Sunday, November 09, 2008

CSU budget cuts, class cuts, faculty cuts, student cuts
won't somebody get that razor away from him?!

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.


Bobo the Wandering Pallbearer said...

I think he's got it! By Jove, he's got it!

Anonymous said...

It's kind of sad to hear this kind of whining, but it sheds light on the mentality of the typical government employee.

When you work for an institution funded by the taxpayer you start to act like the magical cash fairy will always be there to pay for whatever you think you need. Hopefully this incident will get folks like yourself to understand that everyone has to have fiscal responsibility, even those who work for the state.

Doc Nagel said...

Right, I'm whining because I'm being fiscally irresponsible.

Every dollar the state invests in the CSU is returned to the state four-fold. Perhaps my anonymous commentator would like to develop some understanding of fiscal reality.

Actually, I'm not convinced this isn't some kind of automated response generated by a bot looking for particular keywords, since obviously the comment makes no sense whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I'm not blaming CSU for the State of California's budget crisis, but you have to conclude that if there isn't enough money to operate the University, sacrifices have to be made.

Perhaps you are unaware that any money awarded to CSU has to come from the wallets of other Americans. Don't you think it rather presumptuous to assume that your institution deserves this money more than those other Americans?

You can boast all you want about how CSU multiplies our investments, but that takes time, and right now a lot of people are hurting. The burden of recovery has to be distributed evenly, and all of us have to sacrifice. Are you unfamiliar with the concept of short-term sacrifice for long-term gain?

It is going to be difficult to get out of this recession if everyone has your attitude.

Doc Nagel said...

Thanks for the civics lesson. I never understood before that "public" meant funded by tax money.

Thanks also for the lesson on "sacrifice" of the short term for the long term. It seems true, though: it's as if accepting painful circumstances for a shorter period for the sake of some benefit you'll get in the long run is a good idea. It does not follow that the burden of recovery must be evenly distributed, nor does it follow that the short-term pain must be turning away eligible students, when the short-term pain of raising taxes to fund education would provide a long-term benefit (by the way, this is a sacrifice I'm willing to make). I'm not sure what long-term benefit is provided by denying access to education.

Then again, people who most benefit from not raising taxes would benefit in the short term from this plan. I see! "Evenly distributed" means something like "without more state income."

But all that is as may be, because it's beside the point.

If it's appropriate for me, as author, to be able to comment about what I, as author, meant, then let me say that my objection here was mainly how and what cuts were being proposed. Despite the deep cuts, there is money to be moved around. As I said, the priorities of administration are what I am upset by.

Plus, as an unabashed contingent-faculty advocate, I am concerned about those people's jobs and well-being.

So thanks again for your spirited, courageously anonymous, and fatuous comments.

Anonymous said...

Have you been ouside of the academic bubble recently, Doc? A college degree doesn't mean as much as it used to, mainly because of universities pumping out graduates with little regard for actual education. The more you demand subsidization of education through taxes, the less likely your students are to stop taking their education for granted.

I don't think it would be a bad thing to raise tuition across the state and make students think a little bit harder about what college actually means to them. Perhaps some of them will decide it's better to try self-education through books, instead of just coasting for their degree.

Bobo the Wandering Pallbearer said...

Hey, cool! Where'd ya get the parrot?