Sunday, June 17, 2012

CSU--a Research I Institution? --more on the big and little picture of the DAC story

The previous post correctly locates CSU as part of a bigger phenomenon going on across the USA and probably elsewhere as well. Another CSU colleague forwarded this story to me about what is going on at the University of Virginia—I’ve excerpted some of the pertinent sections below. It is an interesting story of a university where the faculty actually do not want their president fired (!!).

More important though than the author’s critique of the one-size fits all business model on a university is the discussion of the need for central control and top-down power in order to implement said business model. As different as CSU and UVA might be, they sadly share a similar path toward Administrative fascism.

The past two weeks of DAC revision across the university has been nothing less than the naked attempt by the university to break tenure. By all accounts from various individuals who have weighed in on this process, the criteria in the DACs is being set so high that virtually no one will be able to achieve tenure and because of post-tenure review at CSU, few tenured faculty will likely be able to maintain that status. The CSU teaching load of 4/4 is not going to change, but from what I can make out from the draft of the DAC for the College of Arts and Sciences our research output is to be that of a Research I institution. Ironic isn't it for a President who bragged about not having a scholarly record at his "interview" during the trumped up "search" that imposed him on this campus in 2009 to make such demands on his faculty? [And when do we get to review or weigh in on his record of "productivity" and get an accounting of all the fundraising he has done for CSU --a University President's main job these days is not to act like a High School Principal].

There will be more coming out about the details of the DAC situation in the next few days. The Faculty Senate representative to the President's Executive Committee (PEC) last week was waylaid after a 2 1/2 hour meeting for another hour+ meeting with the Provost, the Legal Counsel, and the Chief of Staff. There should be a memo about that meeting to the Faculty forthcoming via listserve. One point to note is that Legal Counsel Patrick Cage claims a technicality in the contract allows Dr Watson to assume all control over the DACs and his inclusion of Chairs and Deans in the "DAC workshop" was really Dr Watson being quite magnanimous. They claimed they owe nothing in writing to the Faculty.

A day after the meeting with the Faculty Senate rep. the Administration met with CSU's Union leadership. There should be a memo about that too. No real details except to say that the Admin backtracked on some items. If you have concerns or questions or think there has been a violation of the contract for whatever reason--you should contact Dr. Laurie Walter, our UPI President . You might also want to write to her about your views on this process since it seems the pattern of ignoring faculty's voice is going to continue. (What will HLC say?)

So, here is the article that should put more perspective on how we are part of a much bigger assualt on education than even this sad situation that our university is experiencing. Paul Gomberg is also correct in his previous post, the things that are truly data-driven evidence for making changes in education are ignored and by-passed in favor of points of view or untested ideas of those in power who have minimal expertise in the areas they claim to govern.

Faculty need to show up at the Deans interviews this week and next and especially at the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, June 29th (public comment will be @ 1 p.m.). This is no time to wring hands and chant the usual CSU mantra--"that it is only CSU, what can you expect? All I want to do is go in and just teach my classes." If you don't make your voice heard now, there may come a time when you won't be able to do that.

What Happens When Public Universities Like UVA Are Run by Robber Barons”
By Siva Vaidhyanathan Posted Friday, June 15, 2012, at 7:30 PM ET
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012, at 7:30 PM

Strategic Mumblespeak Er, UVA’s Teresa Sullivan was fired for what?

In the 21st century, robber barons try to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris. At least that’s what’s been happening at one of the oldest public universities in the United States—Thomas Jefferson’s dream come true, the University of Virginia.

“The decision of the Board Of Visitors to move in another direction stems from their concern that the governance of the University was not sufficiently tuned to the dramatic changes we all face: funding, Internet, technology advances, the new economic model. These are matters for strategic dynamism rather than strategic planning.” Wait. What? “Strategic dynamism?” That struck many around the university as “strategic neologism.” [Business School Board Chair] Peter Kiernan used the phrase two more times in his short email to supporters.

I have spent the past five years immersed in corporate new-age management talk. For my recent book, The Googlization of Everything—and Why We Should Worry, I immersed myself in the rhetoric of Silicon Valley and the finance culture that supports it. I subjected myself to reading such buzzword-dependent publications as Fast Company. So I had heard about “strategic dynamism” before. I can’t say that I understand it fully. But if my university is going to be governed by a mysterious buzzphrase, I had better try.

Strategic dynamism, or, as it is more commonly called, “strategic dynamics,” seems to be a method of continually altering one's short-term targets and resource allocation depending on relative changes in environment, the costs of inputs, and the price you can charge for outputs. In management it means using dynamic graphs to track goals and outcomes over time, and having the ways and the will to shift resources to satisfy general goals via many consecutive short-term targets. Most management textbooks offer equations one may use to dynamically chart and execute strategy. And for all I know it makes a lot of sense.

…The inappropriateness of applying concepts designed for firms… to a massive and contemplative institution as a university should be clear to anyone who does not run a hedge fund or make too much money. To execute anything like strategic dynamism, one must be able to order people to do things, make quick decisions from the top down, and have a constant view of a wide array of variables. It helps if you understand what counts as an input and an output. Universities have multiple inputs and uncountable and unpredictable outputs. And that’s how we like them. So as tuition peaks and federal support dries up, the only stream still flowing is philanthropy. Our addiction to philanthropy carries great costs as well as benefits to public higher education in America. We are hooked on it because we have no choice. Either we beg people for favors or our research grinds to a halt and we charge students even more. I am complicit in this. I enthusiastically help raise money for the university. And my salary is subsidized by a generous endowment from board member Tim Robertson, son of the Rev. Pat Robertson.

…The reason folks such as [Helen Dragas, another Board Member] and Kiernan get to call the shots at major universities is that they write huge, tax-deductable checks to them. They buy influence and we subsidize their purchases. So too often an institution that is supposed to set its priorities based on the needs of a state or the needs of the planet instead alters its profile and curriculum to reflect the whims of the wealthy. Fortunately this does not happen often, and the vast majority of donors simply want to give back to the institutions that gave them so much. They ask nothing in return and admire the work we do. But it happens often enough to significantly undermine any sense of democratic accountability for public institutions.

The biggest challenge facing higher education is market-based myopia. Wealthy board members, echoing the politicians who appointed them (after massive campaign donations) too often believe that universities should be run like businesses, despite the poor record of most actual businesses in human history.

Universities do not have “business models.” They have complementary missions of teaching, research, and public service. Yet such leaders think of universities as a collection of market transactions, instead of a dynamic (I said it) tapestry of creativity, experimentation, rigorous thought, preservation, recreation, vision, critical debate, contemplative spaces, powerful information sources, invention, and immeasurable human capital.

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