Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shelton's 8/25 Memo: Don't Be Fooled!

I feel obligated to respond to President Shelton’s 3-D memo of Tuesday, August 25, 2009.
Shelton says that ‘[i]t is important to note the value that has been placed on undergraduate education and teaching function.” Yet, many steps have been taken to damage undergraduate education at the UA.

1. The Financial Aid Office’s staff has been decimated of experienced staff and is in chaos. At the beginning of the semester, they are 6 weeks behind and still processing summer applications.

2. University College with its excellent advising program, which has served the great majority of under-represented groups on campus, has been closed.

3. There is no longer a V.P. for Instruction, which Shelton supposedly created a year ago to demonstrate the importance of instruction at the UA. The position never had an operating budget and the duties of the position have been doled out to underlings of Gail Burd’s. None of these people, including Burd, have any background in effective instruction.

4. The Colleges that in fact do the most undergraduate instruction, Social and Behavioral Sciences and Humanities are, along with Fine Arts, scheduled to be the victims of the “differential cuts”.

5. The person most responsible for budget redesign, Juan Garcia, has been fired.

6. The Cultural Centers, which provided a welcoming presence and support for many undergraduates have not been closed after much protest, but true to the Shelton/Hay methods of doing business, they have not been funded.
Shelton makes reference to “the collegial input that is vital to shared governance…”, and talks about “improved opportunities for academic collaboration”. Don’t be fooled by his rhetoric. There is no shared governance on this campus and there are no improved opportunities for academic collaboration. Shelton throws these words out to try to calm the waters, but in fact, decisions are made by an increasingly small group of Shelton/Hay cronies. There will be no shared governance until we demand it. Therefore, I wonder here, where is Chairman of the Faculty, Wanda Howell in all this? She has been strangely quiet and certainly has not represented the faculty well through this last academic year. I suggest a movement to recruit someone who will be truly effective standing up to the administration, and truly representing the Faculty!

Eveyln B. Hall

[originally posted 8/25/09]


  1. I agree that Wanda Howell has been very silent about the questionable actions of the administration. I'm not sure she's truly representing the faculty and I call upon her to be more vocal in representing the needs and concerns of the faculty and students on this campus. We may need more of a rebel, less of a creature of the administration in the position.

  2. As a department head in one of the colleges affected by a 7% cut (as opposed to a 2% cut, which is what science and the professional schools received), I can say that much of what went out in that memo is simply not true. One of the biggest budget problems for departments is that neither tuition increases nor increases in enrollment come back to the departments. Many departments in SBS and Humanities have given back our entire operating budget in the 12 budget cuts in the past ten years. We're living off grants, summer session, and donations. So when we start teaching bigger classes, it's actually bad for us as a department--big classes require copying, staff time, and more supplies that are coming out of our pockets.

    For some big teaching units, it's true that this round of cuts COULD be offset by new funds flowing from the tuition we generate by teaching, if we got some of that money. But we don't.

    It's simply not true, as the letter from President Shelton and Provost Hay says, that "This year the Tuition Funds Task Force recommended, and we have put in place, a budgeting redesign that increases the flow of tuition funds to those units that do the most teaching." The work done by the tuition funds task force chaired by Juan Garcia last year was scrapped. A new committee met FOR THE FIRST TIME on Friday August 28, four days after the memo.

    Estimates about when a new model might actually benefit departments range from a year to five years.

    So as of today, I've taken a 20% cut in my funding for teaching (TAs, adjuncts), and as a result of cuts last year, I've lost a faculty member and a staff person.

    Now my college is figuring out how to allocate a 7% cut--for my unit, say I get the average, 7%. I lose half a faculty member and a TA. That's about 160 seats in classrooms. Multiply that across about 40 departments in SBS and Humanities, saying my department is average (some are smaller, some larger), and you are losing 6000 seats this year alone as a result of the 7% cut. How's that going to feel for the 1000 extra undergrads in the new incoming class?

    It's just a lie that cutting the big teaching colleges won't affect students.

    Whether a new tuition model slows the hemorrhaging of opportunities for students also depends on what the model is. As of Thursday, the model being proposed was that departments would receive money based only on any INCREASES in student enrollment in the department, and the dollars would come from any future increases in tuition. So based on a snapshot of today, if we keep doing what we're doing, there would be no addition funds. IF our classes get bigger, and IF tuition goes up, we get the difference. Sounds like about $4 for my department.

    Oh, and I heard Provost Hay say at a meeting last year words to the effect that everyone seems to think things in their department will get better if tuition flows to them. What they don't understand is that there will be addition costs that will also come to departments.

    I also heard Ed Frisch (the numbers guy in the Provost's office) tell a meeting of department heads that they would of course manipulate the model to get the outcome they want, so as not to penalize departments that they want to reward but who do less teaching.

    So I hear (1) an outright lie that departments are receiving funds based on the tuition they generate, (2) a promise of new costs, and (3) an assurance that we will not have an honest model that will put resources into student teaching, and (4) a marginal increase on the marginal increase.

    Those of us who came here because we care about student teaching have plenty of reason to be concerned, here. And the folks who send us their sons and daughters to educate ought to be up in arms about the priorities of this administration. Cuts may be inevitable. But these cuts were differentially applied in a way that specifically targeted student teaching.

  3. The comments posted by this department head are absolutely on target. The Tuition Funds Flow model only works when the budget of a university is on the increase. Secondly, the date for implementing the model that my committee worked so hard to develop keeps being pushed back, with no real target date in sight. And finally, the tuition model works requires that the administration makes instruction and quality education a priority. Recent developments involving instruction on the U of A campus under the current administration indicate otherwise. In truth the promise of a tuition model is only a placebo to keep some hope alive that departments may ultimately benefit. I would not hold my breath on that ever taking place as long as Shelton and Hay are running things.

  4. Loss of Faculty at the UA Campus

    Faculty are among the most important group of "citizens" on the UA campus. Shelton has been quoted on numerous occasions about the importance of maintaining world class faculty. But how can we really know what faculty we have when the administration has not yet revealed a faculty retention list since 2007? That faculty list is essentially pre-budgetary crisis. Anybody who has options on this campus has or will be leaving soon. With few world class faculty members, how can we expect to produce graduate students who will lead their fields?

    In addition to budget cuts keeping new faculty from being hired or even raising wages of faculty to keep them at the UA, budget cuts have negatively affected graduate funding at the departmental level. Graduate students are among some of the most used, least paid people on campus. Reducing their funding will only cause more work for faculty and give them less assistance with undergraduates. In spite of the current administrations disinterest in the so-called "soft-sciences" we have some of the best departments in the country in archeology, linguistics, etc. And we're destroying them by not retaining faculty. And eventually, we'll lose graduate students because of it.

  5. I think the university's overall weakening comes from several components of or tendencies of the current administration, not just Shelton and Hay. What used to be CCIT, the library, the VPR's office (including Sponsored Projects and the Graduate College) ... Many units in these areas seem to be serving less and/or worse. We run like a rinky dink school, but we've been getting there for awhile. It's taken more than three years. The bottom of this hill is just very steep.

  6. From the actions of the administration (Shelton, Hay, Burd, Vito), it would appear that average or marginal students are being pushed out. (And, as an aside, how many vice-provosts and vice-presidents does it take to run a university?) Students who are underprepared benefit greatly from the services Evelyn mentioned above. The fiasco with re-organizing the cultural centers to a "Community Center", cutting staff members and then trying to put Humpty Dumpty back when the public cried foul shows a zeal for implementing change without input - from anyone. The same can be said for the devolution of University College to the Center for Exploratory Students. While undeclared and "lost" students might not be what the administration has in mind in its quest for excellence, these students exist in by far greater numbers than the Flynn and National Merit Scholars. These average students are also the ones who are unable to sign up for college algebra at new student orientation because there aren't enough math seats. The only students on the priority list for math are those who are in a science, business, or engineering major. The dearth of class seats in general for currently enrolled or incoming students is belied by the increasing enrollment the UA is reaching for. Why bring in more students when you don't have enough class seats or services for the students already here? While becoming world-renowned is a noble goal, being a land grant university in a state that ranks in the bottom nationally in all measures of education, crime, poverty, teen pregnancy, etc. is a bit of contradiction in terms.

  7. Hear, hear! We're a land grant university. What DOES that mean? We're in Arizona, which "ranks in the bottom nationally in all measures of education, crime, poverty, teen pregnancy," infant mortality, etc. Why isn't work on those challenges as or more important than rankings of various departments?