23 August 2009

More on the Pitts memo

Reading the memo to the Chancellors and the Senate Chair, one is struck by how disingenuous its language is. Just look at the very first sentence:
After speaking at length with all of you and a number of other people with an interest in the issue, we have decided that ...
So Interim Provost and EVP Pitts reports consulting "at length" with those to whom the memo is addressed (the Chancellors and Senate Chair Croughan) as well as a number of unspecified other people. The decision to go against an explicit recommendation of the Senate was rather momentous, and transparency about the process all the more necessary — instead we get something very much like the Cheney energy task force.

After such mysterious consultations, Pitts announces: "we decided." Who is "we," pray tell? The letter is signed only by P/EVP Pitts. This looks like an attempt to characterize the decision as one that was shared by the letter's addressees and deflect responsibility for the consequences.

We learn a bit more about the process from a statement by Chair Croughan, in which she decries the outcome:
the proposal was then discussed with the EVCs, Chancellors, State Government Relations, and Public Affairs.
So it would appear that the Academic Senate is odd man out here, left alone to support the reasons of the faculty. Finally, with complete lack of irony, the memo commiserates
faculty who have ... increased teaching workloads; employees who have fewer days to do their work and sometimes fewer colleagues to help them; administrators who have reduced staff and budgets to accomplish their complex tasks;
only to finish with the suggestion that faculty seek compensated "outside professional activities" to make up for the salary cuts. (This again makes it clear that this administration's main concern are the revenue-generating units around the campuses: the professional schools).

Even more surprising is that this should have been a no-brainer for UCOP: they could have decided to receive the Senate's memo, allow furloughs on teaching days (like in the Cal State system), pay lip service to shared governance, and everything would have been peachy until the next round of cuts. Instead, they decided to show cavalier disregard for shared governance and use an authoritarian approach. Why? Two possibilities come to mind:
  1. Because they can. UCOP either did not consider, or did not care about, the possibility of a faculty backlash (which might or might not come — we'll see).
  2. They did this because they know that there's more to come. More cuts down the road when the State budget fails to improve following a modest economic recovery next year and federal stimulus money runs out. It would be dangerous to acknowledge the principle that cuts lead to less instruction, given that we are headed towards more cuts and increased fees. The students would be getting less instruction for more money, and that would not sit well with the public — they might even consider blaming the University's administration!
(In fact, that future cuts were a consideration is mentioned in Croughan's letter linked above.)

In either case, it ain't pretty.

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