California's economy and state budget are in the toilet.
The CSU is facing midyear budget cuts, and the administration's response has been to freak the heck out. The Chancellor's office just announced last week that for the first time in its history, the CSU system will turn away eligible students. I think this means the CSU is violating the education code of the state, which specifies that the CSU's mission, as the people's university, is to teach the top 1/3 of high school graduates across the state. If CSU turns away eligible students, I think it could be legally liable. I'd be really interested to see someone sue over it.
Apparently the plan of action on our campus, presented by the administration, is to cut part-time faculty. The part-time faculty teach 315 classes this year, mainly general education classes required to graduate, rather than in majors. Furthermore, the plan is being hatched in secrecy, which is partly why I'm writing about it here. I figure there are CSU lurkers.
The administration has been holding meetings with department chairs to tell them to cut sections of classes and eliminate part-time faculty. But, and here's the tricky part, they have to keep teaching the same number of students. They'll achieve this by stuffing more students into remaining classes.
But there are freaking obvious problems with this plan. For one thing, many classes are being taught at capacity for the classroom. When everybody shows up for my morning Professional Ethics classes, there are no empty seats. I can't accommodate more students in those classes. Plus, as my colleagues Dan pointed out this afternoon, there are fire regulations at stake here too. If the room has a capacity of 45, it has a capacity of 45, period.
It also makes little sense to think that tenure-track faculty will really be able to teach more than they already do. In most departments, they teach 8 courses a year, which is really high for college teaching by tenure-track faculty (my teaching load is 10 per year, but CFA buys 1 of my classes from the university in exchange for the vastly more work than a course would require that I do for CFA).
And then the big one. Our students are not "traditional" four-year college students (almost no students in the US are, any more). They typically have work and family obligations, commute to school either 2 or 3 days a week, and need their class schedules to fit their lives' schedules as well as their academic needs. Cutting class sections will make it more difficult, and in some cases impossible, for them to continue to advance to their degrees.
Plus, plus, plus: While it's taking them longer to graduate, they may be asked to pay non-state-support fees for the same classes, taught off the state books. AND AND AND the longer they take to graduate, the more it costs them, and the longer the credit crisis goes on, the less access they have to student aid or even loans.
So there you have it. The university plans to fix their budget problem by way of an unworkable solution based on faulty assumptions about scheduling, the lives of students, the work of faculty, the ongoing state budget and financial crisis. Aside from that, of course, it's perfectly alright, provided you're completely uncaring about the people who work for you.