Faculty Members Call for Accountability and Transparency

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MRAK-Occupation-5By Ilse Atkinson

Several days before the Mrak Hall sit-in ended on Friday, a letter of support from members of UC Davis faculty came out endorsing the students participating in the protest. Sixty members of UC Davis faculty have signed the letter, which presents specific criticisms of administrative policies including lack of transparency and the imposition of a new “private-sector-inspired budget model.”

Though the sit-in has ended, protesters have said that they still hope to see administrative changes and the chancellor’s resignation. The letter of support from faculty, however, makes demands for administrative change without explicitly calling for the resignation of the chancellor.

“While some of us might disagree with our students’ call for the resignation of Chancellor Katehi, we all strongly agree with their demand that university administration should take urgent steps to increase its accountability to our students and colleagues,” it states.

The Vanguard spoke with members of faculty about their decision to sign the letter of support. Julia Simon, a professor in the Department of French and Italian, criticized the university’s methods of dealing with student protests, and the 2011 pepper-spraying of students by police on campus.

“The chancellor’s staff and the people who work in Strategic Communications, they’ve come up with strategies for interacting with students in the aftermath of that episode, that, in my opinion, seem like they’re not really interested in engaging in meaningful dialogue,” she stated.

Both the Chancellor’s Office and the Office of Strategic Communications have been in the spotlight this week, as the pepper-spraying incident returned to national headlines. It originally resurfaced because of an exposé by the Sacramento Bee which found that at least $175,000 was spent to restore the online image of the university and of Chancellor Katehi in its aftermath. The report also found that the budget for Strategic Communications has increased by over $2.5 million since 2009. This coverage is bringing renewed calls for the chancellor’s resignation and further questions about the transparency of funds in the UC.

“I think actually everybody would be helped by more transparency and more budget accountability in the administration. I think the public, and the faculty and certainly the legislators would be happy to see that money was being well-spent– and if it isn’t, to do something about it,” Professor David Simpson told the Vanguard. Simpson, who also signed the letter of support for protesters, has been a professor in the English Department at UC Davis since 1997.

“We would like to know, well, what standards are being applied for performance and efficiency in the administration, if any. And in particular, when new hires are made, what are they for?” he added.

Professor Simon echoed her own frustration with the expansion of administrative hiring, stating, “I think most faculty are very keenly aware of the fact that there are just administrative positions being added all the time.” She continued, “I think that the administrators are being added and staff people are being added at levels that are not really taking the burden off the faculty.”

The faculty letter of support also criticizes the administration for the adoption of a new budget model that prioritizes the university’s potential to generate profit. The letter reads that “the new budget model forces us to make our courses attractive for mass consumption rather than allowing us to teach the next generation how to think, write, and read critically and independently.”

According to Professor Simon, “The university is trying to make up for the withdrawal of state funds, but at the same time that they’re trying to do that to fill in the shortfalls in the budget, they’ve gone to a productivity model that’s probably not appropriate for an educational setting.”

“At most of the public institutions in America, these kinds of struggles are going on, as these kinds of corporate models are applied to a university,” she continued. Many of the members of faculty who signed the letter seem to agree that the changes at the UC are symptomatic of a national trend towards privatization of public universities.

“This is nationwide, this is not just us. As the university becomes more and more bound into legal issues and legal consequences, and at the same time becomes more corporatized, and more dependent on its own fundraising mechanisms to fulfill the gap left by the state, then it obviously generates bigger bureaucracy,” Professor Simpson told the Vanguard.

The effects of the gradual restructuring of the university and its administration have varied across departments in recent years. One effect has been a steady increase in class sizes, which some argue has been disproportionately detrimental to departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The majority of the faculty who signed the letter of support for protesters teach in these departments.

“The Humanities have a lot more courses– and the Arts too– where individualized attention and a lot of feedback is really important for the learning process,” Professor Simon explained. She added that “these kinds of activities tend to suffer when you more to a more corporatized model that’s really aimed at productivity.”

Professor Simpson, who also works in the Humanities, encounters this issue at UC Davis as well. He told the Vanguard that “when you have a budget model which simply counts heads, how many students you teach, without any real attention to the kind of teaching you do, then it disadvantages units like ours.”

“What we’ve been told is ‘teach more students,’ and the kind of teaching we do, it’s very difficult to do that and still teach well,” he stated.

Faculty endorsement of the sit-in seems to be multi-faceted. One factor has been supporting the students’ exercising of their right to protest, as explicitly stated in their letter. It reads, “The students’ actions represent a revitalization of active democracy and a commitment to the proud tradition of understanding the University of California as a public good.”

But these members of faculty have also expressed their own set of demands for change on campus, which include increasing administrative transparency and moving away from a private-sector budget model. Both faculty and student groups have called for a more democratic, representational structure of campus administration.

“I would hope that there would be some really serious conversations coming out of this, where the administration actually asks the faculty what we think an education ought to look like, and what are the values that we’re trying to teach, and where should the money flow,” stated Professor Simon.

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27 thoughts on “Faculty Members Call for Accountability and Transparency”

  1. Tia Will

    I have a confession to make. I have not been as proactive and diligent as I should have been as a donor. Feeling eternally grateful to UCD for providing me with the education that allowed me to build a highly productive and rewarding career, I have always felt the desire to give back.

    My “giving back” has come in the form of volunteer teaching and monetary donation. I have no regrets about the former since I have had a direct tangible effect on the educations of many, many pre meds, medical students, interns and residents through the years. About the latter, I am now very conflicted as it was always my intent to promote learning. It was never my intent to promote activities that were intended to white wash problems with the university administration or to reinforce the somewhat tarnished ( by her own deeds) reputation of the Chancellor.

    I accept full responsibility for my role in not fully exploring how my monetary gifts to the university would be spent. And I would expect that the university administration would accept their full responsibility for not specifying exactly how donations were being used. I speak only for myself when I say that in the future, I am much more likely to be generous with my monetary contribution if I can be assured that my contribution will go towards the education of its intended beneficiaries ( the students of California) and not towards some PR stunt.

    1. Biddlin

      Tia, I think many of us are now conflicted about such gifts to U.C. and other public universities and colleges in California. We have allowed them to become a businesses, with very well paid boards and officers, instead of the gold standard of public higher education, as we had fifty years ago. It is, after all, OUR university, not Napolitano’s or Katehi’s and while I think Katehi has overstayed her welcome, putting heads on pikes is not going to cure what is wrong with the system.  That is a much more protracted discussion, that ought to be had.

    2. Anon

      I accept full responsibility for my role in not fully exploring how my monetary gifts to the university would be spent. And I would expect that the university administration would accept their full responsibility for not specifying exactly how donations were being used. I speak only for myself when I say that in the future, I am much more likely to be generous with my monetary contribution if I can be assured that my contribution will go towards the education of its intended beneficiaries ( the students of California) and not towards some PR stunt.

      Well said Tia!

      1. Barack Palin

        I am much more likely to be generous with my monetary contribution if I can be assured that my contribution will go towards the education of its intended beneficiaries ( the students of California) and not towards some PR stunt.

        Just as DJUSD parcel tax payers might say the same thing about their money.

        1. Tia Will

          BP

          Just as DJUSD parcel tax payers might say the same thing about their money.”

          I believe that there is a huge distinction to be made between voluntary contribution of one’s money to an institution one wishes to support, and our duty as citizens to pay for our rights and benefits as members of our society through our taxes.

        2. Frankly

          I believe that there is a huge distinction to be made between voluntary contribution of one’s money to an institution one wishes to support, and our duty as citizens to pay for our rights and benefits as members of our society through our taxes.

          Interesting view of your personal morality.

          So, we have a duty to allow the government to take from us to run their giant charity where they can also enrich themselves, but donating to private charities should be considered only voluntary.

          Makes me want to goose step while raising my right-arm in solidarity to the collective.

    3. VG

      UC Davis faculty first has to get together as a group and figure out what their problems are, what they want, and how to achieve it?

      So far it has always been an effort by individuals carrying the struggle against corruption and corrupt value system at UC Davis. They were always destroyed by all powerful administration, while their colleagues showed no solidarity.

      Can someone cite one case when the faculty won? Or one case when Academic Senate supported a faculty member?

      With such culture and UCD faculty afraid to get involved or too eager to collaborate with administration for small handouts, Davis will always be and remain to be a shame of UC.

        1. VG

          I am afraid you are correct …. not just in this case, but for just about anything that goes on at UC Davis. Many just teach and run home as fast as they can. Apathy is the right word.

        2. Tia Will

          Frankly and VG

          I suspect that you are both right. I think that only the minority are “agitated” and many are probably “apathetic”. However I also suspect that neither of these are terms are reflective of those who are dissatisfied or uninspired by their work and see what could be a mission and/or a calling as nothing more than a job to be endured. What a waste !

           

        3. VG

          people become that way… I know many who came with great enthusiasm to do good and be proud of UC Davis. They got “beaten”  by the corrup and inept administration, that instead of being rewarded, they became targets. The only way to survive and be safe is to run home directly from the classroom, not even make a stop in the office. Every minute of time spent on campus is a serious risk of trouble. They are even bragging how little time they are spending on campus. I hope you agree that those people do not deserve trouble. They worked hard enough. Avoid the company of bad people and avoid hanging in bad places and you will be safe.

          This is why I am suspicious that Linda did something good to cause such a furor and hate of her. But, I may be wrong … they are all the same.

  2. Anon

    ““The Humanities have a lot more courses– and the Arts too– where individualized attention and a lot of feedback is really important for the learning process,” Professor Simon explained. She added that “these kinds of activities tend to suffer when you more to a more corporatized model that’s really aimed at productivity.””

    As if individualized attention and a lot of feedback is not important in math and science?  LOL  This sort of arrogance does not help your cause.

    “...we all strongly agree with their demand that university administration should take urgent steps to increase its accountability to our students and colleagues...”

    In this I concur.

    1. Tia Will

      Anon

      As if individualized attention and a lot of feedback is not important in math and science?  LOL  This sort of arrogance does not help your cause.”

      I did not see this statement as arrogant. Having taught in both the sciences and the humanities I am aware that while in both areas, individualized attention and feedback are important, much more time is needed to provide this in the humanities. This is in part because, at least at the introductory level, classes in the humanities tend to be much more time intensive in terms of reading and commenting on essays than is needed for the interpretation either or lab work and  mathematical or science based tests where the answers are correct or incorrect, not based on interpretation and effectiveness of communication ( writing and or speaking ) skills.

       

  3. Frankly

    specific criticisms of administrative policies including lack of transparency and the imposition of a new “private-sector-inspired budget model.”

    “The Humanities have a lot more courses– and the Arts too– where individualized attention and a lot of feedback is really important for the learning process,” Professor Simon explained. She added that “these kinds of activities tend to suffer when you more to a more corporatized model that’s really aimed at productivity.”

    What a bunch of hogwash.  The university’s financial trouble is precisely due to the lack of private-sector-style budgeting and financial management.

    I see what this is all about though.  Liberal arts professors and their students are the ONLY ones complaining. It is mostly ideological.

    While I agree that the leadership of UCD is bloated, semi-corrupt and in need of a complete overhaul… which should include a lot of thinning… it seems the root of agitation for all these more touchy-feely left leaning teachers and students is that the cost of education for what they have selected to teach and learn…  something that less and less payback in the real world outside of the bubble of academia.

    $100,000 in student debt and a $45,000 a year job at a non-profit does not pencil out.

    Unfortunately a lot of these students end up in government where, lacking the knowledge and capacity to understand the negative impacts of running out of other people’s money (but knowing for sure the negative impacts resulting from a few extra carbon molecules in the atmosphere), they set about doing even more looting from those other graduates that actually learned how to produce things of value and trade them in the semi-free market.

    Here is my take.

    I agree that we should decrease the cost of education for all students.   But I am not going to support the continued looting of other people’s money to fund the engine of leftist brainwashing that pollutes the minds of these students.

    Any educator that complains about a “private-sector-inspired budget model.” is obviously leftist-biased and should be thinned from the employee ranks of the university along with all the unneeded and over-paid administration.

        1. Tia Will

          Frankly

          if it means that we can get better education value, then why not?”

          You don’t seem to have thought this through very far. What if the “better educational value” happens to be in a location that would “brain wash” them in jihadist Islam instead of “leftist ideology” ?

          how to produce things of value and trade them in the semi-free market.”

          What if the “better educational value” occurs in a location where a consumerist model is not revered as it is here. They would then be “brain washed ” to avoid consumerism. What then happens to your stated goal of “the production of things of value” so that we can have even more excess than we have now ?

          What is clear from your writings is that you value “things” over ideas. If it cannot be sold on the “semi free market” then it does not appear to have value for you. I would point out that many of the most famous contributors to our society were not primarily concerned and did not accumulate vast wealth. This is true for many pioneering scientists, doctors, authors, artists, philosophers…..

          For me, it is your idolization of the material world, possessions and accumulation of wealth that is the real problem. If we were to provided a living standard for all members of our society, people would be truly free to pursue their own interests……even if that interest was merely in how much wealth they could acquire.

        2. Frankly

          What if the “better educational value” happens to be in a location that would “brain wash” them in jihadist Islam instead of “leftist ideology” ?

          Neither are valuable.

        3. Frankly

          .and learn socialist values, like education that you don’t have to pay for.

          I think I have made the point several times that I am an education socialist.  I actually support free or nearly free education (prefer nearly-free because of the added education in having to work to earn some money while attending school).

          But I don’t support my tax dollars funding a system that indoctrinates students with any ideology or theology.

          I would prefer we eliminate all government money going to higher-learning and instead provide tuition vouchers (equal to the average national tuition rate for all state universities) to qualified students in the state to spend in-state.  That way the students (and their parents to some degree… who would still need to help pay for living expenses) would be able to exercise choice over which school they would attend (assuming they were admitted), the schools would need to start catering to the needs of these students in order to attract them.

          Note that these students could use the tuition voucher to attend a private college.  Even ones that use a private-sector budget model.

        4. wdf1

          Frankly:  I think I have made the point several times that I am an education socialist.  I actually support free or nearly free education (prefer nearly-free because of the added education in having to work to earn some money while attending school).

          But I don’t support my tax dollars funding a system that indoctrinates students with any ideology or theology.

          You don’t worry that the concept of a free education and the thinking that underpins it won’t indoctrinate students to consider that other social services/commodities ought to be free or heavily subsidized?  Like housing, healthy food, healthcare, maybe other things?

    1. VG

      Frankly – you have raised a lot of valid points, though I am not sure I agree with all proposed solutions…however, I like that you: “I actually support free or nearly free education”. I do too.

      I will just touch on one point  you raised: “$100,000 in student debt and a $45,000 a year job at a non-profit does not pencil out.”

      I believe it is even more than $100K, but the math is in the following:

      Many young people are seriously trying to figure out if starting to work immediately, or going to the university is worth doing? It is not just $100K+ in debt, it is also the earnings they did not make during 4 years in college.  There is “UnCollege” movement among the young (check the web).

      This is a clear indication that our university education system has failed completely.

      If you ask me why?, our disagreement will commence. I believe it is precisely because UC has adopted “private-sector-inspired budget model.”. Actually worse it is “private-sector-inspired budget model.”, + government (state) run administration.

      What is wrong with this model?

      First, the “State appointed and supported” administrators, do behave as such. They are not responsible to anyone, they do not care, they are after their own interest, and it is hard to get them fired. They are almost never fired. (this is a part where we agree).

      Second, if you are to run education on a business model, than the criteria is profit / loss. That means getting more tuition money, more students, and turning them out faster. Also, you do not fail a paying customer, because this is loss of revenues. So – everyone passes. This is the current UC Davis situation. If you would have an opportunity to see how much a graduating student knows, or more precisely, does not know, you would be surprised. I do not think you would hire them. Everyone knows that. It is a scam. Professors know that, students know that, administrators do know it but everyone is pretending. This is all covered up with laudatory self congratulating and political correctness speeches, while the quality of education is decreasing every year.

      The situation will not change until students (that can not get hired) start coming back, returning their degree and asking for money back!  This is not going to happen so soon, but the UnCollege movement is a first indication that it may.

      In summary: they are not only failing our young, they are harming them.  Like an old car, the system is due for a serious overhaul.

      Will stop here …

       

       

       

  4. Tia Will

    Frankly

    we have a duty to allow the government to take from us to run their giant charity where they can also enrich themselves, but donating to private charities should be considered only voluntary.”

    I see this differently, not did I imply what your stated. We have a duty to pay taxes to support many government functions of which we may not approve.

    On the national level, I have continued to pay taxes despite not approving of the majority of wars that we have been involved in during my adulthood.

    On the state level, I would allocate much more of my taxes towards public education than is currently the case, if I could.

    On the city level, I would allocate more to public transportation and the support of non private automobile means of transportation( walking, skateboarding, roller blading, biking,  than I would to road maintenance.

    Our system of governance does not provide for us to only support those governmental systems and projects of which we approve.

    Donation, unlike taxation, is entirely voluntary and we can choose to support any project, program or institutions of which we approve. That was the distinction that I was making. Do you disagree that there is a distinction ?

  5. Tia Will

    Frankly

    But I don’t support my tax dollars funding a system that indoctrinates students with any ideology or theology.”

    And I could not agree more.

    But I have never heard you object to the ideology with which our elementary, secondary, and high school students are indoctrinated on a daily basis and for which we pay with our tax dollars. I have yet to hear you complain about indoctrination into a nationalistic, patriotic way of viewing the world ( for which I pay taxes but do not agree). I have not heard you object to enforced saluting of the flag which is clearly a form of indoctrination to which you have not stated any objection. Nor have I ever heard you object to the one sided portrayal of American history found in texts.

    Indoctrination into “our” way of thinking occurs throughout the first 12 years of eduction whether or not “we “agree with it, all paid for with our tax dollars. I see the “leftist” point of view as espoused in some classes on campuses as many students only opportunity to think beyond the confines of our materialistic, consumeristic, nationalistic early childhood and adolescent indoctrination.

    1. Frankly

      I don’t care if a student refuses to participate in ceremonial act that he/she feels is ideological or theological.  What I object to is the institutionalized student brainwashing of a particular ideology or theology.

      Of course if the school is a catholic school it would be fine that the school had a Christian bent.  Don’t like it then don’t go there.

      What we need is unbiased education of the facts, and educators should keep their damn ideological, political and religious OPINIONS to themselves.  Teach all the different points of view and teach critical thinking skills and let the kids decide for themselves.

  6. Biddlin

    “Makes me want to goose step while raising my right-arm in solidarity to the collective.”

    They don’t already do that at your lodge meeting?

  7. Tia Will

    Frankly

    What I object to is the institutionalized student brainwashing of a particular ideology or theology.”

    And you honestly cannot see that the “particular ideology” that you define as “American culture” is taught in our public schools ? Is this not the very same culture that you believe that all immigrants should “assimilate into ” ? Is this not the reason that you have suggested to me more than once that since I don’t adhere to your version of what it means to be American that I should move ?

    Where we might differ is that I believe that the purpose of public education should be to introduce a wide variety of views, approaches that have been used, and solutions to various types of problems and encourage discussion of the pros and cons of each approach. It seems to me that you would advocate for teaching your version of “the American way” as the “right way” to do things and to discourage a full consideration of other ideas. Please correct me if I am wrong.

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