“It’s not what it seems: Online in a social world”
Having taught a mixture of partial and completely online Sociology courses at CSU San Marcos since 2000, my experiences have been similar to those described by Prof. Jeff Kolnick (see Restructuring Public Hi Ed of 3/15/2013). Like Kolnick, I found online education to be very effective in general, and to have special advantages in two areas: 1) at providing strong interaction with a wider range of students than one gets in the classroom and, 2) at allowing students the flexibility to work their studying around the increased work and family demands they are encountering. Also like he noted, experience of many faculty at CSUSM was that effective online education usually took more time than a typical classroom taught course, and did not work well with large classes.
Though I found online education to be effective and to generate good interactions with students, I have strong concerns about the push for online education as a solution to budget problems. Why? Because administrators and policy makers are confusing online with automated, and because a key socialization characteristic of education is being overlooked in the push for efficiency.
Online is not automated: The cost arguments used to promote online are far too often based on an assumption of reducing personnel costs by setting up courses that either run themselves or run with most of the work done by lower-paid technicians. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) seem to be particularly setup along these lines. From conversations with colleagues who teach online, the main efficiency in teaching online is that students can schedule classes to fit in with their schedules and thus be more productive in the class, there is no efficiency for the faculty who teach them.
Though many colleagues and I don’t find online to be that efficient, we are likely to be biased. In fact, two clear situations come up where a more automated online might work, though the value of such online remains questionable. One situation where online would work is where the course focuses on a relatively closed set of skills and doesn’t contain the critical reflection that one normally expects as part of a college education. The second situation where limited faculty engagement might also be successful is for work with that limited set of students who already have strong knowledge of the subject and in fact could have tested out of the course rather than taking it. Neither of those situations seem to provide strong arguments for online college-level education.
Socialization: The just-noted focus on automating content highlights a key problem that is not being addressed in the push for online education (regardless of the level of automation.) In the push for online, we seem to be forgetting about the role of a college education in building interaction skills and in encouraging the sorts of cross-pollination that happens when people from different backgrounds and perspectives casually interact. While colleges are focusing on more and more efficiency, leaders in the post-industrial economy are realizing the high value in the seemingly wasted time chit-chatting while waiting in line for a double-latte. As indicated in the discussions around Marissa Mayer’s decision to end employees ability to work from home at Yahoo, actual face-time is a key component of the creativity needed in the contemporary workplace. For young adults not yet in the workplace, a physical college with classrooms, snack bars, sidewalks, and faculty offices is an ideal location to hone their abilities to interact with, and benefit from, the perspectives of others from different backgrounds and life experiences.
Given the value of college as a socialization agent, how does online education fit in? In the balance of the demands on modern students, I would argue that online education can play a role, but that there also needs to be very conscientious planning to make sure students have a significant proportion of actual face-time with diverse sets of other students and faculty. To insure a good mix of experiences with other students, care needs to be taken to make sure that completely online courses are not clustered into specific fields of study or at specific levels (e.g., all prep courses), and to require that an identifiable and not insignificant (e.g., 50%?) portion of a student’s involve face-to-face interaction. Doing this would require a high level of planning, and support from administration for that planning, regarding the place of online education in degree requirements.
Going back to the beginning, from my own experience, online education can work and be quite effective. But, if we move from a narrow focus of education within a course and instead look at the broader implications of being in an educational environment, then we see that very careful consideration should be given regarding the role of online coursework within the totality of the student experience.
To back up this need for comprehensive planning, one final observation. Circumstantial evidence from my own online teaching is that many of the students who did well in the courses talked about informal face-time that they had with other students through other shared classroom courses. If this observation is common in online courses, then it turns out that online education works best when it is not as solo as one usually assumes. When it is, in fact, not really 100% online but instead involving informally created study groups.
A Humanities Near-Death Experience: Administrative Mismeasure in the California State University (CSU) SystemPosted: September 22, 2012
The herky-jerky pattern of CSU administrative activism has intensified since 2008. It appears the administrative intent behind such activism is to guide an often under-informed Board of Trustees on a path of curriculum reform and unit reduction over which it actually has no legal or moral jurisdiction. This “activism” struck again in September as campuses were just settling in to the new academic year.
This time it came in the disclosure that the CSU Board of Trustees would be discussing the elimination of a system-wide general education (GE) requirement at its next meeting: nine units of upper division capstone GE courses would be eliminated in Fall 2013. This agenda item appeared without any prior consultation with the CSU’s Academic Senate (ASCSU). In its quest to graduate students as rapidly as possible through reducing the unit requirement for graduation, the CSU administration failed to understand the structural harm this sudden 9-unit elimination would impose on small humanities programs, such as foreign languages, ethnic studies programs, philosophy and religious studies, which rely on these large GE courses to support their smaller programs. Nor did it seem to comprehend the significance of general education for the CSU’s “highly valued degree” so touted in this system.
The shock of this proposal and its implications for the humanities in the CSU created immediate panic across the 23-campus system. Our activist ASCSU moved rapidly to oppose this plan and succeeded in having the offending item removed from the Board of Trustee’s agenda. This is not a small victory for faculty governance in the CSU. This success is especially important in the context of several tough years of defeat for faculty oversight of the curriculum as the CSU Board of Trustees eliminated the American Institutions requirement by rewriting the state’s education code (Title V) re SB 1440 (Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act, 2010) and ignored faculty expertise and objections to a new and expensive statewide remediation program (Mandatory Early Start).
Below are the comments prepared by the Executive Committee of the ASCSU in response to this proposal to eliminate the upper division GE requirement. It also mentions resolutions on Propositions. 30 and 32. Prop. 30, Governor Brown’s budget initiative, will implement a $250 mil trigger cut to the CSU if it fails to pass in the November 6 election. Prop. 32 is a union-busting measure, heavily funded by the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove’s SuperPac. teri yamada
Comments to the CSU Board of Trustees
September 19, 2012
ASCSU Chair Diana Guerin
A few weeks ago, I had hoped to be sharing a resolution from the Academic Senate recognizing the faculty honored as the outstanding professors at the campuses of the CSU. Unfortunately, as I will report in a moment, an intervening event prevented that resolution from being developed.
I can report to you that last week the Academic Senate passed resolutions on Prop 30, Prop 32, and your agenda item pertaining to the potential budget cut should Prop 30 fail. These have been forwarded to you.
In discussing with the Academic Senate leadership the topics to cover in today’s report to the Board, immediate past chair Jim Postma suggested talking about the workings of the CSU as an airline. Please bear with me.
If the CSU were an airline, let’s imagine together the fleet of planes. In my mind I see jumbo jets, gleaming white with black trim, and big red letters proudly proclaiming CSU on the fuselage and tail.
In CSU Airlines, the Trustees are like the Board of Directors. You oversee the activities of the organization, including establishing broad policies and objectives, appointing executives, and monitoring human and financial resources.
Next we have the campus presidents, who are CEOs in charge of overseeing the day-to-day operations at various hubs. They ensure that operations are in line with the policies and objectives set by the Board.
Who are the passengers on CSU Airlines? They are the students. In 2012, CSU had over 425,000 students seeking passage to their intended destinations.
These student-passengers are flown to their destinations by the pilots of CSU Airlines, the faculty. In 2011, CSU Airlines had about 10,000 full-time pilots and 6,000 pilots on associated commuter airlines, our lecturer faculty. The pilots are hired because of their specialized knowledge and expertise in flying the jets. It is their responsibility to deliver the passengers safely to their intended destinations.
Of course, many other employees are critical to keeping our airliners flying on schedule—mechanics, flight attendants, ticket agents, baggage handlers, and so forth, and these are analogous to the various staff and administrators on the campuses.
Everyone in CSU Airlines has an important role, and the smooth operation of the airline is dependent upon the employees performing their clearly designated duties and responsibilities.
So, back to reality.
According to the Board of Trustees Report on Governance, Collegiality, and Responsibility in the CSU adopted in 1985, “Collegial governance assigns primary responsibility to the faculty for the educational functions of the institution…” This includes curriculum and methods of teaching. Due to the faculty’s knowledge of the subject matter and pedagogic expertise, this makes good sense.
Not only is the authority of the faculty over the curriculum delineated in your own policy, but it is set forth in law. Faculty authority is also recognized in documents guiding the profession, such as the American Association of University Professors Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which has been commended by the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
Thus, faculty authority over the curriculum is well established.
Notwithstanding these dictums, we on the Academic Senate were stunned to find item 3 on your Educational Policies Committee agenda when it was posted to the web on Friday, September 7th, because we received official notice just a few moments earlier in an email stamped 3:49 pm.
In our hypothetical CSU Airlines, we view this as the equivalent of someone bringing a bomb on board our plane.
We were stunned that our security procedures had failed us.
We were stunned because we met twice over the summer on June 1st and August 15th with Academic Affairs leadership for the purpose of jointly establishing security measures to prevent bombs on board our planes.
We were stunned because we met with Academic Affairs leadership at the Chancellor’s Office on August 15th and had what we believed to be a collegial meeting to discuss the agenda item specified as “new and continuing CSU initiatives relevant to ASCSU.”
We were stunned to realize that this item eviscerating general education was apparently known to Academic Affairs at the time of our meeting on August 15th yet it did not appear on any of the lists shared with us nor was it mentioned during our two hour meeting.
On August 23rd one of the senators contacted me, to tell me that a decision had been made to eliminate upper division general education requirements. I assured him I would check on it and immediately sent an inquiry via email, to which there was no reply. I followed up a few days later, again receiving no reply. I checked with the chair of the Chancellor’s General Education Advisory Committee, who indicated no knowledge of such a proposal, in no uncertain terms. In response to my subsequent phone call here at the Chancellor’s Office, I was told the administrator was working on a project and unable to respond. Hence, I officially learned of agenda item 3 only shortly before it was announced on your agenda.
After intense discussion during the past week, the Academic Senate was provided an opportunity to review the substitute agenda item a few hours before we adjourned last Friday. We note that the item suggests that faculty agree with the proposal. On the contrary, we were not able to review the proposal with care; it came to us much like a hijacker’s note rather than a request for review or assistance.
Over the past few years, the Academic Senate has expressed its concern that the CSU has undertaken many curriculum-related initiatives which began at the system-wide level without appropriate consultation with faculty. This latest example is perhaps the most egregious and has not only undermined the work of our Executive Committee, the Academic Senate, and the trust of the faculty, but also made further progress on SB 1440 transfer degrees more challenging to achieve and led to unnecessary upset on the campuses at the start of what is to be another very trying year.
The Academic Senate Executive Committee was committed to establishing procedures to work proactively with administration to identify issues of mutual concern in the shared governance process envisioned in Board policy, enshrined in the law, and promulgated in the standards of the profession.
The original agenda item proposing to eliminate upper division general education and reduce lower division GE was developed without any faculty consultation. The faculty consultation on the substitute agenda item is analogous to the actions the pilot and crew would take to get the bomb off the plane upon reading the hijacker’s demands.
It is certainly true that our airline wants to have on-time departures and arrivals. It is also undeniably true that when flying from Los Angeles to Chicago, it would be foolhardy to land in Des Moines rather than Chicago simply because the scheduled arrival time is reached. The goal is and should be to travel to the ticketed destination, not to fly the plane for a specified period of time. In other words, faculty agree with and seek to further the goal of students graduating within four years. However, that four-year mark should not be more important than the quality and completeness of the education our students receive. Some journeys take longer than others. Some journeys require more fuel than others.
Pilots are responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient fuel onboard, including a safety factor [that is, more fuel than is strictly needed]. That fuel amount is affected by the size of the jet, weight of the passengers and cargo, headwinds, and so forth. Quite clearly, the pilots doing the calculation for fuel needs are better enabled to make those decisions than the CEOs of the airline. If nothing else, they are aware of the passengers, baggage and weather conditions for each flight. Teaching faculty on our campuses know our students best, and understand the factors that affect students’ abilities to learn and to succeed. We need to leave sufficient latitude for our faculty to maximize student success, even if that means having a major program that is more than 120 units. Students might need to take 16 units per semester, for example, in some degree programs.
In closing, moving forward given such a breach of trust, respect, and integrity is going to be challenging. Our September plenary was hijacked, undermining progress on the agenda items jointly discussed with Academic Affairs leadership at our August 15th meeting.
Your policy on Collegiality states that “The governing board, through its administrative officers, makes sure that there is continual consultation with appropriate faculty representatives on these matters [that is, educational functions]. Faculty recommendations are normally accepted, except in rare instances and for compelling reasons.”
We therefore formally request that Board leadership and the Chancellor insure that faculty consultation has occurred prior to items being placed on the Board agenda on matters where the faculty have primary responsibility due to their knowledge of the subject matter and pedagogic expertise, such as on curricular matters. Please ask, “Where is the Academic Senate’s advice?” or “What do the faculty say?”
If such input is lacking, we request that you refer the item to the Academic Senate without placing it on your agenda. In this case, assuming that meaningful consultation can occur in the two months between the appearance of an item on the board’s agenda and action by the board is akin to asking the pilot to discuss next month’s flight schedule in mid-air while defusing a bomb.
The AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities states the following: “…A college or university in which all the components are aware of their interdependence, of the usefulness of communication among themselves, and of the force of joint action will enjoy increased capacity to solve educational problems.”
Your own policy recognizes the value of the process of shared governance, and recognizes the authority of faculty over the curriculum: “Collegial governance allows the academic community to work together to find the best answers to issues facing the university. Collegial governance assigns primary responsibility to the faculty for the educational functions of the institution in accordance with basic policy as determined by the Board of Trustees.”
We ask you to be vigilant: when others who are not pilots want to take over and fly the planes our students are on, please make sure they haven’t thrown the pilots off the plane. The pilots are the ones certified to fly the planes….
(Published with permission of the ASCSU Executive Committee, Sept. 22, 2012)
Report from the Third National Meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE)
Teri Yamada, Prof. Asian Studies, posting from Phnom Penh
CFHE, May 20, 2012, Joint Statement on Federal Financial Aid
Demand for college is at an all-‐time high and student debt has reached a devastating one trillion dollars. Despite this, Congress is debating whether to cut student aid.
This kind of cut would further close off college access, particularly for lower income students and students of color, the growth demographic of traditional age students.
Proposals to reduce eligibility and the size of Pell Grants and to increase interest rates on student loans, if adapted, would be a tragic and short-‐sighted slamming of the door on our nation’s future.
We need a strong Pell Grant program that does not reduce either eligibility or the size of the grant. We also need the lowest possible interest rates on federally subsidized student loans.
This is not the time to curtail the prospects for students to attend colleges and universities.
We need a national discussion about how ensure that higher education is affordable, available and accessible to everyone who can benefit from it.
The third national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) was held under beautiful blue skies in Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 18-20, 2012 (1). More than 60 faculty and professional staff, including members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, participated in a grassroots assessment of the challenges facing public higher education.
The event began with short reports on challenges and successes. A noteworthy success since the last CFHE (Boston: December 2011) was a formal meeting with U.S Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter. The CFHE contingent was able to correct some misinformation, such as the belief that increasing costs in public higher education are due to high faculty salaries rather than dramatically higher administrative costs and expensive building projects that are unrelated to direct instructional needs. Other topics included problems facing the contingent faculty workforce. Over the past 40 years, institutions have shifted away from tenured faculty to 70% of the workforce being underpaid, contingent or “adjunct faculty with no health and other benefits” (2). CFHE will schedule a follow-up meeting with the U.S. Department of Education to continue this discussion.
Other successes reported on opening night include UFF-Florida International University’s contract gains; Rutgers AUP-AFT advance of Non Tenture-Track (NTT) faculty issues using a caucus model and its successful negotiation of the first promotion pathway for NTT faculty; the Inter Faculty Organization of Minnesota, which successfully negotiated a restoration of Professional Improvement Funds.
In an age of shock-doctrine capitalism, many states—Pennsylavania, New Jersey, and California, for example—are still experiencing dramatic budget cuts to public higher education, while other states like New York have revenue streams that have stabilized. New York’s CUNY now has other restructuring challenges, however, with the imposition of mandated Pathways. The upper midwestern region—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin—is facing an onslaught of antiunion legislation promoted by ALEC and funded by the Koch brothers.
Over 80 pieces of antiunion legislation have been introduced in Michigan, attempting to change it to a “right-to-work” state. One plan attempts to divide the state by a patchwork of “right-to-work zones” that would be locally implemented in more conservative areas of the state. In response, Michigan-AAUP has organized the Protect Our Jobs campaign, which includes advocating for a state constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights. It succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. Ohio faculty unions are working on a similar initiative. The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) is facing another 20% state reduction to higher education in Pennsylvania. In response they initiated the United we Stand, Underfunded we Fail campaign in March 2012. APSCUF is confronting both Governor Corbett’s higher education task force, which narrowly focuses on “technical experience, distance learning and job training” and the specter of right-to-work legislation.
Also discussed over the weekend were the poor working conditions of contingent faculty who face at-whim employment and poverty level wages. The New Faculty Majority (NFM) has contributed to a recent publication on these issues: Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority. As part of its coalition building campaign, NFM convened a national summit in Washington, DC on January 28, 2012: Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education.” This summit focused on improving communications among stakeholders, identifying broad-based reform goals along with strategies for their implementation.
The reduction in state spending for public education is still a common trend across states. As Rudy Fichtenbaum and Howard Bunsis stressed in their presentation on university budgets—“Taking on the administration’s ‘We’re broke’ argument”—a state’s fiscal crisis is being used by many institutions as an excuse to restructure. Restructuring is imposed irrespective of the hefty unrestricted reserves which institution’s refuse to allocate to instructional support. This restructuring conforms to the current trend to vocationalize and standardize pubic higher education while weakening faculty governance. To track our institution’s actual financial health, we need to examine its audited financial statements.
Several ideas for funding public higher education were brought forth for discussion with the understanding that states alone cannot solve the public higher education funding problem. A menu of solutions could be used across states depending on their specific situation. Some funding ideas at the federal level were a “pay it forward” plan that includes doubling the size of PELL grants while increasing the scope of eligibility and providing maintenance of effort provisions at the state level; other ideas involved various taxes including a financial speculation tax.
CFHE’s Virtual Think Tank was established to introduce a faculty voice in the national discussion of higher education policies, currently dominated by executives, consultants, and philanthropic foundations. Gary Rhoades provided an update on CFHE’s first two policy reports. “Closing the Door, Increasing the Gap: Who’s not going to (community) college?” (April 2012) analyzes recent problematic enrollment and policy trends at the nation’s community colleges. As caps on community college enrollment are expanding, the scope of educational programs is narrowing; as quality is undermined, access is denied to large numbers of lower-income students and students of color. The second policy report, forthcoming shortly, “Who is professor staff and how can s/he teach so many classes?” is based on New Faculty Majority research regarding contingent faculty working conditions and their affect on student learning. Just-in-time hiring practices do not allow any faculty adequate time to develop a course. Also, the demographics of contingent faculty models complex racial inequities.
CFHE plans its next meeting, Sacramento, January 2013.
Some Shared Resources:
- Profs. Douglas Carr (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Roger Larocca (email@example.com). In response to the advocates of performance funding in higher eduction, including Lumina Foundation and the National Governors Association, and the fact that “many states have adopted performance-funding programs in spite of the weak evidence of their effectiveness” (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, for example), Professors Carr and Larocca have co-authored “The Effects of Performance Funding on Higher Education Outcomes” (26 March 2012).
Abstract: “We study the effects of performance funding metrics for graduation and retention on actual graduation and retention rates at all 4-year and 2-year public universities…. We find no significant effect of graduation metrics on graduation rates at 4-year or 2-year institutions, and no significant effect of retention measures on retention rates at 4-year institutions. We do find that retention measures are significantly associated with higher retention rates at 2-year institutions, but only for 2-year institutions that receive a relatively large share of their funding from state appropriations.”
- AAUP-Connecticut State University. Academic Year in Review: 2011-2012. Vol. 3.13 (May 3, 2012). This report contains information on major administrative restructuring a new Board of Regents for Higher Education imposed on the Connecticut State University System (CSUS), a seventeen-campus system, to prepare “students for productive and satisfying futures.” Restructuring eliminated twenty-four top administrative positions from CSU and CTC. It consolidated higher-Ed into ConnSCU (Connecticut State Colleges & Universities) a merger of CSU, Community/Technical Colleges, and Charter Oak State College. The legislature was also busy, passing HB 5030 that established a “general education core of courses.”
- PSC-CUNY.org. (PSC-CUNYORG@PSC.CUNY) “What is Pathways?” In June 2011, CUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution to establish a new, uniform General Education Framework, called “Pathways” “…ostensibly created to facilitate student transfer throughout CUNY.” This mandate requires a 30-credit common core for CUNY colleges: 12-credit “required core” and 18-credit “flexible core.” All Common Core courses must fulfill learning objectives established by the Chancellor’s office. This resolution was passed over the objections of the University Faculty Senate, Professional Staff Conference, among others. Pathways is aligned with the national reform agenda, funded by Lumina and the Gates foundations, that stresses ‘college completion’ above all else. PSC-CUNY considers this reform an assault on faculty governance and a further corporatization of the university system. As a form of austerity education it establishes an impoverished curriculum “that will prepare CUNY students for low expectations in an austerity economy,” one that accommodates to rather than challenges underfunding of the system. See also the CUNY Community College financial analysis report “Invest in Opportunity: Invest in CUNY Community Colleges” prepared by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC). In fall 2012, tuition will have increased by 212% since 1990-91. “In 2011-12 CUNY community college tuition and fees ($3,946) were 33% higher than the national average tuition and fees at 2-year public colleges ($2,963).”
- Bruce Nissen and Yue Zhang. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy. “How FIU Spends Its Money: FIU Expenditures on Faculty and Higher Level Administration with special emphasis on the two years between 2008-09 to 2010-11.” The United Faculty of Florida at Florida International University (UFF-FIU) commissioned this report to establish creditable data on the number and salary of administrators compared to faculty as well as data on increased faculty workload. Information in this report reflects patterns across the United States: administration is diverting resources away from faculty and instruction to administrative personnel and salaries. Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators at America’s leading universities grew by 39%, while the number of faculty and service employees grew by 18%. At FIU during this period, the number of administrators per 100 students grew by 79.5% while the number of faculty decreased by 29.2% as instate undergraduate tuition grew by 40.3% and FIU enrollment rose 57%. During the past two years covered by the study, the pace of administrative growth has slowed to 10.2%; yet the growth in faculty numbers has increased only 4.2% as the growth in students increased 10.7%. Average annual faculty workload increased 3.5% per year at a rate consistent with the previous 13 year period, when the teaching load grew 56%. The number of faculty tenure track positions at all levels declined over the past two years by 11.25% as the total salaries for these positions decreased by 5.27%. The top 40 highest paid administrators at FIU have salaries that range between $522.750 and $217,508. The average salary of $198,643 for the second tier of top paid administrators, when adjusted to faculty, is $41,789 more than the average salary for full professors.
- Prof. Rudy Fichtenbaum (President-elect AAUP). “How to Invest in Higher Education” proposes the idea of a “financial speculation tax.” According to a study published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “A financial speculation tax would generate $176.9 to $353.8 billion in revenue per year.” Some federal legislators have proposed bills based on this idea, which is supported by a number of prominent economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
- New Faculty Majority (NFM) and Foundation concept papers and research projects.
- Special thanks to Michael Bailey and others of the MI-AAUP (Michigan Conference American Association of University Professors) for hosting this conference. Twelve CFHE affiliates also assisted with funding for this event.
- For further information, see the New Faculty Majority.
Outsmarting the Matrix: Transforming the Privatization Trend in Public Higher Ed
Teri Shaffer Yamada, Prof. of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach
There is a window of opportunity for constructive change over the next six months during the build-up to the November national election. But this change requires engaged faculty working together in innovative ways. And it requires a new strategy eschewing a “university business as usual” mentality. That reality is gone: there is no business as usual at the public university.
So our current moment in history demands we organize around commonalities and develop different forms of more effective action. If we act strategically, we have an opportunity to alter the privatization momentum that threatens the survival of meaningful public education for the 99%.
We could start by unabashedly embracing and valorizing the greatness of “our values.” We transform and enrich the lives of our students because we care (1). We live in a media culture that foregrounds violence and cruelty, where selfless concern isn’t typically newsworthy unless it is driven by anger or hyperbole. Yet everyday kindness happens and without it we would be much diminished. And our “story” is compelling across ideological lines simply because we base it on shared values of “American democracy”: opportunity for all. Framed in the context of education, it is access to quality instruction that develops an educated demos. In turn, our students provide the citizen power to run a government and economic system that reflects the needs and talents of the 99%. That may sound quaint, but imagine the outcomes if our current Hobbesian trajectory of consolidating power remains unchecked.
So what defines this matrix? We are now confronted with a mirror reality of the dismantling of K-12 public education. We have been out-organized and out- financed as reflected in Steven Brills’ reportage “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand” from the New York Times (May 17, 2010):
….Schnur, who runs a Manhattan-based school-reform group called New Leaders for New Schools, sits informally at the center of a network of self-styled reformers dedicated to overhauling public education in the United States. They have been building in strength and numbers over the last two decades and now seem to be planted everywhere that counts. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses for reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Teach for America’s founder, Wendy Kopp; and the New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein could be considered the patron saints of the network.
This is the matrix: a network of well-placed and well-funded powerful individuals with shared values, who can impact state and federal agencies and legislators through influential friends or lobbyists, media and foundation access, and sponsored think-tank publications. We have allowed this to happen: “power abhors a vacuum.”
We can begin by changing our approach. We can shift to “motivated reasoning” as we seek to change hearts and minds (2). And we can message our values based upon the target audience.
As we learn from the impressive successes of the for-profit education matrix, we recognize the importance of shared values. It forms the foundational connectivity of the network of relationships required to establish a power base. Thoughtful leadership throughout a wide network is necessary to accomplish the change we do believe in: re-democratizing public education. Several important meetings will take place under the auspices of AAUP, NEA and CFHE over the next few months (3). What is an effective strategy these three can develop together and communicate to the grassroots to deflect further damage to public higher ed? Can we move quickly enough?
One possibility for promoting change is to emulate the strategy of ALEC. We could start by developing one piece of legislation that most faculty unions could promote to their state legislators. The California Faculty Association (CFA) worked for several years to pass a transparency bill so that the public could have access to the financial records of the “for-profit” side of the California State University system. CFA is currently sponsoring a bill to democratize the CSU Board of Trustees as part of an action plan published in its recent white paper “For-Profit Higher Education & the CSU: A Cautionary Tale” . Are other faculty unions sponsoring bills? What is the most beneficial bill we could introduce in a range of states to protect public higher ed? What is the most “elegant” strategic plan at the federal level? The “outcomes-assessment” obsessed federal Department of Education often disappoints but there may be some leverage there as well.
There are also global trends we need to consider: the ubiquitous embrace of “common core standards,” including our own Department of Education. This trend has filtered down to the accreditation commissions in the United States.
The Lumina Foundation has funded a pilot program on “degree qualifications” at the college level—common outcomes for AA, BA, MA degrees across the United States— through the Western Association of Colleges and Universities (WASC). The first set of “volunteer” institutions will be reporting in April on their progress in implementing and assessing the Lumina “degree qualification profile.”
Beyond the new trend to measure graduation and retention rates, we can be restructured internally through changed accreditation standards that demand we measure “value-added degrees” through common-core standards assessments or track the type of jobs our graduates acquire after leaving the institution. The for-profit higher ed sector is being nudged in this direction to make it more accountable to the federal government for its voracious consumption of public funds through PELL grants and military initiatives that fund education. Some for-profit providers can fund their entire operation through these two sources alone. Their lobbyists insist that public higher ed be subjected to the same assessments.
Every faculty member should pay attention to new directives imposed by their institutional accreditation agency. If the end result is a diminished capacity to offer a wide range of degrees since programs must justify their existence through proof of job placement as an outcome, we may become a different kind of vocational training institution that has lost the soul of a liberal arts education.
Be sure to track the forthcoming reports on the 2012 Bologna Ministerial Conference on the GlobalHigherEd blog. There will be further discussion there on common international standards which would impact us nationally.
EXCERPT FROM GlobalHigherEd The European Higher Education Area: Retrospect and Prospect (Posted: 22 Mar 2012 07:24 PM PDT)
First, the 2012 Bologna Ministerial Conference:is expected to bring together 47 European Higher Education Area ministerial delegations, the European Commission, as well as the Bologna Process consultative members and Bologna Follow-Up Group partners. The meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of progress of the Bologna Process and set out the key policy issues for the future. The EHEA ministers will jointly adopt the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué, committing to further the Bologna goals until 2020.
Second, The 2012 Bologna Policy Forum:organised in conjunction with the Ministerial Conference is aimed to intensify policy dialogue and cooperation with partners across the world. The theme of the third Bologna Policy forum is “Beyond the Bologna process: Creating and connecting national, regional and global higher education spaces”. The Policy forum has four sub-themes, which will be addressed during the parallel sessions, namely: “Global academic mobility: Incentives and barriers, balances and imbalances”; “Global and regional approaches to quality enhancement of Higher Education”; “Public responsibility for and of HE within national and regional context”; “The contribution of Higher Education reforms to enhancing graduate employability”. This year’s edition of the Bologna Policy Forum will be finalised with the adoption of the 2012 Bologna Policy Forum Statement.
1) Those of us who participated in the feminist philosophy movement of the 1980s know this as the “ethics of care.” See “Ethics of Care” in “Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy.” March 24, 2012.
2) See Dan Kahan’s definition based upon “motivated cognition” which refers to “the unconscious tendency of individuals to fit their processing of information to conclusions that suit some end or goal” in “What Is Motivated Reasoning and How Does It Work?” See also a great video clip with a discussion of this concept “Dan Kahan — The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate.” Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollar Professor Law and Professor of Psychology at the Yale Law School. His research focuses on “cultural cognition” (how social and political group affiliations affect our views of contested areas of ‘reality’) and motivated reasoning.
3) CFHE (Campaign for the Future of Higher Education) is having its Third National Gathering in Ann Arbor on May 18, 2012, hosted by the Michigan Conference AAUP. Contact CFHE.firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Registration is free.
California Faculty Association. “For-Profit Higher Education & the CSU: A Cautionary Tale” March 19, 2012
Brills, Steve. The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand. New York Times. May 17, 2010.
Kahan, Dan. “What is Motivated Reasoning and How Does it Work?” May 4, 2011.
———. “Dan Kahan- The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate” February 13, 2012.
Lederman, Doug. “What’s ‘Good Enough’?” Inside Higher Ed. April 14, 2011.
———. “What Degrees Should Mean.” Inside Higher Ed. January 25, 2011.
Lumina Foundation. “The Degree Qualifications Profile: Defining degrees: A new direction for American higher education to be tested and developed in partnership with faculty, students, leaders and stakeholders.”
“Enough is Enough!” Reporting on the CFA Nov. 17 Strike at CSU DH
The California Faculty Association, union friends, and concerned students successfully shut down two CSU campuses today with the clear message “Enough is Enough!” The flawed management of the CSU needs some careful scrutiny as executives get bonuses and students get tuition increases. Chancellor Reed, who professed to the media this week that no faculty would participate in the strike actions at CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU East Bay, was in for a big surprise today as hundreds of strikers picketed the entrances to two campuses. This is the day after the CSU Board of Trustees voted to raise student tuition fees again — this time 9%— even before the California legislature cut the CSU budget.
Today’s message —Enough is enough— reflects more than anger at Chancellor Reed’s refusal to grant a quarter percent raise out of a $4.5 billion CSU state budget. It is anger at being called ‘greedy and irresponsible’ by executives who give themselves significant bonuses, equity increases and raises rather than support courses for students and the faculty who teach them. It is time for CSU management to get its priorities straight. Enough is enough!
Since becoming the head of the CSU in 1998, Chancellor Reed has overseen an increase in student tuition of over 263%. In fact, since 1998 (adjusting for inflation) student fees have increased 106% while faculty salaries have fallen 10%. Meanwhile, administrators have enjoyed a 23% pay increase. One egregious example of management’s misplaced priorities is the recent $100,000 bonus given to the new San Diego State president on the same day the CSU Board of Trustees voted to increase student tuition by 12%. In fact, the CSU spent $75 million less on faculty pay last year than in 2007 due to layoffs—while the student-faculty ratio continues to increase.
So enough is enough! Selfish management priorities are costing Californians access to quality public higher education. Buildings are crumbling, technology infrastructure in the classroom needs updating, faculty need support to improve their courses and to maintain their expertise, students need mentoring. Instead, the Chancellor uses his Executive Order power, without any state legislative oversight, to enact new and expensive programs with questionable efficacy. Mandatory Early Start, for example, is a new program that requires all entering freshman who need remedial education courses to take a 1-unit summer course before they can ‘start’ in fall 2012. This is an example of an absurd waste of taxpayer money. Another new plan, CSU Online, may set up a new corporation to sell the ‘CSU brand’ to foreign students and the military, funneling needed resources away from campuses to a virtual CSU. And the Chancellor just hired yet another administrator, this time for the new CSU Online initiative, at a time when costly experimental programs siphon money from courses that students need to graduate.
These facts and others have led members of the California Faculty Association to vote 93% in favor of going on strike. We are not going to stand for continued disrespect and erosion of our rights and the quality of the CSU. Faculty, librarians, counselors and coaches — their knowledge and dedication to students —are the value in the CSU, not new experimental programs of dubious merit or expensive executives. The question now is will our elected representatives in Sacramento and the good citizens of California decide to exercise some oversight over a Chancellor who has failed the CSU.
Guest blogger Gary Rhoades is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education, for which he served as director from 1997-2008. Recently, he served as general secretary of the AAUP. Rhoades’ scholarship focuses on the restructuring of higher education institutions and of professions in the academy, evidenced in his books, “Managed Professionals: Unionized Faculty and Restructuring Academic Labor” (SUNY 1998), and “Academic Capitalism and the New Economy” (with Sheila Slaughter, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). Currently he also serves as director of the CFHE Think Tank.
“The Momentum is Gaining: Enough Is Enough!”
On November 9, I walked an information picket line at California State University East Bay ( CSUEB) in support of the California Faculty Association’s fight to defend public higher education. “Enough is enough” is the rallying cry for faculty in a system whose management–despite fact finders’ discoveries–refuses to face the facts, honor the contract, and allocate salary monies to faculty. Enough is enough in a system that, despite dramatic increases in class size and profound challenges in remediation and graduation rates, continues to reduce the share of instructional expenditures, now at 35%. Enough is enough in a system in which, despite tens of thousands of students being turned away and thousands of others for whom affordable higher education has slipped away, the chancellor identifies alleged low executive compensation as a key problem. That is Wall Street thinking: satiate the insatiable 1% at the public trough and starve the 99%, while blaming public employees for the system’s problems. Enough is enough.
The momentum is gaining. On November 8, in a landslide, the people of Ohio also said enough is enough. They voted to repeal SB 5. They voted overwhelmingly to reject the initiative of Governor Kasich, a former Lehman Brothers executive who helped the state pension fund lose hundreds of millions of dollars (invested in Lehman Brothers) and yet who blamed public employees for the state’s economic woes (after passing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy). The people of Ohio voted to repeal a bill that gutted, and for full-time faculty eliminated, longstanding rights to collectively bargain. They voted in support of public employees.
SB 5 is part of a national assault on working people. In state after state, Tea Party governors and legislators have sought to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees. In statement after statement, public employees are denigrated and union workers are demonized, though they are the people who save, nurture, and teach us.
In Ohio, a broad coalition was formed of blue and white collar, public and private sector unions, of community groups, of grandmothers and students, and more, under the umbrella, We are Ohio. It formed to reverse the assault on public employees and public institutions. It formed in support of the idea that teachers and firefighters, first responders and professors, police and nurses, and other public employees are key to our future. And the coalition, We are Ohio, won. By a mile. By working together.
So it is on the information picket line at the East Bay campus. Students called out support, schoolteachers walked with signs calling for a fair contract, and teamsters honked their truck horns in solidarity with professors. The 99% are seeing they have common cause, and they are speaking out in support of one another.
“We are all Badgers!” was the rallying cry in Wisconsin’s battle over public employees’ collective bargaining rights. The response to the assault led to the recall of two state senators, and now to a recall drive on Governor Walker. The tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin who took to the streets and the Democratic legislators who took to neighboring states gave strength to their compatriots in Ohio and beyond.
So, now, as the rallying cry “We are ALL Ohio!” takes hold, the staggeringly successful struggle of this broad coalition is giving hope to and strengthening the resolve of public employees across the country. It is possible, together, to reverse the tide. To those whose political platform is to eliminate the civil rights of workers, women, same sex couples, immigrants, and the voting rights of citizens, to those who wish to eliminate the advances of the 20th century that have strengthened our country, it is possible to not just say, enough is enough, but to successfully challenge and change public policy.
Step by step, day by day, battle by battle, the momentum is building. Not only in these state struggles but also in the (inter)national OccupyWallStreet (OWS) movement that is creating space and foregrounding the dramatically sharpened, inequitable, and unhealthy stratification in our society in ways that have reshaped public discourse and public policy proposals. OWS has tapped into and catalyzed a powerful national sentiment that is repainting our social and political landscape. It has helped rekindle a sense that not just resistance but also change is possible. It has fed on the hunger for and fostered the momentum for a social movement to change our country’s path.
The momentum, and sense of being part of something larger, was evident in the information picket line on Loop Drive into the CSU East Bay campus, where California professors under fire took heart from the victory in Ohio and the sense of a growing pushback. It was evident in the energy of an event that is a precursor to a November 17 strike on two California State University campuses. It was evident in professors’ understanding that this is a first step in fostering political pressure on administration to honor the contract and bargain in good faith. Enough is enough.
The CFA’s choice of East Bay and Dominguez Hills as the sites for November 17 action is significant. These are two of the campuses with the most diverse student bodies in the system. They represent the historic mission of the CSU as the people’s university, the university of the 99%. They also represent the best future and hope for the state and the country in which the growth demographics of 18-21 year-olds are lower income students, students of color and immigrants. And yet in another shameful statement of misplaced priorities, these two campuses are among the most underfunded in the system.
Enough is enough. As the California Faculty Association continues its battle to ensure that the CSU be driven more by a commitment to the people who educate and who are the 99%, than by a continued catering to the desires of the 1%, we are all the CFA. The momentum is building. It is time for us all to support our colleagues in California and to help continue and build the momentum nationally to change our course from the policies of recent decades that further stratify our society and that favor and further enrich the 1%. It is time for us all to demand that we support and invest in our future, in the public institutions and public employees who serve and who are the 99%.