Requested changes to the new Commission for the Future of UC

August 10, 2009

Dear UC President Yudof and President of the Board of Regents Gould,

As officers of the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) and Chairs of several campus Faculty Associations, we see great value in your plan to appoint a Commission to develop a vision for the future of the University of California that “will reaffirm UC’s role in sustaining California’s economy and cultural life while recognizing that our limited state resources require us to be creative and strategic in meeting that mission.” Such a Commission has the potential to chart a path that will enable you and other university administrators to build public support for a strategic plan to put the university back on a firm financial footing.

We are, however, very concerned about several problems with this plan that we believe will compromise the Commission’s ability to deliver a report that will actually unify faculty – and the public – and encourage them to come together in support of a common vision. This letter summarizes our concerns and our proposed solutions.

First, like the Academic Senate, we are concerned about the failure to include representatives from UC’s teaching faculty and from its Colleges of Letters and Sciences in the appointment of the members of this Commission. We believe that the Commission must reflect the full scope of the disciplinary excellence that the university embodies. The vast majority of the university’s undergraduate and graduate students receive its degrees from our Colleges of Letters and Sciences. Unless their interests, as well as those of the faculty who teach in these schools, are fairly represented on the Commission, we fear that many will refuse to support the Commission’s report on the grounds that the Commission excluded important university interests.

Second, we are concerned that appointments to the Working Groups will be made in the same, non-consultative way as the original appointments to the Commission, and they will as a result turn out to exhibit a similar failure to represent all university interests.

Third, we are concerned that nothing in the charge to the Commission suggests that you are authorizing the Commission to consider developing strategies that would enable the university to reinstate the commitments sanctioned by the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education. The charge seems predicated on the idea that the continuing decline in state funding is inevitable and there is nothing that can be done about this. Thus it seems to be designed to move the university toward a pre-determined future that is not in alignment with what many consider to be in the long term economic, social, and political interest of the state of California.

In light of these concerns, we urge you to make the following changes to the Commission plan.

1. We urge that six additional members be appointed to the Commission who are teaching faculty who currently teach and do research in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Two faculty members from each of these disciplinary areas should be appointed, in order to assure that the interests and perspectives of all are fairly represented in the deliberations of the Commission.

2. Because the Commission is preparing a vision for the future, we urge that no retirees be appointed to these new positions. We also urge that three Associate Professors be included among the appointments, to ensure that the voices of younger faculty with stakes in the long term future of the university are heard.

3. We urge that all appointments to the Working Groups be made with an eye toward ensuring there is an even balance between members who represent university administrators and teaching faculty and an equally even balance between the professional schools, the humanities, the social sciences, and the hard sciences. Like the Commission itself, the Working Groups must represent the full range of faculty and student interests and the wide variety of disciplines supported by the university, not just those of a privileged few.

4. We urge you to consult with the officers of the Academic Senate as well as the officers of CUCFA regarding these appointments.

5. Finally, we strongly urge that you broaden the Commission’s charge to include a mandate to provide the people of California with a clear understanding of the hard choices and trade offs the University faces going forward as it decides whether to 1) continue with the status quo; 2) privatize while maintaining quality; or 3) work to reinstate California’s historic commitments to the Master Plan, including restoring per student public funding to 2001 (or earlier) levels. The Commission should be charged with developing strategies for going forward with all three options and for comparing the costs and benefits of each. In addition, the charge should include putting on the table all the assets and property available to the Regents, including the revenue flows available to support the university’s capacity to bear debt.

In conclusion, the Commission on the Future of UC has a moral responsibility to educate the people of California about the full range of hard choices they must make about whether and how to fund public higher education. The Commission has a duty to make sure that the public fully understands the trade-offs to the state economy and social welfare of choosing one future rather than another. No matter what kind of vision the Commission produces, it will inevitably stimulate public debate. It is essential that this debate be as fully informed as possible.

The Commission’s success will depend on its members’ ability to develop a vision plan that is supported by all those who care about and have a stake in the university’s future. This requires that the members of the Commission and its Working Groups be appointed through a process that all stakeholders agree is legitimate and fair. It also requires that the mandate reflect the enormity of the challenge and the complexity of the choices before us.

Robert Meister, CUCFA President
Stanton Glantz, CUCFA Vice President of Health Sciences
Joe Kiskis, CUCFA Vice President of External Affairs
Shelly Errington, Chair of the UC Santa Cruz Faculty Association
Warren Gold, Chair of the UC San Francisco Faculty Association
Ian Kennedy, Chair of the UC Davis Faculty Association
Christine Rosen, President of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association

cc: Mary Croughan, Chair of the UC Academic Senate
Henry Powell, Vice Chair of the UC Academic Senate

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