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Note to readers: A version of the following letter was sent from UC Berkeley Professor Catherine Cole to her students during the first week of courses in fall 2009. She has adapted the letter to fit a more public context.

September 2, 2009

Dear students,

As you know, the state of California and the University of California are presently in a major funding crisis. The full landscape of this situation really became clear only in late June/early July 2009, which was precisely the time I (like many other faculty) was leaving the country to conduct my research. I followed the emerging situation via e-mail as best I could. The state of California failed yet again to pass a budget, so the university (along with a host of other social services) must cope with a sudden and very large cut in state funding. The president of all ten campuses, Mark Yudof, went to the UC Regents in July to ask for the power to declare a state of fiscal emergency, a power that was granted. The Regents have begun mandatory furloughs that reduce the pay of some faculty and staff. They have also cut the pay of all faculty and staff by 4 to 10 percent. In addition, they have raised fees for students. We are all reeling from the suddenness and unprecedented nature of these changes.

I write today because there is a great mobilization effort going on at this very moment. There is talk of a UC-wide system walkout in September. There is talk of a “teach in” about the budget

crisis in October. And there is talk of a formal vote of no confidence from the Academic Senate. I am writing to you because

I want you to know there might be interruptions in the delivery of your education this semester.

I want to warn you to be very suspicious of people who talk about the dynamic, mutually

enriching exchange we have together every day in the classroom as something that is “delivered.” Your education is not a package, and your professors are not Fed Ex. Finally, I want to persuade you that the underlying causes of this disruption in your education have profound significance for you. At stake is the prestige of the institution that will grant your degree. The University of California will be at the top of your résumés for the rest of your life.

For faculty, the University of California is “just” a line item on one’s work history. I am writing today to tell you just how much I care about this particular line item on my résumé. We face a complex and confusing set of challenges, and while I cannot claim in any way to be an expert, I present below my assessment of the situation as succinctly as possible. It is my opinion that University of California President Yudof and the Board of Regents are handling this situation in ways that are deeply disturbing and destructive. I can live with a budget cut. I can live with a pay decrease for one year, two years, or even three. But I cannot tolerate a fundamental alteration of the core values of the University of California, the institution I have chosen to make my academic home. I believe that the changes that President Yudof and the Regents have been enacting over the past few months will cause such a fundamental alteration.

As someone who has worked for the University of California for 13 years, I can say without reservation that I love this university and have chosen to work here, turning down offers to work other places. I believe deeply in our public mission and the values of access, excellence, and shared governance that are central to our goals. I am proud to work for a campus of the UC that is ranked by many as the number one public university in America. I am especially proud and honored to have the opportunity to teach our extraordinary graduate students, and I know that for many of them, Berkeley’s values of access and excellence are the main reason they chose us over other institutions. I deeply value the fact that our undergraduate student body is remarkably diverse. Berkeley has more students on Pell grants (government grants that fund students with the least economic resources) than all the Ivy League schools put together. Many of my undergrad students are the first in their families to get a higher education. Many of them are working, sometimes even full time, to put themselves through college. They approach our exchange together in the classroom as a privilege rather than an entitlement, and it is my privilege to teach them because they are so committed, bright, and curious. I went into university teaching because of the ideals and values that guide my encounters with students every day. I did not choose this job for the money. I am distressed and deeply concerned that UC's Office of the President and the Board of Regents are using the present budget crises to alter the focus and mission of the university in ways that are instrumentalist and utilitarian and that show little respect for the role of the liberal arts in producing effective and thoughtful citizens.

I am also concerned about the way the Office of the President and the Board of Regents show a lack of respect for shared governance. Each UC campus has an Academic Senate whose members include all tenure-track faculty members. This body shares power with the deans/chancellors and other administrators, and various committees of the senate are intimately involved in decisions about budget, hiring, promotion, tenure, and all matters with regard to curriculum.

“The Academic Senate operates as a legislative body and as a system of faculty committees. UC has a dual-track system of authority and responsibility which presumes that faculty are best qualified to chart the University's educational course, while the administrators are most competent to direct its finances and organization. In practice, these domains overlap and are interdependent. To function successfully, faculty and administrators depend on a high level of consultation, trust, mutual respect and a tradition of collegial collaboration.” (From UCSC senate website. For a rich analysis of the UC’s tradition of shared governance, see HYPERLINK "" http://

The mechanisms in place for our university operations are relatively transparent and democratic, and because of this the University of California has been, historically, a fair and good place to get tenure. This is something that I love to brag about when we are recruiting new junior faculty. Unlike the process at most private universities, at UC, one’s path through the tenure process is clearly articulated. There are checks and balances all along the way. A candidate can request copies of pivotal assessment documents, and he or she has recourse to appeals. What this means

is that one’s future is not contingent upon one key relationship: that between the untenured professor and his or her chair or dean. Compared to many private universities, UC faculty are relatively protected from having personal vendettas or patronage relationships determine their futures. This shared governance system doesn’t operate quickly. It’s slow and deliberate and a lot of smart people weigh in, keeping the organization’s eyes on both the fiscal bottom line and the standards of academic excellence and integrity that are central to our mission.

Shared governance was suspended in July when President Yudof and the Regents declared a fiscal state of emergency and launched the Gould Commission on the Future of the University of California. The Gould Commission is supposed to redefine the future of the University of California. (See HYPERLINK " article/21526" This commission is to “change how we do business,” in the words of Yudof. It is the centrality of the word “business” in Yudof’s phrasing that sends a clear indication of the direction that future will take if we decide to follow his leadership. I did not go into a “business” when I decided to pursue a PhD. I went into a profession--the profession of higher education. This profession is built around the core values of teaching, research, and public service.

In its first iteration, the composition of the Gould Commission did not include one professor from the Colleges of Letters and Sciences on the ten UC campuses. Faculty representation on the commission (which was minor) came only from the professional schools, specifically medicine. The signal this sends is that professional degrees (and, tellingly, the most profitable ones, the ones that garner private and corporate monies) will be central to the future of the UC but that disciplines like biology, art, physics, literature, math, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, theatre, and rhetoric are not important. Historically within the UC, such a commission would never have been formed without consultation through the university's shared governance structures, which include Academic Senates on all ten campuses and a UC-wide Academic Senate.

The scope of the mission of the Gould Commission is of profound significance to both the curricular/education and organizational/financial future of the entire University of California. Forming such a commission without widespread consultation with faculty, forming such a commission with so little faculty representation, and having that limited faculty representation include such a highly selective set of disciplines certainly violates the mutual trust and respect upon which our shared governance is based. If faculty are best qualified to chart the university's educational course, shouldn't they be widely represented on and be consulted about such an important commission from its inception? The commission's mandate includes such topics as "What educational delivery models will both maintain quality and improve efficiency for the university's future?" There’s that word “delivery” I spoke about earlier. It means teaching. The commission is asking which models of instruction will be most effective. These are matters of curriculum! As such, they are really matters pertaining directly to faculty.

In point of fact, the Gould Commission is a Regents commission, and the faculty has no pact of shared governance with the Regents. But if the Regents are now setting the whole agenda for the future of the University of California, including what and how we teach, then it seems to me the status of shared governance is in a state of suspense at the moment. To suspend is to "to hold in an undetermined or undecided state." Sure, there will be working groups in the Gould Commission, and sure, there will be faculty on those working groups. But what real power does the faculty have? Faculty do not have a pact of shared governance with the Regents.

As if the agenda of the July 17 Regents meeting wasn’t full enough, in addition to declaring a state of emergency and instituting mandatory furloughs and pay reductions for staff and faculty, the Regents also spent time approving executive pay increases for a number of senior administrators. On the issue of UC executive pay, see:

"UC Executive Pay Raises a Tough Sell," from San Francisco Chronicle:

“Who Are the High Earners in the UC System?” from the president of UC-AFTE union HYPERLINK " in-uc-system.html" earners-in-uc-system.html To quote one excerpt from this website: “What all of these statistics tell us that that UC does not have a budget problem; it has an out-of-control compensation problem. Moreover, it is the people at the top, just 1.5% of the employees (out of a total of 240,000 workers) who make 11% of the total compensation, and this group increased its wealth by close to 40% in just two years.”

And just FYI: All UC salaries are a matter of public record at HYPERLINK "http://" See for yourself how much our sports coaches make!

The rationale for executive pay increases is, apparently, a desire to retain our top administrators. I’m all for retaining excellence! But what does not seem to register with President Yudof is that retention of quality faculty is something he should be just as concerned about. The research and teaching prowess of this faculty have given the University of California its top ratings. But under President Yudof's leadership, UC is at risk of losing this incredible resource. Other universities are now looking to California as a place to raid faculty talent, as this article from the Austin American-Statesman, a Texas newspaper, makes clear:

“Texas Universities Should Capitalize on California's Budget Shortfall”

It takes decades to build up a world-renowned faculty with researchers and departments ranked number one or within the top ten nationally. But such a reputation can be undone in a very short time. If the administration mismanages a fiscal crisis--as is clearly happening under President Yudof’s failed leadership and the Regent’s failed trusteeship of the University of California--this will be our future. And the consequences of this impact everyone who has the University of California’s name attached to their résumés and degree qualifications! Students and alumni have a crucial role to play in protecting the reputation of the institution that confers their degrees. Get involved.

President Yudof’s handling of the implementation of the furlough plan has been confusing and contradictory and shows little respect for the consultative process of shared governance upon which the University of California is founded. In response to the Regent’s/ Yudof’s furlough legislation, the system-wide faculty Academic Senate Executive Council made the following recommendation:

Council weighed the benefits and limitations of using and not using instructional days as furlough days, as well as the appropriate level of campus flexibility in making these decisions. While Council members acknowledge that students are already being negatively impacted through increased fees, staff reductions, and loss of services on furlough days, the Academic Council unanimously supported the concept that furloughs should affect instructional days. In particular, Council members noted that faculty members perform the following three activities—teaching, research, and service, and that all three should be affected by the furlough program. It also is important to acknowledge that faculty are evaluated in terms of their performance in their teaching, research, and service; excluding furlough days from any one of these areas may unfairly hurt the faculty in merit and promotion reviews. Finally, the Academic Council felt it was important to send a message that budget cuts do in fact negatively impact the University’s instructional mission.

But the administration did not agree. Despite the fact that the original language on the furlough vote by the Regents indicated that each campus would have latitude and flexibility to devise their own furlough implementation plan, the UC Office of the President recently declared that furloughs could not be taken on instructional days--and this pronouncement came just days before those of us here at Berkeley had to begin teaching, after our syllabi had been written. For more about how this decision was made, see "UCOP on Furloughs: We're the Deciders!" at HYPERLINK " deciders.html"

In explaining his stance on why furlough days cannot be taken on days of class instruction, Yudof says that the faculty's primary mandate is teaching. However, our existing processes and policies say clearly that faculty's primary responsibilities are teaching, research, and public service. If the prioritization of these responsibilities has changed, it was done without any consultative process between the administration and faculty. Perhaps President Yudof could identify a single University of California faculty member who has attained tenure solely by the excellence of his or her teaching.

The tone and nature of such pronouncements from the Office of the President on this and other matters (including a new fee policy for non-resident graduate students that presents significant hardships for international students) shows a consistent lack of respect for the consultative, democratic way the University of California has historically conducted its operations. In addition, the Office of the President’s new policies and decrees are not being delivered in a timely, coherent fashion, and thereby the administration is creating additional confusion and stress. Not surprisingly, the Office of the President’s high-handed and authoritarian (not to mention disorganized) approach has met with swift and vociferous objections by the executive of the Academic Senates at UC Santa Cruz and UCSB. See their open letters:

Santa Cruz Senate Response HYPERLINK "" (See “Senate Executive Cte on Interim Provost Pitts' Furlough Plan”)

I believe that the way that President Yudof and the University of California Regents are operating is deeply destructive to the values and mission that have guided the University of California for over 140 years and have made it one of the most respected, leading centers of learning in the world. I have never witnessed anything remotely like what is going on now in my 13-year career in the UC system, and those who have worked here much longer than I have (some of whom have been here over 30 years) feel even more dismayed.

California has been in trouble for a long time financially. And this history is not President Yudof’s fault, nor is it Governor Schwarzenegger’s. Our problems date back at least as far as the 1970s when Proposition 13 was passed. This legislation put a cap on property tax rates and reduced them by an average of 57 percent. It also instituted a new policy that requires a two- thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates. It is the 2/3 majority requirement that has severely hampered our state’s ability to pass a budget as of late.

In addition, since 1991 the state has consistently cut corporate taxes, so that the tax burdens falls disproportionately on individuals. This also means lost revenue to the state.

Here are some other graphics that illuminate the larger context for the crises in which we now find ourselves:

What has been the impact of this on education? Here are some details that give a sense of the larger implications:

California is ranked very low in terms of per capita spending on K-12 pupils:

California’s K-12 classrooms are the most crowded in the country

The ability of California students to participate in our own higher education system has been severely eroded.

Clearly the problems we are facing are substantial and far bigger than the failures of one incompetent senior administrator. However, I would argue that it is precisely because the problems in the state of California are so significant and their implications for higher education will be so profound that we need at this moment more than any other to have competent leadership in the Office of the President of the University of California. We need leaders who will keep the historic mission that has led our university to such greatness firmly in view. Yes, we will need to change our operations. Yes, we will need to streamline. Yes, we will need to reconsider fundamental structures and procedures of our operations. But our mission of public education and shared governance is not the source of our current problems. Our historic priorities of access, excellence, and shared governance must be more central than ever to our administration’s handling of this crisis. These values are the source of our greatness. I do not believe that the current University of California president, Mark Yudof, shares or respects these values. It is for this reason that I have completely lost confidence in his leadership.


Catherine M. Cole, Professor University of California