Sixty UCD Faculty Members Sign Letter of Support for Protest

MRAK-OccupationAs faculty of the University of California, Davis, we write to express our support of and appreciation for the actions being taken by the UC Davis students who are currently occupying the 5th floor of Mrak Hall. These students are taking a firm stand in defending their belief that the administration should be held accountable to the public and that university affairs should be more transparent than they currently are. 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.

We believe that our students are right on the mark in insisting on questioning the ties between the private sector and the public good and in emphasizing how these ties have been hurting them; we have been hurt by these ties as well, and in ways that directly impact our teaching and students.

Reductions in state funding are pressuring UC into an increasingly market-oriented culture accompanied by largely quantitative outcome assessments. Reductions in state funding combined with the adoption of the new budget model that has been shaped by the demand and supply logic of the market framework within which the private sector operates put us under increasing pressure to teach larger numbers of students in our classes.

This pressure threatens to decrease the quality of their education in two important ways. First, they have to share our attention with many more of their peers in large classes, which for each of them translates into fewer individual contact hours with ladder faculty in and outside the classroom. Second, while responding to administrative pressures to appeal to as many undergraduates as possible, we will find ourselves looking for ways to make our classes less challenging than they would have been if they had been offered to students who are actively interested in the topics we cover.

Thus our students will be getting less from us both quantitatively and qualitatively, as 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. The fact that this likely dilution of the education of our students is taking place at a time when they have to pay much more for their tuition and fees than their elder siblings did makes the changes doubly harmful.

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. We ask the campus leadership that it publicize the cost that pertains to administrative positions both at Mrak Hall and at the level of the colleges as widely as it does the cost of teaching positions.

While the private-sector-inspired budget model has placed unprecedented pressure on us to increase our class sizes at a time when Californians are asked to pay more for their education, it has not given any metric standards for assessing the ways in which the administration is being funded and its efficiency monitored.

We are encountering excel sheets that compare the total of our faculty salaries at the departmental and college level with the student credit hours (SCH) we generate (that is, the number of students we teach in our classes multiplied by the credit they receive from the courses they take with us) and the majors and graduating seniors our units produce.

It is a very sad fact for a research university that research plays no role whatsoever in the new budget model – but quite understandable as the private sector has no place for research that does not produce profit. Graduate education in the Humanities and some Social Sciences requires an extensive commitment on the part of the faculty, one to the best of our knowledge not factored at all into the current budget model.

We have, however, yet to see any metrics that compare the personnel cost of the higher administration with what it produces. While we understand that Davis may be further along the path to transparency than other UC campuses, and acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of, for instance, the Academic Senate’s Committee on Planning and Budget in estimating the costs and consequences of an increasingly expanding administration, we believe that more needs to happen to explain and justify the cost-benefit ratios of that administration.

We would like to ask the Chancellor, the Provost, their senior staff, such as the Vice Chancellors, and our deans to report to us their SCH, so to speak. We also call upon our faculty colleagues to join us in defining these metrics, as it would be wrong to let the administration define the standards by which it will be measured. Such openness would do much to increase both faculty and public trust in the workings of the university.

We would also like the administration to expand the Provost’s dashboard to display not only the personnel cost of the various Mrak Hall units and college offices, which at the moment it does not, but also all the board memberships and other outside sources of income that administrators are gathering thanks to their positions at UC Davis.

As they always have, our students are once again leading us at this crucial moment of higher education in the nation by rejecting the privatization of the public good and asking the higher administration to be accountable for and transparent in their administrative actions. What the students are drawing our attention to is, of course, not only a UC Davis phenomenon.

Privatization of the public good is a global development and has a history that goes back to the twentieth century. But resisting that development can only start at the local level – that is right here at UC Davis. Given the long tradition of shared governance at the University of California, we, the undersigned faculty, are calling upon our colleagues to join us in questioning the private sector logic of the new budget model as we are joining our students in solidarity to demand immediate action to increase the accountability and transparency of the higher administration at UC Davis

  1. Ali Anooshahr, Associate Professor of History
  2. Lawrence Bogad, Professor of Theatre and Dance
  3. David Brody, Professor Emeritus of History
  4. Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology
  5. Patrick Carroll, Associate Professor of Sociology
  6. Liz Constable, Associate Professor, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and the UWP
  7. Corrie Decker, Associate Professor of History
  8. Gregory Dobbins, Associate Professor of English
  9. Glenda Drew, Professor of Design
  10. Jesse Drew, Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
  11. Tarek Elhaik, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
  12. Omnia El Shakry, Associate Professor of History
  13. Margie Ferguson, Distinguished Professor of English
  14. Gail Finney, Professor of Comparative Literature and German
  15. Jaimey Fisher, Professor of German and Cinema & Digital Media
  16. Jeff Fort, Associate Professor of French
  17. Kathleen Frederickson, Associate Professor of English
  18. Cristiana Giordano, Assistant Professor, Anthropology
  19. Claire Goldstein, Associate Professor of French
  20. Noah Guynn, Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature
  21. Wendy Ho, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies
  22. Hsuan Hsu, Professor of English
  23. Rana Jaleel, Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
  24. Jenny Kaminer, Associate Professor of Russian
  25. Caren Kaplan, Professor of American Studies
  26. Kyu Hyun Kim, Associate Professor of History
  27. Richard Kim, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
  28. Alan Klima, Professor of Anthropology
  29. Bill McCarthy, Professor of Sociology
  30. Robert McKee Irwin, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
  31. Roberta Millstein, Professor of Philosophy
  32. Susette Min, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
  33. Fiamma Montezemolo, Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
  34. Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcelón, Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
  35. Bettina Ng’weno, Associate Professor of African American and African Studies
  36. Lorena Oropeza, Associate Professor of History
  37. Pablo Ortiz, Professor of Music
  38. Don Price, Professor Emeritus of History
  39. Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli, Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
  40. Noha Radwan, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
  41. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
  42. Sven-Erik Rose, Associate Professor of German
  43. Eric Louis Russell, Associate Professor of French
  44. Simon Sadler, Professor of Design
  45. Suzana Sawyer, Associate Professor of Anthropology
  46. Juliana Schiesari, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature
  47. Marian Schlotterbeck, Assistant Professor of History
  48. Jocelyn Sharlet, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
  49. Julia Simon, Professor of French
  50. David Simpson, Distinguished Professor of English
  51. Eric Smoodin, Professor of American Studies
  52. Matthew Stratton, Associate Professor of English
  53. Kathy Stuart, Associate Professor of History
  54. Baki Tezcan, Associate Professor of History
  55. Eddy U, Associate Professor of Sociology
  56. Matthew Vernon, Assistant Professor of English
  57. Tobias Warner, Assistant Professor of French
  58. Stephen Wheeler, Professor of Human Ecology
  59. Julie Wyman, Associate Professor of Cinema & Digital Media
  60. Michael Ziser, Associate Professor of English

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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10 Comments

      1. Tia Will

        BP

        Since when did the sciences become the only subjects worth pursuing at a University ?

        Are we to believe that languages, knowledge of art, music, literature and other cultures are not worth acquiring.

    1. David Greenwald

      We’ve laid out this issue before. There is a divide between sciences and humanities, but I have since heard from a lot of people in science that they are too fearful to speak out even when they support the cause.

  1. ContextMatters

    With all due respect Mr. Greenwald, we saw one letter in the Vanguard, in which much of the information was anonymous, claiming fear of retribution. You stating that “you’ve heard from a lot of people in science” is like me saying “I’ve heard from lots of the humanities professors that did sign that they felt forced to”. How many are lots? How many science profs feel threatened? Why do they feel threatened? Is their dept dysfunctional (because that’s really the main way faculty can be bruised)?

    In general, (and this can be verified), more STEM faculty participate in faculty governance than humanities faculty. It’s not hard to see why they might feel like there is not enough transparency. The faculty senate/governance is how information flows.

     

  2. Misanthrop

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    Abraham Lincoln

    The critics don’t address the letter itself and it raises the fair question of the growth of administration at UCD where they have become top heavy with admin without making the case, either fiscally or administratively, for the run away growth in Admin istration.

  3. ContextMatters

    Look, if what this commentator calculated was right, then students would save roughly about 2% of their tuition and fees if all administrative units were closed. That is not much, and we can’t shut down student services or some other key units so it will be even less.

    And it is certainly not as much per student as what we – all of us – have allowed the legislature to cut. I cannot understand why more people are not totally ripped that our kids can’t have the same level of financed education as many of us experienced. It would cost every taxpayer approximately $31/year to put UC back on the same financial footing as it was before the great recession.

    Sure, Katehi made a unwise, maybe even stupid decision, with DeVry, but quite frankly my anger at this pales in comparison to what the legislature and the Governor have gotten away with the last 10 years of cuts
    AND WE LET THEM.

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