UC administrators and affiliates will convene in Oakland today to strategize ways to keep the UC system from drowning in the state’s fiscal tempest.
Running from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. today, the commission is the second installment of the UC Commission on the Future, a six-part meeting series creates by UC President Mark Yudof and Chairman of the UC Board of Regents Russell Gould. Today’s committee will address discovery and exploration in order to think creatively about UC actions during a time of severely slim state funding. The meeting will open with remarks from co-chairs Gould and Yudof, as well as the UC Academic Senate Chair Henry Powell.
The commission was created to explore ways for the UC to maintain its prestige while still addressing huge financial challenges, according to a UC Office of the President press release. Five commission working groups will convene at each UC campus on a listening tour, in order to garner ideas and concerns from students, faculty and staff.
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, who was asked to serve on the commission as co-chair of the research working group, said four of the five working groups have co-chairs from UCSB.
“All members of our university community have been invited to provide input to the commission regarding important issues affecting the future of UC,” Yang said.
UCSB French and Italian Dept. professor Cynthia Brown, the co-chair of the “Size and Shape of UC” working group, said recommendations from the commission will provide a roadmap for how the UC can uphold its standards.
“I am concerned about the challenges of maintaining UC’s high quality, about California students having access to an affordable education … about retaining UC’s excellent professors and staff and about the declining morale of the university community,” Brown said.
A leading proponent of a movement to retain liberal arts and social science programs at universities nationwide, Executive Dean of UCSB’s College of Letters and Science David Marshall said the commission will be well advised to engage the University in serious discussion, particularly about accessibility to UC programs.
“Despite the dedication of the faculty, teaching assistants, staff and campus administration … the state’s sudden withdrawal of core support from the campus will cause both inconvenience and hardship,” Marshall said. “The situation will get worse next quarter and next year.”
In fact, Marshall said, funding liberal arts and social science departments is essential to fulfilling UCSB’s role as a public university. However, he said, continuing to cancel classes and sections that should be offered is not the way to save these liberal studies.
“Leaders in business and industry say that what they look for the most in graduates are the hallmarks of a liberal arts education: broad-based knowledge, technical and cultural literacy and especially the skills of critical thinking, critical analysis and communication,” Marshall said.
Aranye Fradenburg, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCSB, said one of her largest concerns about UC actions is that students seem to be paying more and more for a sub-standard education.
“The aid cutoff is now families making $70,000,” Fradenburg said. “I can’t think of too many families making $70,000 a year who can afford to spend $10,000 on their kids’ university fees. Financial aid is supposed to pay your way if your parents can’t, not put you into crippling debt that students from wealthier families won’t have to worry about.”
Commissioners need realize also that students are not the only ones feeling the effects of budget reductions, Fradenburg said. Her department does not have enough money for special programming, new equipment, xeroxing or office supplies.
Furthermore, Marshall said, faculty and staff have already taken pay cuts, and many salaries are now below market level as well.
“The future of the University of California as a great public research university is at stake,” Marshall said.
According to a press release, the next commission meeting will be at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus on Dec. 8, followed by a meeting at UC San Diego on Jan. 19. Campus visits will continue through early December, to be followed up at a time in early March when the commission is expected to make recommendations to the UC Regents based on their experiences.