifice by scholars, both Israelis and their colleagues; but this is a small price to pay to highlight the incredible suffering endured by Palestinians because of the Occupation, including the large-scale destruction of the Palestinian education system during the half century of occupation, systematic thefts of funds and equipment, and prevention of Palestinians from even leaving the Occupied Territories, never mind establishing anything close to the level of collaboration with foreign colleagues and universities that Israel enjoys (please check your records and report to us how much UC has spent collaborating with Palestinian compared with Israeli higher education institutions and scholars).

What's more, the present policies of uncritical collaboration itself exacts a very high price, on Palestinian education, about which you have nothing to say. Indeed, these realities have led upwards of two dozen Israeli anthropologists to support the BDS call. Did you consult with them or their colleagues in other disciplines in Israel who support BDS to understand the varieties of opinion within Israeli academia on this issue before making your pronouncement? Isn't that what scholars are supposed to do? Should you, as the most senior scholars at UC, be setting an example in this regard?

Even more troubling, you do not mention in your letter that UC is one of the top 5 institutions receiving “BSF” (US-Israeli Bi-National Science Foundation) grants, with campuses engaged in multiple projects with Israeli universities involving significant research funds. My own campus, Irvine, established the “UC Irvine/Israeli Scholar Exchange Endowment for Engineering Science Program,” whose $2 million endowment supports collaborations with Israeli universities, such as Tel Aviv University and The Technion, which are deeply and publicly implicated in the machinery of the Occupation. A 2014 MOU between Governor Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the legislative resolutions supporting it, have further “unfettered collaboration between Israeli and California Universities.” Unfettered for Israelis, yes. Impossible even to dream of for Palestinians, however, as they have no comparable collaboration, and very often are illegally prevented from leaving the Occupied Territories by Israel when they do. I do not recall the last time the President or chancellors have spoken with one voice about these issue. Do Palestinian students and academics not matter in any meaningful way?

Finally, in your third paragraph you argue that “an academic boycott goes against the spirit of the University of California, which has consistently championed open discourse and encouraged collaboration with scholars and peers from international institutions of higher education.” This too is highly inaccurate. The University of California has never made an official pronouncement condemning or even calling attention to the systematic violations of Palestinian rights to education (never mind all the other even more basic violations they are subject to). How is engaging in long-term collaborations worth untold millions of dollars with a country engaged in an illegal occupation while remaining utterly silent about its actions against the occupied population in any way equatable to a “championing of open discourse and collaboration” in a fair and balanced manner? Of course, it is not.

You conclude you letter by “urg[ing] Association [of American Anthropologists] members to consider the boycott’s potentially harmful impacts and oppose this resolution.” Again, you make no mention of the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians as part of their daily existence attempting to participate in their education system. No discussion or even recognition of the incredibly “harmful impact” that clearly exists because of Israel's actions, and nothing that suggests you are in any way interested in offering a balanced view that actually takes into consideration the very real and substantial issues that the call for a boycott is intended to raise. Let's be clear: the merits of the BDS strategies certainly warrant discussion and debate. But this letter engages in neither; choosing instead to make what are essentially partisan political pronouncements based on assumptions that do not bear even the slightest scrutiny.

President Napolitano, you have stated that “UC is the gold standard. Together, we must ensure that this standard is upheld.” This letter violates the spirit and letter of this pledge, as it is ethically and empirically flawed, engaging in a misleading attack on a specific strategy of non-violent resistance that has a long history of successful deployment by oppressed peoples around the world (including African Americans), misrepresenting the opinions of the UC community, of the AAA, and ignoring the large-scale injustices suffered by the people on whose behalf the BDS movement is acting. All of this done on UC letterhead acting in your official capacities as the leadership of the University. I urge you publicly to withdraw your ill-conceived attempt to interfere in the democratic deliberations of a learned society and consider how the leadership of UC can better reflect, or at least not interfere with, the diverse opinions of our community, while using the immense power of the University to help advocate both for those suffering and fighting against injustice and oppression, not just in Israel/Palestine, but globally.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 3

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016
I only skimmed the content of the decree because my eyes were drawn to the mighty list of signatures, at left, that took up half the page.  Had I ever before seen the UC president and all ten campus chancellors joining their signatures to support a cause? I racked my brain for this kind of Senate memory of the 2000s. It came up empty.  All eleven signatures.  UC united! It's the UC United Front.

My mind began to wander. I thought of the audiences at the lectures I've given at universities this year.  They seemed generally to agree that the current public university system is broken, and that the fixes I propose should be developed. But they usually don't think that we--faculty, staff, and students--can do anything to implement them.  One reason is that only senior managers speak for the university to the political, donor, trustee, and executive classes. At UC, it's the president alone.  So what can the rank-and-file educators actually do?

Here was an answer: UC's Eleven! Perhaps they came together to speak out on the Big Four features of the broken paradigm we can't get past.  Still gazing at the signature list, I mused:

  1. Perhaps they grew tired of the "cost disease" fixation that obscures quality issues with false expectations for cost reduction. Maybe they read the UCSB memo saying "curb your enthusiasm" about teaching the surge, and realized that without further ado the Committee of Two deal would hinder instructional progress. So they wrote to demand 21st century quality for all UC undergraduates--and in solidarity with CSU and the CCCs.  Their short letter might calculate the increased cost of individualized instruction for all, and quantify state increments that would get us there without increasing tuition and student debt.  The Eleven call for Active Learning for All!
  2. Or maybe they were noting that UC had put all its eggs in the STEM basket, although at least half of its degrees are awarded in the arts, humanities and social sciences (SASH), and although all global problems have sociocultural as well as technological dimensions. Perhaps The Eleven were writing to call for new cross-disciplinary hybrids, and for campus funding rebalances to build the first adequate SASH research infrastructure.  UC's Eleven call for funding for Quant-Qual Syntheses for Global Problem Solving!
  3. At the same time, universities have oversold the commercialization of STEM research. Perhaps The Eleven had become concerned that federal agencies, state legislatures, and their own campuses were slighting the great basic STEM research that had no future revenue potential. Perhaps they saw a connection leading from the long-term businessing of science to the stagnation of federal funding, to their own ever-growing internal subsidies (10.2.3), and to the regular voter's doubts about whether universities are on her side.  So the Eleven were calling for Multiple Technology Pathways, in conjunction with Full Costing of Research by all extramural sponsors!
  4. Possibly UC's Eleven were worried that the state still didn't get that only the full reset of public funding would enable the required educational quality without high student debt.  The state Master Plan had created free public universities when the state was 90 percent white.  Universities started raising tuition around the time that more students of color were arriving.  They then really jacked up tuition during the state cuts when Gov. Pete Wilson was whipping up anti-immigration sentiment and getting the UC Regents to eliminate affirmative action. No doubt this was a coincidence, but The Eleven could be putting all that behind us. They were calling for a Full Funding Reset to serve Post-Anglo California!
Well, I thought, maybe any one of these calls is too much to ask of a three-paragraph diktat.  Perhaps they would be pledging new vigilance in rooting out sexual misconduct on campus, or agreeing to address administrative bloat, or reigning in non-resident enrollments, or capping executive compensation, or expressing commitment to employee and student privacy in electronic communications, or declining ever to serve on boards of companies that directly compete with (while being parasitic on) the University of California. 

Or perhaps they would be supporting Jerry Kang, UCLA's Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, who has defended the right of "members of our Bruin community" to express support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) without being individually named "as a murderer or terrorist." The Eleven might have been endorsing VC Kang when he wrote, "the recent Statement of Principles Against Intolerance adopted by the UC Regents encourage quick and forceful response (Principles i and j)" to attempts to harass or intimidate someone or some group on the basis of "religious and cultural identity" or "political commitments."   

I ended my reverie and re-read the actual letter.  In reality, UC's president and all ten campus chancellors had come together to instruct a professional association that voting in favor of BDS is incompatible with academic freedom.  (The American Anthropological Association's Resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions is here.) The eleven senior managers spoke in the name of the University of California ("The University of California believes that an academic boycott is an inappropriate response to a foreign policy issue . . ."; "An academic boycott goes against the spirit of the University of California.)  As far as I can tell, the authors consulted with no one, may have breached the "Consultation with Faculty" requirement of Regents Policy 1500, and decreed the right answer in an ongoing national debate in which one side sees BDS as defending academic freedom, not abridging it.

On top of the letter's improprieties, what a waste of the UC Eleven.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 3