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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Last week's prize for most offensive higher ed article went to a University of Colorado law professor named Paul F. Campos, who had a New York Times Sunday Review tell-all about college costs.  The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much" turned out to be "not because states have cut funding for higher education." Prof. Campos came to this conclusion by replacing the standard funding metric--inflation-adjusted funding per student with the total dollars being appropriated all the way back to 1960. His  key paragraphs read like this:

[P]ublic investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher. 
In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.
In other words, there is no state funding problem, and never has been.   The cuts are a "fairy tale."

This claim is a conceptual disaster at a time when many state legislatures have convinced themselves of exactly this--that if you add up all the revenues available to public universities, they haven't been cut at all. California's special variant is the claim that UC actually profited from the financial crisis and now has more money than ever.  (Then-Assembly Speaker John Pérez laid this out to the UC Board of Regents in January 2013.  And now he's UC Regent Pérez.)  The fallout has been a slew of competing legislative efforts to bring UC to heel, so many that I need a scorecard like this Sac Bee piece, and  Cloudminder's recent links.

1. Actual Austerity

In a concurrent blog post at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Prof. Campos illustrated the NYT claim about the state funding boom with this chart.  (He has another that adds in federal Pell Grants.)

There he repeated a milder version of the NYT claim, "It’s quite an interpretive challenge to translate these numbers into the claim, made universally by higher ed administrators, that fifty or more years of practically continual tuition rate hikes have been caused by cuts in public subsidies."

So first, do Prof. Campos's numbers show crazy public funding growth?  Sticking with state appropriations, the first thing to point out is that the curve falls into two periods: a steady rise from 1960 to 1990, and a slower, jagged rise from 1990 to 2015, with an aggregate decrease from 2010-2015. The State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) just released its report on state appropriations for FY 2014, and confirms that state appropriations in constant dollars are still about 19 percent below their 2008 peak.   Nobody has been complaining about state appropriations from 1960 to 1990.  The complaints are about overall stagnation after 1990 and real cuts after 2008.  By folding recent declines into a bygone golden age, Prof Campos distorts the current history and sidesteps the current funding debate.

Even this overall appropriations growth doesn't show the insane extravagance we're supposed to see.   The best historical data about states comes from Illinois State's longtime Grapevine project, which began toting up state allocations for the 1960-61 year.  They came to about $1.5 billion total (when California appropriated twice the total of the next largest public system, Illinois').  By 2015 the total was about $81 billion, for an unadjusted increase of 54x.  Sounds like the states were just throwing money at public colleges, right?

Wrong. Money often grows at that rate. Say you're a retirement fund, and you started with $1.5 billion in 1960.  Fifty-five years later, your fund has $81 billion.  All this means is that your fund grew at about 7.5% per year, which is about the growth target set by the UC Retirement Program and similar funds.  Prof. Campos was, in other words, amazing Times readers with the miracle of compound interest.

As for other benchmarks, Warren Buffet actually returned 19.7 percent per year in a similar period. 10 percent annual returns on investment is a standard target; the S&P 500 has long returned about that when dividends are reinvested; venture capitalists look for five-year ROIs that are orders of magnitude more than 10%.  So even before we start correcting Prof. Campos growth curve, we can see that 10x over 55 years (inflation adjusted) is what is supposed to happen to resources in a successful economy.

Second, the article's use of aggregate funding growth drove budget watchers crazy.  At Inside Higher Ed, Dean Dad sounded off, calling the column "both a failure and a mess, and the two are related." His piece expressed common academic anger at the sloppiness with which the mainstream media tosses around bogus charges that don't need to be true to do enormous damage. Brian Leiter, in the law school world, hated on Prof. Campos' long division

On Monday, more or less the best non-IHE/CHE journalist working on higher ed funding, Jordan Weissmann, went after the piece in Slate under the title, "The New York Times Offers One of the Worst Explanations You'll Read of Why College is So Expensive." He delivered the right College Funding 101 lesson, which is that it isn't total dollars but dollars per student that matters as a baseline: "Depending on who's counting, states are giving schools somewhere between 25 and 30 percent fewer dollars per student than they were 15 years ago. And someone has had to make up that difference. Namely, college kids."

At the AAUP's Academe Blog, Martin Kich offered various charts, including the standard pattern of tuition increases and state funding declines (per student).  For those in doubt:

Precise curves will vary, and the exact peak of state support may have occurred in 1987, 1990, or 2001 depending on which inflation index you use. But the correlation is clear: per student funding has declined, and student tuition has gone up.

Back at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Prof. Campos produced a more conventional chart with the consensus conclusion. Appropriation growth is terminated by student enrollment growth.  Appropriations go sideways after 1990 and then decline after 2010.

Take Pell Grants out, and you get the standard decline story.  (You should take the Pell Grants out: they are federal money that backfills tuition charges to students, not new operating allocations.) SHEEO's latest report has the definitive version.  This is net tuition (green) and state appropriations (blue), per student FTE, in 2014 dollars using SHEEO's Higher Education Cost Adjustment (HECA) index.

Note, to repeat, that real per-student state appropriations are down about 25 percent from 25 years ago. Note that a doubling of net tuition has not brought total resources back to their 2001 peak. Recall that this is the period in which US degree attainment fell to 16th place in OECD rankings.  Note that rising college enrollments has now reversed. 

In other words, per-student public funding has been cut. Tuition and student debt have boomed concurrently. So Prof. Campos winds up back where we all started, with per-student appropriations that are less that what they were seven years ago or 25 years ago, and with educational problems that follow from the reality of this long-term austerity on the public side of the university system.

2. Expanding Admin

So why did Prof. Campos deny per-student austerity, which is real, to focus on aggregates that stopped rising very quickly about twenty-five years ago?

My theory is that he has been driven half-mad, like many of us, by the refusal of senior academic managers to put their own choices into the picture, and say yes we too have increased costs with our decisions. Prof. Campos seems to have been willing to reinforce damaging stereotypes of overfed public colleges in his obsession with rejecting the causal claim that public cuts (and only public cuts) produce tuition hikes.  His last line in the Times reads:  "What cannot be defended . . . is the claim that tuition has risen because public funding for higher education has been cut" (emphasis added). In other words, he's saying, universities have hiked tuition also because of other cost increases, many chosen by the universities themselves.  And on this point, he is absolutely right.

His Times piece moves on to offer its own causal explanation.

[A] major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

This picks up a theme Prof. Campos has aired in the national media before. Time magazine gave him space in 2013 to attack E. Gordon Gee as he was stepping down from his highly-compensated second stint as Ohio State's president.  In a piece called "The Lessons of the Megalomaniac University President," Prof. Campos termed President Gee's $2 million per year (plus another million a year in travel, entertainment, and related expenses) "disgusting." He went on to say,

Gee also increased the size of the university’s senior staff by 30% and raised their average salaries by 63%, to $539,390 in 2011. To get a sense of how out of control university-administrator compensation has become, consider that a year before Gee began his first tenure as Ohio State’s president, the president of Harvard was paid $138,044 ($256,000 in 2012 dollars), and only eight university presidents in the entire nation made more than $200,000. Now, thanks to Gee and his ilk, there are dozens of administrators at Ohio State University alone who would consider that sum an insult.

If you think this is cherry-picking, look at another figure showing the unmistakable national pattern.

The largest employment growth is in non-faculty professions, which include not only senior staff but the ever-larger administrative middle of public universities.  This lopsided growth marks a major shift in resources from educational to non-educational personnel. It has coincided with two other things Prof Campos and many others lament: faculty salaries that on average have stagnated since 1970, and the adjuncting of most college instructional staff. "Administrative bloat" means falling faculty salaries (see Prof. Kich's numbers) and downgrading education. Administration competes with instruction and research for the limited internal funds that underwrite both, and has been winning.

3. The Price of Privatization

Faculty are sick and tired of austerity, and of blocked upgrades of teaching and research, and of being wrongly blamed for tuition increases.  So when one like Prof. Campos sticks his neck out, how do administrators respond? We have one instance in a letter to the Times by University of California CFO Nathan Brostrom. He rightly noted that public funding cuts are real, and then wrote,

Mr. Campos blames administrative bloat and high salaries; I disagree. The State of California, for example, funds the University of California system at the same level as it did in 1999 — even though today we enroll 83,000 more students and have one more campus.

What? This is like saying, "I didn't pay too much for my new car since I made less money this year than last!"   Obviously a university can get less money from one major revenue source and still spend too much of it on administration.  Perhaps an editor butchered Mr. Brostrom's argument: this certainly doesn't qualify as a serious response to questions about internal costs that university administrators have themselves tolerated or initiated, or to the educational damage and workplace degradation that result.   So nothing will happen, until the next faculty cri de coeur that houses a reasonable point in an overblown war machine aimed at maddening discursive defenses.

Mr. Brostrom and Prof. Campos are two sides of the same coin, or the two poles of a frozen dialectic.  One side says the problem is all outside the university, particularly in legislative cuts.  The other side says that the problem is all inside, particularly self-serving managers larding up administration.   Each side uses the other to disengage from open institutional politics that would involve all parties.  The debate has occupied the center ring for years. It prevents discussion of the deeper forces reshaping the university.

A summary term for those deeper forces is privatization.  Neither the Brostrom or the Campos side focuses on the fact that privatization increases expenses as well as revenues. In reality, privatization forces the mission creep of multiplying activities, "businesses," funding streams, capital projects and other debt-funded investments, which increase all sorts of non-educational costs and also administration.  Private partnerships, sponsors, vendor relations, and so on bring in new money but also cost money, require institutional subsidies, and in many cases lose money for the university.

University budget offices have a bad habit of reporting revenues in many areas without subtracting costs.  If they really want public understanding of college costs--which I doubt--they need to disaggregate internally-driven cost increases.  Not all increased costs express a "cost disease."  Some reflect  improved quality of educational services.  Universities should try to separate increased expenses that improve "quality of care" from those that are focused on increasing revenues.  Then the latter should be broken down into those that produce net increases and those that don't.  

I am aware that this would be hard and somewhat subjective.  But trying to do it would hugely improve the cost debate, and also public awareness of why per-student public university expenditures never go down.

Administrative bloat is one of the prices of privatization.  Until we can have honest accounting of privatization's costs, public university funding will be going nowhere.  And academia's leaders will obviously be far more responsible for this stagnation than any number of articles by frustrated faculty like Prof. Campos.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 7

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

by Jennifer Ruth,  Portland State University

I’ve written before about my experiences at Portland State for Remaking the University. I’ve described effortsmy colleagues and I made to increase tenure-line positions. I’ve explored whythese kinds of efforts are difficult to coordinate and sustain in environments already reliant on non-tenure-track (NTT) instruction. Some of the readers have agreed with me that those of us with tenure should use it to refuse to grow through precarity. They then have taken the next necessary step—a hard look at the numbers. (See, in particular, Matthew H. Clark’s excellent comment on the math at the bottom of thispost.) They ask, as we all must: How realistic is it to push for a return to a majority tenure-line workforce at the typical public university?

At Portland State, as at many other state universities across the nation, we have what is now being breezily referred to as “the faculty mix”: tenure-track (TT), full-time non-tenure track (NTT), and part-time or adjunct faculty. Full-time NTT faculty members are involved in governance and service; adjuncts are not. The involvement of the former is an acknowledgment of a reality that has obtained for at least two decades: though on one-to-three-year contracts, these faculty members are permanent. Now, as we’ve steadily grown our third workforce, the adjunct faculty, it too is arguably as permanent. I’ve discussed before thenumbers behind Portland State’s economic dependence on faculty originally often hired as if they were stop-gap. I don’t have access to all the university numbers so I can’t say how much money would be liberated for faculty hiring were administrator salaries and real estate purchases to eat up less of the budget. I do think, however, that it is fair to say that we cannot afford one tenure track composed of positions bundling research, teaching, and service. I think it is equally fair to say that we can afford two tracks.

In our forthcoming book, The Humanities, Higher Education and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments, Michael Bérubé and I call on universities like Portland State to create a tenure track for full-time faculty hired and promoted on the basis of excellence in teaching, and require that the vast majority of faculty be hired onto this track if not hired onto the other research/teaching tenure track. As a boundary, part-time adjunct instruction should account then for no more than 10% of student credit hours a term. The ratio of teaching-intensive faculty to research-and-teaching faculty will depend on many variables, and no doubt the relative size of the two tracks will vary greatly from university to university. The important thing in our minds is that both tracks confer eligibility for tenure after rigorous review. Universities will improve the teaching their students receive—there will be more accountability, not less, in such a system–and they will strengthen faculty involvement in service and governance. It is this last area of faculty work—service and governance—that has most convinced us of the necessity of tenure eligibility for all full-time faculty at universities.

Some people argue that universities should implement rolling contracts for non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty. We do not believe that this is sufficient: multi-year contracts do not provide meaningful academic freedom. In a recent essay in Inside Higher Ed, Michael Bérubé quotes Don Eron, a long-term contingent faculty member at the University of Colorado at Boulder and member of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, who says, “Multiyear contracts are guaranteed to keep a faculty docile. Having to constantly reapply for one's job actively discourages the academic freedom that tenure is designed to protect.” The comment thread trailing Michael’s essay affirms Eron’s point. Quoting Michael on the catch-22 of NTT faculty in governance (vulnerable if you do it, vulnerable if you don’t), one commenter stated, “Uhh... there are full time faculty on one-year contracts doing committee and Faculty Senate work on our campus. That cow left the barn a decade ago.” Someone then responded: “yes, i [sic] am one of them - and I think twice before I say anything on the committee because i [sic] don't want to lose my job actually- Berube has it right.”

Time and again, I’ve seen governance dynamics sour when committees operate on the implicit pretense that TT and NTT faculty have the same degree of security with which to deliberate on issues. Awkward, failed committee work is often attributed after the fact to TT faculty’s arrogance and insensitivity to NTT faculty vulnerability. This no doubt is a factor in some places and at some times, but in my experience, the situation is untenable because everyone in the room becomes painfully aware of the power differentials warping the discussion’s outcome. In these environments, nobody feels free to say what she or he thinks—the TT faculty for fear of looking like a bully, the NTT faculty for fear of repercussions for their future.

At Portland State University, I currently serve on a “Faculty Roles and Structure” topic team, a kind of subcommittee of a university-wide strategic planning committee. Last week, two of us from the topic team—myself (a long-time TT faculty member) and a colleague from another department (a long-time NTT faculty member)—had a meeting with a staff member from the President’s office to discuss scheduling and other logistics. We found ourselves telling her that there was something extraordinarily naïve about putting a bunch of strangers of different ranks into one room and expecting us to walk out with a coherent set of recommendations concerning the faculty mix. My colleague told the staff person she should consider the university a country club circa 1950: the TT faculty members are the elite and NTT faculty, the excluded.

And TT faculty concerns are real, too. The sometimes casual hiring of NTT faculty, some of whom do not have terminal degrees, has led to a situation in which some TT faculty are uneasy throwing governance open to all faculty. They worry that people who have not gone through the entire training process of the discipline—which includes not only the earning of the terminal degree in their fields (typically, the Phd or MFA) but the work involved in competitive searches —may not be well-equipped to promote and preserve disciplinary standards. Additionally, TT faculty are not slighting their NTT colleagues when they worry that growing groups of faculty involved in governance without job security weakens the faculty’s aggregate ability to enter into shared governance with administrators as equals.

Tenure not only provides a degree of independence that multi-year contracts don’t; the hiring and evaluation processes are legitimating in and of themselves. One feels a lot less vulnerable when many different people and stages were involved in one’s hiring and retention than when one or two people were. Another commenter on the IHE thread following Michael’s article wrote, “At my school, there are numerous adjuncts with MAs who simply got their job because they live in the area and know the right people - a patronage system. However great their teaching evals , this practice is deprofessionalizing our profession.” The last thirty years of off-track hiring, Adriana Kezar and Daniel Maxey argue in “Adapting by Design,” now threatens the “core of our educational mission and the status of the academic profession.” This cannot be construed as an insult to NTT faculty when it is very patently the resulting institutional dysfunction, not the unprofessionalism of individuals, that has pushed us off our ivy-covered brick walls.

Many administrators will argue that they turned to faculty with higher courseloads to survive when states divested from higher education. Okay, we can answer, but you can and must find the money for a full-time teaching-intensive tenure track composed of positions with comparable salaries and equal benefits. With a teaching-intensive tenure track, we establish a credible degree of equality and legitimation and protect academic freedom. And we treat the profession of college teaching with the dignity it deserves.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 8

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015
The Council of University of California Faculty Associations has drafted a letter/petition to President Napolitano in response to proposals to reduce the health care options available to UC Employees.  I am posting CUCFA's letter and petition in the hope of widening its circulation among faculty members.  Staff unions and UC-AFT may be proceeding with their own responses.  If any faculty members wish to sign the petition you can find it at:
michael m
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Yesterday, a meeting of the UC Irvine student government Legislative Council was cancelled due to what campus police determined was a "viable threat of violence associated with the recent controversy over the display of national flags in the lobby of student government offices." Chancellor Gillman issued an accompanying statement decrying the threat of violence and declaring "Regardless of your opinion on the display of the American flag, we must be united in protecting the people who make this university a premier institution of higher learning."  This cancellation and threat of violence follows several days in which the student officers who had supported the removal of flags from a portion of the student government building had been receiving various forms of abuse, threats, and condemnation.

Although the Chancellor is to be commended for yesterday's statement decrying violence and threats against the student representatives, noticeably missing was any consideration or recognition of the role that his prior statements may have had in legitimating the demonization of the students.  You can find his earlier statement here.  Several things stand out in the statement:

First is his claim that "it was outrageous and indefensible that they would question the appropriateness of displaying the American flag on this great campus."  Chancellor Gillman is a constitutional scholar. Is he really saying that "questioning" the "appropriateness" of flying the flag on a college campus is "indefensible"?  Are we really to understand that at Irvine a discussion or debate about the meanings of national symbols (even our own) is now off the table?  

The second thing is his pointed thanks "to a member of our outstanding ROTC program, who volunteered to stand guard over the disputed flag while this issue was being resolved."  Suggesting that there was a need to "stand guard over the disputed flag" implies that the flag itself was under some sort of threat.  But what exactly was that threat?  Being moved to a different location?  Being folded up and given to the ASUCI President to keep as was done on a previous occasion?  These are threats? Implying that the vote implied a physical threat to the flag casts the student representatives as potential threats (leaving aside the fact that even Flag Burning has been declared protected speech by the Supreme Court).  

Now Chancellor Gillman insisted in his statement that if the students had acted in a private capacity and expressing personal views then there would be no reason to pay attention.  But frankly this seems like a fig leaf.  After all, the Chancellor issued his statement after the resolution had been vetoed by the Executive Council of the student government so there was no need for his condemnation.  Of course, I understand that some had spread a story about the resolution to parts of the media and that the Chancellor may have been worried about fundraising and political fallout.  But it is precisely when the principle of free debate is challenged that it is most incumbent on campus leaders to stand clearly in defense of it.  On March 8th the Chancellor did not do so.

There is an irony in this situation.  In the fall, UC was treated to statements issued by Chancellors on the necessity of civility in debate.  At the time, I discussed the dangers of coercion in this insistence on administratively demanded civility.  But here, if there is any incivility it is in the language of the Chancellor and the personal attacks on UCI Facebook and elsewhere against the student sponsors. Anyone reading the actual resolution--whatever they think of it in the end--could hardly consider it uncivil.  

There have been suggestions that moments like this suggest that University administration's should more forcefully distance themselves from student governments.  But that seems, unnecessary, unwise and unlikely to make a difference.  Anyone who confuses student governments with campus administrations or faculties is unlikely to be persuaded by some formal declaration.  Doing so would simply reduce a sense of shared enterprise on campuses.  And finally, the most appropriate stance for an administration in a case like this would have been a simple statement that it was a matter of the student government, that the administration was confident that its students would work that matter out, and that the appropriate thing would be for everyone else to allow the debate to take its course and ask questions if they wished.  Unfortunately that is not what was done.

Here are some links for those of you who are interested:

The Actual Resolution on the Flag Location. 

The most detailed reporting that I have found on the background to the Resolution

The Chancellor's Statement of March 8

Some information on Legislative Outrage

A Petition in Support of the Students who proposed the Resolution.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 6

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Understandably, most public attention on California higher ed has been focused on the meetings between President Napolitano and Governor Brown.  But in the last few weeks the Legislature and the Legislative Analyst's office have both attempted to intervene and shape the debate over UC funding.  To some extent these interventions may simply indicate the Legislature's desire to become part of a process they seem excluded from at present.  But they do suggest both a wider political context for UC and that UC faces a significant debate over the nature of the research university and how the state will conceive of its relationship to the research moving forward. 

This debate is not, to be sure, limited to California.  As events in Oregon, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina make clear, university systems are embroiled in both internal and external conflicts.  Although the fights are most immediately about money--often still in the mode of over-sized and politicized public funding cuts--they suggest issues deeper than short-term finances. As Chris and I have noted repeatedly, budgets are about values and what is at stake as 2015 are the values of the research university.  

In this post I want to look at the staff analysis prepared for the February 18th, Assembly Budget Committee meeting on UC.  This Committee hearing was not the first effort by the Legislature to intervene in the UC debate.  But it lays out the terrain that we face and raises challenges to the ways that UC operates.

The staff analysis seems committed to challenging UC's claim that it has suffered from under-funding. It attempts to do this by demonstrating that UC spending has increased significantly in both the total and core budgets since 2007.  They do this both in absolute dollars and in comparison to other state agencies. (4-5) At the same time, they try to minimize the increased costs UC faces.  For example, they emphasize the small growth in undergraduate resident student numbers rather than addressing the growth in total undergrad enrollments, which makes it appear that UC has more money to spend per student than it would if the total was taken into account.

In particular, assembly staff press on the size of administration.  They highlight the fact that, as is the case across the country, the number of administrative personnel is rising at a far faster pace than the number of tenure-track faculty (8).  Unlike much public discussion, they emphasize the expansion of the Management and Senior Professional Group (MSP). The Committee staff are right to note how difficult it is to account for the administrative growth--especially in the MSP group where the greatest growth seems to have occurred.  I say "seems" because it is extremely difficult if not impossible to figure out exactly who is in the MSP, what job categories are included, where the individuals are located, and so on by using UCOP's publicly available data.  UC will always respond to questions about administrative salaries and costs by pointing to the Senior Management Group because it is small. But the MSP group is large and growing so the assembly is right to push on that. The opacity of this category is a serious problem for the University.

Exacerbating this expansion in administration is the rise in the number of high-salaried UC employees.  Whereas the budget committee analysts recognize that many of these are connected to medical centers or are athletic coaches (and therefore may not be state funded) it is clear that not all are. Indeed the number of UC employees earning over $200,000 has nearly doubled since 2007 (8). Two issues, besides the obvious public image problem, make this development particularly fraught. First, while the number of high salaried individuals has grown, UC has turned increasingly to the use of Lecturers for undergraduate teaching.  Since 2007, lecturers have increased by nearly 20% while ladder rank faculty has increased about 3% and the number of librarians has actually shrunk. (The number of SMG and MSP has grown in the same period by about 32%).  UC claims that it is essential that students be taught by scholars actively involved in research.  But UC's increased reliance on Lecturers undermines this claim.  (Many lecturers, of course, are engaged in research, but UC does not hire them to be so engaged.)  The University can't make a case that UC research is essential to UC instruction when it steadily grows the proportion of non-research instructors.

Beyond the immediate costs involved here there is an additional long-range issue: the burden placed on the pension system by high salaried individuals.  This leads straight into one of the most contentious issues raised by the budget committee analysis. It notes that whereas the State caps its pensionable salary at the social security limit of $118,500, UC follows a federal tax code limit of $265,000.  While the legislature does not demand that UC change its policy, it certainly implies that it does not see the justification for this choice.

Interestingly, the Budget committee staff challenge the University's assumption that it must always respond to salary markets. At several places they raise the question: why should UC be competing with private universities?  They are most explicit in terms of the administration.  As they point out, administrative salaries are now defined not only against other public universities but against the salaries of executives outside of the higher education world.  The justification for this is unclear.  But they are also skeptical about UC including private universities in the compensation comparisons for faculty.  Implied in their questioning is the idea that short of a mass exodus of UC faculty, the state may not want to remain bound to the ranking and reputation system of higher education.   It is not clear that they will push on this issue but it is possible.

Although the report never makes it explicit, one red thread concerns the relationship between research and teaching load at UC.  The report shows skepticism about the relationship between faculty research and teaching and suggests that the relative importance of the two needs to be rethought.  As committee staff put it in two questions (both at 13): "Does UC believe faculty are teaching enough? How does UC determine an appropriate faculty load?" and "Is it appropriate to include research activity within the instruction category? Should undergraduate students' tuition be used to support research if it does not benefit them?"  Put bluntly, the Committee staff seems to be asking why UC professors should be paid more to teach fewer courses than our CSU colleagues are expected to teach.   I don't think that the assembly necessarily wants to downgrade the research university. Speaker Atkins, for example, has shown a greater willingness to expand funding for the University than has the Governor.  But the analysis clearly questions the present balance between teaching and research.  

I suspect that this report is simply the opening gambit in a long struggle over the question of research and the administrative and financial burdens that come alongside of it.  Given the political pressures to improve completion rates and reduce the time to degrees, the status quo is not going to survive indefinitely.  If UC does not rethink its administrative structure and if we do not more consistently prove that research actually enriches the learning of undergraduates we will be ever more vulnerable to the sort of mechanistic solutions favored by the Governor--shorter degrees, more online, greater uniformity in course offerings.  No one should want that.  We are all going to have to revitalize the research university as a learning institution if we want to continue to secure public support.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 1

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
By Lenora Hanson, Elsa Noterman, and Eleni Schirmer University of Wisconsin, Madison

Chris here: many states are now maintaining higher ed austerity or carrying on cuts in the teeth of the economy's recovery. Louisiana is one extreme example, and Wisconsin recently became another.  Budget deficits alone don't explain Wisconsin's cuts, as UW-Milwaukee professor Richard Grusin has pointed out in his analyses, so the next question is what does explain it? Further, what is the role of public university systems' top brass in creating the current climate?  This essay considers the latter question in the Wisconsin case.

*  *  *
The University of Wisconsin System administration and the campus chancellors have sent a clear message to the state Capitol that the proposed 13 percent cuts to the System are too big. Though this vocal opposition differs from that of previous UW administrators, as Republicans legislators have eagerly pointed out, the budget cuts come attached to a proposal which both past and present UW administrators have actively sought -- the transformation of the UW System into a public authority.

Despite inveighing against the magnitude of the cuts presented in the proposed 2015-2017 budget, system administrators have long campaigned for "public authority" status. They recognize the cuts as a “DEAL” with the state in exchange for what they call the ‘flexibilities’ of the public authority model.  This desire explains why no UW System Chancellor has, to our knowledge, demanded that cuts to higher education be outright rejected. System President Ray Cross characterizes this as a deal for one simple reason: UW system budget cuts are an exchange for public authority status. As President Cross mentioned in the email he sent to system-wide chancellors before news of the cuts became public, the part of the budget that would make the university a public authority was an opportunity to be seized -- “something we might not get a shot at for another 20-30 years.” 

Why does the administration see this as an opportunity that must be seized? Because this deal positions the university to act like a corporate entity, equipped with the financial technologies to compete for market resources and top-paying ‘customers’ -- in the form of wealthy out-of-state students -- to fund its activities, rather than relying on highly regulated state investment while maintaining historic public access.  Though recent remarks by administrators attempt to distinguish the budget cuts from the public authority status, the System administration has been preparing to accept cuts in order to gain autonomy.

What Is a Public Authority?

What exactly is public authority? As administrators regularly remind us, and as evident from the language of the budget itself, the details and specifics are still largely unknown. Indeed, as one graduate student incisively asked of Vice-Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Darrell Bazzell, at a recent budget forum, “If we don’t know what exactly the public authority model contains, why do we want it?” While Wisconsin statutes do not provide a single definition or model of ‘public authority,’ the Governor’s state budget does assert that the public authority will increase the university administration’s ‘flexibility’ in each of these key areas:
(a) ability to set tuition rates unilaterally; (b) authority to set employee compensation and establish a personnel system; (c) control over managing all aspects, except bid letting, of construction projects funded with program revenues; (d) ability to conduct all aspects of construction projects funded with gifts and grants; (e) management of procurement and purchasing contracts; and (f) jurisdiction to negotiate student reciprocity agreements with Minnesota on behalf of the state.
In more direct language, the public authority will provide (1) the power to expand tuition revenue; (2) to have greater control over construction projects (both in development and issuing bonds); and (3) to have more control over employee compensation and the personnel system. The language above is not, as frequently described by the administration, a matter of gaining “flexibilities,” but rather, we suggest, of “hyper-extending” the already significant burdens on UW workers and students. It is these hyper-extensions that are the priorities of system administrators, who are part of a new administrative class attempting to increase access to tuition and student loans, which subsidize new construction projects, at the same time it reduces labor costs through outsourcing, attacks labor unions, and increases managerial power.
We can get a good sense of what “public authority” might look like at UW-Madison only by cobbling together statements made by UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank at recent forums on our campus. Those statements suggest that while the System administration is somehow convinced that a public authority model will make the System more financially efficient and competitive, they know next to nothing about its impact on governance and diversity on our campuses. To wit, Chancellor Blank has noted that while Diversity Programs are important, they would not remain untouched by the cuts-for-public-authority exchange. And although UW System President Ray Cross originally framed the pursuit of public authority as a protection of shared governance in emails to system chancellors, Chancellor Blank has instead, perhaps more honestly, made the ambiguous statement that, “I very much hope there will be no effect whatsoever on shared governance.” Chancellor Blank’s statement is likely more honest, we suggest, because the public authority could change shared governance by moving things like shared governance, tenure, guaranteed support for underrepresented and minority students, and other items out of state statute and into the Board of Regents' jurisdiction.

We of course know that the members of the Board of Regents are neither democratically elected nor representative of individual campuses; rather, they are appointed by the Governor to serve seven-year terms, and will preside over the entire System. Should the Governor’s Board of Regents choose to write the above items into policy for the System they could do so, but as Blank’s wavering statement acknowledges, we currently have no real sense of how those items will be rewritten, if at all. Nor would UW systems workers or students have any ability to impose democratic accountability or recourse upon the appointed Regents.

While the UW administration verbally supports protections for students and workers, this does not necessarily ensure material support, especially in a context of declining resources. When fielding questions about protection for programs that sustain underrepresented and minority students after the transition to Board of Regents control, Vice-Chancellor Bazzell flatly stated that UW-Madison has a strong recent track record of support for diversity programming. Yet recent evidence shows that, especially after the 2011 budget cuts, admission for students of color, first generation college students, and Wisconsin residents declined, while high-paying international students and students of alumni rose.

We can also look at the example of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic (UWHC), which -- previously a state-funded entity -- became managed by a hospital authority though the 1995 biennial budget, meaning that it would no longer receive state support and have to fund its daily operations through its generated revenues. One of the most significant effects of the UW Hospital’s shift to public authority status was its loss of collective bargaining for its employees. This pattern repeated when the UW System administration refused to include the option for faculty to unionize in the current public authority proposal.

Exchanging Cuts for Flexibilities: A System Tradition

UW-Madison administration has been silent on the explicit connections that exist between the budget and the public authority, and have rejected any suggestion that they are willing to take one for the other. For example, Vice Chancellor Bazzell recently argued that trying to understand the budget cuts in relation to the public authority is a “false construction.”

Yet Vice-Chancellor Bazzell’s statement ignores clear connections to the previous, ill-fated proposal for a public authority. That 2011 proposal, known as the New Badger Partnership (NBP), aimed to give UW-Madison complete autonomy as a public authority, breaking it away from UW-System as a way to protect UW-Madison from further budget cuts. It was a product of secretive discussions between the Governor and then-Chancellor Carolyn “Biddy” Martin, and revealed a connection between university administrative lobbying and Republican-driven austerity measures. Yet, Vice-Chancellor Bazzell attempted to re-write that history in last week’s forum, suggesting that the 2011 NBP and public authority mission was externally imposed on UW by Gov. Walker, not, as was the actual case, co-fashioned by UW administrators and state legislators. Indeed, from what we have seen, not a single communication, either internal or external, even acknowledges that a previous public authority proposal existed.

Yet there are at least three good reasons to believe that the proposed 2015-2017 budget cuts and public authority are inseparable, and that administration’s struggle to gain the latter has been absent a concern that it would likely produce the former.

First, after the NBP failed in 2011, UW-Madison and other system schools happily accepted a block grant from the state, as opposed to General Program Revenue (GPR) enumerated by fund type, in order to get the chance to rewrite their own HR and personnel policies. Not incidentally, the block grant allocation also required modifying state statute 20.285 to deregulate previous restrictions on how tuition can and cannot be spent, and thus freed up the system in the use of that revenue stream. At the time, critics expressed concern that a block grant was one step in the direction of drastically limited or even ultimately non-existent state contributions, which is unfortunately what we are seeing this year.

Second, in 2012, the Task Force on Restructuring noted in a presentation to System leaders that, “WI was one of the highest regulated universities in the country” and recommended that the System gain greater control over things like building, procurement and compensation, all the while never expressing concern in documents that this might lead to crippling cuts. Much like the infamous Act 10, the redrafting of HR policies has weakened worker protections put in place by unions, such as seniority rules, and has created a merit pay system that campus unions have vocally opposed. Third, and most recently, departments and programs on UW-Madison’s campus were asked last year to run 2/4/6 percent budget reduction tests in anticipation of cuts that were never contested by the administration.

It thus appears that the UW-System administration has seen the cuts as an opportunity on which they could capitalize.  In the context of this ongoing university campaign, Gov. Walker's proposed exchange of "public authority" status for cuts is not the result of a genuine budget crisis but of years of the UW-System actively trading off cuts for piecemeal autonomy. This helps explain why the messaging coming out of UW-Madison is not that we cannot afford cuts at all, but that the current proposed cuts are simply too big to be absorbed immediately. In her first address to Faculty Senate,  UW-Madison Chancellor Blank implied as much when she stated that, “We cannot do [the cuts] in one year; it is not possible,” and that “I wouldn’t say this is an utter disaster for the university, but we have some serious changes to make in our operations and all of you are going to feel that in some way or another.”

Though we recognize that Chancellor Blank’s statements deviate from the talking points deployed by previous Chancellors and administration, intolerance for cuts has not been her position, as evidenced by her budget reduction test. By conducting this exercise, Chancellor Blank effectively trained the university’s workers to accept and prepare for cuts. In this sense, Chancellor Blank herself failed to organize campus and the broader UW community to fight back against cuts that are widely acknowledged as “self-inflicted” wounds produced by years of tax breaks for the wealthy. From an employee’s point of view, what exactly is “too much?” The Governor’s eight percent cuts or the ‘necessary’ six percent previously proposed by the administration?

A Policy of Silence

“Let me know of any way I can be helpful (which can include keeping my mouth shut---- Smile)
--email from Dennis Shields (Chancellor, UW Platteville) to Ray Cross (UW System President)

Perhaps even more troubling than the UW Administration’s ahistorical representation of the proposed budget cuts to the university is their attempt to insulate the biennial budget from politics at all. This has become most evident in the administration’s refusal to engage in questions about the budget that are “political” in nature -- namely about the actual causes and motivations of the supposed budget cuts. Though the university will engage in long-term discussions about the impacts of the cuts and how they will be distributed, students and faculty have regularly been told by UW administration representatives that the discussion of the origins of the cuts -- namely the state’s perplexing revenue system -- is prohibitively political.

For instance, at a recent forum for graduate students, Vice Chancellor Bazzell stated that he was not at all concerned about having a public university funded through sales tax -- a mercenarily regressive form of taxation -- if it allocated sufficient amounts of revenue. This shift in funding sources will present an aggressively anti-public investment source, whereby those in the state with the least resources will pay disproportionately more for a university that is increasingly unaffordable to them. The Administration’s flagrant disregard for the sources of its funding -- not simply the quantity -- present a chilling and short-sighted strategy of the university as a public institution.

The depoliticization of the proposed budget is also evident in the administration’s discouragement of protest as a form of political participation. On the fourth anniversary of the now-symbolic February 14 "I Heart UW" Rally that sparked the Wisconsin capitol Occupation in 20144, over 200 students, faculty, staff and community members below-freezing temperatures to protest Scott Walker's recent proposal to defund higher education.

But UW-Madison's Twitter page, which was busy issuing valentines to UW, gave no hint that active resistance was begin organized on its campus that day, despite its subsequent attention on the front page of the New York Times and in the Washington Post. This is perhaps because, as disclosed to members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) Executive Board in a meeting last week and to the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants’ Association (MGAA) members in an email (see their video response), UW administrators are discouraging protests and rallies to the budget proposal. Indeed, UW Regent Margaret Farrow criticized the “emotional” nature of the protests, invoking language loaded with gendered and racialized norms about “acceptable” forms of dissent.

Thus, a troubling and largely unacknowledged outcome of the recent budget proposal has been the request for a respectability politics--a politics in which entire campuses shall support the administration’s position, and perform a consensus by acting like ‘good’ citizens and workers. In the context of the UW system's financial technologies, consensus is a disciplining project in that it demands compliance with an employer that is already assessing where to cut jobs. This disciplining surfaced in 2011, when the UW system gained the “flexibility” to develop a new HR or personnel system that then led to the suggestion that it adopt a “behavior-based selection process” as part of employee recruitment and assessment.  Respectability politics reinforces a system that is moving away from defending its employees' academic freedom toward hiring workers ready and willing to be managed without question.

To be blunt, it appears that the UW administration actively seeks a form of management flexibility that requires silent employees whose jobs are consistently on the line.  The published email communications from system President Cross contained a message from Madison Chancellor Blank about UW-Madison’s University Committee
We'll see what pops out publicly by tomorrow morning. I have my faculty exec comm [sic] committed to letting negotiations move forward without public outcry, but I don't know if they contain certain elements of the faculty.
Chancellor Blank clearly favors a passive faculty even though this passivity helped convince Gov Walker and other state politicians that 13 percent state funding cuts could succeed.  To reinforce passivity, some now claim that the budget cuts derive not from the "public authority" proposal that originated with the UW-Madison administration and not with Gov. Walker, but from those who have been outspoken against Walker and UW administration's privatization efforts.

President Cross’ messaging to the Chancellors suggested that the deal is by no means settled. “Please know," he wrote,  "that any deal or potential agreement could fall through at any moment. But, this is an opportunity to assume the offensive and we are putting a plan in front of the Gov and the Ldrs [sic] – in concept.”  This comment should be taken as an important reminder that this “opportunity” is still, at least for now, a precarious fantasy that can move forward only through the  silence of those who will suffer the most from it.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 1

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rose Aguilar had a segment of her show "Your Call" on KALW that focused on the UC Budget and the need for transparency. UCOP apparently decided was not to send someone to talk on public radio in San Francisco. But luckily Chris participated along with Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee and Kevin Sabo of UCSA.

You can find the episode HERE

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 7

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015
As you may have heard, UC Care is suffering even more problems (or I should say people enrolled in UC Care are suffering more problems) as it heads into its second year.  On the one hand there are considerably higher premiums on many policies (you can see the new figures here and compare with your old payments).  But on the other, and even more significantly, UC Care continues to struggle to maintain Tier 1 service for all of the campuses.

On this issue, the most striking problem is the ongoing battle between Blue Shield and the Sutter Health system of hospitals.  The contract between Blue Shield and Sutter Health expired at the end of 2014 and conflicts between the two huge systems have prevented a new contract from being signed. UC is reporting that both sides have agreed, however, to a de facto extension of six months so that subscribers are not in any immediate danger of finding themselves without a health plan.  Both systems are seeking to portray themselves as defenders of patients (Sutter claims Blue Shield is trying to reduce payments while Blue Shield claims they are seeking to protect patients from imposed arbitration agreements and the potential of hiked premiums).  But of course each side is seeking to protect their own quite large revenues.

Although outside the control of UC, this crisis is reminiscent of the ongoing problems facing employees at UCSB.  As the UCSB Faculty Association has pointed out, UCSB still does not have Tier 1 access at the only full service hospital in their area.  If Blue Shield and Sutter Health cannot work the problem out, it is possible that the majority of the non-medical campuses will be left without access to their traditional range of health care options.

UC has provided some numbers to call at Blue Shield if you are having problems.  They can be found here.  It is also possible that other costs may go up during this dispute.

UPDATE:  Blue Cross and Sutter Health have agreed to a new 2 year contract.  You can find the press release HERE.
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015
Here's a quick update on my way back from Vancouver, where I attended the Modern Language Association meeting.  Jeff Williams and I had a panel featuring some of the issues in our Johns Hopkins University Press book series on Critical University Studies: Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed covered it here.  Send us a book proposal!  Universities aren't going to recover or have the intellectual functions the world needs unless faculty get actively involved in their redesign. We're equally interested in historical work.

I also have a piece today at Inside Higher Ed on the weakening of the austerity logic that has been ruling public universities. Entitled, "The Higher Ed Austerity Deal is Falling Apart," it argues that three major (albeit unwilling) political partners are getting tired of accepting the "new normal" of never-enough-revenues at too-high tuition rates.  

I start by pointing out that 2015 promises more of the same, and then analyze the fractures that became visible at the November regents' meeting.  My premise is that austerity isn't a natural effect of the economy but the effect of a tacit political alliance among the major players that includes senior university managers, faculty, and students. The UC story will be familiar to blog readers;  the second half of the piece, less so.

At one point, I write, 
Although austerity theory still rules public colleges, three of its major players no longer project future benefit from following their scripted roles: cutting and squeezing (administration), political compliance (governing boards), and tolerance for higher tuition and debt (students). It has become clear to them that these austerity policies will never make things better. 
When I re-read the piece this morning on line, I stumbled at that second sentence. Do these folks really know that only one engine is getting fuel and that therefore the plane is losing altitude? On reflection I think yet again that the answer is yes.  UC admin has been talking about the structural deficit to the regents for several years, and the students who spoke out last fall now think the Democrats are using the tuition freeze to let themselves off the funding hook.  

The question is more what to do with this knowledge. The immediate answer is to spell out the research and the teaching that get disappeared by funding shortfalls.  

At the MLA, there was an obvious conflict between the brilliance of the work, which has intellectual scope and depth that are better than ever, and the resources to finish and disseminate the research, which are nearly nonexistent. Our panel respondent, for example, was a grad student who couldn't afford to travel to Vancouver and thus went missing.  Sponsors of extramurally-funded research often require conference travel and fund their requirement.  On this point the humanities are underwater, with predictable delays.  Younger MLA scholars have never in my view been doing richer, more ambitious work with more important public implications--and yet never have more incomplete support to get it finished.

Second, there's teaching.  I'm on the MLA's Delegate Assembly, and on Saturday, at the end of a six hour meeting with a sustained focus on academic freedom, the Association's officers asked for input from the floor about how to respond to Arizona State University's recent raising of teaching loads for its non-tenure track (NTT) writing instructors by 25 percent (to 5-5), with no increase in pay.  An ASU dean was in the audience to explain the administration's rationale, which was that all university faculty have a notional five-course load per term, and the tenure track faculty who teach two courses per term are getting three courses of credit for research and service.   All the admin was doing, he said, was regularizing a lot of NTT instructors while rationalizing their workloads. 

The assembly took a dim view of this and of the other pieces of the dean's explanation. Many people objected to the exploitation of faculty who are now expected to offer meaningful feedback to 125 writing students a term.  Others pointed out the unilateral nature of the decision, in which admin tells faculty what to do with no regard for faculty expertise.  

My concern is also with the administrative framing. This assumes that college writing instruction is a commodity, both in terms of the instructor who delivers it, who need not be paid even the median US wage for 125 students, and of the student who is trying to master a skill by responding to individual feedback on their work.  ASU has a sophisticated idea of public education that is active and process oriented (see the linked article above), and yet asks instructors to deliver it under high school working conditions.  Why does anyone think you can create skills at a college level with a high school teaching load and for less than a high-school teaching wage? Because it's convenient to think that, because it allows cross-subsidies to think that, but also because administrators--and faculty--haven't spelled out in educational detail why we can't. 

Faculty need not simply to reject the framework but to explain why it's wrong: why we don't and can't have five courses as a teaching baseline for college instruction, for starters. We need to explain what students are supposed to learn in a writing class, show the level and type of feedback that requires, and then explain the working conditions that make that possible, including the maximum number of students that one can have to grade a certain number of pages per term with the cognitively required feedback.

Yes I know: who thought we were going to have to do this kind of explaining just so we could do our jobs? But this is how it is, and has been since the 1980s. The good news is that it marks the way colleges and universities are a decisive social power, which is why they are being fought over so relentlessly.

I thought about this when I happened on an article yesterday about tactics.  "The immediate response is bound to be a defensive one: fight the cuts." Yes, I thought, admin is finally doing this, as some faculty have done for years, but the power of the austerity framework, as the author writes, "has exposed the limited character of a struggle which remains a defensive one." 

The author continues to say that the defensive struggle "will get us nowhere if it is posed simply as a return to a state of things before the deluge"--very true! And it "cannot succeed unless it contains an active and positive content--of a new kind."  This new content, he concludes, needs to be embedded not in temporary and opportunistic political associations, but in "real and durable historical alliances" that lead to a "genuinely popular democratic social force."  This will involve, however, the transformation of "all the forces which are to be pulled together in this way."  

As some of you have guessed, the author was Stuart Hall, the year was 1980, and the subject was "Thatcherism--a new stage?"  University austerity is Thatcherism, historically and conceptually, but as I argue in the IHE piece it is now applied by Democrats and Labour as well as a by Republicans and Conservatives.  Opposition has not succeeded for Hall's reasons, which are insufficiencies of imagination and organization. In other words, we anti-austerians are not beating our heads against an inevitable historical trend or economic destiny, but have some new work to do.

So send us a book proposal!
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0