Saturday, July 18, 2009

Faculty Respond to the Budget Crisis, Updated

The devastating cuts to the University of California by the State now mean many different things to the diverse faculty at Berkeley. For some it has meant the imminent demise of the possibility of a great university that is also a public university with wide access. For others it poses a threat to intellectual diversity and excellence. Others feel that, because evidence shows that the State economy depends on excellence and innovation of all kinds, permitting the decline of the University of California will not save money but will mean the further loss of prosperity for all Californians, and that what might appear to be temporary savings for California certainly mean future losses of a much greater amount. For yet others, these things are true but the present is all consuming because, as for many across the State, immediate loss of salary with the recently approved furloughs means mortgage foreclosure for the faculty and the staff, the inability to meet childcare, and other basic costs or needs. For some faculty, the 800 million dollar deficit and resulting cuts mean all of these things at once.

During this crisis, which the U.C. Regents have declared as an “Emergency” with special conditions, including furloughs, our blog would like to present some of these different faculty perspectives. We hope that they interest you. We also hope that, if you feel moved to do so, you will forward them to your friends and co-workers.

1. By Anne Wagner, Professor of Art History and Class of 1936 Chair
Address to the Meeting of the U.C. Regents, July 15, 2009, in San Francisco.

Two weeks ago a discreet sign went up in Berkeley’s main library. It quietly announced yet another grim fact: sweeping Saturday closures of just about the whole library system, root and branch, till June 30, 2010—a full year. Only one facility is likely to be spared: Moffitt, the depressingly down-at-heel barracks to which the legions of undergraduates and graduates who in fact do study on weekends have long been consigned. From there a corridor will be kept open leading to the Gardner stack. Consider what this means even so: no reference services, no reading rooms, no “special collections” (periodicals, classics, graduate reserves), no rare books. No access to anything housed in the libraries devoted to music, architecture, anthropology, fine arts, East Asia, bio-sciences, law, chemistry, mathematics, public health, business, economics—and on and on. Student employment hours will be cut 25%. As the University Librarian puts it, there will be “blood on the wall.”

Perhaps you think these closures need some context; isn’t this happening at universities everywhere as a matter of course? No, it isn’t. Not at Yale, not at Harvard, not at Princeton, despite the huge drop in their endowments. Not at the University of Michigan, or the University of Mississippi, or the University of Alaska. Not, in other words, at any other University that aspires, however modestly, to be worthy of the name.

I am here because like so many of my colleagues who have devoted their careers to excellence in scholarship and teaching, I find this situation intolerable. It makes a mockery of our devotion, and that of the staff, and it puts California’s future under grave threat. The crisis we are facing has more to do with priorities than with economics. It is already creating a place where excellence does not—cannot—thrive. No one should confuse the thousands of responses we have sent the Office of the President with endorsement of or acquiescence to its plans. Entrepreneurship is not scholarship, and the economic harvest some hope to reap from our creativity risks utter sterility if it ploughs the University’s longstanding commitments to excellence, to diversity, and to openness into the dust.

2. By George Lakoff, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science andLinguistics
An Open Letter to The Regents of the University of California

It is an honor to address the Regents. The wisdom of the Regents over many decades has made the University of California one of the world’s greatest public institutions. You have a great inheritance and an awesome responsibility.

As you deliberate, there are some things I hope you will bear in mind.

The university has an overall $19 billion budget. The salary cuts for faculty and staff of $195 million represents about one percent of the overall budget.

  • Is that one percent cut the best place to cut one percent?
President Yudof has said, “There's no way we'll be able to look students in the eye and say this will be the same university.” He’s right. The University of California has reached a tipping point.
Remember this:
  • The quality of this great university lies in its faculty.
UC has more Nobel laureates than any other university. Cuts in faculty and staff salaries will lead many of our most distinguished faculty to accept competing offers. With them will go their grants, which will deepen the crisis and lead to a cycle of ever more cuts and departures. The result will be a third-rate university system. When too much is cut, you cannot attract and rebuild a great faculty.
  • Research and teaching are inseparable in a great university. Research is the creation of knowledge. We create new knowledge, teach it, and teach how to create it.
I do research on neural cognition, on how the physical brain — neurons — can produce ideas and language. What I teach to my undergrads in Cognitive Science 101 is knowledge that did not exist 20 years ago, and in some cases it did not exist two years ago or two weeks ago. We on the UC faculty don’t teach the biology, computer science or economics of twenty years ago. We teach what is known now! And we teach our students how to think deeply and creatively on their own!
  • UC graduates are so good because they learn what is current and they learn not just subject matter, but how to think new thoughts on their own. They learn by direct connection with our faculty and with each other.
Online courses are no substitute. The University of California is not the University of Phoenix, and should never become it. The knowledge and creativity of our graduates does not, and could not, come from online courses. Kill that knowledge and creativity and you kill one of the greatest resources to our state.

Bear in mind too that faculty depend on staff, appreciate staff, and are loyal to staff.
  • Emergency cuts tend to become permanent. So do so-called “emergency powers.” The faculty will not stand for a denial of self-governance.
Do not kid yourselves into thinking the changes you sanction now will last only one year.

Finally, you have more power than you may think you have. You have the power of access and of information.
  • Do not accept the situation in this state passively. You have the ability and the responsibility to act.
The present refusal of funding did not occur by a force of nature. The people and corporations of this state are not bankrupt. There is plenty of money in this state for a great university. The majority of voters have elected responsible legislators.
  • The cause of the crisis we face is minority rule.
Right now a minority one-third plus one in the legislature determines our revenues and budget. This is a tyranny of the minority, and that tyranny threatens one of the world’s great institutions, the institution that you are guardians of.
  • You have a moral obligation to protect this institution from the tyranny of the minority.
Through your access to the press, to business interests, and especially to the hundreds of thousands of UC alumni throughout the state, you have a power you can and should exercise: the power of information, and behind it, the moral authority of majority rule, that is, the authority of democracy itself.
  • A state government has a moral mission to empower its citizens.
It does so through building roads and public buildings, maintaining public health, controlling our energy supply, stewarding the environment, providing needed public services — and above all through education. No one earns a living in this state without such empowerment by the government. No one makes it on his own.

The University of California, through its faculty, has played a central role in empowering Californians and California. The Regents historically have made this possible. It is your duty to protect what is great about this university, and not be complicit in its destruction.

With the greatest of respect,

George Lakoff,
Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor
of Cognitive Science and Linguistics, UC Berkeley

--"A Memo to the Faculty of the University of California following the Regents' Meeting" (17 July 2009)

To: All those who endorsed my letter to the Regents

From: George Lakoff

Date: July 17, 2009

More than a thousand of you responded to my letter to the Regents. I wish

I could thank you each personally. I have never experienced anything like

the warm flood of support from you all. The endorsements came in much

faster than I could transfer them to the letter, and some are still

coming, even well after the Regents meeting. I will make sure that all

endorsements are posted soon on Chris Newfield's blog,

That flood of support alone was an important consequence of the letter. It

means that we can actually organize over a thousand UC faculty, and we

will need to do so. But what the support was for is vital.

a. It was support for maintaining the quality and the research and

educational integrity of UC, as opposed to merely opposing salary cuts and

furloughs. This is crucial because Yudof is trying to represent opposition

as a matter of self-interest alone by faculty.

b. The support was for using all UC resources, including

entrepreneurial" resources to maintain UC's primary educational mission.

That would include money from athletics, corporate sponsorship, hospital

profits, new buildings, and so on.

c. The support was for real teaching and against a "new educational

delivery system," which means an online university, an end to real

teaching, and a University of Phoenix approach. There will be a

"commission on reinventing the university," presumably chosen from among

the Regents and campus administrators. The faculty must insist on

changing the constitution of that commission so that they are

truly represented.

d. The support was for activism by the regents, alumni, and students

against the current minority rule by Republicans in the legislature. The

current 2/3 requirement to pass legislation for budget and revenue allows

1/3 plus 1 of the conservative Republican minority to block legislation

unless they approve. Such minority rule is bankrupting the state, as well

as the university.

In short, you took the high ground, as you should. You were backed up by

Lt. Governor John Garamendi, who challenged his fellow regents and the

alumni to support Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico's bill to raise

money for higher education by taxing oil extraction, that is, charging for

our oil instead of giving it away for free. All proceeds would go the

higher education-UC, CSU, and the community colleges.

We need to keep taking the high ground and we need to organize all of you

who wrote to me, and others as well.

Here is what we must avoid:

We must avoid looking weak or fragmented. Yudof is trying to portray us

as a small bunch of spoiled extremists complaining that our salaries were

cut and that we have to go on furlough. He wants us to make the cuts and

the furlough the issue. Then it will look like we are just being

self-serving. And Yudof will rest his case. The press will simply follow


That has already been happening. Fox radio called me to talk about the

furloughs and the cuts. I rejected their framing, pointing out that the

real issue is the long-term quality of the faculty and whether our great

university will be destroyed.

Some faculty are talking of strikes and coordinated furloughs and

cancelling classes for teach-ins. If such attempts fizzle, that is, if

they draw only marginal support, it will only strengthen Yudof's position

that the faculty supports him. We must be absolutely assured ofverwhelming

active participation before we call publicly for any such action.

Then there is what we positively need to do:

We must, following Garamendi, support Assemblyman Torrico's bill that

supports higher education by charging oil companies for our oil that they

extract and sell. Right now, we give our oil to oil companies for free.

We must shift the "entrepreneurial" frame. University entrepreneurs can

get their funding because they are using the academic reputation of UC,

the University of California brand established by our faculty and

graduates. Entrepreneurs should be paying a significant royalty to the

academic mission of UC for using the brand we established. This is exactly

the opposite of what Yudof has proposed.

We must get ahead on the Yudof "commission on reinventing the

university." Perhaps we should set up our own commission. Or make sure

that active faculty, especially in letters and science, not just

regents and administrators, and not just people from professional schools,

make up the bulk of the commission. And we need to make sure that certain

proposals put forth so far, like canceling departments to get rid of

tenured faculty, have no support.

We must organize, organize, organize. Both in support of higher education

and against the tyranny of the minority. Not just faculty,

but students, their parents, and alumni. They must be organized to do

very specific things, not just once, but by regularly writing to their

legislators, writing letters to the editor, speaking out in their


We are at two tipping points. The life or death of our great university,

and the life or death of a functioning state government.

We have never faced anything like this before.

We need to gain active support, from each other, and from those who care

about our university and our state. We can take courage from the more than

1,000 responses to my letter. The names have been listed publicly. None of

us is alone.

I wish that this were simply a disagreement about how to best proceed. But

today President Yudof went on the radio (KQED's forum) and told three

lies. First, that only a handful of faculty disapproved and that just a

few malcontents were sounding off. I had personally delivered 1,000

faculty endorsements of my letter to him at the meeting. He knew he was

lying. Second, he said that "the elected representatives" of the faculty

all supported his position. But all the faculty senates opposed his

position. He knew he was lying. Third, he said that the alumni had already

been sent a letter asking them to be active in supporting the university

with legislators and others throughout the state. That letter has not been

sent out, and though it is scheduled, it is not clear that a final

version has even been drafted.

There was no rational reason for our president to lie. He could have

admitted that the faculty overwhelmingly disagreed with his course, and

then given his reasons for making his decision. Lying will come back to

haunt him. When he lies, it creates unnecessary antipathy within

university ranks. We need an administration that works with us, not

against us. I call on President Yudof to publicly correct those

statements. He needs to establish trust. Leadership requires trust.

Many of us are angry. Anger won't help. We have a university to save -

and to serve.

Thank you again,

George Lakoff

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