To augment this very productive discussion by moving it in a slightly different direction, I am posting here an updated and modified set of remarks I made to the Faculty Senate at their 3 February 2003 meeting. It is depressing, though not at all surprising, that so little had to be changed to make these observations relevant to the situation we face some six years later.
To try to minimize any misunderstanding, I just want to make a couple of prefatory points. First, my fundamental critique is of the corporatist governance model quite generally, and not only of the Shelton/Hay incarnation of it. The problems we in higher education face are structural and systemic, not simply matters of personality of particular “leaders.” I do not believe that our current administration is much worse than others, but on the dimensions I lay out below, they are certainly no better. Second, I advocate more faculty control over UA policy (and not simply through advising administrators). The retort to such a position is always that real faculty governance would be chaos. My response is twofold: 1) that faculty, if given the chance, are much more keenly sensitive to the needs of the university and its place in society than present administrators; and 2) we could hardly do worse than we are doing now. In arguing for more faculty control over policy, I am not suggesting that faculty involve themselves in the day-to-day running of the UA (except if they take on such duties), but rather in articulating the broad visions of what the UA ought to be, and formulating the strategic and tactical mechanisms for achieving those visions. I also recognize that by advocating more faculty involvement with policy, any time spent on such issues is on top of our regular jobs (unlike our professional managers, for whom these activities currently constitute their jobs). This means that we must develop mechanisms that restructure reward systems and time schedules (i.e., eliminate the constantly expanding speed-up to which we are all subjected) to allow faculty the thoughtful participation these matters require. Finally, I would just call your attention to the disclaimer with which I begin my remarks below, and point out that what we now take for granted about university administration need not continue to be the “common sense.” The common sense changes over time, and we can change the present model of UA governance. Here are the (recalibrated) remarks:
My name is Marv Waterstone, and I’m a faculty member in the School of Geography and Development.
I have a few remarks, and a couple of pointed questions.
Before I begin, I want to offer one disclaimer:
My remarks are going to sound like non-sense at the outset. I mean this in a very precise way. What I want to say today is going to be a deliberate challenge to the taken-for-granted “common sense” of how universities must be managed. By definition, then, any challenge to accepted common sense has to seem non-sensical. As I hope to convince you, it is not!
The current “transformation” is a deliberate distraction from massive administrative failure, and a major extension of the assault on faculty governance.
Let me talk about the managerial failure first.
The budgetary mess we are in is the result of repeated and consistent management failure; it is not, as the administration now claims, an opportunity to reorient our way of doing “business.” It is the result of failing to make a persuasive and distinctive case for the importance of higher education in this state. Our “managers” are incapable of articulating this kind of mission, because they speak only with the truncated, corporatist vocabulary and vision of bureaucrats and bean counters. Because they are now a permanent class of managers, they rarely (if ever) step back into the activities that form the heart of a university. Their imaginations limit the university roles to the market-tied goals of economic development and job training, and therefore position us as just another agency of the state or private sector. Their failure to articulate our unique contributions (as opposed to the mundanities for which they do tout us), forces universities to compete in arenas in which we do not, and often should not excel, and prohibit our being seen for the real values we (and only we) bring to society.
The result (i.e., the track record of this management model) has been at least two decades of declining budgets, faculty disaffection and defection, stagnant salaries, increased workloads, imposition of post-tenure review, and on and on. We’re told that all of this is not the fault of our “managers.” It’s the economic downturn in Arizona. But in fact, this and previous administrations have done their jobs so poorly that even during the relatively better economic years of the mid- late-1990s, university budgets were not even restored, let alone increased! Or alternatively (and simultaneously), it’s the fault of an uneducable legislature. What can our poor leaders do; they’re trying their best. And yet… How does all of this add up to a record of achievement that legitimizes the current form of management? Given this record of abject failure, why should we now trust this model of corporatist, autocratic university governance (and the values it represents) to diagnose our present woes and to prescribe the massive reorganization that we are now being told is not only necessary, but opportune? If ever there was a moment when market fundamentalism and corporate-style management should be held up for opprobrium and dismissal, this is certainly that moment. Even for those who have argued in the past that universities (and everything else!) should be run like a business, the current domestic and international failures of this model should now be beyond question and tossed out on their ear.
We’re told that this is the kind of management that modern universities need in order to respond to the external (and internal) situations that face us. But a big part of our problem is captured in this formulation. The current approach is always reactive. And don’t be misled by the rhetoric claiming “transformation” is pro-active and entrepreneurial. It is first, foremost and primarily a reaction to declining budgets, and represents doing less with less, no matter how our managers try to characterize it. These bureaucrats (our “leaders”) never seem to recognize the enormous power we have to shape the environments in which we operate. We, as faculty, have a unique opportunity through our scholarship and teaching, to shape the minds and critical abilities of our students and to contribute new knowledge to society at many levels. We (the faculty in the trenches and in touch with the day-to-day achievements of the university), and not our out of touch and visionally-impaired administrators should be the ones conveying this message to our various publics. We have the experience, the belief, and the passion to make this case. If, given the opportunity, we cannot make this case persuasively to legislators and others, then we should relinquish our claims to being educators. We should also be more proactive in mobilizing the constituencies we have that should be allied with us: our students and their parents. Instead of hiding the effects of devastating budget cuts (e.g., the ludicrous idea that furlough days, if necessary, should only be taken on non-teaching days), we should be doing everything in our power to make these effects tangible, visible and damaging. We should make clear to our students and their parents that the educational system on which they rely, and on which many base their future hopes and aspirations, is being systematically dismantled. These constituencies, and others allied with them, should be making their displeasure known in Phoenix. But this cannot happen if they don’t realize what’s being done. When it comes time to making budgetary decisions in Phoenix, we must, through our own voices, and through those of our constituencies, make higher education as much of a priority as policing and prisons.
Why speak out right now? This brings me to the second major, and related, concern: the extension of the assault on faculty governance. One reason to speak out is that the changes being proposed currently have enormous consequence (real people are being thrown out of work, programmatic changes that may not be reversible are being set in motion), and are being carried out in a largely unaccountable manner by those who have repeatedly failed us in the past. As I’ve indicated, the failure is not just with this particular administration, but with the whole corporatist model that now governs most universities. It is clear, however, that this administration (and its immediate predecessor) especially relishes the CEO role and the autocratic power that accompanies that “leadership” form. Though invariably cloaked in the language of consultation, Robert Shelton’s clearer sentiments are expressed in his and Provost Hay’s autocratic actions On what basis is this kind of unilateral authority claimed? Where is the record of achievement that would justify this bald assertion of autocracy? Robert Shelton, like Peter Likins before him, was hired as a CEO, and was hired to run the university like a business. He has. He has run it on the same Likins trajectory, right into the ground. The kind of real leaders we need are ones who not only know that the corporation is not the only organizational model available in society, but who also know and believe that it is an inappropriate model for a university. We need leaders who are collegial, collaborative, consultative, and who rotate back into the faculty on a regular basis in order to stay in touch with what a university is really all about. Only then, will they be able to convey the passion that will convince others of our value, relevance and merit.
Whether your unit has been designated as “core” and essential (only 2% cuts), is not nearly as important as the issue of who gets to decide such matters, based on what criteria, and with what kind of accountability. It is clear, however, that the current designations not only matter (especially if your unit is slated to be eliminated, merged, reorganized or downsized by 7% or more), but that the process that has produced these proposals fits beautifully with a “divide and conquer” strategy. Those units that have been “spared” in the current round of cuts are clearly encouraged to keep their heads down, lest they be next. But a focus on the details distracts us from the enormous, and illegitimate, extension of power by the central administration. Having “been spared” and told that your unit is currently “core,” does not insure continued survival in the future, nor does it insure compatibility with the “bottom-line” set of values that now governs this and other policy processes, whether they are appropriate or not.
We, as faculty, must assert and attain a real, and in fact, dominant say in this process (and in other policy-making as well), and not simply one of advising. As I’ve argued, I do not think the track record justifies the current autocratic, top-down arrangement, no matter what ABOR policies indicate (don’t forget that the large majority of non-student, non-ex officio ABOR members are themselves corporate CEOs). We need to turn the current relationship between faculty and administration on its head. Faculty should be making policy (not simply consulting and advising on agendas set almost wholly by managers with a proven track record of failure). Administrators (who rotate in and out of the faculty) should then be charged with carrying those policies out. I am sure we’ve gone far enough down the corporatist path that this will sound absurd and unrealistic to most of you, but this taken-for-granted, current “common sense” can be changed. Faculty have the power to effect this change. The university can run without permanent, professional managers, it can’t run without faculty and students! If you don’t believe me, try this in your next class: conduct a disaggregated, decentralized general strike by declaring two minutes of your own silence. See what happens in the classroom.
Given the state of affairs our present management model has produced, it’s long past time to admit that this management model is bankrupt and should be scrapped. We can do better. How? We need to invigorate the Faculty Senate to take up a much more activist stance. If the Senate can’t meet the challenge, we need a new, autonomous organization (i.e., a UNION) to mobilize and actualize our power. Our biggest obstacle is ourselves. We (faculty) are mostly acculturated in environments that are largely antithetical to collective action. Most of our reward structures, from graduate school and on through the ranks, are structured around individual achievement. We are also encouraged to think of ourselves as professionals and not as workers. I suggest that the challenges we in higher education are facing require a concerted, unified, and collective action, no matter how much we are inclined otherwise. The entire enterprise is either disintegrating or is being changed so radically that most of us will soon find it unrecognizable as the place that inspired our passion in the first place. Just doing good work, and hoping to be left in peace, when the organization as a whole is being gutted out from under us.
Participation in such matters, as has been noted on this blog, is a chicken/egg question. Why don’t more faculty get involved in “shared” governance? Because most of us believe that under the current “advisory” model, it’s a waste of time and energy. We need faculty to get involved to CHANGE THE MODEL..