Wednesday, February 24, 2010

the future of the CSU, part 2

Today, let's look at

Deliverology is the name of Chancellor Reed's latest, greatest initiative to... uh... to...

Well, on one hand, Deliverology is supposed to be a way to improve graduation rates, by cutting budgets and eliminating faculty authority over courses. If it's not clear why improving graduation rates depends on cutting budgets and eliminating faculty authority, then I suppose you're not up to date with the most recent trends in corporatized public institutional management.

Deliverology is the "make the trains run on time" practice developed in Great Britain by Sir Michael Barber, as a way to run trains on time. You get the idea. It turns out to be rather simple: to make the trains run on time, you eliminate stations, eliminate employees, and reduce service. And voilĂ ! Trains. Running. On. Time.

Apparently, the basic evidence that Deliverology works is that customers figured out how to get around the system. The ingenuity of people should not be underestimated.

Anyway, since trains are exactly like higher education in every conceivable way, it's obvious that using these strategies will work perfectly to make higher ed work better in California. And "work better" here means... um... you know, better. Like, better.

How about we let Sir Michael Barber speak for himself on the need for Deliverology in higher education:

Obsessions with policies that are wrong and expensive, such as continuing marginal reductions in class size or protecting teachers' "rights" to teach as they wish in the citadel of their own classrooms, is widespread. Many still cling to the demonstrably false view that creativity consists of each teacher making it up in the classroom. This is not creativity, it is betrayal.

You see, it's simple. The basic problem in higher ed is that faculty insist on "making it up in the classroom," that is, "the citadel of their own classrooms" where they presume to have "'rights'" to... uh... to...

So, Deliverology is a theory which states that:
(1) Faculty do not have the right to determine what they teach, or how
(2) When faculty do determine what and how they teach, they betray (uh..., someone...)
(3) Faculty must be controlled, and their teaching determined by someone who knows better than faculty what faculty should teach (in their own areas of specialization, because they... don't... er... know?... their fields?
(4) Students get more from their educations when faculty don't use their expertise to determine what and how to teach in the classes they are... experts... uh... in?

You might wonder, why? At least, I do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

the future of the CSU

The CSU administration has begun rolling out a strategy for dismantling faculty power and gutting the last vestiges of the integrity of disciplines, in particular in the liberal arts and humanities. It has several elements. Today we'll look at

Restructuring refers to the CSU administration's intention to replace as many faculty-taught university classes as possible with online courses with much higher enrollments, taught through extended education. Most of the courses slated for restructuring are general education courses. Restructuring has several implications for faculty work.

(1) The faculty who had taught those courses through the regular university are often "temporary" faculty, who, at the CSU, are a relatively stable workforce some of whose members have preference for work (a right to be re-hired to the same or similar assignment of work and amount of work). That is to say, these are faculty who have taught at the CSU for long enough to establish that they are competent professionals. Their primary employment is typically at the CSU. Many of them have careers that parallel the tenure-track faculty in every way except that they are never eligible for tenure. Restructuring eliminates their work through the regular university, so it eliminates the job protections they have earned.

(2) By shifting regular faculty work into extended education, and eliminating these positions for untenured "lecturer" faculty, the CSU cuts their academic budget. In addition, because teaching work through extended education does not earn benefits, the CSU eliminates its costs in that regard. For the instructional faculty affected, this changes their work from relatively stable, relatively dignified, relatively regular work, earning benefits (for very many - you have to work at least 40% of full-time to earn benefits), to work that is as precarious as casual labor, temp work.

The reason we can be confident that this will happen -- that is, that the faculty work will be shifted to extended education rather than eliminated outright -- is that the demand for higher education is not significantly lower in California than it was before the economic recession and state budget crisis. In fact, it is higher, and has continued to grow. Not that that matters. The CSU has had the plan in place long before, and was waiting for the economic crisis to provide the opportunity and excuse to implement it. "Oh no!" administrators lament, "our budget has been slashed! We must do everything we can to make sure our students can continue their educations, but we just can't afford these pricey faculty employees! We have to outsource their work -- it's the only way!" Given that most CSUs spend less than half their income (much less) on instructional faculty, this is shameless lying.

(3) So, the upshot is, the official faculty of the university will shrink, drastically (more than 20% at CSU Stanislaus from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009, with 15% cuts planned for 2010-11 academic year!). Meanwhile, many of the same people will be re-hired by the university to teach the same classes for a fraction of their previous wages, without benefits. Much of their teaching work will be online, with little or no support for technology, little or no access to university resources (library, etc.). But many of us have families, or are in the habit of paying rent or eating, and we'll have to choose this worst-case-scenario employment.

For students, the implications are pretty devastating as well:

(1) Extended education courses are often called "self-support," which is a euphemism that means students will get no state funding to support their education in those courses, and will have no access to most kinds of financial aid. What most students and the public do not realize is that the state budget allocation to the CSU pays for around 70% of the cost of their education; they pay 30%. If they must pay 100% of the cost, the cost obviously goes way up for them. Add to that that they will not be eligible for aid. Add further that they will still have to enroll in the regular university in order to earn their degrees and take courses for their majors. Essentially, the CSU will require them to pay fees twice, while providing a lower quality of service and less access to that service.

(2) This means, pretty obviously to me at least, that students who have fewer financial resources will be increasingly left out of opportunities for CSU education. Some have said that the CSU administration are not at all secretly pleased with this result, since it will leave the CSU with a "more desirable" student body. This is another euphemism that I shall not unpack because the very idea of it is too disgusting to me to contemplate.

(3) Like my lecturer colleagues, students will be left with the worst-case-scenario option for continuing their educations at the CSU. They'll simply have no choice but to pay and pay again, or else give up.

(You have to read that with Cindy Lou Who's voice.)

I believe the CSU administration's agenda is to achieve the following:
(1) break down faculty labor into modular components
(2) outsource faculty labor to cheapest available vendors
(3) maximize the extraction of funds from consumers of their services
(4) maximize flexibility in the allocation of public funds

This is the same agenda that has been pursued by privateers of such governmental functions as defense, and such public functions as provision of utilities and services. The CSU's refusal of public accountability (for instance, in the case of their million-dollar political efforts to resist Senate Bill 218, which would have required CSU to give public audits of their foundation boards) is a strong indicator of their intentions.

Monday, February 15, 2010

another open letter

Dear Talentless Spam Email Marketers,

I really have no need for 74% 82% 80% 78% 83% 80% discounted Viagra. I'm not trying to brag, I'm really just tired of the spam. You could at least get your story straight on the discount.

Anyway, why do you figure I'm on the market? It's because I'm an avowed hockey fan, isn't it. Jerks.

Yours sincerely,
Exiled Nigerian Prince Martin Embegke

P.S. I have a special offer to tender only onto you, dear one...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

new career options #4

I'm one of those people who talks back to television. I especially talk back to ads, when they speak to me in some special way, or when they seem to miss a golden opportunity of some kind. I wonder sometimes if I haven't missed my calling to be in the advertising business.

I couldn't do market research, which would bore me to death. I'd have to work on the creative side, coming up with taglines or writing copy. I'd re-write all the ads for Progressive insurance, for example. Here's my idea. Same set-up with the bright white fake big-box retail electronics store, same actress as "Flo." Same great big nametag. The main difference - it's subtle, but I think it would be very effective - is that when "Flo" leaps out at an unsuspecting customer to chirp manically about Progressive policies, they punch her in the face. Every commercial would have the same basic script. "Flo" pops up. "Can I he-" WHAM! Memorable, eh?

I can obviously write better than the people who are putting together the awful ads for Bud Light and Chevy. The Bud Light ads where the guys express their love for Bud Light more freely than for their women? Half-assed. In my Bud Light ad, we pan over piles of greasy pizza boxes and discarded aluminum cans and brown bottles - about 4 cases' worth of Bud Light. We discover a disheveled, greasy guy in a greasy Barcalounger, apparently passed out. See? Simple story, told with bold, indelible images. Perfect.

And then, Chevy. Here I think we want to identify our target audience. Sell Tahoes by showing them in use - being driven very badly on crowded freeways by people who are totally oblivious, or possibly comatose. Avalanches being driven aggressively, tailgating and swinging wildly from lane to lane, with, of course, nothing in the truck.

Not only am I a veritable font of brilliant advertising ideas, I also have experience in the very similar field of higher ed. All we really do in higher ed is persuade people to believe things without any evidence or reasoning, right? Right?

Monday, February 08, 2010

death eating a cracker, signifying nothing

I'm not sure how to set this up. I blame the dreams, and Neil Gaiman. We took a brief junket to SoCal during the interim between Winter and Spring over the weekend, and my dreams were bizarre. On the drive back, Lauren read to me from the Neil Gaiman novel we're reading right now, American Gods.

I ended up with this thought.

I am missing a certain register of belief. I can't account for this, at the moment, but I know it's true. I simply can't make myself take seriously those metaphysical concepts the human species seems so prone to apply to experiences of the cycle of life (birth, death, rebirth, etc.), the significance of life (sanctity, the general goodness of life), or any of the various ways people seem to like to assure themselves that they'll continue life everlasting.

What I realized today is that my basic metaphysical belief related to life is a simple, ridiculous, counterfactual sense that, whatever Life might mean, my life, as I understand and live it, is everlasting.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that I know that, realistically speaking, I will die sometime. Everything alive dies. But my sense of life, of my life, is that it does not end. I suppose this could be because I can't imagine what the end of my life would mean, aside from the consequences for the living. If I were to die, that would mean the end of my existence, but that's an empty idea to me. The end of my existence is inconceivable, because with the end of my existence, the universe ends.

Death, therefore, means nothing to me. Life means everything.