Thursday, October 1, 2009

To Boldly Go

People are still using the Defender for valuable conversation about where the university is going next and how the faculty can be a real voice and power as the UA moves forward. As always, Marv Waterstone has valuable insight into the discussion, so we post his comments here along with the responses that have come in today. Please feel free to continue the conversation, but also attend today's faculty forum and make your voices heard in public, where they can really make a difference.
Also, click here for Renee Shafer Horton's promised analysis of the poll, which
includes an excellent interview with Lynn Nadel. We don't agree with Lynn's conclusions , but we always appreciate the fact that he's in the conversation.

Dear (mostly invisible) colleagues,

I’ve refrained from rejoining the ongoing discussions for a few days to let some events (the poll, the chalking “incidents”) run their course. Now that they have, with all of their ambiguous outcomes, it is time for us to really get to work to make some changes in the short-, medium-, and longer-term. Tomorrow’s faculty forum, hopefully, will be one productive step.

Last Friday (25 Sept), I met with the Committee of 11 (or at least a significant subset) to propose some concrete actions that might be taken under their auspices in each of the appropriate timeframes. Given the wide variety of existing faculty governance mechanisms available, the C11 seemed to me the most appropriate, given their charge. At the meeting, those present were receptive to the ideas, and I believe these issues will be taken up again at their next meeting on 9 October.

Here are some steps that I suggested merit our collective reflection and action. I have posted most of them on this blog in one form or another, but I’m hoping that they can now generate further action. They are all inter-related, but they can be prioritized:

Short-term: in order to stop the budgetary hemorrhaging we need to mobilize our most critical constituencies—our students and their parents—by alerting them, in the most specific ways possible, to the actual effects of the cuts so far and the likely impacts of any further budgetary excisions. In order to accomplish this, we need several kinds of data. First we need concrete data on increased class sizes, decreased course offerings, changes in time-to-degree, documentation of increased tuition and fees, and losses or decreases in ancillary services. I suggested this as a task that the C11 might take up. Second, and consistent with a recommendation made by an earlier commenter on the list (which also demonstrated our capability in this area), we need a district-by-district analysis of our allies and enemies in the legislature, and their political vulnerability. Once mobilized, our constituencies need to be able to engage in effective actions to change the complexion of the legislature by supporting those who support us, and by opposing those who do not. In the short-term, legislators need to be compelled to understand that cuts to higher education will carry a political price.

Medium- to longer-term: it is time, as many on this blog have noted, to face up to certain facts. Nearly ubiquitously, the support for higher education within the general public is generally low (just look at some of the comments that accompany campus stories at the Arizona Daily Star). We must make the attempt to change those views, or we will continue our ineluctable slide into penury and irrelevance. Again, some data may be helpful here. It would be worth our finding out if other, comparable public universities have been/are faring better than the UA. If so, we should endeavor to understand the reasons they develop and maintain more favorable relations with their constituencies than we do. I proposed to the C11 that some comparative information would be useful in this regard.

These data will take us only so far, however, and at best may suggest some tactical and strategic lessons that we can learn. In addition, we must now be much more proactive and effective in making a persuasive case for our existence and healthy viability. To make that case we need to accomplish two difficult (though by no means impossible) tasks. First, we must think deeply and carefully about the DISTINCTIVE AND UNIQUE contributions that a university (as differentiated from any other element of the educational enterprise) can and should make to society. What are the things that we, and only we, can do, and why should anyone care if they are accomplished? If we cannot make this case (and a member of the C11 raised this exact question), then we probably should drift into becoming an ITT tech with a middling football team, or a loosely connected set of corporate-funded (and owned) patent-seeking enterprises, and be done with it. But I think, if given the chance, we can such a case. Many of us have already thought long and hard about these matters, and strive to put our ideas into practice as best we can in our own pedagogy, scholarship and creative work. It is time to try to make those individuated efforts the heart and sole of our collective endeavors, and to transmit our passion and commitment to our various “outsides.”

Which brings me to the second task. We must change the relationship between faculty and administrators so that those of us at the “core” of the enterprise, rather than those who make the UA one of several transitory stops in their professional managerial resume construction (and who, necessarily reflect the corporatist, privatizing, bottom-line enhancing mentality that has failed us demonstrably and repeatedly all across academia), are responsible for articulating the appropriate vision, and for transmitting this message.

I have some additional specific ideas about some future actions, but since I’ve taken up enough of your reading time here, I’ll save them for tomorrow’s forum.

sandra said...

Thank you, Marv! Your voice gives me some hope. While I extremely disappointed at this moment with our faculty governance leadership for their lack of vision, I find in your voice a reason to want to stay here. You put it so well--the upper leadership is passing through, but we are the ones who live here. I think some polls have suggested, as I said somewhere above, that people in the state generally support education. In fact, one poll showed that people in Az would be willing to pay higher taxes in order to save education. I think that includes K-12. Some of their ambivalent attitudes about the university have to do with misconceptions about what we do and about things like tenure. People frequently like to sound off about that. The university spends little time trying to educate the public, though they do spend a lot of money hanging bill boards around town saying things like Pima Cotton Invented Here. We need faculty leadership. I mean real leadership--not apologists for the approaches of the status quo.

Lynn Nadel said...

Bravo Marv and Sandra. These are just the kinds of discussions we need. And Marv spells out the sorts of data we will need to bring to the discussion. He is absolutely right to stress that unless we can make the case for what a university, and only a university, adds to society, then we are lost. Let's get on that task immediately. I believe a shift in power between faculty and administrators would follow -- if and only if we accomplish the first task.

I also agree with Sandra's analysis of the tenure and exigency issues. I've just been too busy this week to think straight and expressed myself in oversimplified ways in recent posts.

Hope to see as many of you as possible at the Forum this afternoon.

Lynn Nadel

Anonymous said...

While I understand the sentiment that the University could not exist without faculty, as a staff member, I feel I need to make a few points. While EDUCATION could exist without staff members, the UNIVERSITY could not exist without staff members. Those of us who order your supplies, type your memos, create payroll, set up the technology for your classes, advise and process the graduation of the students in your major - the "little" people who help make the processes of the University work on a day-to-day basis - are also the ones who have been terminated in droves. The argument for the creation of CLAS was, besides the "logic" of it, the savings over $2 million dollars by centralizing services and eliminating University College (which was entirely staff members). As is apparent to anyone who has actually looked at University College's budget, the elimination of "little" people, and the salary increase Dr. Ruiz received (along with the costs of new signage, new letterhead, and the other ancillary costs of new schools), the net savings of all the changes is minimal. However, terminating all those "little" people has engendered fear and anger across campus among all the other "little people".

Is there anyone on campus who has examined the non-cuts to positions in the Admin building. Besides Dr. Garcia, has anyone making over $100,000 been "transformed"? Also, while we are discussing cuts to academics constantly, what has happened in student affairs? Besides the debacle of merging the cultural centers, renaming units and eliminating "little" people in the units (which has impacted the availability of programming for students), there seems to be one primary difference from a year ago. There are now new positions that have been created there - associate/assistant vice presidents, and associate/assistant deans seem to have sprung up overnight.

ALL efforts of the University must be examined, student affairs and academics. And they should be examined in totality - not separately. While I'm sure that the administration will argue that has happened, from the outside, it would not appear so. I do not believe there can be any sacred cows. Do there really need to be 4 biological science majors (with 2 separate departments) in the College of Science? Should the Outreach College and its administration really need to be a college? Is the existence of UA South and all its accompanying administration justified by the few hundred students in its 3 majors? How many Associate/Assistant Deans of Students and Associate/Assistant Vice Presidents of Students Affairs does the UA really need? Politically, these issues may be "off limits" - but if the entire University and its mission are being questioned, these should be discussed as well.

While cutting education is a much easier path for the state, cutting staff is the same easy path for the University. I am not proposing wholesale cuts to student affairs (as it is an invaluable unit in the University's effort to keep and retain students) or the elimination of more colleges at the UA. However, all that has been discussed on this blog is faculty - and there is much more to the cost of running the University than that.


  1. I attended the faculty forum today and heard many interesting ideas. I also heard Lynn Nadel talk way too much. I don't believe we voted to make him the spokesperson for the faculty or the gatekeeper of our ideas. I thought we elected Wanda Howell as our leader. Perhaps more faculty would attend these forums if our "leaders" would just listen for a change instead of smacking down any ideas that they don't agree with. The chalk incidents and ensuing arrests were and are important issues, and the fact that the President waited for days to intervene about this and the domestic partner benefits issue speaks volumes about how the administration interprets and practices our institutional values. Many faculty in the room this afternnon felt that doing another faculty poll, this time without all the emeritus faculty included and without all the snafus that occured with the first poll, was a plausible idea, but it was quickly dismissed by Lynn as a bad idea. It wasn't until we challenged his authority that he let Wanda have the floor to speak to the issues. Lynn Nadel does not speak for all of us, nor is he the "official" voice for anyone. Is he even an elected leader? I don't know. Please let our ideas be heard and respected and stop telling us what will and will not work. I know you will probably respond to this as you do to every single post. I don't care what you say at this point. I've heard enough from you, Mr. Nadel. It's now time for others to have their say. I hope this blog does continue, inspite of the fact that Lynn thinks it's a bad idea.

  2. Sandra,
    You THINK the public would also support a tax increase to help K-12. Either you do not have children or they are grown and long gone out of the house. If the public poll was about increasing taxes to support education I can almost guarantee they were thinking about K-12. If you think the University is in jeopardy you have no idea on the state of K-12. We as a State are 49 of 50 in funding K-12, per dollar per child, percent, you name we win.
    This is typical of U of A faculty, too old and out of touch with the population of the state. As a young faculty member with children in school here we need to understand the whole picture and stop complaining about our own small situation, soon there will not be enough qualified in state students to fill our Universities as K-12 gets hit more and more.
    The Legislature has cut all education, we hurt but our children are hurt more. Marv has the right idea, lobby the legislature, get riled up about those cuts, get active, but stop living in your small cocoons of entitlement.

  3. These colleagues have closely studied and calculated the plentiful economic benefits to the state of Virginia. Our legislature is very short-sighted, as this article from UVa Today shows.

    Cooper Center Study Shows Major Economic Impact of Higher Education

    October 1, 2009 -- Every dollar spent by the Commonwealth of Virginia on higher education produces more than $13 in job-creating economic activity, says a new study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.
    Each higher education dollar also results in $1.39 in increased tax revenues that flow back to the state's coffers. The study was released today at the Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education in Richmond, sponsored by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council.
    The study is the first comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of Virginia's public higher education system. The study also estimated the projected impact of the proposal by the council's Grow By Degrees campaign to award 70,000 cumulative additional associate, bachelor's, and graduate degrees in Virginia by 2020.
    As chairman of the higher education council, W. Heywood Fralin, a member of the U.Va. Board of Visitors, helped launch the initiative in June. The study's key findings are that public higher education is responsible for:
    * $9.5 billion annually in purchases of goods and services in the Commonwealth
    * $24 billion in annual contribution to the state's gross domestic product (GDP) - 6.2 percent of Virginia's total GDP
    * 144,550 jobs created by higher education operations
    * $2.5 billion in annual tax revenues generated for Virginia.
    "The value the Commonwealth receives for its higher education investment is enormous," said U.Va. Rector John O. Wynne, a member of the council's executive committee. "In fact, one of the study's most important findings, perhaps the most important finding, is that the tax revenue produced by the state's public higher education system considerably exceeds the amount the state spends on that system."
    The study is based on 2007 economic data, and all numbers are expressed in 2007 dollars. The study measured the impact of higher education expenditures as well as the economic benefits that flow from investing in human capital (the increased earning power and spending by college graduates). Copies of the study are available upon request. Among other key findings:
    * $1.58 billion in Virginia GDP is generated by the spending that higher education produces in Virginia by persons and entities located outside the state
    * $588 million in Virginia GDP is generated by higher education research and development programs
    * $1.436 billion in Virginia GDP is generated by the university medical centers.
    According to the Grow By Degrees Web site, the goal of awarding 70,000 cumulative additional degrees must come through more sustained state investment, innovation in how education is delivered and flexibility in how colleges and universities are managed. If the goal is attained, the Cooper Center study estimates the economic results to be:
    * $18 billion more in Virginia GDP
    * $16 billion in increased personal income for Virginians
    * $1.9 billion in new tax revenues for state government.
    In addition to the release of the study findings, the summit featured major addresses on higher education by both nominees for governor, State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate, and Robert F. McDonnell, former Virginia attorney general, the Republican candidate.
    Gov. Timothy M. Kaine delivered opening remarks. Addressing the importance of higher education to state economic development were former Virginia governors Gerald Baliles, director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at U.Va, and George Allen; Robert Ehrlich, former governor of Maryland; and Michael Easley, former governor of North Carolina.
    View the rest of article at: