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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
As I mentioned in my post on the Budget, the Regents will be considering a proposal to alter the governing structure of the medical centers.  This proposal is a somewhat improved version of an earlier, and admittedly worse, plan that was presented at the Regents September Meeting.  The effects of these plans will be to give the Executive Vice-President--Health greater authority, to increase the ability of the medical centers to influence the Regents more directly, and to grant greater autonomy to the health care system more generally.  In both its substance and its creation it points to serious problems in UC's internal governance.

First as to substance.  The proposal will expand both the size and the authority of the Regent's Committee on Health Services.  It would be continue to have six Regental members but would now include the Executive Vice President--Health, two Chancellors from campuses with medical centers, four outside "experts" effectively chosen by the Executive Vice-President--Health, and one faculty member from a medical center to represent the Academic Senate.  These eight new individuals would be non-voting members.  The Committee would have increased autonomy regarding transactions up to certain limits (5) including those relating to compensation. (1)  The Committee's opinion would be required on capital projects that could affect the Health System. (4)

Now as I said, this proposal is an improved version of a proposal first floated at the September Regents Meeting.  In that earlier proposal, the Executive Vice-President--Health and the two Chancellors would have been voting members.  In addition, they would have been granted "primary responsibility" for UC Health capital projects.  (5).  This set up raised the possibility, given the size of the committee and quorum rules, that the Executive Vice President--Health and the two Chancellors might establish a committee policy because only two Regents were in attendance.  Nor was there any proposal for faculty input.  In the end, Regents at the September meeting did voice skepticism about these proposals and the Academic Senate strongly opposed the plan.  The result is the modified version we have now.

Still, there is no reason to throw laurels.  For one thing, one point stressed by the Academic Senate and not addressed in the revisions is the all but complete disregard for either the teaching or the research components of the UC Medical Centers which are, after all, university medical centers.  This plan pushes those concerns aside for an emphasis on the business of health care.  But unless one can include in strategic planning the teaching and research elements of the UC Medical Centers it is unclear what the medical centers are doing as part of the University.  Medical faculty I have spoken with are deeply uncomfortable with this aspect of the new plan.

There is one perhaps even deeper issue here.  The proposed changes are based in a Rand Study begun in the middle of March 2015, completed in June 2015 and based on review of some of the analytical literature, interviews with UC and UC Health Care Administrators as well as some administrators from other academic medical centers and publicly accessible UC documents.  (2-3) The study's authors acknowledge that due to "the short timeline of the effort, a detailed analysis of the AMCs’ finances and operations was beyond the scope of this project." (3) The heart of the report is really about the problems of communication and lines of authority within UC Health Care.  Yet on the basis of a rushed report that was unable to do a detailed analysis of how the system actually worked and raised all sorts of internal issues, UCOP is proposing to increase the authority and autonomy of the medical centers.  I can understand why the medical center administrators would want greater authority and autonomy but is this any way to make policy? What about the impact on the campuses and the University as a whole?

The end result, then, is that thanks to push back from some Regents and the Senate a poorly constructed and rushed policy has been replaced by a modestly improved proposal.  But the proposal is still based on the shaky foundations of the Rand research and the claims of the Medical Center administrators.  Once again, the Senate has been put into a position of trying to improve a policy proposal that should not have been made in the first place.   Instead, the serious issues that face the Medical Centers in the new world of the ACA should have been carefully studied--studied by the many faculty experts on health care that are at UC.  Unfortunately, like too many other issues in the recent past, UCOP did not identify a problem and engage with the faculty in a shared search for possible solutions.  Instead it presented a proposal and left the Faculty to smooth out the edges.  The Senate remains on the defensive and well thought-out solutions remain over the horizon.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 2

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015
This week's Regents meeting's Agenda is chock full of important items.  In particular, UCOP is presenting the 2016-2017 budget proposal along with a three-year "sustainability" plan, a proposal to improve the finances of UCRP through internal borrowing, and a proposal to centralize the management of the Health Care system. Unfortunately, the lessons from this week's Regents' agenda is that despite UCOP's efforts to tout its agreement with Governor Brown, last year's tuition gambit has done little to change the fundamentally underfunded situation of the University.  Nor is there any indication that either the Regents or UCOP are prepared to break from long-standing patterns of strategy in order to begin to ensure a UC focused on its educational mission and on increasing the quality of its offerings.


UCOP's proposed budget is a work up of the deal that President Napolitano and Governor Brown negotiated by sidelining both the Legislature and the Academic Senate.   Chris and I have already commented on the deal itself so let me simply point to some of the more important elements.  The proposed Budget for 2016-2017 assumes another 4% increase in base funding, $96 million in one-time funding in exchange for changes in UC's retirement system, $25 million for enrolling an additional 5000 California residents, $25 million for deferred maintenance, and an additional $68.7 million in new Non-Resident Tuition (NRT) revenue.  It continues to make the annual promises about the fantastic savings that UCOP is gaining through various technological and management initiatives. In all, UCOP reports a total 2015-16 revenue of $28.3 billion of which core funds constitute $7.3 billion.  In 2016-2017 they are budgeting for an increased core revenue of $481.3 million.

Along with the proposed budget UCOP is submitting what it calls a three year "Financial Stability Plan."  The plan restates the Brown-Napolitano deal that calls for continued 4% annual base budget increases through 2018-2019 and fulfillment of the Governor's promise of $436 million over 3 years (although the Legislature has only promised the first $96 million) in exchange for reducing retirement benefits substantially for future employees.  It includes the proposed $25 million that the Legislature has offered for an additional 5,000 California resident students in 2016-17, and offers to enroll an additional 2500 more in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 (hopefully in exchange for additional funding). It increases the NRT by 8%, the student services fee 5% annually, and proposes tuition increases tied to inflation beginning in 2017-2018.

A first point, which Chris has made many times, is that the 4% increases, while better than the extreme cuts of the late Schwarzenegger and early Brown administrations, are too small to overcome the longer-term under-funding of the University that goes back 15 years.  To make matters worse, both the Budget and the Financial Stability Plan each bake in increasing burdens on campuses and their students, faculty, and staff.  The $25 million promised for the upcoming year's 5000 additional resident students is approximately half of what both UC and the LAO agree is the marginal cost of an additional student (8). The new underfunded students will force campuses to shift funds from other efforts to pay for these costs (costs that will draw on core funds).

In order to help pay for these students, UC campuses will continue to increase the number of non-resident students, although they say at a slower pace (due to political pressures), so that there will be an additional 1200 non-resident students next year and the latter will be paying an 8% tuition increase.  UCOP apparently believes that the State will continue to pay $25 million each year to help support the initial 5000.  This seems a reasonable assumption in the short term, though it is a long-term problem if it is not included in an expanded base allocation.   If the additional 5000 are also inadequately funded, UC will have added 10,000 resident students over 3 years without providing campuses with the resources needed to properly educate and support these students.

UCOP insists that they are determined to lower the faculty-student ratio throughout the system.  But does anyone really foresee an increase in faculty numbers that could do that even as student numbers jump--6200 new students in 2016-2017 plus at least an additional 2500 additional residents in each of the following two years?  For those campuses with significant NRT, at least some of those funds will need to go to supporting the new enrollments.  For the other half of the UC system without significant NRT,  those enrollments likely will eat up a chunk of the monies they will receive from rebenching and the additional 4% in base state funding.  This plan may be sustainable in the sense that the campuses and students will still be here at its conclusion.  But it doesn't suggest that UCOP's stated commitments to increasing quality and improving campus facilities can be met.

The Budget and Sustainability plan together lock in continued under-funding, increased burdens on campuses, faculty, and students, and further erosion of shared governance at UC.  At its best it is predicated on a set of promises from Governor Brown.  I needn't remind people how well previous compacts with Governor's have held up over time.


A second aspect of the Budget, one of special importance to both faculty and staff, is the proposed reorganization of the retirement system.  In her negotiations with the Governor, President Napolitano agreed to create a new tier for those hired on or after July 1, 2016.  These employees would have a pensionable salary limit (i.e. the amount of annual salary that can be considered in calculating the size of a person's pension) based on the state's PEPRA limits rather than the previous, and much higher social security cap.  In return, the Legislature agreed to release $96 million once these changes have been made, and the Governor has promised additional funds up to the $436 million I mentioned above.  The Legislature has made no commitment to the last two years of the Governor's promise. (For good accounting of these developments there are various posts on this site and by Dan Mitchell on the UCLA Faculty Association Blog).

I have no doubt that there was, and is, political pressure on this from Sacramento.  But to get some sense of the extent of UCOP's concessions on this score it might be helpful to turn to another item on the Regents Agenda--a proposal to borrow money over the next three years from the University's Short Term Investment Pool (STIP) to help pay down the legally defined unfunded liability of UCRP. (As Bob Samuels pointed out long ago, this legal liability is based on the requirement that UCRP has enough money on hand to pay out pensions if everyone retired immediately).  This short term funding is something that the Senate has been pushing for several years, though campuses, perhaps especially those with medical centers, have been resistant.

In very basic terms, the proposal will allow the University to borrow from its own funds to help pay into UCRP, thereby helping to keep the University's annual contribution to UCRP at a steady state and to shorten the time until the unfunded liability has been paid.  Strikingly, UCOP is proposing to borrow $1,463,400,000--or put another way nearly three times the amount of money that the Governor is promising in exchange for a dramatic reduction in the worth of UC benefits.  As UCOP continues to emphasize, perhaps in the hopes of muting opposition, this new plan will not affect anyone employed before July 1, 2016.  But it will affect new generations of UC employees and lead to a significant reduction in overall compensation.  Although theoretically some of this loss could be made up in salary and other forms of compensation,  those forms of compensation do not have the same tax benefits as do pensions. More importantly, they increase retirement risk.  Nor is it clear why anyone should think that state funding for salaries will increase in the future at a rate that will cover the lost compensation value for future employees.

There is presently a Task Force charged with determining what the new pension tier will look like and with coming up with strategies to minimize the reduction in benefits to future employees (since it is unlikely that they can be eliminated).  The Task Force is expected to present its conclusions to President Napolitano next month and there will be a limited period for comment early next year.  But as Dan Mitchell has repeatedly pointed out (e.g., here, here, and here), the proposal for STIP funding includes a statement that "New employees will have the opportunity to choose a fully defined contribution plan as a retirement option, as an alternative to the PEPRA-capped defined benefit plan." (3)  This statement is included despite the fact that even the University's own FAQ on the question insist that no decision has been made as to whether to have a purely defined Defined Contribution Plan (h/t Michael Buroway).

So we have a cut in retirement benefits negotiated outside of the regular shared governance plan, a special Task Force, set up by the President to determine the shape of those cuts, official information on the Task Force site saying that no decision has been made about a defined contribution plan, and an item on the Regents Agenda suggesting that that decision has been made even though the Task Force has not finished its discussions.  This situation exists despite the fact that several years ago, after extensive study, the University recognized that a Defined Contribution Plan was less able to serve either the needs of individuals or the needs of the institution as a whole.  Nor does the amended language of the Budget Bill (section 85) require the University to start a Defined Contribution Plan. This decision by UCOP to overturn the carefully established retirement consensus builds upon other indications that UCOP is perfectly happy to sideline shared governance when it is convenient for them.


There is one other item, or rather the absence of one other item, in the Budget proposal that is significant.  In its Budget Summary (pg. 29) UCOP notes a series of accountability measures required by the State. Interestingly, I could find no mention in the documents (please let me know if I missed it) of another set of legal obligations that are important for the budget.  Those are from section 84 that requires the University to provide much more detailed transparency about its administrative structure--especially concerning the Managers and Senior Professionals Group (MSP) and to rethink its proclaimed market comparisons for the Senior Management Group.  I mention this not because I want to demonize the people in either group but because it is difficult to see how a truly sustainable future can be created for the University that does not seriously rethink its administrative structure, starting with a better understanding of the relation between administration and the educational core.

If UC truly wishes to create a sustainable future for itself, it will need to create a more decentralized administrative structure, one more attuned to the actual teaching, learning, and research that goes on in the everyday life of the institution.   That sort of transformation might have resulted from the UCOF process a few years ago--but it didn't.  It is clear that it will not emerge from UCOP.  But it is needed more than ever.
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 1

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015
We're many years now into the New Normal for public universities.  We've known for a while that this means permanent budgetary austerity.  We get regular quantifications of the continuing funding problem. Another one, from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, calculates that appropriations fell 20 percent per full-time student from 2008-13, and 26 percent for public research universities.   

Michael and I have had to use this space to make a couple of further points.  One is that the New Normal directly damages faculty and student welfare.  You can see more material on this in a talk that Michael and I gave at UC Berkeley last fall. It tied budgetary austerity to the the decline in faculty welfare--and to weakening faculty governance, which I'll be discussing here.

The other point we've argued  is that senior public university managers and boards have accepted New Normal austerity in practice.  This year, after much stormy drama in Oakland and Sacramento, and a declaration of victory from President Janet Napolitano, UC's state budget increments remained a quarter of UCOP's previously-stated need (see Alternative C in the chart).  

In addition, the past couple of years have clarified the kind of executive governance that the New Normal assumes.  An early example was the June 2012 Board firing-rehiring of the president of the University of Virginia.  Since then, the heads of university systems and/or flagship campuses in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Iowa and North Carolina have attracted national attention because they do not bridge the professional-managerial divide but represent the managerial side.   The managerial side has a theory of governance I'll outline, because both faculty and students need to figure out a better response to it.


The theory rests on venerable autocratic practice in private universities, many founded by wealthy magnates who assumed they would be governed like their corporations.  Top-down presidentialism and governing board sovereignty were also adopted by 19th century public universities. They have been reinforced by a movement led by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which was originally co-founded by Lynne Cheney. ACTA's theory of governance is that the brand and the agenda of a university must be owned by its board of trustees, who are the most--really the only--responsible agents in academia.  

During the summer that the University of Illinois was rescinding Steven Salaita's job, ACTA issued a report called Governance for a New Era.  Its premise was that the unprecedented criticism directed at the country's higher ed system required much firmer leadership from the top.  

Trustees should take a more active role in reviewing and benchmarking the work of faculty and administrators and monitoring outcomes. Too many have seen their role narrowly defined as boosters, cheerleaders, and donors. They should ask the questions that need to be asked and exercise due diligence. They must not be intermittent or passive fiduciaries of a billion dollar industry critical to the preparation of America’s next leaders.
Shared governance—which demands an inclusive decision-making process—cannot and must not be an excuse for board inaction at a time when America’s pre-eminent role in higher education is threatened.
ACTA claims that only trustees see the big picture.  "That is why trustees must have the last word when it comes to guarding the central values of American higher education--academic excellence and academic freedom."  Faculty may opine about their own freedoms, as the University of Wisconsin-Madison Senate recently did in writing restored tenure rights. But the scope of these freedoms, in ACTA theory, should be at the sole discretion of executive boards.   

In the ACTA new-era governance model, UIUC's then-Chancellor Phyllis Wise was not violating shared governance by firing Prof. Salaita, but fulfilling it.  A hundred years ago, the autocratic executive was already Veblen's nightmare, and autocracy's statutory bases largely remain in place.  (See the UC Regents' Standing Order 100 for presidential powers, which cover most management powers that there are, including control of a faculty member's ability to communicate with a regent).  Specific instances of board authority have been contested, as in the 2014 Kansas twitter controversy that Michael analyzed in the LARB, and in the Salaita lawsuit that was largely validated in its first court test.  But the theory of board power is not being challenged as such.

As they go about their business of maintaining the university's brand, boards are asked to remember that universities are failing (this was a core thesis of the Spellings Report), that faculty as the traditional core are responsible for those failures, and that faculty will therefore accuse boards of damaging academics in order to deflect blame.   That's what faculty always say when their interests aren't being put first, ACTA teaches, so faculty complaints can (and must) be ignored.  Thus it was a kind of badge of honor for the Iowa board to defy the faculty view that semi-retired businessman Bruce Harreld was unqualified to lead the University of Iowa.  The key ACTA innovation is teaching trustees to claim professional authority in serving as the sole voice of their university, which must also be able to override faculty in speaking in the name of students.  (Hence Chancellor Wise's claim to be protecting them in de-hiring Prof. Salaita). 

As though on cue (h/t Ragman), Regina M. Millner, President of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, writes in Trusteeship Magazine, "The important role of governing boards in setting the agenda cannot be overlooked or underestimated." Part of that role, Ms. Millner makes clear, is accepting fiscal austerity as a driver of positive change.  

In Wisconsin, deep cuts in general-fund support for the University of Wisconsin (UW) System have prompted us to reconsider how we can better align our resources to meet the needs and interests of the state and its people. It involves not just doing more with less, but fundamental changes to our planning, procedures, and programs.
Ms. Millner isn't only not sorry about the politically-imposed cuts to the UW system.  She treats austerity as way to override planning, procedures, and programs that in normal times were controlled by academics.  Again, this direct intervention is, in ACTAworld, what boards are supposed to do.

Executive board rule obviously contradicts basic democratic political theory and the related understandings of political rights. Of course American corporations are not democracies, and over the course of a century and a half they have established a legal framework that supports the various forms of dictatorial or military-style command that we take for granted. "Workplace democracy" remains anathema and at-will firing remains a sign of the U.S.'s proudly anti-democratic workplace--proudly in the sense that our business culture equates suppressing democracy with suppressing inefficiency.  

And yet universities have historically injected the rights of professional expertise (though not of democratic citizenship) into command-and-control corporate management practice.  Universities have always represented a third mode of governance that is neither political democracy nor corporate despotism.  It is into this ambiguous zone of limited, ambiguous, academic self-governance--limited like the wi-fi signal that only covers your living room--that ACTA and subtler entities intervene, the better to assimilate university governance to the corporate model.  

The claim that university management is increasingly and deliberately unilateral would have been heretical to most faculty a few years ago.  Few executives and board members echo ACTA directly, and most top-down interventions seem driven by external crises. But recent events have shifted faculty perceptions.   

One example is the University of Wisconsin.  When Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative allies bundled budget cuts to the elimination of tenure from state statute, UW system president Ray Cross and Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank seemed to be caught between the pols and their faculty, in the classic bridge position. (For background, see Michael's overview or my IHE piece).  But over the months of negotiation, many faculty members began to feel that President Cross was trading stronger tenure away--and that perhaps Chancellor Blank was backing him against her own faculty.  Many concluded that senior managers' defenses of professorial status were fronting for expansions of their authority.

The issue blew up again two weeks ago, following the publication of an October 22 email from Chancellor Blank in which she stated that President Cross was not in fact backing the right of faculty to write new campus-based tenure protections.  The press coverage (local here and here and IHE here) and faculty analyses concluded that Board members and top officials were indeed going to impose weaker state standards on faculty rather than support faculty's professional claims.  Good faculty analyses include Prof. Nick Fleischer's "UW Tenure: the End" and Prof. Nancy Kendall's Open Letter to the UW Madison Faculty.   I'll come back to the Kendall letter below.

Another example comes from California, where the generally deferential UC Academic Senate objected this summer to President Janet Napolitano's disregard for Senate consultation.  On August 25, 2015, outgoing Senate chair Mary Gilly wrote to "highlight four notable instances from this past year in which we believe the Senate was insufficiently consulted on issues where its advice would have made a positive difference."   Two of these involved the Office of the President starting academic programs without running the plans by their academics.  The third was the "drastically lowered cap" in the defined benefit portion of the UC Retirement Plan, again imposed "without any Senate consultation." The fourth was UCOP conveying to the Regents a June 2015 Rand Health Report on UC Health System governance without any Senate comment.  

Chair Gilly concluded with the hope that non-consultation was not UCOP's preference but was thrust upon it by "difficult negotiations with the State government."  But her letter appears to have been prompted by a more severe comment from the University Committee on Planning and Budget (UCPB), in which the chair of that committee, L. Gary Leal, noted that "the November budget was actively withheld from UCPB until the day before it was presented to the Regents" (emphasis in original).  He listed a series of fundamental budget conditions, including the addition of 5000 students at a discounted general fund rate of $5000 per head, that were never discussed with the faculty.  "Even for the 3% salary increment," he adds, "where we (and other Senate committees) had very strong recommendations, the actions were quite different and the rationale was not explained or discussed either ahead of time or after the fact."

Replacing actual with merely formal shared governance isn't only a matter of bad organizational theory, for it has negative real effects. One has been UCOP's creation of a task force to change the UC Retirement Plan via the cap on eligible salary noted above and a new Defined Contribution plan (DCP), the latter in direct opposition to the recommendation of the last full review of the pension plan in 2010.  The lack of open discussion about the sources, motives, and goals of these changes has sown confusion and suspicion even among insiders to the process. One writes,

I have been asking UCOP for a copy of the agreement between UC and the governor [that supposedly requires the DCP], and no one can produce it.  No one can also say what its status is or how it relates to the state budget, but campuses are making decisions on 3-year degrees, transfer students, and online education on the deal that, as far as I can tell, no one has ever seen. I had to convince two members of the pension task force that the DCP alternative is not in the state budget.  So UC wanted it in the deal, it did not make it into the deal, and now UCOP is saying it is coming from the state or the governor.
When a few people order major changes to an institution with 450,000 students and staff without consultation, deliberation, or even written documents, it's a textbook case of oligarchy.  We need to be able to use such words, even as ACTA and the broader management culture define oligarchy as progress.

The traditional Senate response is to invoke consultation protocols and declare their value.  Prof. Leal does this well, noting that "UCPB has, in the past, been an important source of knowledgeable advice to the University administration." Having been there for most of the 2000s, I can confirm that this is completely true: UCPB got key issues right well before UCOP did, particularly the secular trend of declining public funding and the urgent need to explain it to the public. In a cooperative spirit, Chair Gilly ended by writing, "we look forward to improving communication between UCOP and the Senate and on devising better methods for responding to timelines that are external to UC."

In reality, the problem is not that the Senate can't communicate or respond quickly.  Faculty members write grants, teach classes, and give speeches on strict deadlines that we continuously meet.  Communicating to deadline is a core faculty competence.  Admin denies this ability only as a pretext for withholding information and avoiding discussion.  The Senate's appeal to UCOP conscience underplays the extent to which non-consultation is a deliberate strategy.

A non-traditional faculty response appears in the letter by UW-Madison Professor Nancy Kendall that I mentioned earlier. She starts by noting that a group of faculty and staff were right when admin was wrong, particularly on the point "that Act 55 would not simply move existing tenure policy from state legislation into Board of Regents policy." 

She elaborates this later: Chancellor Blank "told us Act 55 wouldn't fundamentally change tenure or shared governance. She was wrong.  She told us that UW-Madison would be able to make its own tenure policy, unencumbered by the System policies foisted on other campuses.  She was wrong." These statements are important both for establishing the factual record and for modeling faculty treating executives as equals rather than superiors, as members of the same community.

Prof. Kendall goes on to call out attacks on skeptics that labeled them as too extreme for reasonable faculty to work with. These attacks "need to be acknowledged and addressed--through public apologies where warranted, and through acknowledgment from those of us who have benefited from their efforts to educate us."  
Having highlighted the administration's mistakes, its presumption to stand above the critical community, its efforts to ostracize critics, and the need to reverse that ostracization, Prof. Kendall proposes faculty unity across campuses and status:
We are part of a system, but we have not acted as such, believing ourselves to be insulated by our “special” status as the state’s flagship university. This is elitist, it is morally shameful, and it is political suicide. None of us is more deserving of tenure than our colleagues at every other campus in this system. That is and must be the core of the tenure argument: every faculty member needs tenure in order to be able to teach, conduct research, and communicate our ideas freely, without political or administrative pressure. When some faculty lose tenure, the moral basis for arguing for tenure is undermined. Indeed, instead of throwing faculty at other campuses under the bus, or arguing that tenure is only important to help retain “star” faculty on our campus, we should be working with colleagues across the state to expand tenure protections to employees who currently conduct teaching and research on our campuses without these protections.
Prof. Kendall is calling for faculty solidarity--the clear prerequisite to meaningful influence--by articulating the ethical value of the freedom to teach, learn, and govern. This forms the basis of an alternative, education-centered vision of what the university should be. 

I share Prof. Kendall's organizational ethics (I've also argued for expanded tenure in the IHE piece linked above).  The related practical point is that she also offers more effective organizational behavior.  The critical self-governance exemplified by the letter cures boardroom blindness by immersing senior managers in the actual life of the institution. It supports the "learning organization's" proverbial "cross functional teams." It increases creativity by sharing data and expanding deliberation.  It makes criticism an asset rather than an excuse for shunning people.  It sees freedom and democracy as intrinsic to higher learning.   

Nancy Kendall's open letter seems confrontational, and it is.  But is also a better management theory than the hard-ACTA of its reports or the soft-ACTA of everyday senior managers, both of which hold universities back. 

Photo:  John D. Rockefeller and William Rainey Harper (respectively on right-hand side) at the University of Chicago, 1901
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 3

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015
The Chronicle Review gave the title "Professorial Anger, Then and Now" to my essay on Thorstein Veblen's The Higher Learning in America, which has now been republished by Johns Hopkins University Press with a helpful historical introduction by Richard F. Teichgraeber III.  The piece is behind a paywall, so I'll say a few things out here.

Most things about academia angered Veblen on some level, like this very title about professorial anger which would have told him he was being relegated by Know Nothings to the status of entitled jerk.  It's true that what Veblen did was frosty, relentless, sarcastic critique, not blood and fire.

My piece outlines Veblen's four main arguments about why "the conduct of universities by business men" actually wrecked higher learning.  His point wasn't only that business folk engaged universities in competition for student market share that squandered resources, or that they twisted academic governance into oligarchy, though he did go into detail on these two.  He made additional points.  One was that business consciousness could not because of the game it played ever grasp or support academic research, like never.   He wasn't saying business people were dumb or evil. To the contrary, they were smart and cunning at a market game that Veblen insisted obeyed an essentially different logic than did unrestricted thought. To quote myself:
The business outlook was equally suspicious of originality. Chasing one another to provide the latest research in vogue, university administrators didn’t ask whether they had something original or special to offer. Their search for revenue led them to imitation, duplication, and the expensive enlargement of what Thomas Kuhn would later dub "normal science." They saw it, in Veblen’s analysis, as "‘bad business’ to offer a better grade of goods than the market demanded, particularly to customers who do not know the difference" — like the families of American undergraduates, who would believe almost anything in the hope of giving their children an edge. Veblen’s warning was that business opposition to scholarly standards of quality was not accidental or occasional, but intrinsic to business thought as such. Even administrators who started out as faculty members ceased thinking like professors and conformed to business logic.
In the essay I cover other dimensions of business thinking that Veblen saw as natural disqualifications.

I was equally interested in Veblen's detailed explanations of what academic reason actually is.  He worked quite hard to conjure forth the fragility and ephemeral nature of thought as it feels its way forward in the darkness. New ideas and surprising answers don't resemble research proposals or business plans for they emerge like movements in a dream.  He had quite a bit to say about the need to protect and serve thinking that was sufficiently unmanaged to produce real discovery and understanding in an economy that was trying to absorb everything into itself.

Prof. Teichgraeber writes about three decades of the "professor's literature of protest" that informed Veblen's critiques.  There was a professor's movement!  It had a result!--the founding of the American Association of University Professors almost exactly a hundred years ago.  The philosopher John Dewey presided. The AAUP's major issues--faculty freely communicating with governing boards, sharing influence over administrative hiring, controlling faculty hiring and grievance, and co-governing finances--are still up for grabs today.  During the post-World War II growth boom, universities enjoyed a kind of détente between faculty and administration, since most conflicts could be solved with program expansion and taking turns until all the players had a similar number of cards.  The allocation machine stopped working right: tenure track lines were converted to contingent jobs, which are now 2/3 of the higher-ed teaching workforce. A majority temporary faculty would have been incomprehensible to Veblen--if sadly typical of business's idea of a good efficiency.  This contingent-majority is now experiencing the intensification of senior management intervention into funding, governance, and education itself (Virginia, California, Oregon, Illinois, Louisiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina   . .). The post-war détente has come to an end.

Ironically this means that Veblen has more to say than ever.  End runs or overturning of faculty governace is being justified by Veblen's Nightmare--the apparently entrenched belief that business expresses universal reason that by rights presides over all human processes, including the making of knowledge itself.

To Veblen's Nightmare we can  add  Veblen's Vision, in which the scholars-scientists, recognizing that real research must be self-legitimating, finally write their own funding rules for the higher learning, and implement them.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 3

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
As you may have noticed, recently university governing boards have been appointing Presidents and Chancellors under conditions of increasing secrecy and without wide consultation with faculty.  The University of Iowa is a recent case as is the University of North Carolina.  The following is a state from the University of North Carolina Faculty Assembly about the UNC Board of Governors' tendency to refuse to engage in shared governance.--Michael

The Leadership and Policy Statement of the University of North Carolina notes that the institution “operates under an arrangement of shared governance” that “honors the important traditional role of the faculty in the governance of the academy.” (http://www.northcarolina.edu/content/leadership-and-policy )

Regrettably, for the better part of a half decade, the UNC Board of Governors has repeatedly failed to follow its own stated principles of good governance. 

The UNC Faculty Assembly has faithfully advised the Board on best practices regarding admissions, tuition, financial aid, leadership appointment processes, curricular design, research and freedom of inquiry, and processes of peer review, yet the Board has repeatedly refused to acknowledge – let alone discuss – points of counsel they have been offered. Instead, they have frequently promulgated ill-advised policies and practices that have proven detrimental to the best interests of public higher education in this state.

The recent mismanagement of the Executive office of the University, from the firing of Thomas Ross, to the hiring of the new President, is but the most egregious in a long train of problematic governance actions.

The failure of the Board to seek the advice and counsel of the staff and faculty is both shortsighted and troubling. No student attends our campuses to be taught, no funding agency or organization provides grants of research support, and no business, governmental entity, or civic organization has come to our institutions seeking public service expertise, because of the teaching, research and service achievements of the Board of Governors or the President of the University. Yet the Board continues to act without the advice and counsel of the constituencies whose expertise they need to effectively govern the institution.

Over the years, the most effective and respected leaders of the University system and its respective campuses have argued that their success is contingent on the support of staff and faculty. We now appear to have entered an era when it is not support, but an ill-informed indifference, that defines how governing authorities in the University think of their relationship to those who carry out the core mission of public higher education. No institution of higher learning has ever achieved excellence and distinction without an active, engaged, and committed community of staff and faculty. It is then incumbent on the Board of Governors to now begin – as it always should have been -- cultivating effective shared governance if the University is to continue on the path of excellence and achievement.

The faculty will not prejudge the commitment of new President to the well-being of the University. But he or she must understand that the secretive character of this search, and his or her own indifference to consulting with staff and faculty when s/he was an active candidate for the position, will make it difficult to win the confidence and trust of the University community.

As this leadership transition unfolds, foremost among those confidence building principles must be a steadfast and unyielding dedication to seeking the best advice and counsel possible, and a readiness to stand against the debasement of institutional governance that has brought the future of the University into doubt.

22 October 2015

For the UNC system Faculty Assembly
Stephen T. Leonard, UNC-Chapel Hill, Chair
Gabriel Lugo, UNC-Wilmington, Chair-Elect


Story comes to the surface about University of North Carolina's plan to hold emergency meeting to talk with president finalist Margaret Spellings (10/15).  This meeting is scheduled for Friday, 10/16, seemingly in an effort to bypass a bill not yet signed, which "requires the search committee to bring forward three candidates to the full board for discussion."

Amidst a call for John Fennebresque’s resignation (10/16) we see positive and negative discussion regarding What a Margaret Spellings Presidency Might Mean for North Carolina (10/16), with critiques on her political involvement (10/20) and her past actions combating LGBT equality (10/21).

Faculty continue to criticize UNC president search process (10/21), noting that '"The failure of the Board to seek the advice and counsel of the staff and faculty is both shortsighted and troubling.'  Concern over this lack of shared governance is widespread (10/22), as is the realization that Spellings is surely in (10/22).

Compiled by Alysse Rathburn
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0