Davis Faculty Association

DFA’s First Survey Results

The Davis Faculty Association has begun issuing regular surveys of our membership. Our first survey was conducted in early June of 2008. This page lists the results of that survey.The DFA Board wants to encourage the participation of our membership and to give voice to the concerns of the faculty. We plan to publicize the results of our regular surveys on our web site and to possibly inform a broader audience by whatever means are suitable. This is our trial run with a fairly generic topic. Suggestions for further survey questions are welcome via an email to info@cucfa.org

1.Chancellor Vanderhoef has announced his decision to retire. Some members believe that UC Davis needs to make a major change of direction under the next Chancellor. Do you:

strongly agree 46.7% (7)
agree 33.3% (5)
disagree 13.3% (2)
strongly disagree (0)
TOTAL 93.3% 15

2.Please feel free to go into as much detail as needed to explain your views; for example, if you agree with the statement, what, specifically, do you find troubling?

As a department chair, I can attest that the morale here is the lowest I’ve ever seen. We are being asked to do more with no additional resources. Salary inversion is a pervasive problem leading to the loss of competent faculty to other universities; it costs more to replace them than to pay them a competitive salary. The university is becoming more and more privatized and academic success is increasingly equated with bringing in extramural funding even in the face of diminishing resources.
Chancellor Vanderhoef has done a great job over the last 20 years, in the sciences, humanities, and the arts. In biological sciences, UC Davis is high up there among American research universities. In the arts, the Mondavi Center is a tremendous coup for us, and related Departments (Music, Theatre, Art) has benefitted enormously. And in the humanities, standard Humanities and Culture Studies departments and programs have grown almost too much, but that’s still okay. Probably the university group that has suffered the most, and yes, has even been exploited the most, is the staff. But this could not be helped, since they were sacrificed for the well-being of faculty and students, who are the first priorities of any university. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, even within the University. So the staff has born the brunt of the sacrifice, but they have been well-supplied with computers to do their over-work. Vanderhoef has been willing to bite these bullets decisively, thereby greatly improving the mission of the University over the years: research, teaching, and service. We are now preeminent in all these areas. Therefore, I would say that we should choose a Chancellor who follows in Vanderhoef’s footsteps. Okay, there’s a slight immorality in what I’ve written above, but there it is!
I find the lack of transparency and the unprincipled handling to the Rose case infuriating, and part of a general pattern of administrative self-indulgence that compounds the university’s efforts to maintain public support. Quirino Paris really nailed the administration on that. In the provost search this spring Vanderhoef’s secretive and arbitrary procedure is another instance of the same kind of mentality. I would link it further to a CEO kind of approach to the university, which too easily bargains away the integrity of the institution in the pursuit of money and some idea, perhaps, of prestige. Vanderhoef was all fro the Monsanto contract, and although he didn’t take the lead with the biolab, he presided benignly over the process. in which his vice-chancellor was either so dumb and ill-informed or mendacious as to assert that no secret research could be conducted there. (Now we have a systemwide contract on the Los Alamos and Livermore labs that provides fore the university to engage in atomic weapons production, not just research.) Vanderhoef represents a kind of culture that really ought to be eliminated for the sake of integrity and credibility.
I recently retired from UCD after 34.5 years of service. One thing I’ve observed during my tenure is that, in contrast to Berkeley and Stanford, UCD has not had a Chancellor who was a distinguished scholar in his own right. We always seemed to have professional administrators. It would be nice to see a distinguished scholar and tested administrator as the next Chancellor.
I would like to see a new Chancellor with a strong national reputation who could help the faculty with more resources in the coming years., e.g. a strong influence at NSF, NIH, DOE, USDA, etc. This is important if UCD is to maintain and improve its stature among the top Universities in the country.
Larry appoints too many administrators who are at UCD…over 70%.
Need much higher profile for Social Sciences and Humanities at UCD; both divisions are exceptionally strong and intellectual leadership and advocacy for them at the highest levels of the administration (especially the Office of Research) has been pretty much absent. Neglect of the library is shameful.
Reemphasize and support UCD’s unique agricultural mission among UC campuses.
We have lacked good leadership for 20 years and been left behind by the other UC campuses. We need some one with the confidence to hire top people with proven research records and to listen to them. We should end our chronic cronyism.
The decision by the Chancellor to fill the Provost position, even temporarily, without (actually in spite of the near completion of) a national search is a transgression of the principles of shared governance of the highest degree. It is totally absurd that the present “difficult economic circumstances” don’t allow normal personnel procedures to be followed. The DFA should propose a vote of no confidence in the Chancellor over this issue.
There is so much to write, yet so little time… Basically, after 15 years of Chancellor Vanderhoef, UC Davis is firmly mired in mediocrity. It needs to restore its commitment to scholarly research, and to provide an education that benefits from a strong research University. In terms of research, despite claims to the contrary, UC Davis has not advanced to the level of its modern peers such as, e.g., UC San Diego. UCD lags in almost every objective measure of research capacity (ranking and amount of grant support; number of faculty with international honors; and most national rankings of academic programs). There are, of course, exceptions, highlighting the fact that it is possible for UCD to rank in the top 10. But to achieve this broadly at UCD will require an administration with a broad appreciation of the administrative commitment and infrastructural support needed to achieve excellence across the campus. In terms of undergraduate education, UC Davis is becoming more of an undergraduate “mill”, as class size increases, and teaching support decreases; here again, UCD has not kept pace with a peer such as UCSD. In terms of graduate education, again despite claims to the contrary, graduate education is an afterthought; progress in graduate education typically follows advancement in research reputation. Many problems stem from issues relating to declining state support. However, most stem from the failure to leverage internal support and talent. This problem stems, in turn, from poor appointments, typically with internal (i.e., from UCD) individuals, made at almost every level of administrative posts from Dean and up. Too many of these individuals were mediocre scholars who now make very poor administrators and who fail to understand the needs of scholars and teachers. Much of this is a consequence of UC Davis failing to recruit good outside candidates to crucially important administrative posts. The most recent appointment of a UC Davis faculty member as an “interim” Provost for a period of 3 years (!), rather than recruiting an outside individual, highlights this problem which has been growing over the past 15 years. An essential start towards a major change in direction will be to hire an new Chancellor from the outside. The candidates should, first and foremost, have outstanding academic credentials. For example, the Chancellors of UC Berkeley and UCSD are members of the National Academy of Sciences. Candidates for the UCD Chancellor positions should be members of the NAS, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Arts & Sceinces, or equivalent. PS – The surveys are a great idea, and will truly represent the “Voice of the Faculty”. In terms of survey questions, I suggest that you have at least one ‘generic’ question that you ask each month or quarter: something like a Gallup poll question on the perfomnace of US presidents; “In your opinion is the Chancellor leading the campus in the correct direction.” or “Has the research (or teaching, or adminstrivitive) envirnment on campus inproved sin the last year (and/or last 5 years, last 10 years…)”.
Vanderhoef has been very good for UC Davis in many ways, including allowing the ecology and the environmental sciences to thrive on campus, but this area still plays second fiddle to biotechnology, molecular biology, and other similar areas. The new direction should be to make UCD the leading GREEN campus in the world in every way, from academia to the campus itself. UC Davis and the entire community around it could become an experiment in sustainable living.
We can’t afford any more vanity projects like sports stadia and performing arts centers. With the current budget crisis, it’s even more important to stress maintaining our academic excellence, especially in areas such as agriculture and the environment where UC Davis is already a world leader but in danger of losing its edge.