Faculty Leaders Launch National Dialogue

January 26, 2011 § 17 Comments

Faculty Leaders From 21 States Launch National Dialogue to Save Higher Ed

More than 70 faculty leaders from universities across the country met in Los Angeles last weekend for a first-of-its-kind discussion on how to assert the faculty’s voice in the national debate over the future of American higher education.

“Watching what is going on at our campuses and hearing from colleagues around the country, we have become convinced that we must act—together and quickly—for the good of our students, our profession, and our institutions,” said Susan Meisenhelder, a retired English professor at CSU San Bernardino and CFA’s point-person for the national meeting.

The faculty members from 21 states – Hawaii to New York – collectively represent hundreds of thousands of faculty members who teach millions of students in colleges and universities throughout the country.

“We discovered a common and disturbing experience – no college or university seems off limits to unproven, untested changes to curriculum, teaching, how the university runs. Across the country we are fighting for quality education in the face of efforts to do it cheaper and ‘faster.’

We came together on a realization that broad access to public higher education is essential to getting our country back on track, economically and in every way. We shared a resolve that we must launch a campaign to guarantee the future of a quality public higher education for our country,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz.

Prior to the meeting, CFA circulated the draft principles posted here to explore ideas.  All faculty members are invited to review and comment on the principles.

At the meeting, attendees agreed to take the document back to their campuses to continue the discussion with their colleagues


§ 17 Responses to Faculty Leaders Launch National Dialogue

  • Ramon Castellblanch says:

    Since we are organizing on the national level, the main implication is to start a campaign to pressure Congress and the White House to support public higher education, starting with the money its spending on the likes of the University of Phoenix. We should look to Harkin’s work on misuse of federal funds by for-profit colleges.

  • Does this campaign include 4-year universities and 2-year colleges?

    • cfa1983 says:

      While most of the participants at this inaugural meeting represented faculty members at four-year public colleges and universities, there were also some community college faculty members who participated. We hope as campaign continues to grow, even more two-year college faculty members will be involved since we see the issues confronting public higher education affecting all levels.

  • […] Quality Higher Education for the 21st Century (link to Article) 1/26/2001   […]

  • I circulated the draft statement to the Board of the Council of UC Faculty Associations and got a unanimous endorsement for the statement.

    Having said that, people were skeptical of its impact as framed (perhaps because of all the buffeting we have suffered here in California). One comment caught the thrust of the discussion:

    It’s a list of principles that all liberals agree on in the abstract. Educational access and quality, racial diversity, academic freedom, tenure, etc–all these are vital goods. But the document offers nothing concrete in some very concrete and dire circumstances. Its bottom line is that more public money should be spent on higher ed and that nothing we value should be cut. We agree with that but think that the conversation needs to move beyond that position.

    I had a couple other personal suggestions about the document:

    1. It only talks about teaching. Research is another important function of universities that is under threat (at least research in the public interest as opposed to corporate-sponsored research). Research is also intimately tied to teaching when both are done well. The document would be strengthened and its appeal among academics at the research universities would be improved if research was integrated into the document.

    The statement in Item 3, “As in healthcare, where doctors (rather than governments ot insurane companies) have ultimate authority …” is wrong. Governments and, even more, private insurance companies exercise tremendous power over medical decisions by deciding what they will and will not pay for and under what conditions. The last thing that we want is for higher ed (whether teaching or research) to be modeled on the way that the healthcare system works.

  • This is the formulation of the problem that the UC Council of Faculty Associations has been using. It is completely consistent with the draft CFA statement, but is our effort to formulate the problem and solution in a way that would appeal to a broader audience. (I realize that this statement is focused on California, but the most of the ideas generalize reasonably well.)


    The California Master Plan for Higher Education remains the global model for postsecondary education, as compelling and feasible today as at its inception in 1960: local community colleges open to all who do the work; state universities that teach the sophisticated skills of a high-tech society; and research universities advancing knowledge to the next frontier.
    Improvements in administrative efficiency are always worthwhile, but the simple fact is that the real costs of higher education are for faculty, staff and students. There is no substitute for this human interaction and the creativity it engenders. We need both to reform and restore higher education in California.
    The first question the public and policymakers ask is what this will cost.

    The rush to privatization started in 2002, when then-Governor Gray Davis started cutting state investment in higher education and pressing for fee increases. Disinvestment dramatically accelerated under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Compact for Higher Education” privatization plan.

    Our plan is to restore state investment, fund spaces for all eligible students willing to do the work, and roll back student fees to where they were in 2000-01 (adjusted for inflation), the year before California governors started disinvesting in higher education. This plan would restore quality while rolling back fees at UC to $4,924 (from $11,867), at CSU to $2,284 (from $5,014) and at CCC to $410 (from $780).

    Doing so is well within the means of Californians.

    The $4.6 billion total to restore fees and public investment throughout the public higher education system, raised through a simple income tax surcharge (one of many options), would only cost the median tax return $32 annually, less than one tank of gas. Eighty percent of tax returns would pay under $200 (from an adjusted gross income of $90,000). Even people whose annual income exceeds $1 million would only pay $28,000.

    The most important reform higher education requires in California is to ensure that its leaders return to viewing themselves as stewards of institutions that put the public purpose, not private interests, first. The governor can restore public trust by requiring UC Regents and CSU Trustees to adopt reforms as a precondition for restoring public support:

    • Appoint leaders and members of UC Regents and CSU Trustees who have a clear and explicit commitment to rebuilding them as institutions of public higher education.
    • Return “executive compensation” to 2000 levels (adjusted for the average rate of salary growth of all higher education employees in each system, subject to current contractual obligations).
    • End secret deals for CSU, UC or their affiliated foundations.
    • Require appropriate student, faculty and staff representation on governing boards.

    The policies are simple, practical and affordable, if the leadership, vision and political will are there to implement them. California can again be the model for the world. More important, higher education can again be the escalator for all Californians — the essential mechanism of equal opportunity.


    • An educated California is important. Higher education has:
    o Increased people’s economic and social standing.
    o Promoted opportunity and equality for all students willing to do the work, independent of background.
    o Powered California’s knowledge economy because it promoted creativity, not just job training.
    o Equipped a thoughtful citizenry, especially important in a state where ballot propositions and local governance are powerful elements of the political picture.
    o Allowed students who graduate without heavy debt burdens to take jobs that benefit California society.

    • A decade of privatization has left California’s system of higher education, which served the people and state of California well for decades, in shambles.
    o Opportunity is being constricted as fees have skyrocketed.
    o Student debt is rising, which creates a drag not only on students, but the California economy as a whole.
    o Quality is falling (growing class sizes, fewer labs, declining faculty quality, less student work graded).
    o Students are finding it increasingly difficult to enroll in required courses.
    o Hundreds of thousands of students are being locked out entirely.
    o Students are being forced to hold (sometimes multiple) part-time jobs, leaving less time for learning, slowing graduation and producing higher attrition rates.
    o University-funded Independent research is disappearing.
    o Graduate programs are shrinking.
    o Out of state students are displacing Californians.
    o UC and CSU increasingly use public money to subsidize private interests at the expense of their public mission.

    • Restoring quality and access to public higher education is feasible.
    o Treat the system of three sectors as a whole.
    o Only low fees will restore access for all Californians.
    o Roll fees back to 2000 levels (adjusted for inflation).
    o Restore state funding per student to 2000 levels (adjusted for inflation).
    o Accommodate every eligible California student who is willing to do the work.
    o Restoring higher education in California, at an added cost of $4.6 billion, will cost the median taxpayer $32.

    • Restore public accountability to the management of higher education.
    o Higher education leaders must see their primary responsibility to the people of California (the public), not private interests.
    o Appoint system leaders, UC Regents and CSU Trustees who have a clear and explicit commitment to public higher education.
    o No more secret deals for CSU, UC or their affiliated foundations.
    o “Executive compensation” should be rolled back to 2000 levels (adjusted for the average rate of salary growth of all higher education employees in each system, subject to current contractual obligations).
    o Assure appropriate student, faculty and staff representation on governing boards.
    o Require that the Regents and CSU Trustees adopt these reforms before restoring public support.


    California has the largest system of public-supported higher education in the world. California Community Colleges, California State Universities and the 10-campus University of California are educating more than 1.2 million undergraduate, graduate and professional degree students.

    With the Master Plan for Higher Education, developed under the leadership of then-UC President Clark Kerr in 1960, California created the global model for postsecondary education: local community colleges open to all who do the work; state universities that teach the sophisticated skills of a high-tech society; and research universities advancing knowledge to the next frontier. This system powered California, one of the world’s most successful societies, for decades — until public investment in our opportunity infrastructure started to be drained away in the last 10 years.

    Today, other nations that copied California’s higher education strategy are America’s toughest competitors. A diverse new generation is coming of age in California, and this generation will support the swelling ranks of retirees. To equip California for the next decade’s challenges, we need to remember what works: higher education for a higher standard of living, for innovative and creative economic development, and for a prosperous and thoughtful democracy.

    Since 2002, California’s governors have reduced public support of public higher education and shifted the cost of core education programs onto students and their families through higher tuition. In the 2004 “Higher Education Compact” with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, UC and CSU agreed “to seek additional private resources and maximize other funding sources available to the University to support basic programs.” While this policy is congruent with free-market philosophies that treat advanced education as solely a private good (since the student benefits from a college degree, the student or her family should borrow the money to pay for it), it abandons the Master Plan that has served California so well for decades.

    Even the skyrocketing fees that accompanied this shift to privatized higher education were not large enough to compensate for the withdrawal of public investment in higher education. The result has been students and their families paying more and getting less.

    Rapidly increasing fees also compromise graduate education, which is the basis for the research that drives the knowledge economy. Top research universities compete for the best students, pay their tuition and provide stipends while they study. Higher fees have meant fewer students and inadequate offers for these students, threatening California’s competitive edge.

    Graduate education includes undergraduate instruction and trains the next generation of instructors and researchers. Having fewer teaching assistantships also increases pressure on instructors to assign fewer research papers, laboratories and exam essays, reducing the quality of California graduate and undergraduate education.

    California has replaced public investment in higher education with high student fees and student debt. As soon as students are no longer enrolled (because they graduated or dropped out) they must immediately start repaying student loans, which can never be discharged via bankruptcy. This is an economic problem for the state, as well as for students personally, for while they are digging themselves out of debt, they cannot accumulate the assets they could have used to start businesses, buy houses, raise families and contribute to the state economy in other ways. High fee, debt-financed higher education intensifies the effect of socioeconomic inequality on California students’ educational access and future prospects, eliminating merit-based education as a guarantor of equal opportunity.

    California’s three-sector system of higher education – community colleges, CSU and UC – historically provided an escalator for the state’s young people. There was a position for everyone willing to do the work. This system has been put into reverse: Students eligible for UC, but shut out, are being pushed into CSU; CSU students are being pushed into community colleges. Course cutbacks at the CCs slam the door shut at the entry level. Will robbing a generation of opportunity prolong recession or even prevent California’s full recovery?

    Council of University of California Faculty Associations
    For source documents and more details, see http://www.KeepCaliforniasPromise.org.

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