A conversation with Bryan Miller, Chair of the Davis Academic Senate
by Jonathan Sandoval
At a February meeting the DFA Executive Board had an opportunity to hold a candid and open discussion with Academic Senate Chair Bryan Miller. We were concerned that recent events on campus and systemwide required closer communication between the DFA and Academic Senate leadership, if the DFA is to be effective in lobbying for faculty and University issues in Sacramento.
Shared Governance Issues: We began by asking Chair Miller if shared governance was working on the Davis campus.
Miller responded that if we compare UCD to other campuses in the system, UCD faculty ‘s relationship with the Administration is among the best of all the nine campuses. The Senate is consulted more often than at other campuses, and this has been true historically. Recently faculty have had an opportunity to have input at the beginning of discussions on issues rather than simply being asked to react to developed proposals. We now have Senate committee chairs who sit at the table when decisions are made to allocate FTEs, for example. The administration seems to welcome faculty perspectives. It is clear that Senate members can ask questions that administrators are uncomfortable asking. Sometimes, however, the Senate does simply get plans for reaction and comment; usually these are due to tight time constraints where the normal consultative process would take too long. For example, the plan to put $6M of the state support into funding enrollment for computer sciences was given to the Senate with only a short lead time to respond because the Davis administration was given less than a month to formulate a plan. Most importantly, chairs of Senate committees (e.g. CAP, CAPBR, CEP, CoC, Grad. Council) as well as the Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate all meet monthly with Bob Grey and members from the Provost’s Office.
The DFA Board observed that the fact this campus enjoys a good relationship between the Administration and the faculty could be due to the particular individuals. If it is the people rather than procedure, is there a danger of the campus being vulnerable to a change in the personnel involved and should things be more formally spelled out?
Miller observed that there was criticism regarding the lack of a formal mechanism for settling the semester conversion issue. But he did not feel a need for a paper trail, especially when things are going well. Currently there are three panels within the Universitywide Senate examining issues of shared governance. He personally did not feel that more formal guidelines are needed. Such guidelines can create inordinate delays. The Senate is slow because it is a deliberative body, but that is not all bad since sometimes the initial reaction is not the best one.
Task Forces: The DFA Board asked about the effectiveness of the use of Task Forces to assist in decision making.
Miller replied that the Senate has expressed its discomfort at the use of the externally-created Task Force. He has asked for and received Senate representation even when other faculty are present on the committee; he considers this a minimum condition. A good example is Network 21 with two Senate representatives from CAPBR. It seems reasonable to have a system in which Senate representatives from appropriate committees be included on Task Forces; then the Administration can add other faculty with special expertise on issues as needed. This system recognizes that the ultimate body for decision making on some issues is the Senate.
Future Policy Decisions: The DFA Board next asked about future polices with respect to distance learning and on-line education. For example, at UCLA faculty were required to put their course materials on the Web. If this were to be a prototype for an issue on the Davis campus, what lessons have been learned from the semester conversion discussion and decision process?
Miller acknowledged that the Senate is having difficulty figuring out how to deal with the California Virtual University proposal to have more academic material placed on-line. Vice Provost Carol Tomlinson-Keasey claims that it is a restricted catalog of courses for continuing education, but there is a lot of money earmarked for development of courses, more than would be necessary for continuing education. There will be a push to include undergraduate work in the CVU. With respect to placing course materials on the web, there are issues of both copyright and academic freedom. Placing course materials ranging from the syllabus to lab manuals and old examinations should be up to the instructor. Perhaps mechanisms might be set up to restrict access to course material to students enrolled in the course.
Digital Library Issues: We also inquired about the digital library issues. Money is being provided for the digital library at the same time that subscriptions to journals are being canceled, with no system in place to protect needed hard-copy collections on a systemwide basis.
Miller pointed out that a significant percent of the job description and budget of Richard Lucier, the newly-hired systemwide librarian in charge of the UC Digital Library, is devoted to oversight of the digital library and interlibrary loan programs. The first pilot project for the digital library is in science and technology and it was agreed not to cancel subscriptions for a particular group (see the report from the Senate Library Committee).
Legislated Admission Criteria: The DFA Board reported that we are watching a bill in the Legislature that would require UC to admit the top 12.5% of each California high school’s graduating class. We understand that there is also discussion of making it 4% instead of the 12.5%. We asked, “What role does the faculty have in this policy discussion?”
Chair Miller indicated that President Atkinson is sympathetic with the 4% figure, and that BOARS ( the systemwide Academic Senate’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools) is dealing with this issue. Larry Hershman, who is now Vice President in charge of the Budget, wants a definition of admission standards and is pushing BOARS to develop clear language. CPEC reported that UC draws from the pool of 20% of high school graduates who are potentially eligible but only selects 11.4% as fully eligible. (The Master Plan calls for UC to admit the top 12.5%). The CSU says that we are now taking some of the students who would otherwise go to them. Meanwhile, the Legislature is not acknowledging support for UC’s over-enrollment (UC is currently under-funded by 3200 students).
In closing, the DFA Board thanked Bryan for joining us and reiterated that the DFA sees itself as supporting the Senate and serving as the lobbying arm of the Senate. We then asked for his advice. He replied that he would recommend that we carefully monitor the development of the CVU and the issues surrounding the planning for the tenth campus. We were all pleased to have re-opened this line of communication between the DFA and Senate leadership.
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