The Revolution Will Not Be Televised : Deconstructing the CFHE News Briefing (February 12, 2013) on Funding Hi Ed.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised : Deconstructing the  CFHE News Briefing (February 12, 2013) on Funding Hi Ed.

tumblr_mhbhstLtSM1r4tplxo1_500Teri Yamada, Prof. of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

“Contemporary society, observed the late Cornelius Castoriadis, has stopped questioning itself.  Lack of genuine questioning —at once a questioning of self and society—is fundamental to the political deadlocks of contemporary social life”

(Anthony Elliot  from “The New Individualist Perspective: Identity Transformations in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis”)

At the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) news briefing, three scholars representing faculty across the U.S. strongly advocated for a change in state and federal funding of public higher ed. Their request— stop capitulating to a dysfunctional NEW NORMAL — was directed at politicians and administrative leaders with the power to change a funding system that longer works for most Americans.

Three scholars—Professors Samuels, Fichtenbaum and Glantz—presented    different common-sense solutions for funding public higher education based on tax reforms or spending state and federal dollars more wisely.  All proposals attempt to reverse the privatization trend in public higher education that shifts the expense from the state and federal government onto the most vulnerable families and individuals.  These scholars share the concern that a failure to fund quality public higher education equally for every American gradually leads to a diminished democracy with a two-tiered class system.  It is past time to rethink this problem and take action to correct it.

  • Bob Samuels in “Making All Public Higher Education Free” argues for reallocating monies used for state and government education subsidies. According to his research, the cost for free undergraduate public education in 2009-10 was $127 bil.   The total amount of state and government dollars currently allocated to college-saving programs, grants, subsidies and student loan expenses would cover this cost AND stop the horrendous problem of   student debt.
  • Rudy Fichtenbaum in “How to Invest in Higher Education: A Financial Speculation Tax” proposes a responsibly administered, modest tax of no more than .5% on speculative financial transactions.   The U.S. had a small financial transactions tax from 1914 to 1966.  Its diminished relative now supports the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Many other nations— Great Britain, Singapore, France and Finland, for example— have a financial speculation tax with the subsidiary benefit of reducing speculation while providing funding for public projects.
  • Stanton Glantz in  “Financial Options for Restoring Quality and Access to Public Higher Education in California: 2012/13” suggests we reset student fees to the 2001 level.  Glantz provides an analysis to show that a $48 tax per median California taxpayer would restore the state to that 2001 level.  Otherwise, the offloading of public higher education costs to private individuals will continue to make education less affordable to the public.  A tax like this in each state would return public education to the status of a public good.

The facts in these three proposals were reported on a number of online education venues. I was disappointed, however, in reportage that failed to emphasize the despair faculty feel over the current damage to public higher education.   It is authentic concern and frustration that compel faculty to develop such proposals.   If this trend of defunding continues what is positive about our current public higher ed system will be tossed out in the madness of  “efficiency” reform.  We will end up with a one-size-fits-all commodity education for children who cannot afford private colleges: a second-class education for second-class citizens.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) and Inside Higher Ed (IHE) reporters papered over the political message of failed leadership, although the IHE reporter did quote Glantz’s comment on urgency: ”We’ve got to get policy makers and individuals who represent institutions to stop wringing their hands and address the problem.”   Samuels, Fichtenbaum and Glantz were unified in criticizing the failure of college presidents and political leaders to question and mitigate the negative influence of neo-liberal economic policy on public higher education.   It is unconscionable to passively accept the New Normal as an excuse for maintaining a dysfunctional status quo.  Inaction is not an option.   In contrast, NEA reporter Mary Ellen Flannery more accurately emphasized the urgency of the faculty message, the reason for this news briefing.

It is also interesting that no reporter took advantage of Glantz’s suggestion to contact a college president.  Since the “failure of leadership to question and create change” was the seminal subtext of the three faculty proposals, it is ironic that most reporters would adhere to status quo coverage of facts not message.   Glantz’s suggestion would involve more effort, perhaps impossible in the face of time constraints imposed by short deadlines.  The Chronicle of Higher Ed blogger had his post up within hours of the event.  Calling a few campus presidents may not be an option with a two-three hour deadline.  This is not the moment, however, to reflect on the decontextualization and flattening of news that occurs in the immediacy of the tweets and blogs of “networked time”.    Glantz’s suggestion would necessitate finding a campus president “engaged enough” to have read the three proposals and “brave enough” to respond to reporter’s questions with the possibility of an “unpopular” quote ending up in print for all to read.  Easier and safer for a campus president just to ignore it all.    Perhaps for the next set of research proposals, CFHE organizers will send notification in advance to an array of campus presidents mentioning that reporters might call.   And if no president is willing, interested, or able to respond, that type of dismissal and disengagement from faculty concerns is itself newsworthy.

Those of us teaching in the public higher ed domain are watching our administrators dismantle the liberal arts mission of our institutions while denying such action or blaming the New Normal for it.  They can’t help it; it’s not their fault; the state budgets made them do it; STEM matters.  Administrative emotion has become coldly authoritarian.  If capitulation to the New Normal continues,  those disciplines hardest to monetize and located in small programs and departments—foreign languages,  philosophy, ethnic studies—will be eliminated as  tenure lines are not replaced.  Following the SUNY model, general education requirements will be streamlined into pathways as public universities reduce  “product lines.”  Pressure to graduate everyone in four years mandates a factory-like system for state colleges.  Does the public care?  We think they should.

What will be lost in ten years is the cultural space that our institutions once provided for intellectual experimentation and development.  They provided a safe haven for learning, which valorized choice over restriction, community engagement over individualism.  If this efficiency trend continues, our students will be managed through a three-four year delivery pipeline with diminished chance to change a major or even add a minor.  The spirit of discovery, which may take more than ten minutes, will be wrung out of the institution.

It is ironic that those in political office who do not teach demand “efficiency and quality”.  They have no idea about the sorry state of the technological infrastructure in our classrooms.  Their fantasy of a speedy pipeline education that utilizes “cheap” online instruction will not make the United States more competitive in the global economy.  Nor will our streamlined “student product” satisfy the “worker needs” of 21st century corporations.  Our administrators in their “detached engagement” tell us this new normal is a done deal.  It is all about improving efficiency to provide a “good-enough” education for the 99%.


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Fear and Trembling: Nov. 6 and Public Higher Ed.

Hurricane Sandy and New York City

Our hearts go out to our colleagues and everyone on the East Coast battered by  Hurricane Sandy, the second October megastorm in two years.   May an outcome  of this devastation be the recognition of climate change   and the beginning of a rational public policy and action to address it, including the construction of  a more resilient electrical grid and  public infrastructure.

Fear and Trembling:  Nov. 6 and Public Higher Ed.

A deep existential dread pervades many of my colleagues in education  as Nov. 6 approaches.  And it is not just because we are in California with its problematic Prop 30, which would be the  coup de grâce  to public education if it fails.   This election could signify the closing of opportunity for any significant pragmatic action to protect what remains of public higher education across the country. The outcomes on Nov. 6 could be a further blow to unions, who despite faults, have worked hard to protect workers rights in the face of a relentless onslaught of big money, and reactionary legislation to gut them.

And I can be counted as one educator in this election season disappointed by the lack of debate on the state of  defunded public higher  education across the nation and the instability for young educated adults in the new lackluster economy.   I can see the impact of a dramatically changed economic reality on my students since the fiscal collapse of 2008: seniors about to graduate troubled by their chances on a job market that provides no career stability or upward mobility.  One of my students, a talented software programmer in the gaming field, works from contract to contract  asking for a permanent position at each job with no result.  Or there is the mature student, a biology major in my capstone course, who has survived rising  tuition costs in the CSU with a “good job” at Starbucks and may have to stay since jobs in her area of expertise are scare; or her partner also in the science business who does get highly paid contracts, but they are all short-term and he worries constantly about  the next short-term job.   This is an age of contingency for all workers, blue or white-collar,  and my students wonder whether they will ever have the economic security to even start a family or own a house.  The American Dream feels  very fragile to my graduating students in California in an age of business opportunism eager to exploit contingent labor.  This is a global trend , of course, pitting young educated adults against each other in the hunt for more stable jobs.

Is it the same across the states? Just last month many of us received the following message from  the American Association of University Professors (AAAUP) explaining the seriousness of union busting in Michigan:

 Dear AAUP Members:

In attacks on working families similar to those we saw in Wisconsin and Ohio, the Michigan legislature and governor have decimated collective bargaining rights in the state. In Michigan, this has been done not in one omnibus bill but with an onslaught of individual bills, railroaded through committees with the arrogant attitude, “your voice doesn’t matter.”

Fearing this pattern might continue though the next legislative session, and possibly lead to a so-called right-to-work state, the labor movement has initiated a ballot campaign to amend the Michigan constitution. The proposed amendment would protect the basic right to negotiate for fair wages and benefits with an employer.

Our friends and colleagues in Wisconsin and Ohio stood their ground and fought back with the power of collective action reminiscent of the 1930’s. It is now Michigan’s turn to carry the movement forward.

As we have seen over the past couple of years, corporate special interests have amassed staggering resources to use in their attempt to destroy collective bargaining rights. We therefore appeal to our AAUP colleagues from across the country to join us in preserving the labor/management relationship that has been so successful in creating the American middle class.

Our colleagues in Michigan need your help. To see how you can help, please visit the Michigan AAUP conference website (http://www.miaaup.org/).

Rudy Fichtenbaum President, AAUP

In California, funded by super PACS (including Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers).we have Prop 32 on the Nov. 6 ballot that would make political action close to impossible for unions here.   May we shake off the dread and act to make sure this doesn’t happen as we inspire our colleagues to become politically engaged by getting out the vote this week.  This is all hands on deck!

In his recent blog .”…Same as the Old Boss”  (below) Bill Lyne  provides a case study of the ongoing privatization of public higher ed in Washington State:

In a move that would make Dick Cheney proud, Education Secretary Arne “Aren’t I cool because I play basketball with the president” Duncan recently convened a secret meeting of higher education bosses to help him figure out how to do to higher ed what he has done to K-12.  According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, the meeting included top officials from prominent MOOCs, other players in online learning, veteran experts on course redesign, college administrators, people from powerful foundations, leaders of several of the major higher education associations, technology vendors, and for-profit college representatives.

“Few actual faculty members were invited to the meeting,” reported IHE. “And no high-profile faculty advocates attended.”  In the doth protest too much portion of the program, “education Department officials repeatedly said during the meeting that they recognize the leadership role faculty must take in any teaching and learning developments.”

Yeah, well if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.

In related news here in Washington, Governor Gregoire has now made her appointments to the Student Achievement Council, a longtime state bureaucrat with zero education experience is now running our community college system, and Rob McKenna thinks college professors are blowhards who should be turned into temp workers.

For those who haven’t been reading the fine print, the Student Achievement Council almost exactly fills the footprint left by the recently deposed Higher Education Coordinating Board.  Scott White is probably rolling over in his grave after the bill he introduced to scrap the bloated and ineffectual HEC Board has only produced a lot of wasted time and money to replicate the HEC with the SAC.

The governor’s appointments to the SAC all seem like fine people, but while the names have changed, the lineup overall is distressingly familiar.  A bunch of lawyers and managers and a token student (who will, depending on her willingness to go along, either be co-opted or marginalized), none of whom bears much resemblance to an actual educator.  As with every other task force, board, council, and committee appointed to ride herd on public higher education, there is no faculty member, no one who does the work of education, no one who knows from daily classroom experience what student achievement might actually mean.

For the past thirty years, U.S. public education has been going to way of U.S. health care.  Like health care, education is something that should be a right that has been inexorably turned into a commodity as a public good has been made more and more available for private profit.  The funding model has shifted from taxation to debt (much to the delight of the financial industry), eroding both the accessibility and quality of college.  Real educators generally object to this shift, which is why the new appointees to the SAC were chosen precisely because they are managers and not educators.  Kind of the same way that the people chosen to run health care are always managers and not doctors.

As public higher ed was eviscerated over the past four years, the HEC board stood by and didn’t raise a fuss, choosing instead to do endless tuition studies and produce lots of charts with pretty blue arrows.  It’s a pretty safe bet that the new SAC can be counted on to be just as acquiescent.

 Meanwhile, just down the street at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Olympia perennial Marty Brown has been named Executive Director.  When last we saw Mr. Brown, he was throwing a fit to any reporter who would listen about the faculty contract at Western Washington University.  Despite the fact that Western professors’ salaries, adjusted for cost of living, ranked in the bottom fifteen percent in the country, Mr. Brown felt it was “a mistake” for the Western trustees to negotiate a contract with the faculty that included small raises.

This disdain for faculty, along with his complete lack of experience as an educator, should help Mr. Brown fit right in at the SBCTC, where hundreds of well-paid managerial employees with benefits oversee a system that is well on its way to becoming a sweatshop.  At some of Washington’s community colleges, up to 80% of the faculty are badly paid part-time itinerant workers with no benefits.  As SBCTC Director, Mr. Brown will have access to study after study that shows what a difference well-qualified permanent faculty can make.  He will also have the expertise of thousands of professors readily available.  The smart money is on his taking advantage of neither, instead continuing to rely on the squads of non-classroom consultants and “experts” who will continue to peddle the notion that doing more with less has no effect on a student’s education.

 Alas, these also seem to be Rob McKenna’s confidantes.  Mr. McKenna has made education the centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign and he certainly gets it right when he talks about how he wants to increase funding for higher education.  And he consistently recognizes the damage done by years of cuts to higher ed.

 But when he gets down to specifics, it becomes clear that the Attorney General has drunk the managerial Kool-Aid.  In a higher ed speech at WWU’s Munro Institute this summer, Mr. McKenna cogently made the case about higher ed funding, but then moved into the trickier areas of instruction and teaching.  After a few banal remarks about online learning and “blended courses,” he launched into this observation about the nature of teaching:

 “We’ve got to move from a model where you always have a teacher or a professor who is, as someone put it, the ‘Sage on the Stage’ to where you’ve got a professor or a teacher who’s the ‘guide by your side.’  This is a phrase that I learned from Sam Smith at Western Governor’s University (WGU), I thought it was pretty striking.”

What seems novel and striking to Attorney General McKenna is actually pretty old and tired.  “Sage on the stage” and “guide by your side” have been around since at least the early 1990s and have been co-opted by the for-profit education movement as a way to demonize professors as pompous windbags and convince prospective student customers that a badly paid unqualified pal on the other end of a digital connection is better than a genuinely qualified instructor.  (The irony worth noting here is that almost every time some self-styled education expert trots out the sage-on-the-stage insult, he or she is usually speaking from a stage to a passive audience, just as Rob McKenna was at the Munro Institute.)  It’s no surprise that McKenna picked this up from Sam Smith, the lobbyist for WGU, where they have no faculty, just “course mentors.”

 McKenna’s lack of connection to real educators becomes even clearer when we take a look at his higher education position paper.  Buried near the end is a proposal to eliminate tenure, a move that would guarantee Washington’s universities would never again be able to recruit high quality faculty.

Chris Gregoire, Marty Brown, and Rob McKenna are doing nothing to improve the quality of higher education, but they can take solace in the fact that they are right in step with Arne Duncan.  Though they all come from different points on the ideological compass, they all firmly agree that major policy and funding decisions about higher education are best made without any actual educators in the room.

When the Duncan cabal got down to their business of identifying the obstacles to their brave new world of McEd, the things they pointed to were financial aid rules, pesky accreditors demanding some sort of accountability, and the “faculty culture” created by those nasty professors who stayed in school into their thirties and took jobs paying much less than they could have made as business people or lawyers, just because they don’t really care about students.

Given their mania for efficiency, it’s probably a good thing that Arne’s army kept the professors out of the room.  They would have just muddled things with questions about massive disinvestment, the difference between real education for responsible citizens and job training for docile employees, and why everybody in the room was sending their kids to real colleges while claiming that the MOOCs were good enough for everyone not in their tax bracket.

 The NFL Referee lockout demonstrated once again that nobody protects quality, integrity, and safety like organized, professional practitioners and that bosses, no matter what manner of pious bullshit they may publicly spew, are mostly interested in squeezing workers as hard as they can.  The bosses who have now focused on higher education are determined to make sure that today’s children get tomorrow’s education equivalent of replacement refs.

(permission to repost granted by the author)

 


A Humanities Near-Death Experience: Administrative Mismeasure in the California State University (CSU) System

Sept. 23, 2009. Mock funeral for the California Higher Education Master Plan, staged for the CSU Board of Trustee’s meeting at the CSU Administration Building, Golden Shores, Long Beach, CA. Photo by Allen Schaben.

The herky-jerky  pattern of CSU administrative activism has intensified since 2008.  It appears the  administrative intent behind such activism is to guide an often under-informed Board of Trustees on a path of curriculum reform  and unit reduction over which it actually has no legal or moral jurisdiction. This “activism”  struck again in September as campuses were just settling in to the new academic year. 

  This time it came in the disclosure that the CSU Board of Trustees would be discussing the elimination of  a system-wide general education (GE) requirement at its next  meeting: nine units of upper division capstone GE courses  would be eliminated in Fall 2013. This agenda  item appeared without any prior consultation with the CSU’s Academic Senate (ASCSU).   In its quest to graduate students as rapidly as possible through reducing the unit requirement for graduation, the CSU administration failed to understand the structural harm this sudden 9-unit elimination would impose on small humanities programs, such as foreign languages, ethnic studies programs, philosophy and religious studies, which rely on these large GE courses to support their smaller programs.  Nor did it seem to comprehend the significance of general education for the CSU’s “highly valued degree” so touted in this system.

 The shock of this proposal and its implications for the humanities in the CSU created immediate panic  across the 23-campus system.  Our activist ASCSU moved rapidly to oppose this plan and succeeded in having the offending item removed from the Board of Trustee’s agenda.  This is not a small victory for faculty governance in the CSU.   This success is especially important in the context of several tough years of defeat for faculty oversight of the curriculum as the CSU Board of Trustees eliminated the American Institutions requirement by rewriting the state’s education code (Title V)  re  SB 1440 (Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act, 2010) and ignored faculty expertise and objections to  a new and expensive statewide remediation program (Mandatory Early Start).

Below are the comments prepared by the Executive Committee of the ASCSU  in response to this proposal to eliminate the upper division GE requirement.  It  also mentions  resolutions on Propositions. 30 and 32.  Prop. 30,    Governor Brown’s budget initiative, will implement a $250 mil trigger cut to the CSU if it fails to pass in the November 6 election.  Prop. 32  is a union-busting measure, heavily funded by the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove’s SuperPac.   teri yamada

 

Comments to the CSU Board of Trustees

September 19, 2012

ASCSU Chair Diana Guerin

A few weeks ago, I had hoped to be sharing a resolution from the Academic Senate recognizing the faculty honored as the outstanding professors at the campuses of the CSU.  Unfortunately, as I will report in a moment, an intervening event prevented that resolution from being developed.

I can report to you that last week the Academic Senate passed resolutions on Prop 30, Prop 32, and your agenda item pertaining to the potential budget cut should Prop 30 fail. These have been forwarded to you.

In discussing with the Academic Senate leadership the topics to cover in today’s report to the Board, immediate past chair Jim Postma suggested talking about the workings of the CSU as an airline. Please bear with me.

If the CSU were an airline, let’s imagine together the fleet of planes.  In my mind I see jumbo jets, gleaming white with black trim, and big red letters proudly proclaiming CSU on the fuselage and tail.

In CSU Airlines, the Trustees are like the Board of Directors.  You oversee the activities of the organization, including establishing broad policies and objectives, appointing executives, and monitoring human and financial resources.

Next we have the campus presidents, who are CEOs in charge of overseeing the day-to-day operations at various hubs. They ensure that operations are in line with the policies and objectives set by the Board.

Who are the passengers on CSU Airlines?  They are the students.  In 2012, CSU had over 425,000 students seeking passage to their intended destinations.

These student-passengers are flown to their destinations by the pilots of CSU Airlines, the faculty. In 2011, CSU Airlines had about 10,000 full-time pilots and 6,000 pilots on associated commuter airlines, our lecturer faculty. The pilots are hired because of their specialized knowledge and expertise in flying the jets. It is their responsibility to deliver the passengers safely to their intended destinations.

Of course, many other employees are critical to keeping our airliners flying on schedule—mechanics, flight attendants, ticket agents, baggage handlers, and so forth, and these are analogous to the various staff and administrators on the campuses.

Everyone in CSU Airlines has an important role, and the smooth operation of the airline is dependent upon the employees performing their clearly designated duties and responsibilities.

So, back to reality.

According to the Board of Trustees Report on Governance, Collegiality, and Responsibility in the CSU adopted in 1985, “Collegial governance assigns primary responsibility to the faculty for the educational functions of the institution…” This includes curriculum and methods of teaching. Due to the faculty’s knowledge of the subject matter and pedagogic expertise, this makes good sense.

Not only is the authority of the faculty over the curriculum delineated in your own policy, but it is set forth in law.  Faculty authority is also recognized in documents guiding the profession, such as the American Association of University Professors Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which has been commended by the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

Thus, faculty authority over the curriculum is well established.

Notwithstanding these dictums, we on the Academic Senate were stunned to find item 3 on your Educational Policies Committee agenda when it was posted to the web on Friday, September 7th, because we received official notice just a few moments earlier in an email stamped 3:49 pm.

In our hypothetical CSU Airlines, we view this as the equivalent of someone bringing a bomb on board our plane.

We were stunned that our security procedures had failed us.

We were stunned because we met twice over the summer on June 1st and August 15th with Academic Affairs leadership for the purpose of jointly establishing security measures to prevent bombs on board our planes.

We were stunned because we met with Academic Affairs leadership at the Chancellor’s Office on August 15th and had what we believed to be a collegial meeting to discuss the agenda item specified as “new and continuing CSU initiatives relevant to ASCSU.”

We were stunned to realize that this item eviscerating general education was apparently known to Academic Affairs at the time of our meeting on August 15th yet it did not appear on any of the lists shared with us nor was it mentioned during our two hour meeting.

On August 23rd one of the senators contacted me, to tell me that a decision had been made to eliminate upper division general education requirements. I assured him I would check on it and immediately sent an inquiry via email, to which there was no reply.  I followed up a few days later, again receiving no reply. I checked with the chair of the Chancellor’s General Education Advisory Committee, who indicated no knowledge of such a proposal, in no uncertain terms. In response to my subsequent phone call here at the Chancellor’s Office, I was told the administrator was working on a project and unable to respond. Hence, I officially learned of agenda item 3 only shortly before it was announced on your agenda.

After intense discussion during the past week, the Academic Senate was provided an opportunity to review the substitute agenda item a few hours before we adjourned last Friday. We note that the item suggests that faculty agree with the proposal.  On the contrary, we were not able to review the proposal with care; it came to us much like a hijacker’s note rather than a request for review or assistance.

Over the past few years, the Academic Senate has expressed its concern that the CSU has undertaken many curriculum-related initiatives which began at the system-wide level without appropriate consultation with faculty.  This latest example is perhaps the most egregious and has not only undermined the work of our Executive Committee, the Academic Senate, and the trust of the faculty, but also made further progress on SB 1440 transfer degrees more challenging to achieve and led to unnecessary upset on the campuses at the start of what is to be another very trying year.

The Academic Senate Executive Committee was committed to establishing procedures to work proactively with administration to identify issues of mutual concern in the shared governance process envisioned in Board policy, enshrined in the law, and promulgated in the standards of the profession.

The original agenda item proposing to eliminate upper division general education and reduce lower division GE was developed without any faculty consultation. The faculty consultation on the substitute agenda item is analogous to the actions the pilot and crew would take to get the bomb off the plane upon reading the hijacker’s demands.

It is certainly true that our airline wants to have on-time departures and arrivals. It is also undeniably true that when flying from Los Angeles to Chicago, it would be foolhardy to land in Des Moines rather than Chicago simply because the scheduled arrival time is reached. The goal is and should be to travel to the ticketed destination, not to fly the plane for a specified period of time. In other words, faculty agree with and seek to further the goal of students graduating within four years. However, that four-year mark should not be more important than the quality and completeness of the education our students receive. Some journeys take longer than others. Some journeys require more fuel than others.

Pilots are responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient fuel onboard, including a safety factor [that is, more fuel than is strictly needed]. That fuel amount is affected by the size of the jet, weight of the passengers and cargo, headwinds, and so forth. Quite clearly, the pilots doing the calculation for fuel needs are better enabled to make those decisions than the CEOs of the airline.  If nothing else, they are aware of the passengers, baggage and weather conditions for each flight. Teaching faculty on our campuses know our students best, and understand the factors that affect students’ abilities to learn and to succeed. We need to leave sufficient latitude for our faculty to maximize student success, even if that means having a major program that is more than 120 units. Students might need to take 16 units per semester, for example, in some degree programs.

In closing, moving forward given such a breach of trust, respect, and integrity is going to be challenging.  Our September plenary was hijacked, undermining progress on the agenda items jointly discussed with Academic Affairs leadership at our August 15th meeting.

Your policy on Collegiality states that “The governing board, through its administrative officers, makes sure that there is continual consultation with appropriate faculty representatives on these matters [that is, educational functions].  Faculty recommendations are normally accepted, except in rare instances and for compelling reasons.”

We therefore formally request that Board leadership and the Chancellor insure that faculty consultation has occurred prior to items being placed on the Board agenda on matters where the faculty have primary responsibility due to their knowledge of the subject matter and pedagogic expertise, such as on curricular matters. Please ask, “Where is the Academic Senate’s advice?” or “What do the faculty say?”

If such input is lacking, we request that you refer the item to the Academic Senate without placing it on your agenda.  In this case, assuming that meaningful consultation can occur in the two months between the appearance of an item on the board’s agenda and action by the board is akin to asking the pilot to discuss next month’s flight schedule in mid-air while defusing a bomb.

The AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities states the following: “…A college or university in which all the components are aware of their interdependence, of the usefulness of communication among themselves, and of the force of joint action will enjoy increased capacity to solve educational problems.”

Your own policy recognizes the value of the process of shared governance, and recognizes the authority of faculty over the curriculum: “Collegial governance allows the academic community to work together to find the best answers to issues facing the university.  Collegial governance assigns primary responsibility to the faculty for the educational functions of the institution in accordance with basic policy as determined by the Board of Trustees.”

We ask you to be vigilant: when others who are not pilots want to take over and fly the planes our students are on, please make sure they haven’t thrown the pilots off the plane. The pilots are the ones certified to fly the planes….

(Published with permission of the ASCSU Executive Committee, Sept. 22, 2012)


We Are All Corporate Professors Now (and what to do about it): Summer Reading Mashup

The Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) is the largest (and only public) university in Cambodia. To teach there you must be registered as a member of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Photo taken by Teri Yamada, June 2012.

I have just returned from six weeks in Cambodia.  Since 1996, I have worked there for most summers  to assist Khmer colleagues rebuild the higher education sector.  The Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP)  has a number of buildings spread throughout the city.  The RUPP building shown at the left contains the science labs which were stripped of every item and turned into holding pens for pigs by the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979).  Not only was the entire material infrastructure of the country dismantled and destroyed so was the intellectual infrastructure with over 90% of teachers, professors, judges, lawyers, doctors killed with the back of their head smashed in with a club  (bullets were too precious to use) or they died  from hard labor, extreme exposure, or from starvation, or a variety of illnesses — malaria, dengue, influenza, etc.  At least 90% of all library materials were destroyed as the Khmer Rouge used paper from books to roll cigarettes or for fuel.  I mention this because during the 1950s and 1960s Cambodia had the best public school system in Southeast Asia and now remains in  runner up place for the worst.  It has been very difficult for Cambodia to reconstruct the intellectual capacity it once had in the late 1960s to be competitive in the new global economy.  There are unknown consequences to dismantling a functional, however imperfect,  public education system.  Of course, in our case, it doesn’t require the Khmer Rouge.

We Are All Corporate Professors Now (and what to do about it): Summer Reading Mashup

by Teri Yamada, Professor of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

Over the past few months a number of excellent academic writers and public intellectuals have published information on the “corporate professor.”  Some contend that the formation of this role is aligned with the politics and economics of an “inverted totalitarianism” that has been overtaking American democracy since the 1970s (Hedges).   The question arises: How can we protect shrinking public spaces of open discourse—our own university’s capacity to protect and foster academic freedom and diverse research—in an age that promotes brand over content?

For how we got here, start with Ethan Schrum’s “A Bibliographic  Essay on the University, the Market, and Professors” in The Hedgehog Review (Spring 2012).  This is a nuanced, well-researched historical overview that covers the two major structural shifts in the  “constantly changing university”: post WWII and the ascent of neoliberalism from the 1970s.   The general public, which once viewed public education as a common good in the 1960s, has been propagandized into a perceptual shift that valorizes free markets and the university as a private good.  It is during that thirty-forty year process that unknowingly and unintentionally we became corporate professors.

With Schrum’s overview as a basis, continue to explore the role of the corporate professor in Gaye Tuchman’s essay “Pressured and Measured: Professors at Wannabe U.”  also in the same issue of The Hedgehog Review.  Here is her understanding of the historical and economic context in which we find ourselves:

            “Student consumerism, the control of faculty through metrics, the endowment, the division of athletics, and the commodification of education are all linked in a fairly straightforward manner. Emphasizing the individual right to profit for decades—indeed, the rights of the individual over the responsibilities of the individual to the group—neoliberalism has been identifying education as a private good.  It has also stressed the virtue and ubiquity of modern corporate organization, especially its ability to compete in a global economy and to “grow profits.” In part because universities have adapted to these tenets, in part because they have been conforming to the “best practices” of other institutions, in part because states have been putting their money into other activities, such as funding prisons to force miscreants to take responsibility for their actions, the relationship between higher education and the states has changed. Colleges and Universities have become ever more corporatized…. (They) have struggled to find alternative revenue streams, such as sales of and royalties from faculty inventions. Designing new regulations to promote productivity and to spur professorial compliance, they reward conformers and punish shirkers.”

Within this historical context the corporate professor, according to Tuchman, is “increasingly regulated by an accountability regime, a politics of surveillance, control and market management disguised as the value-neutral administration of individuals and organizations (italics mine).  it is the structural analog of an audit culture.”  We are all familiar with the imposition of student assessment metrics by our regional accrediting commissions, most significantly over the past decade as their own accountability came under scrutiny through the federal government’s displeasure over graduation/retention rates and PELL grants.

In response to assessment demands outsourced to us by our own university management under pressure from accrediting commissions seeking to prove their own accountability to the federal government, we have embedded student learning objectives in courses and programs; measured them through a variety of instruments; written reports on outcomes.    We email our reports to assessment coordinators or administrators who coordinate that process.  They gather this data into massive, time-consuming reports which they forward to regional accrediting commissions in preparation for site visits.  All of this to prove that we are “accountable”; yet, I have never received feedback from management on any annual assessment report or plan that I have submitted.   Under the threat of program elimination, reluctant corporate professors have slogged through assessment report production. We must prove through data and assessment that we and our programs are “valuable.” Through  our efforts, in a sort of halo effect, academic managers acquire “value” and subsequently our accreditation commissions.  In this way we have inadvertently become conformists of value.

The time-consuming nature of program and course assessment is a topic taken up in Dave Porter’s “Assessment as a Subversive Activity” in  AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom (2012, v. 3).  Since it is a response to two previous articles in AAUP JAF (2011) critical of the “relentlessly expanding assessment movement,”  it provides a good overview of critical opinions regarding the whole university assessment regime.  Porter has a point in reframing the problem of assessment in terms of a “lack of institutional integrity and the manipulative managerial style of administrators who do not understand the learning process and educational systems sufficiently to implement assessment programs effectively” (2).  That resonates as true; however,  faculty are not in a position to fire incompetent administrators. Only the campus president has that authority.  Not a single administrator with multiple negative faculty evaluations on performance reviews has been fired during my twenty-two years on campus.

We are experiencing a structural flaw in the organization of the “public” university: administrators exercise much more power over faculty through the assessment regime than faculty do over administrators. I suggest we seek an adjustment. Our colleagues at the University of Virginia have demonstrated success in rebalancing power  through concerted collective action,  enabling the reinstatement of Teresa Sullivan.  We could begin to change the management/faculty power imbalance by rotating qualified faculty into a significant number of administrative roles for three-year terms with an option to renew. Could academic senates facilitate structural change by voting to implement this type of plan as a five-year pilot program? The reduction of highly paid administrators would result in cost savings with the potential of a better managed public university.

There is a dangerous correlation between the assessment/metrics regime and the loss of creative space for research in the corporate public university.  If research doesn’t generate money through patents or grants, if a project’s outcomes can’t be quickly measured for short-term gain, then it  has no measurable value in Corporate U. And it if can’t be measured, it appears to have no value.  Moreover the metrics of assessment are now wedded to the corporate professor’s tenure and merit pay.   This culture of accountability ensures the public that tax dollars are not “wasted on useless professors.”   Different points are assigned to various types of publication.  A certain number of points must be scored over a certain number of years to receive merit pay with little recourse for grievance. Texas seems to be particularly keen on this type of standardization (3). A culture of surveillance of this nature is not conducive to risk-taking in research. Thus we undermine our own global competitive edge through a narrow-minded accountability regime.

Several scholars and think tanks have published commentary and reports  that express concern over the decline of research institutions in the U.S. Some attribute this to the corporate culture of the university that emphasizes individual competition over collaboration, and quick money over larger, expansive forays into the unknown (2).

Wrapping up, here is an email advertisement I received last spring in advance of our regional accrediting commission’s (WASC) annual assessment gathering (ARC) with its many vendors (1).  I have removed the company’s name for legal reasons; the bold type is theirs.  It reminds me of a billboard I saw in Phnom Penh recently selling “newness’” as fashion (anything new and trendy must be good so buy it!):

We couldn’t say it any better than WASC

“U.S. higher education is in the midst of a paradigm shift.  We face economic, technological, political and social challenges and more change is on the horizon.  It is clear that we must transform higher education … but how?” – ARC webpage

We couldn’t have said it better: New paradigms, New media. New methods. New modalities.  Each aimed at delivering the ultimate student experience, all for the greater good.

At XXX Systems, we know student outcomes are your highest priority.  And that colleges and universities today are also looking to improve business performance – by containing and reducing costs, by branding themselves to attract the best students, by standardizing and automating business processes.

Not to mention keeping pace with an unforgiving environment of reporting and accountability.

To stay ahead of these disruptive events and paradigm shifts, you need a disruptive technology –  you need XXX Enterprise …a twenty-first century academic management system that’s InnovativeIntegratedIntelligent” (4).

 FOOTNOTES

1. WASC may be listening to criticism from both the federal and local levels. See Fain’s  “Rise of the Accreditor? See also Keep’s “The Worrisome Ascendance of Business in Higher Education.

2. For example see Atkinson and Stewart, Kiley, Clay, Chomsky, and Nelson below.

3. Adjuncts tragically are even more marginalized, see Berrett’s “Underpaid and Restless: Study Presents a ‘Dismal Picture’ of Life as a Part-Time Professor.”

4. For another view on disruptive technology see Neem’s “Disruptive Innovation: Rhetoric or Reality?”

READING/REFERENCE

Atkinson, Robert and Luke A. Stewart. “University Research Funding: The United States is Behind and Falling.” Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report. May 2011.

Atlas, Ben. “Chris Hedges on the Inverted Totalitarianism and the Commodification of Culture.” December 12, 2010. Benatlas.com

———. “Chris Hedges on the Corporate Neofeudalism.” December 12, 2010. Benatlas.com

Berrett, Dan. “Underpaid and Restless: Study Presents a ‘Dismal Picture’ of Life as a Part-Time Professor.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 20, 2012

Chomsky, Noam.  “Academic Freedom and the Corporatization of Universities.” University of Toronto Scarborough, April 6, 2011.

Clay, Rebecca.  “The corporatization of higher education: The intermingling of business and academic cultures brings both concerns and potential benefits to psychology.” American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology. 39.11 (December 2008).

Donoghue, Frank. “Tenure: Yes or No?” The Chronicle of Higher Education. July 14, 2012.

Fain, Paul. “Rise of the Accreditor?” in Inside Higher Education. July 10,2012.

Giroux, Henry A. “Beyond the Politics of the Big Lie: The Education Deficit and the New Authoritarianism. Originally a Truthout Op Ed.  June 19, 2012.

———.“Zombie Politics, Democracy, and the Threat of Authoritarianism – Part I.”  Peter Lang.  June 2011.

Higgs, Steven. “Commodifying Education: The Corporatization of the American University“. Counterpunch. November 2011.

Jaschik, Scott. “U.S. Decline or a Flawed Measure?”  Inside Higher Ed. October 8, 2009.

Keep, William. “The Worrisome Ascendance of Business in Higher Education.”  The Chronicle of Higher Education.  The June 21, 2012.

Kiley, Kevin. “How to Stay on Top.” Inside Higher Ed. June 15, 2012.

———“Big Target, Bigger Cuts.” Inside Higher Ed. January 18, 2012

Neem, Johann. “Disruptive Innovation: Rhetoric or Reality?” Inside Higher Ed.  June 26, 2012.

Nelson, Libby A.  “Where Will the Money Come From?” Inside Higher Ed. July 12, 2012.

Porter, Dave.  “Assessment as a Subversive Activity”  AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, 3 (20012).

Roberts, Yvonne. “The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz — review.”  The Guardian, July 13, 2012.

Somek, Alexander. Individualism Oxford University Press, 2008.  Review in The International Journal of Constitutional Law

The National Research Council. “Research Universities and the Future of America.” 2012

Wilson, Robin. “Faculty Power Brokers at UVa.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. July 1, 2012.


Highlights: Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, 3rd National Meeting (May 18-20, 2012)

Report from the Third National Meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE)  

Teri Yamada, Prof. Asian Studies, posting from Phnom Penh

APSCUF March 2012 campaign against state budget cuts to public higher ed.

CFHE, May 20, 2012, Joint Statement on Federal Financial Aid  

Demand for college is at an all-­‐time high and student debt has reached a devastating one trillion dollars. Despite this, Congress is debating whether to cut student aid.

This kind of cut would further close off college access, particularly for lower income students and students of color, the growth demographic of traditional age students.

Proposals to reduce eligibility and the size of Pell Grants and to increase interest rates on student loans, if adapted, would be a tragic and short-­‐sighted slamming of the door on our nation’s future.

We need a strong Pell Grant program that does not reduce either eligibility or the size of the grant. We also need the lowest possible interest rates on federally subsidized student loans.

This is not the time to curtail the prospects for students to attend colleges and universities.

We need a national discussion about how ensure that higher education is affordable, available and accessible to everyone who can benefit from it. 


The third national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) was held under beautiful blue skies in Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 18-20, 2012 (1).   More than 60 faculty and professional staff, including members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, participated in a grassroots assessment of the challenges facing public higher education.

The event began with short reports on challenges and successes.   A noteworthy success since the last CFHE  (Boston: December 2011) was a formal meeting with U.S Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.  The CFHE contingent was able to correct some misinformation, such as the belief that increasing costs in public higher education are due to high faculty salaries rather than dramatically higher administrative costs and expensive building projects that are unrelated to direct instructional needs. Other topics  included problems facing the contingent faculty workforce. Over the past 40 years, institutions have shifted away from tenured faculty to 70% of the workforce being underpaid, contingent or “adjunct faculty with no health and other benefits” (2).    CFHE will schedule a follow-up meeting with the U.S. Department of Education to continue this discussion.

Other successes reported on opening night include UFF-Florida International University’s contract gains; Rutgers AUP-AFT advance of Non Tenture-Track (NTT) faculty issues using a caucus model and its successful negotiation of the first promotion pathway for NTT faculty; the Inter Faculty Organization of Minnesota, which successfully negotiated a restoration of Professional Improvement Funds.

In an age of shock-doctrine capitalism, many states—Pennsylavania, New Jersey, and California, for example—are still experiencing dramatic budget cuts to public higher education, while other states like New York have revenue streams that have stabilized.  New York’s CUNY now has other restructuring challenges, however, with the imposition of mandated Pathways.  The upper midwestern region—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin—is facing an onslaught of antiunion legislation promoted by ALEC and funded by the Koch brothers.

Over 80 pieces of antiunion legislation have been introduced in Michigan, attempting to change it to a “right-to-work” state. One plan attempts to divide the state by a patchwork of “right-to-work zones” that would be locally implemented in more conservative areas of the state. In response, Michigan-AAUP has organized the Protect Our Jobs campaign, which includes advocating for a state constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights. It succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. Ohio faculty unions are working on a similar initiative.  The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) is facing another 20% state reduction to higher education in Pennsylvania.  In response they initiated the United we Stand, Underfunded we Fail campaign in March 2012.   APSCUF is confronting both Governor Corbett’s higher education task force, which narrowly focuses on “technical experience, distance learning and job training”  and the specter of right-to-work legislation.

Discussion on contingent faculty.

Also discussed over the weekend were the poor working conditions of contingent faculty who face at-whim employment and poverty level wages.  The New Faculty Majority (NFM) has contributed to a recent publication on these issues: Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority.  As part of its coalition building campaign, NFM convened a national summit in Washington, DC on January 28, 2012: Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education.”  This summit focused on improving communications among stakeholders, identifying broad-based reform goals along with strategies for their implementation.

The reduction in state spending for public education is still a common trend across states.  As Rudy Fichtenbaum and Howard Bunsis stressed in their presentation on university budgets—“Taking on the administration’s ‘We’re broke’ argument”—a state’s fiscal crisis is being used by many institutions as an excuse to restructure. Restructuring is imposed irrespective of the hefty unrestricted reserves which institution’s refuse to allocate to instructional support.  This restructuring conforms to the current trend to vocationalize and standardize pubic higher education while weakening faculty governance.  To track our institution’s actual financial health, we need to examine its audited financial statements.

Several ideas for funding public higher education were brought forth for discussion with the understanding that states alone cannot solve the public higher education funding problem.   A menu of solutions could be used across states depending on their specific situation.  Some funding ideas at the federal level were a “pay it forward” plan that includes doubling the size of PELL grants while increasing the scope of eligibility and providing maintenance of effort provisions at the state level; other ideas involved various taxes including a financial speculation tax.

Gary Rhoades, Head of CFHE Virtual Think Tank

CFHE’s Virtual Think Tank was established to introduce a faculty voice in the national discussion of higher education policies, currently dominated by executives, consultants, and philanthropic foundations.  Gary Rhoades provided an update on CFHE’s first two policy reports.   “Closing the Door, Increasing the Gap: Who’s not going to (community) college?” (April 2012) analyzes recent problematic enrollment and policy trends at the nation’s community colleges. As caps on community college enrollment are expanding, the scope of educational programs is narrowing; as quality is undermined, access is denied to large numbers of lower-income students and students of color.  The second policy report, forthcoming shortly, “Who is professor staff and how can s/he teach so many classes?” is based on New Faculty Majority research regarding contingent faculty working conditions and their affect on student learning. Just-in-time hiring practices do not allow any faculty adequate time to develop a course.  Also, the demographics of contingent faculty models complex racial inequities.

CFHE plans its next meeting, Sacramento, January 2013.

Some Shared Resources:

  • Profs. Douglas Carr (carr@oakland.edu) and Roger Larocca (larocca@oakland.edu).  In response to the advocates of performance funding in higher eduction, including Lumina Foundation and the National Governors Association, and the fact that “many states have adopted performance-funding programs in spite of the weak evidence of their effectiveness” (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, for example), Professors Carr and Larocca have co-authored “The Effects of Performance Funding on Higher Education Outcomes” (26 March 2012).

Abstract: “We study the effects of performance funding metrics for graduation and retention on actual graduation and retention rates at all 4-year and 2-year public universities…. We find no significant effect of graduation metrics on graduation rates at 4-year or 2-year institutions, and no significant effect of retention measures on retention rates at 4-year institutions.  We do find that retention measures are significantly associated with higher retention rates at 2-year institutions, but only for 2-year institutions that receive a relatively large share of their funding from state appropriations.”

  • AAUP-Connecticut State University.  Academic Year in Review: 2011-2012. Vol. 3.13 (May 3, 2012).  This report contains information on major administrative restructuring a new Board of Regents for Higher Education imposed on the Connecticut State University System (CSUS), a seventeen-campus system, to prepare “students for productive and satisfying futures.” Restructuring eliminated twenty-four top administrative positions from CSU and CTC. It consolidated higher-Ed into ConnSCU (Connecticut State Colleges & Universities) a merger of CSU, Community/Technical Colleges, and Charter Oak State College.  The legislature was also busy, passing HB 5030 that established a “general education core of courses.”
  • PSC-CUNY.org. (PSC-CUNYORG@PSC.CUNY) “What is Pathways?” In June 2011, CUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution to establish a new, uniform General Education Framework, called “Pathways” “…ostensibly created to facilitate student transfer throughout CUNY.”  This mandate requires a 30-credit common core for CUNY colleges: 12-credit “required core” and 18-credit “flexible core.”  All Common Core courses must fulfill learning objectives established by the Chancellor’s office. This resolution was passed over the objections of the University Faculty Senate, Professional Staff Conference, among others. Pathways is aligned with the national reform agenda, funded by Lumina and the Gates foundations, that stresses ‘college completion’ above all else.  PSC-CUNY considers this reform an assault on faculty governance and a further corporatization of the university system.  As a form of austerity education it establishes an impoverished curriculum “that will prepare CUNY students for low expectations in an austerity economy,” one that accommodates to rather than challenges underfunding of the system.  See also the CUNY Community College financial analysis report “Invest in Opportunity: Invest in CUNY Community Colleges” prepared by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC).  In fall 2012, tuition will have increased by 212% since 1990-91. “In 2011-12 CUNY community college tuition and fees ($3,946) were 33% higher than the national average tuition and fees at 2-year public colleges ($2,963).”
  • Bruce Nissen and Yue Zhang. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.  “How FIU Spends Its Money: FIU Expenditures on Faculty and Higher Level Administration with special emphasis on the two years between 2008-09 to 2010-11.”  The United Faculty of Florida at Florida International University (UFF-FIU) commissioned this report to establish creditable data on the number and salary of administrators compared to faculty as well as data on increased faculty workload.  Information in this report reflects patterns across the United States: administration is diverting resources away from faculty and instruction to administrative personnel and salaries.  Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators at America’s leading universities grew by 39%, while the number of faculty and service employees grew by 18%.  At FIU during this period, the number of administrators per 100 students grew by 79.5% while the number of faculty decreased by 29.2% as instate undergraduate tuition grew by 40.3% and FIU enrollment rose 57%. During the past two years covered by the study, the pace of administrative growth has slowed to 10.2%; yet the growth in faculty numbers has increased only 4.2% as the growth in students increased 10.7%.  Average annual faculty workload increased 3.5% per year at a rate consistent with the previous 13 year period, when the teaching load grew 56%.  The number of faculty tenure track positions at all levels declined over the past two years by 11.25% as the total salaries for these positions decreased by 5.27%.  The top 40 highest paid administrators at FIU have salaries that range between $522.750 and $217,508.  The average salary of $198,643 for the second tier of top paid administrators, when adjusted to faculty, is $41,789 more than the average salary for full professors.
  • Prof. Rudy Fichtenbaum (President-elect AAUP). “How to Invest in Higher Education” proposes the idea of a “financial speculation tax.”  According to a study published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “A financial speculation tax would generate $176.9 to $353.8 billion in revenue per year.” Some federal legislators have proposed bills based on this idea, which is supported by a number of prominent economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
NOTES
  1. Special thanks to Michael Bailey and others of the MI-AAUP (Michigan Conference American Association of University Professors) for hosting this conference.  Twelve CFHE affiliates also assisted with funding for this event.
  2. For further information, see the New Faculty Majority.

Outsmarting the Matrix: Transforming the Privatization Trend in Public Higher Ed.

Outsmarting the Matrix: Transforming the Privatization Trend in Public Higher Ed

          Teri Shaffer Yamada, Prof. of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

Student march on the capitol — Sacramento, CA — in support of public higher education (March 4, 2012)

There is a window of opportunity for constructive change over the next six months during the build-up to the November national election.  But this change requires engaged faculty working together in innovative ways.  And it requires a new strategy eschewing a “university business as usual” mentality.  That reality is gone: there is no business as usual at the public university.

So our current moment in history demands we organize around commonalities and develop different forms of more effective action.  If we act strategically, we have an opportunity to alter the privatization momentum that threatens the survival of meaningful public education for the 99%.

We could start by unabashedly embracing and valorizing the greatness of “our values.”  We transform and enrich the lives of our students because we care (1). We live in a media culture that foregrounds violence and cruelty, where selfless concern isn’t typically newsworthy unless it is driven by anger or hyperbole.  Yet everyday kindness happens and without it we would be much diminished.  And our “story” is compelling across ideological lines simply because we base it on shared values of  “American democracy”: opportunity for all.   Framed in the context of education, it is access to quality instruction that develops an educated demos.  In turn, our students provide the citizen power to run a government and economic system that reflects the needs and talents of the 99%. That may sound quaint, but imagine the outcomes if our current Hobbesian trajectory of consolidating power remains unchecked.

So what defines this matrix?  We are now confronted with a mirror reality of the dismantling of K-12 public education.   We have been out-organized and out- financed as reflected in Steven Brills’ reportage “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand” from the New York Times (May 17, 2010):

….Schnur, who runs a Manhattan-based school-reform group called New Leaders for New Schools, sits informally at the center of a network of self-styled reformers dedicated to overhauling public education in the United States. They have been building in strength and numbers over the last two decades and now seem to be planted everywhere that counts. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses for reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Teach for America’s founder, Wendy Kopp; and the New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein could be considered the patron saints of the network.

This is the matrix: a network of well-placed and well-funded powerful individuals with shared values, who can impact state and federal agencies and legislators through influential friends or lobbyists, media and foundation access, and  sponsored think-tank publications. We have allowed this to happen: “power abhors a vacuum.”

We can begin by changing our approach.   We can shift to “motivated reasoning” as we seek to change hearts and minds (2).   And we can message our values based upon the target audience.

As we learn from the impressive successes of the for-profit education matrix, we recognize the importance of shared values.  It forms the foundational connectivity of the network of relationships required to establish a power base.   Thoughtful leadership throughout a wide network is necessary to accomplish the change we do believe in: re-democratizing public education.  Several important meetings will take place under the auspices of AAUP, NEA and CFHE over the next few months (3).    What is an effective strategy these three can develop together and communicate to the grassroots to deflect further damage to public higher ed?  Can we move quickly enough?

One possibility for promoting change is to emulate the strategy of ALEC.  We could start by developing one piece of legislation that most faculty unions could promote to their state legislators.   The California Faculty Association (CFA) worked for several years to pass a transparency bill  so that the public could have access to the financial records of the “for-profit” side of the California State University system.    CFA is currently sponsoring a bill to democratize the CSU Board of Trustees  as part of an action plan published in its recent white paper “For-Profit Higher Education & the CSU: A Cautionary Tale” .   Are other faculty unions sponsoring bills?  What is the most beneficial bill we could introduce in a range of states to protect public higher ed?  What is the most “elegant” strategic plan at the federal level?  The  “outcomes-assessment” obsessed federal Department of Education often disappoints but there may be some leverage there as well.

There are also global trends we need to consider: the ubiquitous embrace of “common core standards,” including our own Department of Education.  This trend has filtered down to the accreditation commissions in the United States.

The Lumina Foundation has funded a pilot program on “degree qualifications”  at the college level—common  outcomes for AA, BA, MA degrees across the United States— through the Western Association of Colleges and Universities (WASC).  The first set of “volunteer” institutions will be reporting in April on their progress in implementing and assessing the Lumina “degree qualification profile.”

Beyond the new trend to measure graduation and retention rates, we can be restructured internally through changed accreditation standards that demand we measure “value-added degrees” through common-core standards assessments or track the type of jobs our graduates acquire after leaving the institution.   The for-profit higher ed sector is being nudged in this direction to make it more accountable to the federal government for its voracious consumption of public funds through PELL grants and military initiatives that fund education.  Some for-profit providers can fund their entire operation through these two sources alone.  Their lobbyists insist that public higher ed be subjected to the same assessments.

Every faculty member should pay attention to new directives imposed by their institutional accreditation agency.    If the end result is a diminished capacity to offer a wide range of degrees since programs must justify their existence through proof of job placement as an outcome, we may become a different kind of vocational training institution that has lost the soul of a liberal arts education.

Be sure to track the forthcoming reports on the 2012 Bologna Ministerial Conference on the GlobalHigherEd blog.  There will be further discussion there on common international standards which would impact us nationally.

EXCERPT FROM GlobalHigherEd  The European Higher Education Area: Retrospect and Prospect (Posted: 22 Mar 2012 07:24 PM PDT)

First, the 2012 Bologna Ministerial Conference:is expected to bring together 47 European Higher Education Area ministerial delegations, the European Commission, as well as the Bologna Process consultative members and Bologna Follow-Up Group partners.  The meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of progress of the Bologna Process and set out the key policy issues for the future. The EHEA ministers will jointly adopt the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué, committing to further the Bologna goals until 2020.

Second, The 2012 Bologna Policy Forum:organised in conjunction with the Ministerial Conference is aimed to intensify policy dialogue and cooperation with partners across the world. The theme of the third Bologna Policy forum is “Beyond the Bologna process: Creating and connecting national, regional and global higher education spaces”. The Policy forum has four sub-themes, which will be addressed during the parallel sessions, namely: “Global academic mobility: Incentives and barriers, balances and imbalances”; “Global and regional approaches to quality enhancement of Higher Education”; “Public responsibility for and of HE within national and regional context”; “The contribution of Higher Education reforms to enhancing graduate employability”. This year’s edition of the Bologna Policy Forum will be finalised with the adoption of the 2012 Bologna Policy Forum Statement.

Notes:

1) Those of us who participated in the feminist philosophy movement of the 1980s know this as the “ethics of care.”  See “Ethics of Care” in “Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy.” March 24, 2012.

2)   See Dan Kahan’s definition based upon “motivated cognition” which refers to “the unconscious tendency of individuals to fit their processing of information to conclusions that suit some end or goal” in “What Is Motivated Reasoning and How Does It Work?”  See also a great video clip with a discussion of this concept “Dan Kahan — The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate.”  Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollar Professor Law and Professor of Psychology at the Yale Law School.  His research focuses on “cultural cognition” (how social and political group affiliations affect our views of contested areas of ‘reality’) and motivated reasoning.

3)   CFHE (Campaign for the Future of Higher Education) is having its Third National Gathering in Ann Arbor on May 18, 2012, hosted by the Michigan Conference AAUP. Contact CFHE.conference@gmail.com for further information. Registration is free.

References:

California Faculty Association. “For-Profit Higher Education & the CSU: A Cautionary Tale” March 19, 2012

Brills, Steve.  The Teachers’ Unions’ Last StandNew York Times.  May 17, 2010.

Kahan, Dan. “What is Motivated Reasoning and How Does it Work?”   May 4, 2011.

———. “Dan Kahan- The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate”   February 13, 2012.

Lederman, Doug. “What’s ‘Good Enough’?”  Inside Higher Ed. April 14, 2011.

———. “What Degrees Should Mean.” Inside Higher Ed. January 25, 2011.

Lumina Foundation.  “The Degree Qualifications Profile: Defining degrees: A new direction for American higher education to be tested and developed in partnership with faculty, students, leaders and stakeholders.” 


Selling Water By the River: Reflections on AAUP and NEA’s national leadership strategy

Earl Warren Japanese Garden, CSU Long Beach

Selling Water By the River:  Reflections on AAUP and NEA’s national leadership strategy

Teri Yamada, Professor of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

In our current gilded age where all politics is business, we educators yearn for ethical leaders to admire.   Under assault in the trenches, our faculty unions are undermined at the local level, often by both political parties who are using this bad economy to privatize public education.  It is depressing as we fight the good fight against multibillionaires.   Therefore, we can at least hope that our national education associations will have our backs, effectively lobbying for us at both the federal and state levels to stop this wildcat privatization.  As associations who represent us, we expect NEA (National Education Association) and AAUP (American Association of University Professors) to model the highest standards of ethical conduct and leadership as we struggle daily on our campuses to organize against faculty apathy, and as we lobby our state legislatures to act responsibly for the public good. In our local fights for equity and access to public higher education for every qualified student in our respective states, in our struggle to maintain quality education and academic freedom, in our efforts to preserve secure jobs with benefits, we need help!  We need effective ethical help.

Our expectation of ethical and effective leadership holds true for both AAUP and NEA.  Both serve the public higher education sector as our national representatives to the media and the Department of Education in Washington D.C.  How our AAUP and NEA leaders comport themselves, what they say to the media, to Arnie Duncan and President Obama, reflects back on the entire higher education sector.  It is time for some self-reflection.

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education commentary, former AAUP general secretary Gary Rhoades made a number of points about leadership and the difficult questions that AAUP must face if it is to survive as a respected and effective association.  The challenges are great.  But we all will be diminished if AAUP is unable or unwilling to embrace constructive criticism and prove by its actions that transformation is possible.  The United University Professions  (SUNY), have demonstrated the consequences of unresponsiveness by their February vote to end affiliation with AAUP after twelve years of relationship, citing a number of complaints including poor communication and lack of responsiveness.

NEA has also challenged patience.  Several years ago, NEA decided to establish or form a relationship with a proprietary affiliate called the NEA Academy (1) .  This Academy’s purpose it to serve as a portal to “online professional development products,” which means it provides a link to other providers’ online courses for teacher continuing education and Master’s Degrees.  Claiming to have a Content Quality and Review Board, the NEA Academy has published its Requirements for Inclusion in its products list.    These requirements include such standards as “content that aligns with NEA policy.”   One of the top three providers for NEA Academy’s courses is Western Governors University (WGU)

NEA stipulates that its vision is “a great public school for every student” and that its mission is “to advocate for education professionals.”  It promotes public education as a core value: “We believe public education is the cornerstone of our republic. Public education provides individuals with the skills to be involved, informed and engaged in our representative democracy.”   The question then is why does NEA embrace Western Governors University, a private, anti-faculty union provider of online courses?  How does this fit with NEA’s mission to advocate for “education professionals” when WGU is an institution that eschews teacher-based instruction; it has no teachers.  Why do this when so many excellent public universities and community colleges across the nation have online programs of the highest quality which adhere to the philosophy that teachers form the core of education?  Shouldn’t educators also deserve “a great public school” for their continuing education?

When our national associations fail to serve us well —as we battle on the ground to protect faculty jobs and save collective bargaining, to preserve adjunct positions with benefits and job security, to ensure quality control over curriculum, to save public education and academic freedom—we must wonder whom AAUP and NEA are serving.

Notes:

(1) This relationship needs further clarification.  NEA Academy charges a course fee for its portal services.

References

Rhoades, Gary. “Forget Executives the AAUP Should Turn to Grass-Roots Leaders” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 8 January 2012.

Schmidt, Peter.  “AAUP Loses Major Affiliate at SUNY” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 February 2012.

2/19/12

DISCLAIMER:  Restructuring Public Hi Ed is curated solely by me.  All editorial decisions as to what is posted are based upon my interest and concern about restructuring in the public higher education sector.  These blog posts should in no way reflect upon any other person or organization since this is a “personal blog.”   Please send your blog posts and comments on restructuring in public higher education for consideration to me at teri.yamada@gmail.com.


Reporting from UMass, Boston: Campaign for the Future of Higher Education

    Blog report by Teri Yamada  from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Nov. 4-6 Special thanks to UMass Profs. John Hess and Heike Schotton , political science student Daniel Finn, and PHENOM’s Ferd Wulkan  for taking the lead in organizing this event.

The second national gathering of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) is taking place at UMass in a warm and welcoming Boston this weekend.   Over seventy participants from 18 states  are meeting to continue the discussion on the future of higher education that began in Los Angeles on January 11, 2011.   Representatives  from the initial L.A. gathering ultimately ratified seven guiding principles  “Quality Higher Education for the 21st Century.”  These focus on access, equity, affordability, and quality as core principles  in CHFE’s effort to maintain public higher education as a right for everyone in the United States.

The UMass gathering is structured around a series of workshops and discussions that address issues facing a national grassroots movement with the intent  to preserve public higher education.  These include the importance of overcoming challenges to unity and solidarity by strengthening ties among  college sectors, between adjunct and tenure-line professors, students and faculty.  One workshop explores how to engage the media about the real crisis in higher education: a political issue regarding public policy priorities.

The meeting began on Friday evening with opening remarks, including information from students associated with Occupy Boston,  who encouraged the development of stronger student-faculty alliances across the nation.   Some participants also gave short reports on current concerns and trends in privatization occurring in their state and campus system.  A similar pattern emerges across the United States:  restructuring through disinvestment, sharp tuition increases, and the undermining of collective bargaining agreements.  This pattern of restructuring reveals  the intent to eradicate faculty governance as power is consolidated at the top management level of public colleges and universities.  New York is currently on the list of  extreme examples illustrating this privatization trend, although faculty in many states — Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Oregon, to name a few—are facing a range of challenges around  restructuring.  Prof. Gary Rhoades  (ASU) encouraged the participants to re-imagine public higher education according to their values.

The highlight of Saturday morning was the launch of CHFE’s Think Tank  under the direction of Rhoades and an advisory panel.  This think tank is established to support sound public policy on issues in higher education while  developing research that will serve as the basis for constructive change.  Three reports are imminent: “100s Not Served: Who’s Not Going Back to Community College;”  “Who Is Professor Staff And How Can S/he Teach So Many Classes?”;  Misplaced Priorities: Refocusing Resources on the Core Academic Mission.”  These inaugural reports will provide a counter-narrative to the current national framing of privatization as the sole choice for public higher education. They will foreground the flaws in the current rhetoric of student success in  new management’s  “efficiency” agenda to graduate large numbers of students as quickly as possible while downsizing faculty and weakening quality.  The report by Maria Maisto, Esther Merves and other scholars associated with the New Faculty Majority— “Who Is Professor Staff And How Can S/he Teach So Many Classes?” —will examine the serious issue of contingent faculty work life, including a  lack of academic rights and job security, factors that also undermine student success.

The event will conclude on Sunday with a discussion on the future direction of  CFHE.


Central Michigan University Faculty Fight for Quality Education

All across the country,  professors  and faculty unions are fighting to preserve the right to fair collective bargaining and quality learning conditions.  Although we are bargaining for new contracts under seriously tough economic circumstances, there have  been some modest wins, most recently at  New York City’s  Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus.   In his comment below, Prof. Jeffrey Weinstock of Central Michigan University (CMU) reports on the status of bargaining at his institution, where we see once again the same patterns of administrative duplicity: an administration privileging itself while cutting faculty salaries and benefits; claiming it has no funds while sitting on a surplus or denying that tuition increases can be used for faculty salaries.  Prof Howard Bunsis ( Eastern Michigan University), an expert on the financial analysis of universities,  has some cogent comments on this pattern of manufactured budget crisis.

Central Michigan University Faculty  Fight for Quality Education

Prof. Jeffrey A Weinstock

On August 15th, as a result of unfair bargaining on the part of the administration, 97% of the tenure and tenure-track faculty voted to authorize our bargaining team to call for a job action, which they did.  We staged a work stoppage on Monday August 22nd and the CMU administration immediately went to court and got an injunction ordering us back to work and restricting our freedoms to assemble and protest.  Those rights were restored in a court hearing on Friday August 26th, but the restraining order preventing a work stoppage remains in place until 20 days after the fact finder’s report is issued.

We are currently in the fact finding stage.   In the meantime, faculty are working without a contract (and thus absorbing 100% of increases in health care costs).  In addition, Michigan legislation known as Prop 54 is being used to deny faculty who went up for promotion at the end of last semester their earned salary increases and will prevent any retroactive compensation when a new contract is in place.

In one of the supreme ironies in recent memory, the university president made “civility” the central focus of his address to the university on Wednesday, Sept. 7.  The letter below authored by me and two other CMU faculty members helps to explain why we find this so ironic.

“An Open Letter to President Ross”
Appearing in CM-Life on Wednesday September 7th

Dear President Ross,

As you prepare your remarks for your September 7th address to the university, we write to ask that you consider our grave concerns about the direction of Central Michigan University. We are concerned that: teaching and scholarship are taking a back seat to buildings and administration; priorities increasingly answer more to special institutional interests than to CMU’s core mission; and, urgently, that the way CMU is treating the members of its academic community will drive people away and erode the quality of the institution.

Our concern about these trends has been sharpened by recent events. In particular:

  •   CMU provided false information in a Michigan court of law by claiming in its injunction request that all classes had been canceled on Monday August 22nd. This falsehood has made national news, as has the wholly reprehensible comparison of a work stoppage to the disastrous aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
  • That same injunction request submitted by the CMU administration stripped CMU faculty of their Constitutional rights to assemble and protest.
  • There have been recent instances in which you have appeared publicly condescending towards students—even going so far as to suggest they ask their parents for help with math—despite the fact that their tuition dollars support the salaries of everyone working at CMU.
  • The administration for the first time ever refused a good faith extension of the existing contract to the Faculty Association during bargaining. In response to the administration’s “surface bargaining” and other unfair labor practices, 97% of the Faculty Association voted to authorize the bargaining team to call for a job action—also a first for CMU.
  • Without evidence, you, President Ross, publicly accused the President of the Faculty Association of being dishonest. This divisive statement undermines not just the faculty, but the entire university in the eyes of both the public and the students.
  • The administration has repeatedly issued misleading and factually incorrect statements. For example, you have used cuts in state appropriations as an excuse for cuts in faculty compensation without mentioning that the hike in tuition rates combined with letting the “CMU Promise” expire more than offsets these state cuts. Another example: The administration stated that the work stoppage would irreparably harm CMU athletes, a claim that is entirely false.
  • In your Monday August 22nd press conference, you preached the necessity of “shared sacrifice,” but you have not lead by example. Your $350,000 compensation package remains intact, as does your nearly $140,000 compensation package with Furniture Brands International, Inc.
  • In that same press conference, you sowed animosity within the CMU community by incorrectly stating that, “the nine other employee groups on campus have taken a 0 [percent cost of living increase].” This attempt to turn one employee group against another is unworthy of a university president.
  • Numerous eye-witnesses attest that while your press conference was occurring in the university’s public library, students were barred from access to the building on a class day.
  • Abandoning its promise, CMU has raised its tuition and even paid a $238,000 compensation package to a departing medical school dean for nine months’ work for a school that isn’t even open.

And now, by pushing for harmful and unnecessary cuts that will take money out of the local economy and hurt already struggling local businesses, President Ross, CMU is even ignoring the presidential transition report that CMU itself commissioned that emphasizes on its very first page that, “The economic impact of the University is extremely critical [to the local community].”

With its enormous $228 million dollar surplus, CMU can well afford to support its faculty if it decides that instruction is a priority. Unless a change of direction becomes evident, however, the question is likely to become whether the university can afford George Ross. We therefore urgently call upon you to reconsider and dramatically shift both CMU’s priorities and your leadership style. As you prepare your remarks for this afternoon, we hope for some sign that such a change in direction is forthcoming so that we may join with you in working to protect and enhance our academic community and returning CMU to its vision of becoming a “nationally prominent university known for integrity, academic excellence, research and creative activity, and public service.”

Jeffrey Weinstock, Department of English
Guy Newland, Department of Philosophy and Religion
Neil Christiansen, Department of Psychology

blog post, September 18, 2011


A tale of “haves and have-nots” ( or life and death) at the University of Vermont

Nancy Welch, a professor of English at the University of Vermont, relays a contemporary Dickensian tale of academic life in her guest blog .

A tale of "haves and have-nots" (or life and death) at the University of Vermont

When University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel resigned this summer in the wake of a Peyton Place scandal involving his wife and a vice president, trustees rewarded him with a golden handshake that has proved much more shocking for Vermonters than who in the administration building was trying to sleep with whom.

According to the deal Fogel struck with trustees, he’ll receive a monthly salary of more than $35,000–including a car, housing, and “wellness” allowance–for a leave that’s to extend to the start of the Fall 2013 semester. At that point he’ll join the English department at an annual salary of $195,000–more than double the department average for a full professor.

How do the trustees justify such largesse, especially when students face another tuition hike and campus workers have been told to expect frozen wages and benefit cuts? On the grounds of compassion, explained board chair Robert Cioffi: the former president has “poured his heart and soul” into the university; he now needs the university’s support given “the personal issues he is facing.”

I would have liked these trustees to have met one of my colleagues, Steve, who passed away in Summer 2008 just after he poured his heart and soul into teaching a summer session first-year composition class. Steve taught at UVM for nine years. Most often, he was given three composition courses each semester, six courses a year not including summer. But UVM still called him “part-time,” which meant that he wasn’t eligible for UVM’s health insurance plan. As a result, he paid $356 each month for an individual insurance plan, with a deductible of up to $18,750 a year.

When he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and underwent two rounds of debilitating chemotherapy, he could have used–he desperately needed–time off. (He would bring a chair with him into the Xerox room so he could sit, head resting on the copier, while Xeroxing handouts for his students.) Given that he was also caring for his disabled father, some compassion from the university he’d served would have been both welcome and deserved. But in two rounds of negotiations with “part-time” faculty, UVM’s administration declined to recognize that faculty teaching six, eight, and more courses a year are not in fact part-time and should receive UVM healthcare benefits. Steve now needed not only to pay $356 a month for his insurance but $8,200 for each chemotherapy infusion. He continued teaching at UVM; he also began teaching additional courses at other area colleges. He was teaching to save his life.

In summer 2008 after he held final conferences with his students, returned their papers, and turned in their grades, Steve checked into hospice and a few days later died. I attended the funeral lunch and met his parents. They were so proud that he had been a lecturer at UVM. And I am so ashamed at what this university’s administration did to him and continues to do to others.

So, Mr. Cioffi, meet Steve. And try meeting more faculty, service workers, and staff. It might deepen your acquaintance with people who make remarkable contributions to our state university and who are miraculously able and willing to be UVM?s heart and soul without car, housing, and “wellness” allowances. It might also broaden your idea of compassion and how broadly it should be shared.

For further information:

The scandal
Fogel’s separation package
[The trustee chair's defense of the package was in the Burlington Free Press story "Governor Says Compensation Is Corporate" that is only available to subscribers or through ProQuest]


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