Check out this great video by professor Eva von Dassow from U. of Minessota. No, that is not me in drag, but she could easily be speaking about the UC system. She discusses how a small reduction in state funds is being used to justify major changes in the allocation of resources. Like the UC system, activites that make money are being supported, while basic educational and research activities are being starved. In her video, she makes the following important observation: "those programs engaged in the production of knowledge that is readily turned into the money are the targets of investment while the rest are to be downsized into an efficient credit and degree factory.” She also mentions that the university’s revenue has actually gone up, but still they are making dire cuts and forcing faculty and workers to do more for less.
In an interview with Inside Higher Education, von Dassow adds that the new budget cuts "leaves undiminished the numbers of vice presidents, not to mention the salaries of coaches. No, these highly-paid positions are not to be reduced. Rather, the university must shed faculty.” In the UC’s case, the loss of faculty is happening covertly by not replacing retiring professors and not rehiring lecturers; meanwhile the number of administraors keeps going up as the cost of administration increases. Even with recent efforts at administrative efficeincy, the university shows where its values are by continuing to hire more high-level, high-paid bureaucrats.
In response to von Dassow’s comments, a university spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed, “"Professor von Dassow's perspective is one of many faculty perspectives at the University of Minnesota. We certainly appreciate her taking the time to express it. The University Senate overwhelmingly supported the president's plan for temporary pay cuts and his operating budget was unanimously supported by our Board of Regents." Doesn’t this sound familiar: yes, the university values the input of respected faculty members, but sorry, the regents and the official committees are the only ones that really matter, and they really like what we are doing.
As I have been arguing in this blog, the next big fight will be over online education, and here, we will see if the faculty in the UC system have any power or values. The UC administration has decided to simply bypass the faculty senates by taking control of the online initiative. This plan, which seems modest at first, will give upper-management the ability to control who teaches, what gets taught, and how it is taught. In fact, Dean Edley has argued that an “army of graduate student instructors” will man the courses, which will be initially funded by outside private sources. The next step will be to expand the project for online degrees, and at that point, there will be no difference between education and mass marketing.
I ask faculty to speak loudly against this administrative takeover. The question is not so much whether the quality of the education will go down (it will) or that the university will generate extra funds (it won’t), the question is who will determine the structure and content of our classes and what will these changes say about our values and interests.