Monday, December 06, 2010

Where Did the Time Go? CitizenSE Is 4!

Or was on December 1st. Wonder what I'm getting it for its birthday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Arts and Humanities Strike Back!

At places like Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Brandeis.... And this will stop this--

"If, because of cutbacks and lack of support from the federal government, literature and the arts and other aspects of the humanities become just parlor musings of the wealthy, we would have made a huge mistake," Dartmouth's president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, said in an interview. "Literature and the arts should not only be for kids who go to cotillion balls to make polite conversation at parties."


I mean, more power to y'all, but now it's time to throw your weight behind public higher education and try to influence state and federal governments' decision-making and resource-allocating, right?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

SUNY Under Siege

It's fitting that my last post as chair of the SUNY Fredonia University Senate would tie into my first this semester, in which I don't do much more than call your attention to the fine SUNY Under Siege site. I'll leave it to you to make the connection!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why Middlesex Matters

John Protevi explains. If SUNY is forced by Sheldon Silver, David Paterson, and the rest of NY's political elite into layoffs and retrenchments, we're all going to need to become familiar with arguments like Protevi's and organize like the Middlesex students and faculty in Philosophy have done--preferably before the cuts have been decided on, rather than after. Looks like campus governance bodies and leaders will have to be particularly vigilant and active this summer.

[Update 1 (2:15 pm): Bob Samuels shows that at UCLA, coalitions between faculty and students, public protests and demonstrations, and alternative forums have made a big difference.]

[Update 2 (3:23 pm): Michael Meranze shines the spotlight on the Governator's budget proposal, demonstrating why those of us in public universities need to understand the big picture.]

[Update 3 (3:49 pm): I don't share Harry's confidence over at Crooked Timber that already-partially-privatized public universities in the U.S. are therefore insulated from what's going on in their more government-dependent counterparts in the UK.]

[Update 4 (3:53 pm): For more on Middlesex, check out Infinite Thought (thanks to one of Harry's commenters for the tip!).]

[Update 5 (3:58 pm): Interesting that elite universities in the UK are demanding the power to set their own fees--sounds like what SUNY's been up to lately. Here's my own basic take on the proper relationship between the state and the state university. Here's a sequel.]

[Update 6 (5/19/10, 2:23 pm): Must-read by Christopher Newfield in the new Academe.]

Monday, May 17, 2010

Question for SUNY Campuses: Since Albany Profits from the Current System, Why Retain Lobbyists?

Let's see: SUNY is looking for more autonomy from Albany, so System Administration spends $600K to lobby lawmakers while individual SUNY campuses spend at least another $1M on hired guns. Let's hope this is a temporary state of affairs. Look for these costs to go up if key measures from the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act are not passed in this year's budget, however. Which may actually be what the state government wants. Maybe it's time to stop feeding the beast!

[Update 1 (10:17 am): If anyone can get me a full-text version of this May 2010 Harper's article on the ingrained corruption in Albany, I'd really appreciate it!]

Friday, May 14, 2010

How Colorado Is Different from New York

Quick Citizen SE take on Doug Lederman's story at Inside Higher Ed on the decision by the Colorado legislature to grant state colleges and universities tuition and other flexibilities to help them survive a potential 50% cut in state support for public higher education.

Here's Lederman's summary:

Under the plan, which is designed to last for five years, each institution would by November submit a plan for how it would deal with a 50 percent reduction in its current allocation of state funds. (The Colorado Commission on Higher Education would take those plans into consideration in framing its budget request for the 2011-12 fiscal year.) In exchange, individual universities would, beginning in 2011-12, be allowed to increase their tuition by up to 9 percent a year with no restrictions, but would need approval from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to exceed that level.

Colleges would continue to be required to have at least two-thirds of their students be Coloradans, with one major exception: International students would no longer count as out-of-state students from an enrollment perspective under such a calculation, and the foreign-born could make up as much as 12 percent of a campus's students, up from the current 4 percent. (Foreign students would, of course, continue to pay out-of-state tuition rates, so campuses that added significant numbers of international students could significantly increase their tuition revenue.)

Lastly, the state commission would no longer require institutions that stay under the 9 percent limit on tuition increases to ensure that they dedicate a portion of their revenues to need-based financial aid; instead, each campus would be responsible for ensuring that it provides sufficient financial aid to remain affordable.

Obviously this is similar in some ways to the decision facing New York's political elites with regard to funding SUNY and CUNY and the debates over the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEE&IA), but from a quick read of Lederman's article, I'd suggest the differences may end up being more important. Namely:

(1) It appears that differential tuition is already in place in the University of Colorado system, with their flagship already charging higher tuition than other campuses and already relying less on state funds to cover its operating costs. Tuition is the same across SUNY, despite the vastly different locations (and costs of living) and missions (and costs of operation) across the system. This means that more state support on average goes to doctorals and downstate campuses in New York, whereas in Colorado, it's the less wealthy institutions that get more state support--and thus stand to lose more, since they can't raise tuition much without jeopardizing enrollment yields and will have to do more tuition discounting (via financial aid) than places like Boulder.

(2) There seems to be much less organized opposition to the Colorado legislation than the PHEE&IA has faced in New York. Lederman notes that "Even an organization that has generally opposed Colorado's drift away from public funding of higher education and toward a high-tuition, high financial aid model offered its backing for the legislation this month," quoting Frank Waterous, a senior policy analyst at the Bell Policy Center--"we reluctantly view limited tuition flexibility as the lesser of two policy evils" (the other being "the very real threat of program and service reductions or institutional closures"). Why this is remains an open question. Is Colorado's political culture less dysfunctional than NY? More willing to plan for worst-case scenarios? Are Colorado's higher education unions more fearful of losing their jobs or their campuses?

(3) With SUNY's Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in charge of the system for almost twice as long as Rico Munn, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, has been on board, the SUNY strategic plan is complete while the Colorado strategic planning process is just getting off the ground. So whereas both systems have seen plenty of turnover in recent years--Lederman points out that the state's key body on higher education, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, "has had four executive directors in six years"--SUNY may actually have more stability than its counterparts in Colorado, and CUNY has much more.

(4) Even though critics of the Colorado plan are already worrying about its potential impacts on access, affordability, and college completion, the situation seems a lot less polarized there than here in NY. Whereas Munn is soft-pedaling the impact of the legislation--"Nobody sees this as a solution. It's a short-term fix trying to address the significant budget issues we're facing"--Zimpher continues to peddle PHEE&IA as the best thing since sliced bread and UUP President Phil Smith continues to put it down as the worst thing since the plague. Both sides seem hunkered down for a long fight that looks to continue well past this year's budget battle. While Zimpher emphasizes that SUNY and UUP share the same goals, but differ over the means, Chief Financial Officer Monica Rimai preaches the value of persistence and persuasion.

No big conclusion. Just wanted to throw a quick take out there and see what people think!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More Shots Fired from Wild Western NY

Although I disagree with my State Senator Cathy Young's closing remarks in her recent attack on New York's political leadership, I heartily endorse the following charges:

Common sense spending cuts can be made, waste can be rooted out, and structural changes can be made to the state budget, if there are open, transparent discussions and negotiations.

Shockingly, that dialogue is not taking place, because New York City-beholden politicians who currently control the agenda in Albany are violating the law by not holding open Conference Committees and passing the state budget.

The state budget now is several weeks late, yet no meaningful budget talks are underway because downstate Senators and Assembly Members who dictate the agenda refuse to meet in public, if at all.

In the meantime, taxes, spending and borrowing are spinning out of control, hitting struggling taxpayers hard, and driving more people and jobs out of the state.

Sorely-needed road construction projects that would jump start the economy are stalled. Schools are laying off teachers. State workers are [in danger of] being furloughed, throwing state government further into chaos.

Despite an unprecedented fiscal crisis and the threat of running out of cash by June if action isn't taken, those who currently control Albany continue to fail to lead.

Preach it, sister!

The reality is that Governor Paterson and New York City-controlled majorities in both the Senate and Assembly are fiddling while the state burns.

Instead of following the budget reform laws of 2007 that require bipartisan Conference Committees to be convened to hammer out the budget in public, these so-called leaders are stalling by sticking their heads in the sand, hoping against hope that they will wake up one morning and the $9.3 billion budget deficit will have magically disappeared.

It doesn't work that way.

Passing budget extenders to pay the bills week-to-week instead of tackling the tough decisions only is making the problem worse.

Conference Committees worked in 2007 and 2008 to pass on-time budgets. Our taxpayers need open discussions about solutions.

Every person in our state is affected by the state budget, whether they pay taxes, send their kids to school, drive on a road or bridge, or need hospital or nursing home care. The people have a right to know what their government is doing.

They also have a right to expect that their government will get the job done.

It's not just going to take a revolution at the voting booth to fix New York politics. We need more rank-and-file legislators to stand up for their constituents and what's right for New York by standing up to their leadership. I'll even accept Young's stumping for the Republican minority right now if it results in an unleashing of the Conference Committees. If 3 men in a room can't come to an agreement, it's time to put our trust in the dozens of men and women who have experience working together and hashing out their differences. At least let them do their work and bring a proposal to their leadership, rather than sitting on the sidelines, shut out of the process!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

NY Public Employee Furloughs Blocked: What Next?

The New York Daily News and the AP are reporting that Governor Patterson's plan to furlough over 100,000 state workers is on hold until May 26th, following a temporary restraining order from U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn. The state and the public employee unions now have two weeks to prepare their cases for and against furloughs. For more, see the Capitol Confidential blog. Here's UUP's announcement of their lawsuit and other legal actions to stop the furloughs, along with President Phil Smith's reaction to the temporary restraining order.

As a public employee and proud UUP activist, I'm pleased that I'll be able to finish my grading uninterrupted. But I'm also wondering what's coming next. Lt. Gov. Ravitch has threatened that no furloughs = layoffs, but that would mean going back on a no-2010-layoffs pledge the Governor made in exchange for union acquiescence on a new, lower tier in the state employees' pension plan (for new employees, of course). Under the UUP contract, which expires next July, many of those new employees would be the first to be fired if SUNY is forced into retrenchments by the state of New York.

I'm wondering if UUP shouldn't consider re-opening negotiations, with an eye toward stretching our last scheduled pay increase over several years and strengthening the provisions affecting retrenchments--if not with this Governor, then with the next one, who could perhaps be enticed into a no-layoffs-in-2011 pledge. It's very unlikely that either side would want to move at all quickly when it comes to negotiating the next contract--the Governor's office because salaries would be frozen in the absence of a new agreement and the union leadership because they would want to avoid even the prospect of salary decreases or minimal increases, which would be very likely if the state's finances are even worse next year than this year. From my perspective, opening negotiations on the current contract could lead to a win-win, in that doing so would help out the state in a terrible budget year (and hopefully turn down the heat on the union-bashing from the Governor's office), while guaranteeing my colleagues and me some kind of pay increases after the 2010-2011 academic year. If some of the savings could be devoted to actually hiring new full-time faculty, instead of being thrown into the budget black hole, I'd be even happier. In fact, I'd give up pay raises for three years if all the savings were devoted to a huge hiring push from SUNY and NY.

Unfortunately, this Governor has nothing to lose and no trust (to say the least) with or from New York's union leaders. Where that leaves the state budget and SUNY is an open question.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Speaking of CICU....

That's the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities--and guess who's been their President since last July 16th? Why, New York State's own former Director of Budget, Laura Anglin, that's who!

Some key quotes from last year's CICU press release:

"In Laura Anglin, the search committee found a talented and skilled professional with two decades' experience in important positions in the state government, a deep knowledge of the state’s budget process, and an appreciation of how to advance policies through consensus building and broad outreach to many constituencies," said John Sexton, the chair of CICU's Board of Trustees and its presidential search committee, and president of New York University.

"Beyond all this, Laura displayed an eagerness to focus on the needs and goals of independent education in New York State, recognizing the importance of this sector to the future of our state. Abe Lackman positioned CICU as one of the most important voices in higher education policy, both in Albany and in Washington, DC. We are confident Laura will continue this important trajectory," President Sexton added.

Laura Anglin said, "New York's private colleges and universities have historically played an important role in the economic and social well being of New York--and they will be essential partners for helping to rebuild New York State's economy for the future. I am grateful for the opportunity to help further the mission of the Independent Sector during these challenging times."

Anglin was Director of Budget Services for the Assembly majority (under Sheldon Silver, who can speak passionately for TAP and HEOP but not for SUNY), just as her predecessor played a similar role in Joseph Bruno's Senate.

With the post-Anglin DOB firmly behind the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act and the Anglin-era CICU lobbying against it, who do you think Sheldon Silver is going to listen to? When Columbia and NYU are both planning to expand in New York City, now would be a pretty bad time for SUNY to become better able to compete with NY's privates, wouldn't it?

Monday, May 03, 2010

When It Comes to Supporting SUNY, Who Does Sheldon Silver Really Listen To?

Check out the report from Tom Precious of the Buffalo News that a Democratic member of the Assembly, Mark J.F. Schroeder, is attacking Sheldon Silver for backing out on a deal and blocking a vote on the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act:

Schroeder, a Buffalo Democrat, said Silver told members of the Western New York delegation last year that if they could win SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher's support for the effort [on behalf of UB2020], the Assembly would pass the bill.

Zimpher has since signed on.

"He said, 'Get the new chancellor's support, and we got a deal,' and it never happened," Schroeder said Wednesday in an interview.

"The current obstruction in the Assembly majority conference is a misguided power play," Schroeder said in a recent letter to Silver.

More than 40 Democrats have pledged to support the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, he said, and Republicans have told him they can provide 38 votes--enough to pass the legislation if brought to the floor.

Silver and other Democrats from New York City oppose the measure, which will largely help the upstate-based SUNY system, Schroeder said.

Buffalo News columnist Douglas Johnson explores why the post-Census reapportionment of New York's Congressional districts places so much power in Silver's hands. His parting shot at Silver's "embrace of public employee union dominance" seems gratuitous, however. The public opposition of UUP and other unions to PHEE&IA provides political cover to those already opposed to SUNY's growth. As the contributors to SUNY at 60 have shown, the NYS Board of Regents and State Education Department have long been colonized by New York's private colleges and universities. We've already seen the Regents take such a swipe at SUNY that the former president of Columbia Teacher's College thought it was unfair. Well, it should come as no surprise that the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities is lobbying against PHEE&IA. Joan Hinde Stewart the excellent president of Hamilton College, my alma mater, is an at-large member of the CICU Board of Trustees.

A professor at NC State for 26 years, Stewart needs no lecturing on the value of public higher education or the opportunities it provides to its students--and to the alumni of private colleges and universities. I'll be writing her an open letter soon, but I wonder how much Columbia and NYU have to do with Silver's opposition even to the parts of the PHEE&IA that UUP President Phil Smith specifically lent his support to?

[Update 1 (1:09 pm): Here's another Buffalo News broadside at Silver.]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Asking the Right Questions: A Response to David Hollinger

David Hollinger, holder of an endowed chair in American history at the University of California at Berkeley and President-elect of the Organization of American Historians, just asked the proverbial $64,000 question in the Townsend Center for the Humanities's Point of View Series: if forced into a choice between being really public and being really good, what should Berkeley faculty choose? Here's his own answer:

My experiences at Berkeley as a graduate student in the 1960s were transforming. I owe almost everything to Berkeley. I was able to come here because it was really public. But that is not what changed me. Many places were really public. I was changed because Berkeley was really good.

I now believe the risks to quality are more dangerous than the risks to public access. To be sure, if fees go up, fewer people like me could come, but what these people would get will be of greater value. Perhaps I am wrong to prefer this alternative? I hope those who lean the other way will publicly defend the taking of the risk of diminished quality, rather than ignoring the question.

Those of us wondering about similar questions and choices in New York ought to keep in mind the fiscal and structural differences between our situation and California's. Lisa Krieger provides a useful primer over at the Mercury News. The core problem she identifies is the same one that Hollinger focuses on:

Plummeting state support: Since 1990, state spending per student has dropped by half in inflation-adjusted dollars. While the state paid about 90 percent of a student's education 40 years ago, it now pays 69 percent for California State University students and 62 percent for those in the University of California system.

Here at SUNY Fredonia, our president recently posted a powerpoint slide at a press conference on the SUNY strategic plan that showed a 2/3 decline in inflation-adjusted state spending per student over the same time period, while a few weeks earlier our chancellor's office published statistics that showed that state support for the SUNY equivalents of the CSU and UC systems has dropped to about 35% and 50%, respectively. One way of understanding how much worse SUNY's situation is than CSU's and UC's is to blow up the charts on "Shifting the cost of education to students": at CSU, CA still contributed over $8700 per student in 2008-2009, while at UC, CA contributed over $14500 per student. By contrast, if Governor Paterson's education cuts are not restored by the NYS legislature--and it's looking very unlikely that we'll see any restoration to any sectors but K-12 and community colleges--SUNY Fredonia will be getting around $2500 per student in 2010-2011.

Given our experience in NY, I think it would be fair to question one of the premises of Hollinger's argument. Fee increases at public universities don't enhance quality, as his "if fees go up, fewer people like me could come, but what these people would get will be of greater value" might seem to imply. They don't even maintain it. The key question is "greater value" than what? What fee increases allow for is "greater value" than would exist without them. They slow the bleeding, but they don't stop it.

Hollinger identifies the source of the bleeding with great precision:

even the most optimistic of souls usually will grant that the project of reversing the anti-tax politics of California is a formidable one, and not likely to be achieved prior to the time that the excellence of the UC system in general and of Berkeley in particular will be severely challenged by diminished state support. We need to remember that a recent, credible poll found that 69% of California voters prefer to keep Proposition 13 in place. Other polls reveal that opposition to increased income tax for high earners is sustained by the belief of 19% of the American public that they are in the top 1% of income earners, and by the belief of another 20% that they will join that 1% within their lifetimes. California politicians who win elections do not mention services and taxes in the same sentence.

While he supports the efforts of colleagues like George Lakoff to change the way California voters think and vote about public universities--not as education factories, but as economic engines, quality of place engines, and moral engines critical to American democracy--Hollinger wonders what UC Berkeley should do in the meantime. Should they hold the line for Berkeley's publicness and run the very real risk of no longer "being one of the world's leading centers of learning"? He believes this is "hollow bravado and wishful thinking." He is not willing to run the risk that "Being really public--above all keeping fees low and access high--might require a diminution in the intellectual quality of the services that UC in general and Berkeley in particular offer the state of California."

Now, Berkeley is one of the few public universities in the nation that may be in a position to raise its fees high enough to survive the tuition trap that Christopher Newfield and others have identified. If state funds that had gone into supporting Berkeley were to be fairly distributed across the rest of the UC system, or, more generally, if all the UC campuses were able to offer differential tuition rates and the savings in state support were reinvested in the CSU system, then there would be little problem with Hollinger's argument. If certain UC schools were to shift wholeheartedly into the high-tuition/high-aid model to do as much as they could to preserve their quality during a fiscal crisis, and if the savings in state support were reinvested in other UC and CSU schools to do as much as possible to preserve access to public higher education during the downturn, then what's the problem?

Well, there's no guarantee that Sacramento politicians would instead choose to reinvest such savings in state support for Berkeley and other UC campuses into roads, or prisons, or K-12, or Medicaid. In fact, with CA's budget deficit on the order of $20B last I checked, it's almost certain that reductions in state support would go straight into that particular budgetary black hole. So accelerating the path to privatization means that access is very likely to be diminished across CA's higher education systems (even if administrators in UC and CSU were to do a little redistribution of the ways state funds are allocated across their systems to the lower-tuition schools). It seems there's no evading the horns of Hollinger's dilemma.

Again, New York's experience is instructive. UUP President Phil Smith was at his most convincing during his visit to Fredonia when he pointed out that over the decades, SUNY's health science centers have been sending more and more of the revenue they generate not to the rest of the SUNY system but to the state general fund:

Phil gave a very specific example of why he is convinced that augmenting existing SUNY revenue streams and developing new ones won't result in net gains for SUNY. He pointed out that when he arrived at Upstate in 1978, state support was around 47%--and now it's down around 10%. The state saw an opportunity to take advantage of the income the health science centers were generating: first they forced hospitals to pay for their own debt service, then their own fringe benefits, then the cost of collective bargaining increases, and finally this year they asked for over $20M to make up for retirement fund losses. If that opportunism is extended to the entire system, and the doctorals see state support drop from around 50% to around 10%, the comprehensives see state support drop from around 35% to around 10%, and so on, then eventually the question will arise of whether UUP should be negotiating with the state or with the entering freshman class and their families. Furthermore, if even UB and Stony Brook see state support drop faster than they can raise tuition, it's likely that the imbalances caused by SUNY's own formulae for distributing state funds to campuses--where Stony Brook has 57% state support and UB has near 50%--are going to be exacerbated even further, as more state money is sent to them than to the comprehensives.

Since it's hard to imagine that quality hasn't suffered at Upstate Medical Center in the last 32 years, however, Smith's long-term perspective shows that the picture is even grimmer than Hollinger portrays it. Even if California limits the damage to quality at a pair or a handful of campuses by switching them over to a high-fee/high-aid model, both quality and access would go down sharply at the rest of them. Accelerating the pace of privatization at a few campuses in one state digs the structural hole deeper for public higher education across that state.

This is why I believe that every campus in the UC, CSU, SUNY, and CUNY system should be given the responsibility of managing its own tuition. So long as each system sets a standard tuition rate for all its campuses according to a rational, fair, equitable, and predictable policy, so long as every major constituency and stakeholder has a seat at the table and is looking at the same data in the setting of both system and campus tuition rates, and so long as any special tuition increases by individual campuses are approved by their local student government, faculty governance, and college council or trustees, then I am confident that affordability can be maintained and revenues from increased student fees can be reinvested directly in trying to maintain campus quality.

But this is also why I believe that California and New York need to establish floors beneath which state funding for public higher education will not fall. The current system of cutting state support for public colleges and universities faster than tuition has increased at them--which has been in place for roughly two generations in both states--is unsustainable. UC, CSU, SUNY, and CUNY simply can't keep increasing the numbers of students they serve without their revenues keeping pace with enrollment increases.

The question, then, is not whether partial privatization should happen--it has been happening for a long time now and reversing it will take even longer--but instead how far partial privatization of public universities should go, and to what ends.  Former SUNY chancellor D. Bruce Johnstone suggests that it be harnessed to the goals of providing "genuine equality of opportunity" and "widening higher education access" (SUNY at 60, 296). Here's his argument why some student fees are justified:

Elsewhere (no more so than in Africa, where I have spent much of my recent scholarly attention), accessibility is too often thought of as flowing naturally from free tuition, free room and board, and pocket money--even though no country (least of all in Sub-Saharan Africa) can afford this without greatly limiting both the capacity and quality of their college and university offerings. And the consequence to the severe limitations on capacity is that there is room only for those who pass very rigorous entrance examinations, which in turn is possible mainly for those who have had the advantages of extensive tutoring and private secondary schools. The consequence, of course, is free higher education mainly to the wealthy, who could and would pay at least some tuition if they had to, and very little opportunity to the poor, the isolated, or ethnic and linguistic minorities. In the State University of New York, as in public systems in all states, we expand our resources and our capacity with the combination of state tax revenues and modest public tuitions. (296)

Johnstone goes on to argue that efforts to "expand opportunities"--including "abundant means-tested financial assistance, admissions practices that are sensitive to backgrounds and the nature of our diverse secondary schools, special programs of counseling and academic assistance to the educationally disadvantaged, a range of initial opportunities differing in academic selectivity, and second chances"--help "lessen the essentially unmerited simple transmission of opportunities from privileged families to their children" and make "American higher of the truly good deals to the American taxpayer" (296).

Another former SUNY chancellor, John B. Clark, goes one step further in his summary of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein's proposed "New York Compact":

In the Compact, there would be a broad partnership among the State, SUNY, CUNY, faculty, staff, students, alumni, industry, and private benefactors in a united effort to raise funds for public higher education....

Under the provisions of the compact, the state would be responsible for the so-called "mandatory costs" of operating the public systems of higher education (e.g., personnel costs, fringe benefits, utilities, etc.) and a set percentage of additional funds to invest in SUNY and CUNY for educational purposes. SUNY and CUNY would be responsible for their portion through fundraising, commercial partnerships, and generating additional monies through savings and efficiencies on their local campuses. Students would pay modest tuition increases on a rational and predictable basis based upon an agreed upon price index, with the important provision that no qualified student would be denied admission or matriculation to SUNY or CUNY because of the lack of financial means. (220)

So once again the questions of the proper ratio of public to private funding and of a base level of public support for public higher education arise, this time with other revenue streams than student fees added to the equation.  It is these questions that faculty should be putting to politicians, citizens, and taxpayers in their states, as well as to each other.  In this sense, Shannon Jackson's contribution to the Townsend Center's Point of View series provides a clearer accounting of the choices we all face than does Hollinger's essay.

Still, although Hollinger is wrong to accept the terms laid out by the forced choice between quality and access--both in terms of how he formulates the problem (CA's and NY's fiscal crises are of such a large magnitude that we're going to see both quality and access go down in the next few years at least, no matter what choices we make) and imagines solutions (we need to build support for new public higher education compacts in CA and NY, not just assent to raising tuition at a few campuses more than the rest)--his mistakes point the way to still larger questions:  just what should the role of the federal government be during and after the great recession? what shape should a national compact for public higher education take?

I would suggest that there are at least three paths by which we may arrive at some good answers to these questions:

  • Updating the Land-Grant Tradition: Newfield showed in Ivy and Industry that there have been times in American history when political and corporate elites understood that basic research is risky, expensive, and invaluable and hence that its risks, costs, and benefits should be spread as widely as possible. This consensus translated into serious federal support of research at public universities. Newfield makes a strong case in Unmaking the Public University that the pendulum needs to swing back from Bayh-Dole and updating the land-grant tradition is one key way in which the federal government can make it happen. State and federal investment in creativity and innovation offers real returns.
  • Generalizing the G.I. Bill: There should be other forms of national service than military service that also provide tuition vouchers to those who choose to perform them (Teach for America comes to mind).
  • Growing Pell Grants: Since inflation alone dictates that tuition will rise indefinitely, the federal government needs to index the Pell Grants to cost-of-living increases; if more states follow NY in creating their own versions of TAP to supplement Pell Grants, then the most financially vulnerable students could stop seeing debt as a barrier to applying for and entering public colleges and universities (and even some private ones).
In a nutshell, state and federal governments should collaborate in making the public option as attractive as possible--not just to students, but to higher education institutions, as well. It's only when well-endowed private universities see it in their interest to join state systems that we'll actually be able to adjust the ratio of public to private support of public higher education downward without hurting quality and access and destroying educational capacity.

[Update 1 (5/15/10, 1:45 pm): Charles Schwartz from the University of California is having trouble leaving a comment, so I'm adding what he emailed me to this post itself:

You quote data from University officials (east and west) that shows sharp declines in per-student funding from the state to public universities. That data can be very misleading, for research universities like UC and SUNY, since it refers to the whole I&R budget. There is an old habit of hiding the cost of faculty research and related graduate programs under the rubric of expenditures for "Instruction". Research is a great public good; but undergraduate education is seen, nowadays, as mostly a private good, to be paid for by the students (and their families). So by pumping up what we call "the per-student cost of education" we give state officials an excuse to cut our public funding; and the resulting increase in student fees has bad effects on access.

By my calculations, undergraduate student fees at UC cover just over 100% of the cost of providing undergraduate education. (See details at

I know many colleagues are afraid to "separate" research from teaching. I don't want that but I do ask for honest accounting; if we can have a decent public understanding about who now pays for what, then we can go on to a decent debate about who should pay for what.

Charles Schwartz

My own inclination is to ask for more baseline federal support of research--and not just at a few "national research universities," as some at Berkeley have called for--and more state support of teaching at all public colleges and universities, so I think separating out the costs makes a lot of sense. As Schwartz's colleague Christopher Newfield has shown in Ivy and Industry, the idea that research deserves public support precisely because it is difficult, risky, and its benefits are so widespread but diffuse was a common-sense consensus at different periods of American political history in the twentieth century. In an age when so many nations are investing in their own research capacity, I would love to see the Obama administration put American research excellence and innovation on the front burner.

The point that's worth making about the costs of teaching is that most colleges and universities in the U.S. (and indeed around the world) are skimping here in order to fund their research by relying on exploited and underpaid graduate student assistants and contingent faculty to do more and more of the actual teaching on campus. I'd like to see a calculation of what the costs of teaching would be with full-time faculty covering about 75%-85% of all sections. All our hard-working colleagues off the tenure track who want to get on it need to be moved onto it by whatever means necessary. All teachers, whatever their employment status, should be given compensation befitting their contribution to the success of their students and institutions.

Finally, most of the institutions in SUNY are not research universities (only 4 of the 64 are), although of course important research takes place at virtually all of them. Given that SUNY has over the years chosen to shift state dollars to the doctoral-granting institutions in the system to fund their research activities, and that our own Faculty-Student Association at my own regional university contributes more to the campus operating budget than does the state of New York, we've become more and more reliant on tuition and fees paid by students to avoid layoffs. If the NYS budget turns out to be as bad as I fear, we may not be able to keep this up.]

[Update 2 (5/19/10, 3:00 pm): In their own way, Peter Brown, Tenured Radical, Christopher Newfield, and Marc Bousquet each helps us begin to account for the costs of neoliberal universities' skimping on the real costs of active teaching.]

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arthur Levine, Meet Nancy Zimpher

Arthur Levine recently responded to the New York State Board of Education's decision to directly grant master's degrees to teachers via such non-university programs as Teach for America, calling on leaders of university-based teacher education programs in New York to improve the current system by following principles laid out in his 2006 study, Educating School Teachers. Given that SUNY's chancellor, Nancy Zimpher, is co-chairing NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation, Partnerships, and Improved Student Learning and has made improving teacher education a core part of the new strategic plan, The Power of SUNY, I doubt that Levine's recommendations will go unnoticed--particularly given that he serves on the very same NCATE panel! There's no chance universities will give up on teacher education. Which makes Levine's title all the more interesting (and troubling): why call his piece "Don't Give Up On Universities" unless he was worried that the state of NY might sideline the SUNY Board of Trustees in favor of the Board of Regents when it comes to teacher education?

This is not an idle question. Various scholars in SUNY at 60 help us understand why. Tod Ottman points out in "Forging SUNY in New York's Political Cauldron" that

New York's private colleges, represented by the Association of Colleges and Universities of the State of New York (ACUSNY), were the key players in state higher education decision making [in the first half of the 20th C]. Consequently, the interests of the private colleges and the state became so intertwined as to make them indistinguishable. (16)

He notes that the ACUSNY, the State Education Department, and the Board of Regents unsuccessfully opposed Governor Dewey's bills creating SUNY (27-29). Maryellen Keefe adds:

Prior to 1948, the New York State Board of Regents had controlled all higher educational programs, public and private. Before the Board of Regents surrendered control of these colleges, it attained an agreement with Governor Thomas Dewey--no program in the state university system would compete with existing programs in the state's private colleges and universities. (103)

Ottman's point that New York's Normal Schools, tuition-free teacher training institutions, had been controlled by the Board of Regents until they were added into the new SUNY system (17), and Keefe's noting of the no-competition pledge are amplified on by Harold Wechsler, who explains why the Regents board's attempt to seize control of SUNY from the Board of Trustees failed in 1949:

First, the state's private colleges remained neutral after receiving a promise from SUNY officials that the university would wait ten years before adding liberal arts curricula to the teachers colleges. Second, newspapers republished a damaging statement by Regents Chancellor William Wallin at the 1938 New York State Constitutional Convention. "I rise to speak on behalf of discrimination as a liberty which I think ought to be enjoyed by everyone in this State," stated Wallin, then Regents vice chancellor. "In the matters of education," he continued, "it ought to be open to any institution to bar from it, provided it is not a public institution, to bar from entering into it, those it sees fit to forbid entering." Wallin disavowed his remarks, saying he supported and would enforce FEPA [the Fair Educational Practices Act of 1948]. But, critics asked, with how much enthusiasm? And by extension, how would the Regents govern the fledgling state university if the board assumed control? (36-37)

Obviously a lot has changed in New York since the middle of the 20th century. I don't have the time or the capacity to track the changes in the relationship between the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees. But at a time when New York's political leaders are trying to come to an agreement on how much to cut state support for all public education in the state, it's worth adding three more likely faultlines--between the Regents and the Trustees, between private and public higher education, and between K-12 and higher education--to the one between SUNY and UUP that I've been focusing on this year. It's about time that leaders on various sides of these faultlines find some common ground--and soon!

So while I find it encouraging that the former leader of Teachers College, Columbia University, is obliquely addressing New York history and indirectly supporting SUNY, I hope that other leaders of private colleges and universities will start speaking up for public higher education, in New York and across the nation, with the eloquence of Pitzer College president Laura Skandera Trombley.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Now We're Talking: An Open Letter to Joel Miller

Joel Miller
Member of the Assembly
102nd Assembly District

Dear Dr. Miller:

Thanks for your letter of April 14th. The SUNY Fredonia University Senate and I share your opposition to the privatization of the State University of New York and your dismay at the tuition roller coaster students and families have been riding for the last generation. My colleagues and I are particularly gratified to hear that you have a plan to bring more state support for SUNY. To tell you the truth, we've been under the impression that everyone outside the Western New York delegation in the Assembly has it in for SUNY.

I'd like to hear more about your plan to stabilize SUNY's funding, as your description is a little fuzzy:

My plan links [tuition] increases to no more than the CPI for the entering freshman which then stays flat for 5 years with the State annually increasing support by the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI). A percentage of these increases must go to increase the number of full-time faculty.

Are you saying that your plan calls for tuition for each entering first-year class to remain the same for 5 years? (Even if they transfer to another SUNY school? Would students transferring in from outside SUNY pay the same tuition rate as entering first-year students?) And that each year the Legislature would have to limit tuition increases for that particular entering class to a cap set by the previous year's Consumer Price Index? (Would they be required to mandate a tuition decrease if deflation occurs?) And that each year the Legislature would commit to increasing support for SUNY by the Higher Education Price Index rate? (Is that a floor or a ceiling?)

Since your letter refers to the "SUNY Fredonia College Council" in its opening paragraph--which is an entity something like a local Board of Trustees, nothing like the campus governance organization that I lead--I'll take the liberty of reminding you of the actual content of our March 29th resolution by comparing your plan to the elements we've identified, in conjunction with the Fredonia Student Assembly, UUP chapter, and administrative leadership, as key campus needs.

We all agree that a rational, equitable, and predictable tuition policy is necessary, although only the students agree with you that the Legislature should continue to control it and that increases should be capped according to a variable inflation rate. By contrast, the faculty, staff, and administrators of SUNY Fredonia believe that the Board of Trustees should be entrusted with the responsibility to manage small, incremental tuition increases under a flat percentage rate cap (on the order of 8% to 10%). Have they mismanaged the residence halls, construction, or the setting of fees? Why shouldn't they have the same authority to set their own tuition rate that community colleges in New York already have? Don't the taxpayers of NY also own the community colleges? Have they been privatized?

Putting aside the additional administrative costs of different tuition rates for different students in attendance at the same time (by date of entry in addition to resident/non-resident status), which probably would not be high enough to deter the faculty, staff, students, and administrators of SUNY from supporting this aspect of your plan, what's the real difference between yours and ours, and how big is it really? How much does it really matter if the Legislature or the Trustees are managing a rational, equitable, and predictable tuition policy? Since we both agree that tuition increases shouldn't be offset by decreases in state support, can't we come to an agreement on this last little difference between our plans?

Like your plan, our resolution also seeks to freeze the state's long-standing disinvestment in SUNY. But whereas your plan focuses only on the state covering inflationary costs, ours goes much further. (1) We seek to end the Governor's power to unilaterally "claw back" funds the Legislature has dedicated to SUNY by moving SUNY from the "state assistance" budget category to the "local assistance" category, just like community colleges and CUNY schools. (2) We seek to end the practice of cutting SUNY's operating budget by a greater amount than any tuition increase with both a formal end to the "tax on tuition" and a commitment by the state to "maintenance of effort" (which normally includes covering both mandatory and inflationary costs). (3) And we seek to protect SUNY's most financially vulnerable students from the effects of tuition increases by getting a commitment from the state and SUNY to develop new financial aid measures or enhance existing ones (like TAP).

Can we have your support on these three elements of our resolution? Without them, your plan is open to Gubernatorial sabotage and the students, faculty, staff, and administrators of SUNY Fredonia are still vulnerable to continuing disinvestment from the state of New York.

Forgive me for asking, but is your letter an individual initiative, or does your plan have support from the majority of your colleagues on the Higher Ed committee? Is yours the official plan your team is putting forward in conference committee with your counterparts in the State Senate, or are you freelancing this? (I ask because I don't understand why it didn't make it into the Assembly's budget resolution.) What do Deborah Glick and Sheldon Silver think of your plan? How about Phil Smith and Nancy Zimpher?

As you know much better than I, time is getting short. I encourage you to discuss your plan with Bill Parment and the rest of the Western NY delegation. If SUNY's supporters in the Assembly don't get organized and figure out how to act effectively, I fear the consequences for my students and colleagues. If I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.


Bruce Simon
SUNY Fredonia University Senate
[phone number]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Feds to the Rescue?

Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education report on new federal initiatives to stabilize public higher education in cash-strapped states (i.e., just about every one). I'm starting to get a little more hopeful that the contingency-planning working group I'm in the final stages of putting together here at SUNY Fredonia (consisting of 4 appointees by me and 3 by the campus president) won't have to put all the cost-cutting ideas it generates into immediate action, but I'm still going to charge them with preparing for a range of scenarios, from bad to worse to dire to disastrous.

I'm all for emergency stabilization, but we also need to look beyond the immediate crisis, revisit fundamental assumptions about the financing of public higher education, and search for longer-term solutions. It's not enough to stop on the edge of a cliff: we've all seen enough Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons to know that that's the moment when the cliff collapses under you. I've purposely put off focusing on the longer term in the midst of NY's budget battle, but by this time next month I'll be all over it.

Governance Matters: What Should the Core Functions and Goals of the University Be?

Michael Meranze hits the nail on the head once again. He argues:

The UC faculty needs to assert their own vision of the core functions of the University.... If the faculty do not become more involved and assertive in defining the University, its definition will be made by market-share and balance sheets....

The budgetary crisis has meant that unless we do a better job of defining what we think to be the core mission of the university, the financial managers will do it for us. And we have yet to do that in a systematic way.

Similarly, his critique of the University of California's Commission on the Future's "marginalization of faculty" strikes exactly the right note:

the marginalization of faculty has sidelined what we might have thought would be the central question facing the Commission: how best to preserve the educational core of the University. Instead, the Commission has been primarily concerned with how best to produce revenue lines and lower costs. Increasing revenue and effectively spending money are obviously central concerns; but they can only be addressed once we have made clear what the central ends of the University itself are. The danger is that the question of the purposes of the University will be decided without real debate....

Furthermore, he's right that putting the shared back in governance is one key way to get that real debate going.

The Senate, both system-wide and the Campus Divisions, must take the lead in pressing for far greater transparency in the budget than now exists. The faculty throughout the system is being asked, or will be asked, to reexamine priorities, administrators are looking for ways to cut costs, and the burdens will ultimately fall upon departments and programs. But if real budget reform is to occur it has to be through knowing participating and shared responsibility between administration and faculty.

Finally, he's right that

[B]udgetary transparency can only accomplish so much. It can make clear the structures of funding and costs, and clarify the choices that are being made. But in order to reverse the relationship between educational and budgetary decisions faculty will need to do a better job of indicating what we believe the core goals and functions of the University should be.

This is what makes me so curious about what he and other activists in California would say about the process and rhetoric of SUNY's new strategic plan, The Power of SUNY. Chancellor Zimpher's approach has been much more inclusive than Chancellor Yudof's, she's made a big effort to convince the state-wide University Faculty Senate that she's committed to shared governance, and her strategic plan seeks to put SUNY's research and teaching squarely in the service of New York state's people, communities, and economy.

Being so outwardly-directed, SUNY's strategic plan doesn't directly address Meranze's interest in a "renewed vision for undergraduate education" or his attempt to start conversations about the relation between general education ("provid[ing] students with diverse and complex intellectual literacy: conceptual, cultural, experimental, historical, linguistic, and scientific") and departmental majors ("Students would still get the concentration they need in order to continue to further and deepen their learning; but they would also be given the general competencies needed to contribute critically to the world"). But by making SUNY's general education requirements more flexible and putting more responsibility for assessing it in individual campuses' hands, Zimpher clearly wants to see the faculty take more ownership of general education. And I wouldn't be surprised if the strategic planning process generated a whole lot more ideas than made it into the glossy brochure, ones more directly about the educational mission of SUNY.

Here's what I'm hoping comes out of the launch of the SUNY strategic plan and the last push this year to influence New York state budget politics:

What I want to see from SUNY leadership, in short, is a commitment to doing everything in their power to convince all concerned parties that the system and the campuses are prepared to handle the responsibility and take advantage of the opportunities the PHEE&IA would grant it. The key part of that commitment is being open to amendments to the PHEE&IA and revisions to their draft policies that enshrine such principles as collaboration across constituencies and organizations within SUNY, power-sharing from day one and ground zero across SUNY, and robust checks and balances on all involved. If this happens, I'm ok with the fact that many things would still have to be worked out in practice. Because ultimately that experience of working together in a common cause, treating disagreements as a normal condition to be addressed openly and frankly at all levels of decision-making (not as treason or disloyalty), and trying to develop revenue streams that enhance the educational, research, and service missions of SUNY without providing rationales for further cuts in state support is all preparation, to my mind, of the larger state-wide, national, and even international consideration of the following questions that SUNY can take the lead on: namely, why public universities ought to continue to exist in the 21st century and beyond, how their roles, functions, and uses ought to be defined, what their value is (in non-economic as well as economic terms), and where their financing should come from. If all of us concerned about the future of SUNY and of public higher education were to systematically revisit these fundamental questions, consider why traditional answers to them have been losing support from citizens, taxpayers, and politicians (among others), and develop new, more compelling, answers (when needed), then we might find ways of moving out of crisis mode and into growth mode. If we can't even commit to this much, what hope is there of anyone else doing it for us?

Yup, I still haven't changed my mind from mid-March. Glad to see others are raising similar questions and proposing their own answers.

[Update 1 (12:54 am): Check it out! Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg's The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age is available as a download from MIT Press!]

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SUNY's "Fortunately, Unfortunately" Strategy: Turning Up the Heat on NY's Political Establishment

With the Passover-Easter recess over in Albany, New York's political leaders have been greeted by a renewed pushback from SUNY. Let's call it the "Fortunately, Unfortunately" strategy.

Fortunately, SUNY is launching its new strategic plan over the next two weeks across New York State. [Update (10:44 am): here's The Power of SUNY page and a link to the strategic plan (of the same title) itself.]

Unfortunately, Stony Brook University "leaked" and then announced and explained their plans to virtually shut down their Southampton campus, which they had recently purchased from Long Island University. Key sound bites from President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., include the following:

"I would say that we did fundamentally believe that the financial model didn't work essentially as outlined, and that to try and run a very small campus--essentially a very small liberal arts campus--on a $5,000 a year tuition, is very difficult."

"You can do the math and figure out without significant state allocation and support, this campus loses money."

It remains to be seen whether students, UUP, and local legislators will direct their anger at the Stony Brook administration alone, or whether Sheldon Silver and other State Assembly leaders will become the target of their ire.

Fortunately, SUNY is celebrating its most exceptional students by announcing the recipients of the 2010 Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence last week and holding a poster session today in the Legislative Office Building showcasing top undergraduate research and creative work.

Unfortunately, the University at Albany has announced their plans to prepare for a "substantially lower resource base over the next two years," according to an email that President George Philip sent to the campus last week, which made its way to the Times Union's Capitol Confidential blog. The other key line from it is even more specific:

[W]ithout long-overdue flexibility/autonomy and critically important funding restorations, I remain deeply troubled and concerned about the University's ability to maintain the size of our faculty and staff, the breadth of our academic programs, and student enrollment.

Last week at SUNY Fredonia, President Hefner and I were interviewed on "High Noon Friday" on the Fredonia radio station, right after Student Assembly leader Kevin Wysocki's interview, on the SUNY budget and the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act. Yesterday, the Fredonia University Senate overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution that the Executive Committee of the state-wide University Faculty Senate passed at the end of March, which lays out their qualified support for the PHEE&IA. (While they didn't go as far as I wanted them to in clarifying what SUNY needs from NY, they did a good job of addressing the legitimate objections that have been raised by UUP and others by calling for further revisions of SUNY's tuition and asset management policy drafts.) This Friday, SUNY Fredonia will be holding a press conference to do what we can to continue turning up the heat on NY's political leaders. And I'm hoping that the governance team we're bringing to the state-wide plenary in New Paltz at the end of next week can help the UFS put further pressure on SUNY and UUP to finally present a united front to NY's political establishment.

While we at Fredonia are hoping for the best and fighting for any good to come from New York's budget process, we're preparing for all likely eventualities, from dire to disastrous to catastrophic. I've been consulting with President Hefner and members of the University Senate Executive Committee and Planning and Budget Advisory Committee over the last several weeks on putting together a Budget Priorities Subcommittee of PBAC, a small working group to be made up of faculty and administrative leaders, whom I will charge with deciding on a process and criteria for making recommendations on how Fredonia should deal with a range of budgetary scenarios and presenting their recommendations to the PBAC after they have concluded their data collection, analysis, and deliberations. A loose model for the BPS's work will be the kind of projections that UC's state-wide University Committee on Planning and Budget produced in the middle of the last decade, but with specific suggestions for difficult decision-making at a public regional university in NY rather than a survey of general paths CA's research universities might take.

More on all these matters as they unfold....

[Update 1 (10:59 am): I give the New York Times's first pass at summarizing the plan a B-.]

[Update 2 (1:39 pm): Frank Mauro and Ron Deutsch suggest that alternatives to continuing to cut SUNY--and ways to fund them--both exist and will be better for the state in the near and long term.]

[Update 3 (5:01 pm): The Legislative Gazette included the first comprehensive overview of the plan that I've seen.]

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Stan Katz, Meet Nancy Zimpher

Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education's Brainstorm blog, Stan Katz reports on last Friday's forum on state-supported higher education co-sponsored by the Princeton University Policy Research Institute for the Region and the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. His post, provocatively titled "Can We Afford Our State Colleges?" is worth a read. As is the draft strategic plan for SUNY.

With a week to go before the official launch of the plan, the second of a mere two-week window for comments, the call for further participation rings a little hollow at this late stage of a very inclusive process, but I've already emailed them some editing suggestions and will soon have more substantive feedback (some of it on this blog). What's worth noting right now is that the draft plan precisely reverses the priority of Katz's question: its rhetorical strategy is classic "ask not what New York can do for SUNY; ask what SUNY can do for New York." Rather than analyzing or agonizing over the state of New York's commitment to public higher education, the draft plan lays out a roadmap for doing something about it. I'm curious to see what the state-wide University Faculty Senate makes of it at New Paltz later this month!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Michael Meranze, Meet Jean-Francois Lyotard

Here's hoping the faculty at SUNY's doctoral-granting institutions read Michael Meranze's response to the University of California's Commission on the Future's first public hearing.

As I read it, I kept flashing back to key moments in Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition. Not quite the parts that Michael Berube focused on in What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts? (having to do with legitimation via paralogy and narrative rather than consensus)--well, at least not immediately. No, the parts that go like this:

The decision-makers...attempt to manage these clouds of sociality according to input/output matrices, following a logic which implies that their elements are commensurable and that the whole is determinable. They allocate our lives for the growth of power. In matters of social justice and of scientific truth alike, the legitimation of that power is based on its optimizing the system's performance--efficiency. The application of this criterion to all our games necessarily entails a certain level of terror, whether soft or hard: be operational (that is, commensurable) or disappear. (xxix)

And this:

By terror I mean the efficiency gained by eliminating, or threatening to eliminate, a player from the language game one shares with him. He is silenced or consents, not because he has been refuted, but because his ability to participate has been threatened (there are many ways to prevent one from playing). The decision makers' arrogance, which in principle has no equivalent in the sciences, consists in the exercise of terror. It says, "Adapt your aspirations to our ends--or else." (63)

And this:

the process of delegitimation and the predominance of the performance criterion are sounding the knell of the age of the Professor: a professor is no more competent than memory bank networks in transmitting established knowledge, no more competent than interdisciplinary teams in imagining new moves or new games. (53; see more generally "Education and Its Legitimation through Performativity," 47-53)

Yeah, I know, many a digital diploma mill has sprung up from the last quotation, particularly when combined with Lyotard's bizarre semi-celebration of "the temporary contract" (66). But it's the prior two passages that concern me here today. What Meranze helps make clear is that Lyotard's target in The Postmodern Condition is not simply Habermas's commitment to legitimation by consensus, with its "violence to the heterogeneity of language games" (xxv). Actually, it's more specific than that: the supplantation of appeals to truth and justice by appeals to efficiency and performativity. I wonder if by this criterion Lyotard would find the UCOF to be a terrorist organization?

Be that as it may, it's worth noting that Meranze's critiques pick up where Berube leaves off in his discussion of tuition, circa 2006:

your average state university now receives only a token amount of financial support from the state. Institutions like Penn State and the University of Michigan are nearly off the public books altogether, receiving only a tiny fraction of their budgets from state funds. The state provided 45 percent of Penn State's budget as recently as 1984-1985, when in-state tuition was $2,562; that figure is now down to 10 percent, and in-state tuition is $11,508. The correlation speaks for itself. The costs of college, in state after state, have been passed along to individual families, as higher education has gradually been reconceived as a private investment for individuals rather than a social good for the entire nation. (281-282)

And here:

That's what "partial privatization" is all about: passing the social costs of public goods onto individuals, leaving students and families to fend for themselves as best they can. If this is fine with you, so be it: you're a conservative or a libertarian. If you think this is a suspect or foolhardy enterprise, you may already be a liberal or progressive. (283)

And if you think it's a terrorist attack on truth, justice, and the heterogeneity of language games, then you're probably a French postmodernist.

Neither Berube nor Christopher Newfield are, but they both argue, in What's Liberal about the Liberal Arts? and Unmaking the Public University, that the attack on public universities and the attack on public institutions of all kinds have gone hand-in-hand in the dominant forms of conservative and libertarian politics of the past generation. What remains to be seen, in both California and New York, is whether some other politics might be possible.

[Update 1 (5:40 am): Sarah Amsler takes on managerialism in British higher ed.]

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dear Deborah, Herman, and Sheldon....

Here's the text of the SUNY Fredonia University Senate resolution that's about to go out to everyone with responsibility for the New York State budget.

Be it resolved, the University Senate of the State University of New York at Fredonia supports four key provisions contained in the recently passed New York State Senate Budget Resolution:

1. Allow the Board of Trustees to set undergraduate tuition within the confines of an annual "cap." Further, the Senate recommends that a fixed "cap" in the range of 8% to 10% be utilized in lieu of a HEPI-generated limit to provide for better predictability and to avoid excessive fluctuations.
2. Eliminate the "tax on tuition" by returning to the campuses 100% of the tuition they collect.
3. Move SUNY funds from State Assistance to Local Assistance, thereby placing SUNY into the same budgetary category as CUNY and community colleges.
4. Support the elimination of unnecessary duplication in the pre-approval process for construction and "goods" contracts.

Be it further resolved, the University Senate of the State University of New York at Fredonia urges the State of New York to make a commitment to “maintenance of effort” in the provision of state dollars, and to avoid using tuition increases as a mechanism for moving away from covering mandatory costs, especially during normal budget years.

Be it further resolved, the University Senate of the State University of New York at Fredonia urges the State of New York and the State University of New York to make a commitment to mitigating the effects of any tuition increases on financially vulnerable students at SUNY.

And, Be it finally resolved, the University Senate of the State University of New York at Fredonia directs the Senate Chair to forward this resolution to the Governor and to all members of the New York State Legislature.

The ball's in your court now. If you won't support the following minimal measures that the SUNY Fredonia University Senate, United University Professions chapter, and administration all agree we need right now to keep SUNY afloat--and which mirror our Student Assembly's previous resolution on every matter except the size of the cap on tuition increases and the locus of control for tuition policy--then it will be clear for all to see that you three are to blame for trying to sink SUNY.

[Update 1 (4:49 pm): The Executive Committee of the state-wide SUNY University Faculty Senate has also come out with their own letter and resolution. You can find them--and track everything that's been going on since January 2010--by going to the Fredonia University Senate ANGEL group and following the Content --> Campus Initiatives --> 2009-2010 --> SUNY Flexibility/Budget path.]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Senate Update: We Did It!

With explanatory comments from UUP chapter President Bridget Russell, Student Assembly President Kevin Wysocki, and Fredonia President Dennis Hefner, with the addition of a new "resolved" calling on NY state and SUNY to mitigate the effects of any tuition increases on financially vulnerable students at SUNY, with a focused discussion, and with only one dissenting vote, the SUNY Fredonia University Senate just passed our resolution. The Governor and all state legislators will be receiving it by fax at both their Albany and local offices by noon, after the Senators and I have finished the final edits on the new language (which we resolved not to wordsmith in senate). So I don't have the text to report to you all.

But I can report that our meeting ended in precisely this way:

I'll post the final text of our full resolution tomorrow morning.

Weekend Update

Here's where we stand heading into the special University Senate meeting at SUNY Fredonia in just under an hour.

Movement from the state-wide SUNY University Faculty Senate: The UFS Executive Committee is holding a conference call tomorrow morning to decide whether and how to revise their resolution, and on what other actions to take, with regard to the PHEE&IA and the NYS budget more generally.

Movement from SUNY System Administration: Chancellor Zimpher has sent a letter to the Governor and leaders of the State Senate and Assembly (majority and minority), laying out "what SUNY requires, at a minimum, to alleviate draconian cuts in program closings, retrenchments of faculty and layoffs of staff at our campuses." For the full text of her letter, as well as of SUNY's summary of and response to the Senate and Assembly budget resolutions, please head on over to our ANGEL group, dive into our Content area, enter the Campus Initiatives folder, click on "2009-2010," and look through the rich collection of documents in the "SUNY Flexibility/Budget" folder.

No public movement from UUP: Beyond what Phil Smith said at Fredonia, that is.

What does this all mean? Basically, Nancy Zimpher has decided to fight for as much of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act as she believes in salvageable. In essence, she's betting that NY's Executive (whether Governor Paterson or Lt. Gov. Ravitch) will fight hard for their own bill. Phil Smith is serenely confident the Assembly is on his side. What I hope SUNY Fredonia does is say with one voice that however the state-wide controversies play out, all parties involved can agree on the items that our Student Assembly and University Senate have identified in our resolutions as what our campus absolutely, positively needs. In essence, we're betting that the State Senate can broker a principled compromise on SUNY's budget needs.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reading the Tea Leaves

Here are Sheldon Silver's remarks on the New York State budget and budget process. Is it a bad sign that he didn't mention SUNY and SUNY students as groups the Assembly is out to protect, or a good sign that he didn't attack SUNY? I'm assuming that the Assembly specifically mentioning Lt. Gov. Ravitch's plan and calling for the Governor to resubmit his budget bill is an attempt to pressure him to be flexible with his emphasis on long-term spending restraint and lasting fiscal reform and state spending caps.

I'm also assuming SUNY benefits from the State Senate's New Jobs New York campaign, given Zimpher's emphasis on recasting SUNY's service mission as an economic and community development mission. And that 2 of the 3 men in the room during the endgame of the New York State budget process will be in favor of the provisions and principles the SUNY Fredonia University Senate will hopefully be endorsing on Monday, virtually all of which the Student Assembly already endorsed last Thursday.

But beyond that, I'm at a loss here. UUP hasn't changed its public position against cuts (yay) and against the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (even the parts Phil Smith says they support). Predictions, anyone? How much of what SUNY needs will we get from NY this year?

[Update 1 (5:24 am): I'm surprised that so few people are checking out Generation SUNY's youtube channel. The latest convocation recap features Chancellor Zimpher dropping the news that the new SUNY strategic plan will be rolled out on April 13th and taken on a two-week tour of New York. Here's hoping that the New York State budget process grinds slowly, so that everyone in and outside Albany has time to register the significance of the enduring and new directions in which she wants to lead SUNY.]

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Go Time! We're Having a Special SUNY Fredonia University Senate Meeting on the Budget

I'm calling a special University Senate meeting (next Monday, March 29th, at our usual time and place), to discuss and vote on a special budget resolution that the Executive Committee has developed in concert with leaders from both the Fredonia administration and the United University Professions chapter, and which parallels key provisions of a resolution being voted on by the Student Assembly this evening.

The impetus for this special meeting and resolution came from yesterday's visit by state-wide UUP President Phil Smith. Even though my strong suspicion from the end of last week that the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act is dead in the State Assembly has a 99.99% chance of being confirmed tonight or tomorrow morning, Phil indicated in both his public address and in private meetings that he supports certain aspects of the budget resolution from the State Senate. Given that the Senate and Assembly have to reconcile their budget bills in conference committees, and that everything in both is on the table, there's one last chance to push for measures that everyone here agrees would be good for the SUNY system and the hundreds of thousands of people it educates and employs.

The final draft of the resolution is scheduled for final wordsmithing tomorrow morning, but what's unlikely to change is its conclusion:

Be it resolved, the University Senate of the State University of New York at Fredonia supports four key provisions contained in the recently passed New York State Senate Budget Resolution:

1. Allow the Board of Trustees to set undergraduate tuition within the confines of an annual "cap." Further, the Senate recommends that a fixed "cap" in the range of 8% to 10% be utilized in lieu of a HEPI-generated limit to provide for better predictability and to avoid excessive fluctuations.
2. Eliminate the "tax on tuition" by returning to the campuses 100% of the tuition they collect.
3. Move SUNY funds from State Assistance to Local Assistance, thereby placing SUNY into the same budgetary category as CUNY and community colleges.
4. Support the elimination of unnecessary duplication in the pre-approval process for construction and "goods" contracts.

Be it further resolved, the University Senate of the State University of New York at Fredonia urges the State of New York to make a commitment to "maintenance of effort" in the provision of state dollars, and to avoid using tuition increases as a mechanism for moving away from covering mandatory costs, especially during normal budget years.

And, Be it finally resolved, the University Senate of the State University of New York at Fredonia directs the Senate Chair to forward this resolution to the Governor and to all members of the New York State Legislature.

This is still very much the art of the possible, but if state-wide UUP throws its influence behind these 5 ideas, relations between the State of New York and the State University of New York could start heading in a better direction.  Oh, and we might be able to avoid having some very difficult discussions and decisions here at Fredonia and across the SUNY system.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dr. Smith Comes to Fredonia, Part I: The Bright Side

Sorry to disappoint anyone who expected fireworks between United University Professions President Phil Smith and me during his visit to Fredonia today. He knows very well that as the month has gone on, I've grown more and more convinced that SUNY System Administration needs to address the legitimate UUP objections to specific provisions of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act--in fact I've gone further than any public positions UUP has taken in calling for specific changes to the bill and to the SUNY draft policies on tuition and asset management. We both know that the resolution the state-wide University Faculty Senate is preparing supports every part of the PHEE&IA except those portions that UUP has most strenuously and rigorously objected to. We both know that it's very likely that the State Assembly is going to kill the bill. And most important, he knows that I know that his own rhetoric and logic have moved much closer to mine over the course of the month.

Case in point: Phil's emphasis that we all need to work together to keep the Governor and legislature's feet to the fire when it comes to state support for the state university. He identified two strategic miscalculations by the new SUNY administration in their late-January budget testimony: first, failing to join UUP in advocating for restorations to the Governor's cuts and for a commitment from the state to "maintenance of effort" in the language of the PHEE&IA; second, volunteering $147M in 1-time reserves to help keep SUNY afloat should the PHEE&IA not pass. He stated directly that the Assembly Ways and Means Committee allowed the Governor's cuts to stand because of SUNY's positions. While some of this came off as finger-pointing and derriere-covering (on which more in a second), it is possible that the Chancellor's office came to see the importance of presenting a united front on the indispensability of state support only very belatedly, reluctantly, and mainly rhetorically, and that Smith's accusation that the Chancellor's notion of negotiation is you coming over to her side has merit. I'm more willing to keep an open mind on these points than I was before Phil came to campus, even if at best it means that there's plenty of blame to go around in Albany for the sorry state SUNY might be left in at the end of this year's budget process.

Case in point: Phil's repeated assertion that UUP supports specific provisions of and principles underlying the PHEE&IA. This may be revisionist history and it may be retroactive PR, but it's possible that behind closed doors UUP leadership has all along been as reasonable as Phil sounded today.

For instance, Phil's support of post-audit oversight being quite enough for purchasing goods on the open market is welcome. His example from Upstate of an expensive piece of medical equipment almost doubling in price while his campus waited for pre-audit approval was very telling.

Even more important, Phil's assertion that "UUP supports a rational, reliable, sustainable, and predictable tuition policy" is quite welcome. His point that HEPI fluctuations in part based on the inflation rate mean that at times its 5-year rolling average (at any multiplier) would be close to 0% and at times could be 20% or more is well-taken. In fact, that lack of reliability and predictability is a big part of the reason why both my campus president and I have been advocating for a clear upper limit on both general and special tuition, not to mention why the state-wide Student Assembly specifically called for a firm 6% cap--precisely to guard against swings in the multiplied rolling HEPI average on the high side and to close the gap in the cap that UUP warned against. What all of us recognize is that small, incremental increases are the only way to ensure that the state doesn't take advantage of a rational tuition policy to engineer massive cuts to taxpayer support for SUNY, not to mention drive away prospective students who would no longer be able to afford a SUNY education. We're not sure that UB or Stony Brook understand this or care, nor do we know which way SUNY System Administration is leaning. This was one of the key reasons why the sector representative from the comprehensives spoke so strongly against the PHEE&IA at the UFS winter plenary and why there was so much confusion and uncertainty during the state-wide conference call among UFS leaders on differential tuition. So the ball really is in SUNY's court at this point: when the Senate and Assembly try to reconcile their budget bills, will SUNY make serious concessions on tuition policy?

Finally, his detailed explanation of why UUP opposes granting SUNY wide-open flexibility to form public-private partnerships--solidarity with non-academic/professional unions; uncertainly of how the NLRB would rule on new employees' right to organize; fear of unit erosion should a department be moved into a non-union building run by a private organization, particularly as UUP members move or retire; the fact that in the current system campuses have an incentive to seek UUP support for any public-private partnerships, so that UUP can offer guidance, troubleshoot, and if necessary refuse to offer support to a project that doesn't look promising, for whatever reason; and the fact that several projects that didn't do this turned out to be boondoggles (at Farmingdale, Stony Brook, and Morrisville)--was quite welcome, particularly with his examples of projects at Purchase and Stony Brook for which UUP helped write the contract language. Why? Because he stated publicly the conditions under which UUP would support greater SUNY flexibility to form public-private partnerships. He treated the membership like adults, laying out his reasoning and seeking to persuade us, rather than delivering marching orders from on high. He tried to make the case that in the absence of serious money coming in from other revenue streams, SUNY would be forced to rely on tuition increases alone to try to compensate for declining state fund. Given that the UFS Executive Committee resolution addresses some of these concerns and I have addressed others, once again the ball is squarely in SUNY's court.

Case in point: Phil gave a very specific example of why he is convinced that augmenting existing SUNY revenue streams and developing new ones won't result in net gains for SUNY. He pointed out that when he arrived at Upstate in 1978, state support was around 47%--and now it's down around 10%. The state saw an opportunity to take advantage of the income the health science centers were generating: first they forced hospitals to pay for their own debt service, then their own fringe benefits, then the cost of collective bargaining increases, and finally this year they asked for over $20M to make up for retirement fund losses. If that opportunism is extended to the entire system, and the doctorals see state support drop from around 50% to around 10%, the comprehensives see state support drop from around 35% to around 10%, and so on, then eventually the question will arise of whether UUP should be negotiating with the state or with the entering freshman class and their families. Furthermore, if even UB and Stony Brook see state support drop faster than they can raise tuition, it's likely that the imbalances caused by SUNY's own formulae for distributing state funds to campuses--where Stony Brook has 57% state support and UB has near 50%--are going to be exacerbated even further, as more state money is sent to them than to the comprehensives.

So am I saying there aren't any problems left with UUP's positions and strategies? No way! But it's time to pick up my girls from day care and my wife from the airport. Stay tuned for Part II!