Davis Faculty Association

Archive for February, 2009

Academic Freedom Article

A recent case at the University of Wisconsin raises serious legal issues about our rights of free speech as faculty members and the meaning of shared governance. It is worth reading the excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education to understand the importance of the court’s decision. Among other things, the declaration that “in order for a public employee to raise a successful First Amendment claim, he must have spoken in his capacity as a private citizen and not as an employee.”

Professors’ Freedoms Under Assault in the Courts
By Peter Schmidt
From Feb. 27, 2009, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education

Kevin J. Renken learned the limits of his academic freedom the hard way.

As an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Mr. Renken says he felt obliged to speak out about his belief that administrators there were mishandling a National Science Foundation grant to him and several colleagues. When the university subsequently reduced his pay and returned the grant, he sued, alleging illegal retaliation.

Because he is a tenured faculty member, and he viewed the public university’s use of public funds as a matter of clear public interest, Mr. Renken figured his complaints qualified as legally protected free speech.

Not so, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit declared last September, in one of several recent court decisions that have raised doubts about the status of academic freedom at public colleges and universities.

Read the rest at http://chronicle.com/weekly/v55/i25/25a00103.htm

State budget update

For three days running now, the state legislature has been trying to pass the latest version of the state budget, without success. The legislature has adjourned for the night. DFA chair Ian Kennedy asked me to investigate UC’s plans to maintain operations should the state’s budget stalemate continue. I asked Patrick Lenz, UC’s vice president for budget, and he promptly responded withthe following information:

First of all, this year (the 2008-09 budget finally signed in the fall) the state required UC and other state agencies to draw from other revenue sources before receiving state funding (in UC’s case this means using things like student fees first). According to Patrick Lenz, the state was going to keep UC’s state general fund revenue until the last 3 months of the fiscal year. This would indicate that UC has already assumed it would not get money from the state until April.

Should the budget impasse last long enough, UC would dip into its Short Term Investment Pool to finance the state’s obligation. Beyond that, Lenz pointed out that UC has a better credit rating than the state and continues to be able to get commercial paper financed at reasonable rates in the credit market.

Once the state has the ability to pay what it owes, it has promised to repay UC.

The Death of Public Higher Education in Tennessee

While things are bad in California, they are worse elsewhere. From the AAUP we hear the following news about “The Death of Public Higher Education” in Tennessee

A funeral for public higher education was held Monday in Tennessee after the chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents proposed drastic cuts, including requiring all students to take specified numbers of credits online, having advanced students teach beginners, raising tuition, and giving discounts to students willing to work online “with no direct support from a faculty member” except for grading. He also proposed eliminating many programs.

AAUP chapters and the state conference in Tennessee helped organize the event along with the Coalition to Save Our Schools, a student group. The Tennessee AAUP conference urged the state board of regents to involve all constituents in deliberations, make cuts that have the least adverse impact on students, and reduce redundant administrative functions across the state systems before considering more drastic steps such as large tuition increases and removing full-time faculty from direct contact with students in the classroom.

See http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/newsroom/Highlights/funeral.htm

History of UC in the 1930s

by Ian Kennedy

Our current difficulties find their parallel, almost eerily so, in an earlier time: the Depression years of the 1930’s. A history of UC from 1868 to 1968 by Verne Stadtman reveals some very interesting facts that may help us place our current situation into context. Below is an excerpt from the book – and try to overlook the gender bias that grates on modern sensibilities. The salient fact in our history, in my opinion, relates to the Regents refusal to raise student fees, but to compensate with a cut to faculty salaries.

————–

From “The University of California” by Verne A. Stadtman, McGraw-Hill, 1970 Chapter 17, p. 259.

California could afford very little in the 1930s and state appropriations for the operation of the University dropped from $9,972,000 in 1929-1932 to $8,632,000 by 1932-1933. Anticipating further cutbacks in the 1933-1934 University appropriation, President Sproul memorialized all department chairmen on August 3, 1932, to exercise “most exigent economy during the year”, and in December proposed the creation of a faculty Committee on Educational Policy to help keep department budgets at a level which could be met by the state in its current financial position.

Throughout the spring of 1933 Sproul campaigned against further reduction of the University budget. In his Charter Day banquet address to alumni at the Hotel Oakland on March 23, he claimed that the ratio of the University’s appropriations to state expenditures in the decade just past had been decreased by 15%, while that of other agencies had increased from 44-912%. He also pointed out that University faculty salaries were far lower than the average of those in the seven leading universities of the United States-Chicago, Cornell, Illinois, Michigan, Houston, Stanford, and Columbia.

On April 5, he went on the radio to state the University’s case against cutbacks. For 1931-1933, he said, the state’s appropriation to the University was $17,035,891 and that, despite an 8% enrollment increase, the University had already acceded to a request from the Governor to make do with $3 million less for 1933-1935 because of the financial condition of the state. Moreover, the University had agreed to cut nonacademic salaries so that they would be in line with those of employees of other state government departments. Despite these university concessions, Sproul said, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee sought further reduction by over $2 million. If such cuts were made, Sproul warned, there would have to be drastic curtailment of programs in the College of Agriculture, practically all indigent patients would have to be turned away from clinical treatment at the School of Medicine, and such programs as the Institute of Child Welfare and Bureau of Public Administration would also suffer. Worst of all, students would be penalized. “Youth comes but once in a lifetime,” Sproul said, “and must be given its opportunity for higher education today or not at all.”

Following Sproul’s broadcast, students in Berkeley and UCLA wrote home to their parents, asking them to tell their legislators to refuse to pass further budget cuts. The California Alumni Association and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce voted resolutions condemning further budget reductions. Farmers sent telegrams to legislators and farm organizations, protesting the threatened curtailment of agricultural services rendered by the University. One assemblyman reportedly received 200 telegrams in two days on the subject.

The showdown came April 29, 1933, after two days and nights of consideration of the bill, when appropriations greater than those recommended by both the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee were passed on the floor. With this appropriation and other funds, the Regents put together a final budget of $9,421,465 for 1933-1934-about a third less than the one for the previous year. To meet the limitations of this budget, the Regents considered raising student fees but soon abandoned that idea, curtailing university activities and reducing academic salaries instead.

President Sproul hoped to obtain appropriations for 1935-1937 that were sufficiently large to restore the salary cuts that had been made as a result of the 1933 economies. But, although the University’s enrollment was increasing, the state’s financial circumstances were still desperate, and Frank Merriam, who had succeeded Governor Rolph in 1934, insisted that the appropriations 1935-1937 not exceed those of the previous biennium. Taking the University’s case directly to the Legislature, President Sproul received a special appropriation of $1,455,000 in addition to the general allotment, but Governor Merriam chopped off $455,000 of that amount before he signed the measure.

By 1939, the imposition of rigid economies upon the University was reaching a critical point. The 1937-1939 appropriation was about $2 million greater than the biennium before, but student enrolments had also increased, and the University had not yet regained the loss suffered in 1933-1935. The ratio of faculty members to students was steadily falling, and the replacement of key men of the faculty who resigned, retired, or died was often postponed. In one small department, all five members resigned to accept better paying offers elsewhere. The miracle was that despite the fact that faculty salaries were held below the 1931-1932 level, “a sound nucleus of outstanding men had been maintained in virtually every field.”

After the United States entered World War II, the state legislature continued to vote somewhat modest appropriations for the University in view of declining enrolments and the curtailment of many programs. The University’s total operating income increased sharply, however, as a result of research funds made available by the Federal government.

CUCFA’s Latest Letter to Legislators

California legislators continue to wrangle over the state’s budget. The Legislative Analyst’s Office continues to try to label the current per student funding, reduced as it is over previous years, as full per student funding. CUCFA’s Vice President for External Relations, Joe Kiskis, continues to try to educate legislators that this ever diminishing number should not be considered full funding. Joe also points out that student fees are a tax on a poorly targeted small subset of the people of California. Full letter:

——

February 11, 2009

Senate President pro tempore Darrell Steinberg
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Senator Steinberg:

The Governor has proposed a budget for the University of California for 2009-2010. More recently, the LAO has provided a cogent analysis of the Governor’s proposal and has suggested alternative approaches. Given the very difficult State budget conditions, both of the proposals reflect a strong commitment to the University and a high priority for funding it at the healthiest level that present circumstances permit. We are gratified to see such commitment in the current very difficult situation.

We agree with the LAO’s call for greater clarity on the target enrollment and the number of funded students, but strongly disagree with the specific LAO proposal, which would further reduce per student funding. In response to the current uncertain situation, the LAO proposes to define both the target enrollment and the number of funded students for 2009-2010 to be the UC target for 2009-2010. This is approximately 12,000 students above the 2007-2008 level. However, the LAO proposes to increment the UC budget by only $11M to fund those students, i.e. about $1K per presently unfunded student. The effect of this proposal would be to further define downward the per student State contribution to student education. This would come on top of many years of declining per student support. It would constitute a new, lower base that would have negative impacts in the long term. Years of budget cuts have already seriously undermined the University of California’s capacity to deliver high quality higher education to the state’s eligible students. We oppose any further ratcheting down of state per student support for public higher education.

In our view, a healthier approach would be to set the target enrollment to the UC 2009-2010 proposal, which allows the University to honor its Master Plan obligations, and then either fund it at the 2007-2008 per student level or acknowledge that the target enrollment is not currently fully funded. Offering a University education to eligible, but unfunded, students should be only a temporary measure in this very constrained budget time. It remains our position that the long-term, high priority goal of the State and the University should be a return to the healthier per student State support of year 2000.

Another LAO proposal is to effectively return the student fee increase (net of return to aid) to the State, where it could be used to offset the Governor’s proposed cuts to student aid. We agree with the LAO’s point that greater student aid is needed as fees increase. However, in our view, the University should retain these funds and use them for additional student aid or for maintaining educational quality. We regret the very large increases in student fees in recent years, and the negative impacts that they have on higher education affordability. Increases in student fees, especially when they are used as return to aid, are taxes on a small number of students and their families that should instead be spread over a much larger base via broader State taxes. Since the State is effectively requiring the University to impose this tax, the University should retain the revenue to maintain access, affordability, and quality. The University can itself use the increased fee revenue for additional student aid, or it can allocate it to other high priorities that maintain educational quality.

We will appreciate your consideration of these points when you are determining State funding for the University of California.

Sincerely,

Joe Kiskis
Vice President for External Relations, Council of UC Faculty Associations, and
Professor of Physics, UC Davis

cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass
Assembly Minority Leader Michael Villines
Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill

UC Senate Statement on UCRP

All members, especially those nearing retirement age, will be interested in the UC Senate statement in regards to the safety of our retirement system and the wisdom, or lack of it, in cashing out. Go to this link for the statement:

http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/reports/Lump%20Sum%20Cashouts%2022JAN09%20Final.pdf

UCRP Discussion at Thursday’s Regents’ Meeting

Tough times continue for UCRP, as discussed at the recent UC Regents’ meeting. Here is a brief excerpt from a San Diego Union Tribune article does a fairly good job of describing the situation:

UC pension system faces economic reality
Contribution-free days ending; benefits eyed
By James P. Sweeney

…UC regents voted yesterday to start regular payments and, along with UC President Mark Yudof, served notice of a possible reduction in benefits for thousands of retirees.  “I see no way around restructuring the benefits,” Yudof said at the end of a frank discussion that appeared to startle some regents, one of whom expressed concern about a coming pension “train wreck.” “I don’t know what we’re legally allowed to do, but we’ll find out,”
Yudof continued…

The full article is available at http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/feb/06/1n6pension235823-uc-pension-system-faces-economic-/?uniontrib

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