NOTES FROM THE ACADEMIC SENATE CHAIR
Welcome to the 2008-09 academic year. I want to take this opportunity to summarize some of the challenges facing the Academic Senate and the goals I have for the coming year. As the year progresses, I anticipate that UC’s fiscal situation will create unique challenges. Together, I hope that we can find equally rewarding solutions.
My overarching goal before the start of this year was to establish a culture of, and respect for, shared governance with President Yudof. Since our new president is the first hired from outside the UC system, I was concerned that our style and level of shared governance might be difficult to embrace. Although I have worked with President Yudof only a short while, I am encouraged by his academic leadership and dedication to UC’s highest goals, his rapid embrace of UC’s culture of shared governance, and his open communication style. President Yudof’s reliance on analytic justification for decision making is congruent with the Senate’s, given our long history of evidence-based policy and decision making. It has been a pleasure working with him.
The top two priorities of the Senate have been, and will continue to be, implementation of the faculty and staff salary plans approved by The Regents, and increasing graduate student support. Unfortunately, the current budget does not include the $72.7 million required to implement year two of the faculty salary plan, although UCOP has included funding for year two in the preliminary budget for 2009-10. Be assured, however, that faculty merits will remain fully funded.
Thankfully, an additional $10 million for graduate student support was approved by The Regents for 2008-09. Since 2006-07, an additional $30 million has been added to graduate student support, with another $10 million requested in the 2009-10 budget. We will continue to work with the President’s office and the campuses to increase the proportion and number of graduate students on each campus.
Of course, all of us are concerned about the financial situation of the country, state, and University. I am afraid these concerns will persist for at least the short term, and will continue to present significant obstacles to some of the University’s and Senate’s major goals. Although the budget crisis is not going away, the Senate can help the President and The Regents arrive at thoughtful decision making with strategic planning priorities in mind. I encourage you to read President Yudof’s recent white paper, “Understanding Revenues and Expenditures in the University of California Office of the President.” The paper is a good primer on the way UCOP and the campuses are funded.
Increases in health and welfare benefit premiums and the restart of contributions to the UC Retirement Plan in July 2009 will further stretch our salaries and the UC budget. But we must not lose sight of the bigger picture: by restarting contributions, we will maintain the solvency of UCRP—a significant long-term benefit for all UC employees.
Another Senate priority this year will be shepherding the Academic Assembly’s Eligibility Reform Proposal successfully through The Regents and a second round of briefings with State legislators. The Senate believes the proposal will increase fairness and maintain excellence in the admissions process. I greatly appreciate the time President Yudof has spent with this complex and innovative proposal over the past few months. I believe we have successfully educated many stakeholders as to the specifics of the proposal, and I am hopeful for its passage at the January Regents meeting.
The Academic Council recently charged a task force to investigate the criteria for membership in the Academic Senate. The task force also will examine whether there can be a role in shared governance or a possible expansion of Senate membership for some faculty who are not currently Senate members. Of particular focus for the task force will be clinical, adjunct, and cooperative extension faculty. I will keep you posted on the findings of this group.
I am committed to improving the efficiency of the Senate review process, an effort that is particularly critical this year given the number of new and existing schools and programs under review, including a first-ever Systemwide School of Global Health, the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and a new Education Abroad Program business model.
While we work on these goals, we must continue to be responsive to inquiries from the administration. The Senate will continue to monitor the Office of the President’s restructuring, which is now turning its focus from business operations to academic affairs and the offices of Academic Advancement and Student Affairs—two units core to the Senate’s mission. The Senate will advocate for increasing UCOP’s analytic and policy capability so the faculty have the information they need to participate effectively in shared decision making.
Senate committees and divisions recently completed their review of the President’s Draft Accountability Framework - the first step in establishing an annual report that tracks UC’s progress in meeting key goals. I encourage faculty to submit additional comments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. I believe that if done correctly, the Framework can serve as a baseline measure of University efficacy that can easily be conveyed to, and understood by, both the general public and the Legislature. This is a critical opportunity for the Senate to help set that baseline.
I am fortunate to be working with an incredibly capable and dedicated staff in the Senate office. As always, the Senate analysts are invaluable in assisting with our analytic work and staying on top of Senate initiatives. Our new Executive Director, Martha Winnacker, has proven invaluable in a short period of time. Her legal background and attendant analytic and research capabilities are extremely helpful in interpreting Senate, University, and Regents’ policies and bylaws. Vice Chair Harry Powell is a true intellectual and a gentleman. He is taking the lead on a variety of faculty issues and is working with me on some of the President’s initiatives.
If you are not already active in your campus Senate, I encourage you to consider it. My own Senate service has given me opportunities to bring about change and to network with faculty outside of my own department and campus, as well as provide intellectually stimulating discussions. UC has the most vibrant and vital system of shared governance in the world. Participating in it is a unique opportunity to broaden your vision and understanding of the University, and as a result, become more effective as a faculty member. Even for more senior faculty, the benefits of working closely with colleagues from other campuses via Senate service are inestimable. Besides, service is part of your merit and advancement reviews!
I look forward to working with you on the important issues facing the Academic Senate and the University this year, and I am excited and honored to represent you. In order to fulfill the mission of the Senate and to meet your expectations, though, I will need your help. I hope I can count on you, as you rely on me. The challenges facing us as a faculty and as a University community will demand the best of both you and me. Thank you for your support.
Fiat Lux, Mary