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.

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