As 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
- Ali Anooshahr, Associate Professor of History
- Lawrence Bogad, Professor of Theatre and Dance
- David Brody, Professor Emeritus of History
- Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology
- Patrick Carroll, Associate Professor of Sociology
- Liz Constable, Associate Professor, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and the UWP
- Corrie Decker, Associate Professor of History
- Gregory Dobbins, Associate Professor of English
- Glenda Drew, Professor of Design
- Jesse Drew, Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
- Tarek Elhaik, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
- Omnia El Shakry, Associate Professor of History
- Margie Ferguson, Distinguished Professor of English
- Gail Finney, Professor of Comparative Literature and German
- Jaimey Fisher, Professor of German and Cinema & Digital Media
- Jeff Fort, Associate Professor of French
- Kathleen Frederickson, Associate Professor of English
- Cristiana Giordano, Assistant Professor, Anthropology
- Claire Goldstein, Associate Professor of French
- Noah Guynn, Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature
- Wendy Ho, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies
- Hsuan Hsu, Professor of English
- Rana Jaleel, Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
- Jenny Kaminer, Associate Professor of Russian
- Caren Kaplan, Professor of American Studies
- Kyu Hyun Kim, Associate Professor of History
- Richard Kim, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
- Alan Klima, Professor of Anthropology
- Bill McCarthy, Professor of Sociology
- Robert McKee Irwin, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
- Roberta Millstein, Professor of Philosophy
- Susette Min, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
- Fiamma Montezemolo, Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
- Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcelón, Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
- Bettina Ng’weno, Associate Professor of African American and African Studies
- Lorena Oropeza, Associate Professor of History
- Pablo Ortiz, Professor of Music
- Don Price, Professor Emeritus of History
- Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli, Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Media
- Noha Radwan, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
- Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
- Sven-Erik Rose, Associate Professor of German
- Eric Louis Russell, Associate Professor of French
- Simon Sadler, Professor of Design
- Suzana Sawyer, Associate Professor of Anthropology
- Juliana Schiesari, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature
- Marian Schlotterbeck, Assistant Professor of History
- Jocelyn Sharlet, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
- Julia Simon, Professor of French
- David Simpson, Distinguished Professor of English
- Eric Smoodin, Professor of American Studies
- Matthew Stratton, Associate Professor of English
- Kathy Stuart, Associate Professor of History
- Baki Tezcan, Associate Professor of History
- Eddy U, Associate Professor of Sociology
- Matthew Vernon, Assistant Professor of English
- Tobias Warner, Assistant Professor of French
- Stephen Wheeler, Professor of Human Ecology
- Julie Wyman, Associate Professor of Cinema & Digital Media
- Michael Ziser, Associate Professor of English