Senate Source

November 2009




The UC Commission on the Future represents a once in many decades opportunity for institutional self-study that is both systematic and systemwide. Over the past three months, the Academic Senate and UC leadership have worked to identify faculty and other participants to serve on the Commission and its five working groups. These representatives bring the requisite scholarly expertise, as well as a history of service to shared governance, and they are representative of their ten campuses. Their work will overlap and often complement the work of the standing committees of the UC systemwide Senate. When the Commission’s task is complete, its recommendations will be sent to the Academic Council for transmission to the divisions as part of the process of systemwide review, which also will involve the standing committees of the Senate such as Planning and Budget, Educational Policy, Research Policy, and the Coordinating Committee for Graduate Affairs, as well as divisional committees with similar charges on each of our campuses. To facilitate this work, the Senate would like to engage with the working groups earlier rather than later. At its November meeting, Council discussed how the systemwide Senate committees will communicate with the working groups and will plan for a meeting with the co-chairs of the working groups, hopefully in December.      

Chair Powell speaks at the Commission on the Future.


The Commission’s work is occurring as faculty, staff, and students are feeling great anxiety and alarm about the effects of the state’s cuts to UC, which come at a time of extraordinarily high unemployment and unmet needs for the present and future workforce. These cuts represent a violation of California’s historic promise of access to affordable, high-quality education. As UC enrolls fewer students, even more devastating enrollment cuts are taking place at California State University and at the California Community Colleges, and in their capacity to offer classes that students need. President Yudof has characterized the state as an unreliable partner. Indeed, in any human partnership, when one side fails to meet its responsibilities, the other is forced to be steady, thoughtful, and farsighted.


As our working groups contemplate the size and shape of the university, I hope that they will also consider the increasing size and diverse shape of a new generation of Californians in search of higher education. I hope the Working Group on Education and Curriculum will articulate the workforce needs of a state where jobs will not be filled by Californians if they cannot fulfill their educational aspirations and compete in our knowledge-based economy. As we look at Research Strategies, I hope we will remember the success of our research universities and institutes in capturing hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars, and the powerful impact of this money on California’s economy and the future of the state’s high tech and biotech industries. Unfortunately, that capacity may not survive the current downward trajectory of state disinvestment in its own research base. As we look at new ways to finance UC’s future, we have learned already that private sources can only do so much; state funding is the critical component that is leveraged by an economic enterprise approaching $20 billion per year.


And as the Working Group on Access and Affordability considers its charge, it is likely to confront a breach in California’s historic promise to its young citizens for an education commensurate with their academic abilities that is of sufficient quality to transform their lives. If we, the UC faculty, do not speak out for the needs of this generation, who will? I hope that the Working Group will not confine its attention to the immediate fiscal problem without articulating the full measure of educational needs of the next generation of Californians who surely deserve what others received - an affordable education and the economic and social benefits that go with it.