The Senate Source

February 2013


Dear Colleagues,

I want to thank the UC faculty, students, and staff who supported the effort to pass Proposition 30—particularly our students, who mounted voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts and inspired us with their idealism and hard work.

I also want to thank Governor Brown for leading the way on Proposition 30 and for recognizing public higher education as a priority in his 2013-14 budget, which proposes small but steady annual adjustments to UC’s base budget over the next few years. Unfortunately, neither the budget nor Proposition 30 guarantees UC a stable funding future, addresses the full scope of UC’s needs, or reverses the nearly $1 billion in cuts UC has taken since 2007-08. However, it does help bring the University back from the brink, and I do consider it a hopeful start.

UC’s own 2013-14 budget proposes a multi-year reinvestment in the University’s academic programs based on several well-established measures of quality: reducing the student-faculty ratio; increasing funding for faculty start-up costs; increasing graduate student support to competitive levels; enhancing undergraduate instructional support; and reducing faculty and staff salary gaps. It is essential that we see this plan through to completion if we want UC to maintain its position at the forefront of public higher education.

I have been thinking a lot about the decreasing number of faculty and the dramatic increase in the student-to-faculty ratio. It is crucial that we overcome the erosion of quality these indicators portend. First, we must recruit faculty faster than separations are occurring. Systemwide, this means hiring more than 425 faculty annually just to keep up with separations. In 2010-11, we fell short of this goal by 239 faculty.

But faculty recruitment is not just a matter of finding new bodies to fill vacated spaces. It is how we keep the department “village” intellectually vital—the lifeblood of the village that reinvigorates our curricula, inspires our students, and ensures a continuing influx of fresh thinking. To remain healthy, academic departments need to maintain a full spectrum of academic life spans – graduate students, junior faculty, and senior faculty – and they need an ongoing commitment of resources to ensure that new faculty can make a career here and grow scholarship that can transform our research enterprise, open new areas of inquiry, and guide future generations of students. Over the last two decades, however, the percentage of faculty older than 66 has quadrupled, and faculty over 56 now comprise over 40% of the professoriate compared to 30% in 1990. It is critical for the health and the future of the entire University that we bring new scholars to our campuses.

To attract and retain top talent, the University must provide an appropriate hiring environment. It must offer candidates competitive compensation, support their teaching and research, provide them with access to top graduate students and safe, modern laboratory space, and give them time to establish independent research programs. The 2013-14 budget prioritizes these elements and takes the necessary first steps to ensure that we can stop any erosion of excellence.

In November, Vice Chair Jacob and I met with Governor Brown to discuss a variety of topics. He is supportive of the University and genuinely wants to better understand the issues. He is also concerned about rising tuition, student debt, and salary increases, and he wants UC to generate new money-saving ideas to keep public higher education affordable. The Governor also indicated that he wants to see increased teaching loads for faculty. As you might imagine, this is a very significant concern. Over the last five years, our student-to-faculty ratio has increased by nearly 20% across the system. There seems to be no recognition of the heroic efforts of our faculty – and our staff – in getting us through a crisis while suffering furloughs (which in the case of faculty did not result in reduced teaching) and increasing demands in the workplace and the classroom. We drafted a white paper for the Governor on the subject, and the March Regents meeting will include a more in-depth discussion.

The issue is a practical concern. The average age of faculty is rising; campuses cannot recruit new faculty fast enough to keep up with separations; and undergraduate student credit hours are projected to grow by as much as 10% or 750,000 by 2015-16. Faculty and administration working together must figure out how to teach the additional hours at a time when faculty hiring is not keeping up with separations.

The issue also goes to the heart of UC’s mission and identity. It is critical for the Regents and our state leaders to appreciate the central role of UC faculty research—the role it has in expanding knowledge, stimulating the state’s economy, bringing funding to the university and enhancing both graduate and undergraduate education. As faculty, each of us must make opportunities to explain the vital role of research to our teaching and the value of our scholarship to all Californians. Talk to your students, neighbors, and friends; write letters or op-eds; give speeches to PTAs, Rotary Clubs or Chambers of Commerce; volunteer your time in a K-12 classroom to disseminate your knowledge to a wider audience. By promoting your work, you are advocating for the University of California.

UCOP is updating UC’s long-range enrollment plan to shape Rebenching and to reflect new circumstances such as Funding Streams, the deterioration of state funding, new projections about educational demand and workforce needs, and campus academic goals. UCOP has sent each campus a template to initiate an iterative discussion about campus and systemwide goals, infrastructure and resource capacity. The final UC plan will require campuses and the system to reach agreement on a number of issues, including the need to meet Master Plan expectations for California resident enrollment. The Senate leadership expects strong divisional engagement in discussions about long-term enrollment.

I was saddened to learn of President Yudof’s intention to retire from the presidency and return to a faculty position in the UC Berkeley School of Law at the end of August. President Yudof has led UC through some very difficult times. He has also been a strong advocate of shared governance and has demonstrated an earnest commitment to listen to faculty points of view. Per Regents policy, Vice Chair Jacob and I will convene an Academic Advisory Committee to assist the search committee in screening candidates. We intend to advocate for a leader who is equally committed to excellence and shared governance and who will have the intellectual stature to command the respect of the faculty.

Thank you for your continued engagement and service. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a question or concern about an issue on your campus or systemwide policy.

Fiat Lux, Bob