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.
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.
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.)
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.)