Friday, October 2, 2009

Who is Responsible for the Curriculum?

[Addendum Oct. 3. The post below appeared Friday 10/2, before we received the Executive Summary of the Faculty Poll Comments, sent by e-mail from the Faculty Center that same day. Having read the Executive Summary, we are at a loss for words - except for one: Magnificent.
Being at a loss for words is not usual for us. Our regular readers know that, and they know also that many of the things that were said in the "comments" section of the Poll were also said here, beginning last August. We mention that not by way of saying "we told you so" but to emphasize how important it has been for the faculty to have the "safe space" for discussion we first described in our initial posts. It is less important, going forward, to note who it was who said these things first, and where, than to point out who it was - more than 700 faculty members - who said them best, on the Faculty Poll. The Executive Summary of the Poll comments appear to us now as THE plan for going forward. Everything is there.
Our thanks, again, to the Faculty Leadership group (Wanda Howell, Lynn Nadel, Robert Mitchell, J.C. Mutchler, Michael Cusanovich, Javier Duran), and in particular to whomever it was who put in the hard work of coming up - so quickly - with that clear and comprehensive Executive Summary. That, dear readers, is what leadership is about.
Now, the following comments represent an attempt to synthesize some of the points made in the second FGLF meeting with faculty on 10/1. These comments appear to us now as focused elaboration on just a few of the items presented much more comprehensively in the Executive Summary. For those who did not receive it on e-mail, the Executive Summary is available in Renee Shafer Horton's Tucson Citizen blog, or in the online Arizona Daily Wildcat. ]

“The curriculum” in the broad sense means: everything we decide to teach, and excludes everything WE decide not to teach.
Who decides?
We decide curriculum.
The Faculty Senate homepage features the following statement: “Faculty governance at the University of Arizona functions under the Constitution and Bylaws of the General Faculty.” Article I of the Constitution: "The General Faculty has fundamental responsibilities in the areas of ... instruction and curriculum policy...”

If we have the authority to decide curriculum, then we have the authority to invalidate redefinitions of the curriculum that we did not authorize.

By "redefinitions of the curriculum," we are referring to distribution of budget cuts that result in de facto alterations of curriculum by redirecting resources away from units that can no longer sustain budget cuts without suffering loss of faculty, loss of programs - curricular damage - that may be irreversible.

That’s the thesis. Here are the arguments. We begin with two questions:

1) How do you read the phrase “fundamental responsibilities in instruction and curriculum”?
Does it mean some responsibilities or the responsibilities?
a) SOME responsibilities? (if it’s just “some” responsibilities in defining curriculum, who, in practice, has ever exercised “the others”?)
b) THE responsibilities? (that is, decisive authority, on an ongoing basis, for instruction and curriculum policy)

2) How do you understand the term “responsible”? Is it
a) responsible as in ‘obliged to perform duties assigned by a superior to an inferior, or by a parent to a child’ (as when mom says “you’re responsible for keeping your room clean”)? or
b) responsible in the legal sense of ‘answerable to,’ as in “the faculty is answerable to the executive administration and to the Board of Regents, the legislature and the Governor for maintaining a curriculum consistent with its institutional mission as a state supported land-grant university with responsibilities to (answerable to) the citizens of the State of Arizona?

If you answered “b” to both questions, you’re right. You’re in the right.

You’re right, even if Lynn says, “You’re playing with words.” Even if Robert says “You’re playing with fire.” We say, we’re playing our role. The role of the faculty to preserve, protect and defend the curriculum.
Preserve, protect and defend it against being redefined without the level of faculty responsibility required by our constitution and confirmed by statute.

We’re told, “Yes, but.”
“Yes but you can’t protect it against insufficient funds. Or against hostility from the legislature.”
Yes we can. And we must.

OK, how?

Marv says, “mobilize the students and their parents.” By that he does not mean to ask them to carry signs and write slogans with chalk on horizontal or vertical surfaces. He means let them know how budget cuts and “overcuts” – unauthorized budget re-allocations – are inimical and illegal:
1) inimical : harmful to education, and out of compliance with the statutory obligations of the State universities to provide higher education consistent with their mission;
2) illegal: illegal given the obligation of the legislature to secure funding adequate to support public education in Arizona at the levels of quality instruction in the curricula defined by those with the statutory responsibility and competence to do so, i.e., the faculty – not the executive managers of the faculty nor the Regents nor the JLBC. (Actually, this is part of the arguments made on our behalf to the Regents by the three presidents last week.)

How specifically?

Specifically, the graduate students are negotiating a “Graduate Students’ Bill of Rights” with president Shelton (see yesterday’s Wildcat). Next step? That’s right, an Undergraduate Bill of Rights insisting that students and their parents be given what they’re entitled to under state law. That they be given what they pay for. That they not be required to pay more and get less. That they not be told “We don’t have enough classes for your requirements.” Or “We’re changing the requirements so it’ll look like we have enough classes.” That students not be further distanced by distance learning, farmed out to cattle-car mega-classes, or told “you can do it online” (just like a video game!) And so forth.

We are aware that many of the views expressed above are shared by Robert Shelton. Where we disagree is on a basic point: our adherence to the principle that the Faculty must not relinquish its fundamental responsibility in matters of curriculum. Regarding the “core mission of the University,” Mike Cusanovich told us yesterday that it would take a lot of work to come to agreement all across campus on the definition of “the core mission of the University.” That may be true on details, but it’s not true of the big picture. On the big picture, the overwhelming sense of the faculty poll suggests that we do indeed agree that we were heading in the wrong direction. Which implies a pretty good sense of who, and how, to decide what the right directions are.
We close with Lynn Nadel's statement on "the essential core of the university" in his 10/2 interview with Renee Shafer Horton on her Tucson citizen blog; our readers may wish to add to what Lynn said, but we doubt that many would subtract from it:

“We become academics because we have a deep sense of what a university is,” Nadel said. “This isn’t an idea that started a few years ago. This is a 700-year-old idea, that a university preserves and enlarges human values. It is the life of the mind, but more. And it is that sense that the university at its core is being squeezed that is causing the angst. It’s fear that the essential core of what a university is, is being sacrificed on the corporate altar. The people who pay our salaries (the Legislature) seem to have a restrictive view of what a university is – as just a place to train people to get jobs. But a university is more than that. And the undercurrent of anxiety and anger is at least part about faculty wanting to know that (Shelton and Hay) are committed to protecting and preserving what a university is.”

The foregoing represents a synthesis of some of the points made at yesterday’s FGLF meeting. Their purpose is to encourage further reflection and discussion. In your comments, we encourage you to state your case forcefully, but not abusively. (Rules & etiquette for this blog may be found among the September posts.)


  1. I have read the poll's comments... a true expression of discontent at many levels... even if you accept that the poll was "flawed", can't negate those voices in the comments... I have to agree with the person that suggested that we should have a referendum about the budget cuts, their nature, justification and complete implications... like J Sharkey said these cuts will "transform" for the worst the existing structures of the university... the shelton-hay actions reminded me of the way Naomi Klein explains her notion of "shock doctrine"... except that now the crisis has switched to the leadership... they are under fire and the opportunity to make them become accountable is here... the community and the regents are now paying close attention to this and it is a golden opportunity to take back some of the positions that their "shock and awe" actions have stolen from the faculty... an all campus referendum will definitely unmask the way they are unilaterally re-shaping the hear and soul of the university...

  2. The operative word "mobilize" the parents and students has some very practical implications. The faculty is not organized. The leadership of the faculty reacted/responded late in this game (not organized and weren't leading). The communication with faculty is flawed at best and disorganized at the least. The number of faculty, for example, reading this blog does not provide the quality and quantity of effort that is required to mobilize. None of this is to say that it can't be done. It is just to point out the obvious. Additionally, faculty are busy doing their teaching and research. Time is an important element in this effort to mobilize the faculty to mobilize the parents and students. This fact, undoubtedly works in favor of this administration. A small group of faculty that can develop a plan that involves going to each dept., talking to faculty in units that are already organized, seems a logical place to begin. If the effort described in the Evelyn post is to gain traction, it needs leadership, a plan, and action. All of which would energize mobilization because it could provide a ray of hope in a culture where that light is dim and the glare of fear is intense.

  3. On the previous comment "mobilize parents and students ... the faculty is not organized." You're right, the faculty does need to be better organized. But the faculty does not have to organize everything and everyone. The graduate students did just fine obtaining their meeting with the president to negotiate the "Graduate Students' Bill of Rights." The undergraduates have the Wildcat and the ASUA, for organizing their "Undergraduates' Bill of Rights" (or whatever they want to call it), per the above scenario. In fact, some of our readers have commented that it's better for faculty not to interfere with how the students and other stakeholders organize themselves.

  4. Ok...really. I don't see anything happening. The executive summary and the poll do say it all. But I feel that our faculty leadership is acting more in the interests of protecting the leadership here than they are in change. Really. The best we are getting is forums and a lot of talk about how we might do the leading that we are paying our leadership to do.

    Here is what I predict is going to happen. NOTHING. And here is the result of what nothing gets you. There will be cuts soon...made by the deans. Professor Sharkey is right in saying that the differentials are going to have a massive and detrimental effects on the colleges that were hit with the most. Those cuts have not come yet folks. When they do...when the tough decisions come... there is going to be MORE outrage. The first program put up for elimination is going to create a firestorm. Whoever you are out there, we will back you. We have to pledge that this will not be a "better them than us."

    You can try to bury conflict but it does not go away. Trust is not easily regained and it has to be earned back. That is not going to happen here. Seriously.

    So just happens when the first and next set of decisions are made.

    I am sorry, I know I will get kicked around for all I have said here. But I am right.

  5. Anon 4:11 is entitled to skepticism. But from reading the Poll comments, it doesn't look like Anon 4:11's bitterness and distrust were the only motivations driving the faculty's comments, or the leadership's inventory of them - which suggests that some of us are hopeful about change. Second point, "the leadership is more worried about protecting themselves than they are in change." Protecting themselves from what? If they had really been worried about offending the president and provost, why would they have published that executive summary? It's quite damning. Blame where blame is due, and plenty of blame has been laid out. But also, credit where credit is due, no?

  6. I'm not sure how strongly I can word this - I beg, encourage, implore, demand of you faculty members - yes even you who are tired of the fight - to not give up, to regain your voice, to CARE and act on that caring. YOU, the faculty, are the voice for all of us staff members. You do not speak just for yourselves; you speak for your administrative assistants, your program coordinators, your business managers, your academic advisors. While there are business and administrative functions that can be merged, cuts to services that directly assist students have had an extremely deleterious impact on those units. Departments that work with students have been so transformed that the touted efficiencies and budget savings mask the hollow shells that now exist. This means that students will leave, and it's difficult to teach those who aren't here. The Admissions Office will do its job of bringing in those extra 700 students every fall, but without classes and the infrastructure to assist those students, again they will leave. And with those "new" 700 every year, more and more marginal students will be admitted, just to meet the numbers....and again there will be no services or classes for them.

    Since we, the staff, have no voice in this process - it is imperative, crucial, essential, it is life-and -death that you understand more than just your discipline - that you examine and understand the practices of the Admissions Office, Registrars Office, Think Tank, Dean of Students, and the advising offices across campus. How do the cuts or non-cuts to these units impact students - which impacts retention - which impacts costs - which impacts YOU - which impacts all of us.

    I know each of us is concerned about our own little world. But the issues that face you - that face us - impact the entire institution. And as you are the only employees of UA who "might" be listened to seriously by the President, by the Board of Regents, you must carry the standard for all of us.

    Pleae do not let us down.

  7. A lot of comments from doubters. Here's a suggestion for "Evelyn" whoever she may be.
    Tell the doubters this: "OK, let it be like you say: Nothing's going to change. Things will only get worse. Let it be like you say."
    Let the doubters have their way. Their path is not yours. Or ours. People who are habitually negative deep inside, live in a sad and stunted reality all their own. Let them whine. Let them lead the charge backwards. The rest of us have better things to do, better places to go.

  8. This Evelyn tends to take a fairly optimistic view of life. Much has been accomplished since this blog went "live" in August. More, in fact, (and more quickly) then we could have predicted when we first gathered to discuss the idea of a blog. The poll or the vote of no confidence was a striking blow to this administration. Our faculty leaders tell us Shelton is taking the results seriously. We have not heard from the tower that the poll was invalid or non-representative of the majority of the faculty (which we thought might be a strategy before we saw the overwhelmingly negative feelings toward this administration). Hay has disappeared completely from public view. Ernest Calderon is meeting face to face with Shelton tomorrow, 10-6-09 to discuss the poll results. We have gotten the attention of ABOR. These are all huge strides in a very short time. Remember when we were a few whiney malcontents? We're hearing very little of that kind of talk any more and that is proof that change is possible. So, does that mean we've won; that there is no more work to do? Of course not. As Anon 9:19 says; "you must carry the standard for all of us." We have won some battles. To those feeling negative: sitting on the sidelines preaching a gloom and doom mentality is not helpful. However, we all feel beaten down at times. That's the time for our colleagues to step into the breach and take up the cause for awhile. So this Evelyn says, go home for a bit, enjoy your family and come back refreshed, energized, ready to participate with a new attitude and new ideas to move us forward.

  9. Yes, it is hard not to be openly skeptical/cynical about the situation... that is, chances are NOTHING is going to happen, Hay is not going anywhere, Shelton continues to back Hay and we will continue to experience non-sense, arbitrary cuts, downsizing and the virtual dismantling of the non-scientific fields in favor of the hard and not so hard sciences. Now, if you look at the "leadership", it is heavily comprised by folks in the sciences, (senate, spbac, c-11 etc.). If you look at the administration, VPs etc., it is the same case, and comments in the poll refer to this situation very clearly, so we do know that this is the case. We are not even dealing with the issue here or elsewhere... what you have in fact is a privileged class that in fact runs the university... people can blame Shelton and Hay, but both are here because this "upper" class of scientists has been in the position to decide on their hirings. Remember that there was a non-scientist in the running for the Provost position. The guy from Utah who received a lot of support from many groups around campus, but who was not selected by shelton; instead he picked Hay. Of course, the scientists gave her the benefit of the doubt, but now it seems that they are not vey happy either hence the discontent. Having said that, and having heard some people in that leadership to say that they/she deserves another chance seems to indicate that NOTHING will change in the next few months. On the contrary, we may see an escalation of the shock treatment towards the non-scientists in order to "discipline and punish" this faculty "uprising" (yes the poll is being seen by many in the towers and Gould-Simpson - as an idiotic verbal revolt by some faculty members in SBS, COH and Fine Arts...

  10. Ok, yes, I agree, we can't give up now. "Worried" is completely right. The future of an entire community is at stake here...
    Btw, I am sharing this piece of information. I think people that read this blog should try to attend. It sounds like a good first step to begin creating more accountability:

    There will be a public meeting on Monday, October 5th with President Shelton and Regent Ernie Calderon at the YWCA at 525 North Bonita Avenue. It is just south of St. Mary's (turn before Furr's Cafeteria) and it is just north of Pima Community College Community Campus. The meeting starts at 5 p.m.

    The focus of the meeting with President Shelton and Regent Calderon will be to hear whether or not he has listened (and acted upon) to the requests put forward by the Latino community.

    If you will recall, at the large meeting with Shelton at the College of Education, Kiva Auditorium on June 16, 2009, Shelton assured us that based on the concern he heard from the community he would be making some "course corrections" and would let us know about them. Shelton requested some time to determine how the legislative budget allocation would impact the university before he came to some final decisions.

    We hope to hear about these changes and to present the President a list of issues that continue to face Latina/o students, faculty, and staff at the University of Arizona.

  11. Ok, I had another comment about diversity, but I guess it never made the post... for whatever reason. Basically, I argued that the greatest setback during the Hay/Shelton admin. was the the lack of advances in diversity. Oh sure, we have more students, but how about faculty and staff? The Latino staff took a great number of casualties during the "transformation" ( I know a few Latina/os who were given pink papers), so we went back numerically in time another 5 years. In particular after- as Juan Garcia narrated- the 1 million dollar funding for faculty recruitment/retention went to other things Hay related... another wasted opportunity. Heck, considering that less than 5% of the faculty are Latina/o and there was talk about becoming Hispanic Serving Institution... this is really bad news.
    So, the question is, will Shelton re-commit the 1 million (peanuts really considering the whole budget) to the community tomorrow during the public off campus meeting with Regent Calderon...? Will the community strongly demand that he complies with the promise/agreement?

    If you want to know more,do attend the meeting, I have heard that more than 300 people are expected to attend... the one in June at the kiva had 250 in attendance... we'll see...

    si se puede

  12. I was one of the "negative nellies" above. I apologize. This is been an emotional ride. Not just the past two weeks but the past year of dealing with transformation and now budget cuts.

    Our staff, our students, and our university is worth fighting for. I just want to see something come out of this poll. Its only been a week so what could any of us expect to happen.

    But I will say this. I think there must be a change of our Provost. Things aren't going to get better here budgetwise, which is going to entail more tough decisions. This includes the possible elimination of academic programs. This can be done with faculty involvement and with a process that is inclusive. I will suggest, in another post, what might make this work a bit matter how painful.

    However the truth is that there is real lack of confidence and trust here. There have not been efforts by our Provost to address the negatives, address the faculty, or address how change will happen...yet. Without this trust, how will campus be able to follow when such decisions are made?

    On the subject of what we can do. We need to demand and create a process involving faculty and student representation that will vett program closures and things like differential cuts. We need to look at costs and benefits of eliminating a program before putting it up.

    There is a story in this week's Chronicle talking about the U. of Southern Mississippi. Read it. It is telling. It discusses the elimination of departments and then exigency power to fire faculty.

    We cannot let decisions like these be made without a real inclusive process that studies the value of programs, grants a chance to be heard, and a real set of justifications/measures to be used in identifying programs for elimination or divestment.

    I there is one issue that we must is this one...and now.

  13. Evelyn thinks that few of us would wish to subtract from Lynn Nadel's remarks that:
    "We become academics because we have a deep sense of what a university is,” Nadel said. “This isn’t an idea that started a few years ago. This is a 700-year-old idea, that a university preserves and enlarges human values. It is the life of the mind, but more. And it is that sense that the university at its core is being squeezed that is causing the angst. It’s fear that the essential core of what a university is, is being sacrificed on the corporate altar. The people who pay our salaries (the Legislature) seem to have a restrictive view of what a university is – as just a place to train people to get jobs."

    Lynn espouses the monastic view of what a university is, and has a restrictive view of who pays our salaries. Many faculty damage our cause by staking out what they mistakenly think is the moral high ground, but which is more likely to come over as a manifestation of their hubris. Lynn's comments are a prime example and we heard several others at the 10/1 forum making empassioned statements about the values of our institution.

    One of the values that these faculty do not speak about concerns our duty as public servants. It is the taxpayers who pay our salaries, not the legislators. Those same taxpayers, and some who pay no taxes, elect our legislators. They neither elect nor pay professors to pontificate about the values of THEIR university.

    As one who was educated at one of those old monasteries in England, I prefer the twentieth century interpretation of the university as a place where professors are employed to help our modern society realize its hopes and ideals, as expressed by the people. Unless your scholarly knowledge is in the area of divinity or ethics, don't get into the business of telling people what is morally good for them.

  14. Anyone read Regent Deconcini's letter to the Daily Wildcat today? Guess he told us where faculty stand in Arizona.

    I feel patronized and scolded like a child, how about you?

  15. To Anon 6:45: See also the comment following the DeConcini letter.
    But don't worry that much - there are others on the Board of Regents more in touch with the reality of what will happen to the UA if people like that do get their way, and do gut the university.
    Sometimes I wish they would. To see their faces when it sinks down to their level. There are plenty of other universities in this country still worthy of the name university. If Arizona wants to drag its universities down to the level of its K-12 public schools, if that's what some of the regents want, well, will there be enough people here to prevent that?

  16. We should let Lynn Nadel respond himself to Mr. Williams' comment above, in which he somehow confuses the model of a Research I comprehensive degree-granting institution with a "monastic view" of the University, speaking from his own experience of having been educated, for better or worse (we would suggest using spell-check, John; it's impassioned, not empassioned) in "one of those old monasteries in England." That's not our problem. If this blog is really trying to "defend" the UA, why do you post comments that offend more than defend?

  17. Ah well, they won't let me quit, as Michael Corleone famously said.

    I agree with John Williams that we need to avoid hubris and also to understand that the public pays our way. But, it doesn't change my view about what our job is -- we are not just here to do the public's bidding. We are here to make the public better. If that has a monastic sound to it, then so be it. We're here to educate and broaden the life experiences of our students. We are here to push the boundaries of knowledge, even if there is no obvious application of that knowledge in the short run. We know that in the long run these activities will pay off. This is not about morals, its about morale in the broadest sense: "the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal".

    As for Regent DeConcini, we heard in Faculty Senate today from another Regent, ABOR President Calderon, who expressed a rather different view on faculty roles, and the value of education. I prefer his view.

    Lynn Nadel

  18. Hmmm I didn't take offense to what John Williams stated above. His statements hold some real truth. We are public servants and we do need to do more to show the public and world what we do for the state, the region, the nation and world. I say this not to argue that we need to climb out of the towers, but essentially that all programs on this campus do outreach, serve the state, and OF COURSE educate young and old minds into better persons...and even leaders.

    That said, we could do more and should do more to find and make an impact when we addition to touting what we already do for this state.

    In the Chronicle, a month or so ago there was a fantastic article on what the University of Georgia was doing to change what was commonly called "cooperative extension". What was traditionally an office in each county to promote agriculture has become teams who go to small and large towns in Georgia, interact with community leaders about the problems facing those communities, and that brings those problems back to the university to be solved by students and faculty. The faculty and students engage communities and transform them.

    We already do a great deal for this state, but we could do more. I don't know John Williams, but this is what he made me think of and I was hardly offended.

  19. Simon's (9:45pm) monastery perhaps did not care for Spenser's Faery Queen, where the word "empassioned" appears in several passages. A more recent reference from this side of the pond is: John Goldsbury and William Russell, The American common-school reader and speaker: being a selection of pieces in prose and verse, with rules for reading and speaking, Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, Boston, 1841, page 20, where "empassioned" is defined, with examples.

  20. I would like to encourage people to contact Regent Calderon directly. He said yesterday at the Faculty Senate meeting that he welcomes our input. His email address is

    Judging from what I heard at the meeting yesterday, it appears that President Shelton is indeed willing to reconsider how the budget cuts were distributed. This issue IS NOT OFF THE TABLE, which is counter to what one of the faculty leaders said at the last faculty forum, but time is running out. Shelton also wants our input. He wants creative ideas. Please let him know what you think. His email address is: