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Deltopia in Review, Part 2: Party Riot or Police Occupation?

April 19, 2014 - 10:35
Was Deltopia a riot that required a massive police response?  The KEYT news photo on the left (7th in the slideshow) shows the largest crowd near the police that I can find.  I'll discuss what they are actually doing a bit later.
In Part 1, I analyzed the rhetorical escalation of Deltopia 2014 into a riot. I described two different narratives about the event (my titles): (1) "Police Shut-Down of UCSB Deltopia Party Sparks Some Resistance"; and (2) "UCSB Deltopia Party Becomes Riot: Student Attacks on Police Continue for Hours." I argued that the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department had worked overtime to replace (1) with (2), the riot narrative, and that the media cooperated fully in making the riot the accepted story of what happened.

I also noted that this narrative has been operationalized as a formal request from the LEEDIR police information repository for civilian videos and photos during the "civil unrest" at Deltopia.  This request means, in effect, that the Sheriff's Department has designated Deltopia as a "large emergency event" like the Boston Marathon bombing for which LEEDIR was created.  As far as I can tell, anyone who attended Deltopia can wind up in this electronic data base, and have visual or audio recordings of them stored, scanned, analyzed, and put to use in ways that have not been explained.

What was it about Deltopia itself that could justify this extraordinary step? 
I was particularly interested in Sheriff Department Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover's Airtalk claim that "probably every sheriff's deputy I talked to that was out there was hit with something," which suggested many or even scores of police injuries. The Department information page identified six police injuries, while noting that "26 people were transported to area hospitals." This week, I asked various journalists whether they had updated information about the police injuries. Giuseppe Ricapito, author of The Bottom Line's front page articles, replied as follows:
I called SB Sheriff PIO Kelly Hoover to clarify some information regarding violence during the civil unrest. The only direct violence between a [civilian] and officer was the "powder keg" for the whole civil unrest, when (17 year old) Desmond Edwards struck the officer in the head with his backpack filled with alcohol containers. She did tell me however that another altercation had occurred earlier in the day, and the officer involved was injured and requires surgery on his arm.Even this moment of violence--the Edwards "powder keg"--may have been exaggerated, as the Independent reports (h/t Jay) that the famous "backpack contained only one half-full Bacardi bottle, not multiple bottles like reports have stated," such that the officer's injuries may have come from falling as he grabbed for Mr. Edwards.   Mr. Edwards has pled non-guilty, and more about this unclear incident will emerge from the report.

Whatever happened there, it now seems that injuries to officers were very limited, which is of course good news, and this blog joins other outlets in wishing them a speedy recovery.  I also want to note, for the record, my awareness that policing Isla Vista during "party lockdown" is a difficult if not miserable job:  see 3:30-4:00 in this Deltopia video for an example of the unpleasant work involved in containing a certain kind of male party idiot. Many students I spoke with expressed general appreciation for the members of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol; all expressed hostility toward the party idiots.

* * *But if we are down to two police injuries, what is the evidence that Deltopia was a riot or "civil unrest" in which a mob turned on cops, in KEYT's tag line?  Let's try the video evidence.

The main local news archive can be found on KEYT's URL "Thousands Riot in the Streets of Isla Vista".  There are six Live Shot clips at the heart of the action that run from 11:00 pm to 12:17 am. The crowd seems to come to a couple hundred at its largest. It appears to me to range from 95% to 100% male.  The sequences begin with a stop sign being uprooted, and over the course of the clips, two stop signs are waved around, a small white station wagon is shown to have been trashed (off camera),  a mattress is passed around and then lit on fire, and a few bottles are thrown in the direction of the police. KEYT got third-year UCSB student Montana MacGlachlan on the phone while she was hiding out with ten other people in a garage. She said,"most people are just trying to get home safely" (Live Shot 2, 2:00).  She didn't think I.V. residents were involved in the vandalism:  "we don't intentionally ruin where we live."

The correspondent named Derek reported that the stop signs were used to thrash the white "minivan" and that two officers were hit with objects.  He also said that "the people involved in this activity" from time to time throw something "in the direction of law enforcement and don't care where it goes." (Live Shot 4, 3:00 on).  This seems like a good description of the desultory action.

KEYT anchor C.J. Ward try to drum up interest by saying,
I've seen old film of the riots from the 70s when they burned down the bank, but I've never seen anything like this . . where you seen them literally shut down Isla Vista and have to call in the SWAT team and the dogs. This is just crazy to see what is going on right now " (6:00 . . .)But there was more action in the commentary and reminiscing that in the video.  The video is lousy--an unchanging shot from well to the rear of the action--and it shows the crowd shrinking steadily over the course of the hour. By midnight there may only be two dozen people left, some obviously drunk and most appeared to qualify as what I.V. residents call "randoms."

After midnight (Live Shot 6, 8:20), things perk up when KEYT's Derek says, "We're getting shot at right now."  But he means getting shot at by the police.  "I'm getting shot at by pepper balls and by rubber bullets. The police have really come in full force and I'm definitely not in a safe space by now."  He leaves, and the video image disappears in a cloud of tear gas.  The story there is a lack of safety caused by a police offensive.  But KEYT ignores this and starts replaying earlier footage of the crowd not long after 11 pm.

Quite a bit of amateur video wound up on You Tube, most of it apparently shot by I.V. residents. The Daily Nexuscoverage included a typical example that runs nearly 7-minutes The video shows one or two dozen police around a police truck facing off against the same number of young men out in front of a larger crowd spilling over from a party into the street.  As the video begins, a couple of men are pushing a dumpster into the street--probably Del Playa--and a few others are getting plastic trash bins. One gets thrown towards the cops.  Two blue plastic bins are pushed on their side blocking the street, and then a third is pushed in to join the others. At around 1:20 the police order the street group to disperse, but most people aren't involved in the bin pushing and may not feel like the police are talking to them. Three minutes in there are a half-dozen bins and two or three dumpsters in the street, creating a no-man's land between the police line and the dozen or so people who've been involved in creating this semi-blockade. Around 5:05 the police fire tear gas. Thirty seconds later the street is empty.  The gas drifts up to the balcony where the video is being filmed, and amidst various exclamations the video ends. Another, longer video shows what may be a separate incident or the same incident shot from further down the block, in which the crowd is larger, and parts of it at various points shout "fuck the police." Although a larger number of people are involved, they are keeping their distance.  There is no physical contact or even proximity between the police and the crowd. 
Loudlabs does a little better with audio and visual effects. There are students coughing on teargas and decent shots of the police doing their best to maintain ever-popular visuals of red and lavender emergency lights illuminating drifting clouds of tear gas.  I lean in when a "fuck-the-police" chant starts at 6:10. I lean back when it dies out at 6:18.  People are just standing around, apparently enjoying talking to each other and perhaps not wanting to miss whatever happens.  But nothing does. The same goes with another shorter clip--no conflicts with police. There's a longer video from within the crowd itself: a sheriff line is visible.  At 5:36 some UCSB police ride in from behind the crowd on bikes, and they are cheered.  At 7:45 the sheriffs declare an unlawful assembly. The cameraholder retreats, and the rest of the video is shot from behind. There's no sign of conflict or of fighting with the cops.  A helicopter flies by like a slow-moving meteor. There are fireworks for a minute.  Cars try to park or drive down the street. 

* * *By far the best witnessing came from UCSB students who wrote columns and editorials about their experiences--or who in some cases wrote to me. Senior Alexa Shapiro spoke for many when she described a not particularly fun ordeal trying to get back to her apartment.  She encountered, block by block, "more tear gas, more running crowds, and more impassable streets"; their progress was interrupted repeatedly.  The implication was that the police pressure on crowds to clear the streets actually made the streets more congested, at least for a time, and stirred up unpleasant confusion and fear. 

Similarly, senior Jay Grafft, who shared Ms. Shapiro's (and many many UCSB students' ) dislike for Deltopia overall, reported from his frontline position on Del Playa:  
That night, S.W.A.T. patrol vehicles were racing up and down right in front of my driveway, while behind my backyard glass bottles and flashbangs were being flung through the air. Whenever I stepped outside, I would either immediately start choking on tear gas, or be [asked] to return to my house by an armed paramilitary officer. I realized that, by that point, the cops really didn’t have a clue as to who was part of the riot or not, meaning that anyone could present a potential danger . . . Del Playa resident Sean Carroll also assigned a disruptive role to the police:From my perspective, those walking up and down the street didn’t seem that out of control; I’ve seen the same sketchy fuckfaces our community loathes on normal weekend nights acting way more disrespectful. I didn’t see a single fight during Deltopia. I don’t doubt there were a few, but as someone who goes out three or more nights a week I’m fairly used to drunken aggressive idiots getting into it. So it seemed pretty unusual to walk from party to party during the day and early evening and not come across any—during Deltopia, no less.  The point being that, leading up to the riot, the crowd on DP was not some mob causing problems. The daytime tens-of-thousands had thinned out, and the amount was pretty normal sized for a Saturday night. Why were there officers dressed in riot gear and armored vehicles in I.V. all day? What did the police think would happen when they decided to charge down DP at 10 p.m., clashing with people who had been drinking all day?  If you search “Deltopia 2014” on YouTube, my three-minute video documenting the riot is one of the first to pop up. And you know what it shows? The riot started AFTER the cops lined up with shields and an armored vehicle. It shows a select few individuals (read: fucking dipshits) throwing bottles, yelling “Fuck the police” and inciting more to join. And above all it shows that with tear gas and fear, the cops chose to abruptly stop Deltopia exactly when they wanted to do so. By blockading DP right where the 66 and 67 blocks meet, police ensured that anyone and everyone walking in that direction would have run into it. It was only a matter of time before some sketchy fools would react. In my discussions with students, I heard variations of this same story.  In most cases, they assign the police a leading role in the escalation.

I received another eyewitness account that focused on the "riot" as a police-knucklehead co-production.
I wasn't there for the beginning of the civil unrest (which occurred at around 9:30), but I went out to Del Playa and Camino Pescadero a little before 11, after DP had been shut down by the officers. In terms of "real contact" between the students and officers, I saw none in the beginning. The officers were enforcing the "no man's land" between them and the students- anyone who attempted to bridge the gap and advance toward the officers were usually turned away by rubber bullets. The closest I saw to a student getting near the officers was when some people pushed out a large trash bin into the no man's land (as it rolled through the crowd they almost ran over a seemingly really drunk girl who had been knocked down to the ground by it). It was an effective barricade for a while, but they fled after some tear gas. After most of the mayhem had ended, around 1:30, there was a police vehicle, with 4 armed mounted officers on back in riot gear, slowly rolling down Pescadero (presumably to flank the few remaining students), and after a few bottles were thrown at the truck they fired a bunch of shots then turned to drive fast down Trigo. . . . In terms of rioting directed at the officers- I think its impossible to quantify exactly what the rioters were there for, what they were opposing (if they were opposing anything at all) or why many of them chose to stay in the area and engage the officers, from a distance, with their presence. At the peak of the unrest, from where I was in the crowd, some people were yelling for a charge, others were trying to cool everyone down, some were laughing and continuing to party in the streets, and others were just destroying things. And, not to mention, that a lot of the people there were sort of apathetic bystanders watching everything play out. At the time I thought it was an incredibly free moment. The officers were so concerned with vacating the crowd that they weren't policing anything occurring within and around it. I also talked to a few AS Execs about how closing down DP forced students into the riot zone (some were immediately pushed out, in droves, to the edge, and others congregated there because they couldn't  access their homes in the blocked off areas), but they disagreed that the students were completely restricted.  Several students thought the police used excessive force.  Here's a description of one from a female resident of Del Playa.
I live in the middle of the 66 block and witnessed the entire event.  I’m sure you know that police officers were assaulted (which I never think is right).  However, I wanted to let you know that I watched the police exercise brutality on civilians as well.  After the tear gas had cleared the crowd off of the street, I watched officers shoot at my neighbor’s balcony (in which they hit students inside of their own home and broke windows).  I also watched a couple, who hid in my yard when the tear gas hit, try to walk home but instead, they were confronted by three cops each who in turn severely beat their legs down with sticks, held then to the ground, and insisted on arresting them.I wrote back to her to ask whether she meant that she had herself seen police officers being assaulted.  No, she answered:
I watched the whole scene outside for about two hours and I never once saw any students or visitors attack the police. Although I live a little further down from where the “riot” began on the 67 block, I did not see any civilian attack a police officer or throw anything their way.  All I saw were kids being scattered from the tear gas, kids hiding in my front yard (and in my neighbor’s), kids being arrested if they happened to be seen on the street, and my neighbors, who had all been at home on their second story balcony, being shot at with rubber bullets.  (I also had at least one police officer- who was unprovoked, point a gun up at my second story balcony the entire two hours).This student concluded,
it was in no way a riot but instead, one single action (the kid who swung the bottles at a police officer on the 67 block), a fury of excitement from the crowd (who ripped out stop signs etc), and then really aggressive behavior by law enforcers. By early this week, there were at least as many reports of police brutality against bystanders as of verified injuries to police officers.

*  *  *The narrative that now makes the most sense to me is as follows.  Prior to the Edwards Incident, Deltopia 2014 had seen one act of serious violence--a stabbing in which the suspect was immediately captured by police--but for an event with 20,000 participants was otherwise going pretty well.  Then the 17-year-old Mr. Edwards, involved in some kind of scuffle, hurt an officer with his backpack.  A call went out of officer down.  This made the crowd seem more hostile to at least some of the police, which increased an "us-against-them" mentality (h/t Phil).  The initial police surge to help their fellow officer created anxiety and confusion in the crowd.  Officers from outside agencies arrived, so there were not only out-of-towners among the partiers but out-of-towners among the cops. The police settled on an "unlawful assembly" strategy that committed them to clearing the streets.  They did not try to stop specific acts of vandalism like the stop sign uprooting or the attack on the white car. They decided instead to get rid of the crowd as a whole: hence the flashbangs and tear gas, the shooting of rubber bullets at people not in the main crowd, and the rousting, arresting, and allegations of the isolated beating of people well away from the action and of rubber bullets fired into apartment windows.  The police were not in fact attacked, though they were sometimes engaged--apparently always at a distance--by individuals.

I use the term "police occupation" to describe this situation in which the police decided not just to contain and arrest the disorderly and the violent individuals, but to purge everybody and retake the streets.   A problem with this strategy is always that it implies--indeed creates--collective guilt.  It also commits the police to the use of at least limited force against bystanders and not just against the small number of actually disorderly or violent people. The introduction of large numbers of police with helmets, weapons, and armored vehicles into the streets means "riot," even if there is zero resistance--or isolated and half-hearted resistance as in this case.  When the action is over, to help people ignore the active police role in co-creating the "riot" itself, and to marginalize the video of street clearing and occupation and the reports of brutality that surface later, police spokespersons committed themselves to a riot narrative that is still working to justify any use of force--or retroactive surveillance--as thrust upon police by a mob.

The Sheriff's Department embedded the collective guilt of UCSB-IV in the media coverage, as I discussed in Part 1.  They continue to lump major violent crimes together with minor incidents. In one (misdated) press release, they created a line-up of three Deltopia arrestees.  The first, a non-student, is accused of the attempted murder of a Rhode Island man who was visiting his brother in Isla Vista.  The second, UCSB student Otis Washington, is charged with "vehicle tampering and resisting arrest." The third, UCSB student Tomas Delaveau, is charged with "battery on a peace officer" for allegedly spitting on one.  This incongruous group is made even stranger by what we do know about Mr Washington's case: he is on film explaining to KEYT news (at 2:00) that he had jumped on his friend's car to dance, his friends then said "let's go let's go we gotta get out of here," so he started running: "I guess that initiated some type of response in the police so they all tackled me from different angles."  Why did the sheriff's office present the the car dancer and the spitter along with the knife assailant? It only makes sense as part of a campaign to present everyone at Deltopia as part of a dangerous riot spinning out of control.

This description, however, isn't supported by the evidence. We should reject the Sheriff Department's and the media's storyline that, in my terms, "UCSB Deltopia Party Becomes Riot: Student Attacks on Police Continue for Hours." That's not what happened.  The more accurate headline for this event is the other one I proposed: "Police Shut-Down of UCSB Deltopia Party Sparks Some Resistance: Officer Was Injured During Arrest."  This second narrative also has the benefit of avoiding the collective slander of IV-UCSB. It might also prompt an independent review of police conduct and policy in Isla Vista, which I now believe is necessary.

In Part 3, I'll look into Deltopia's background and some related undergraduate educational issues.

Who is Responsible for the University? Lessons from an Almost Strike

April 17, 2014 - 13:33
By Jennifer Ruth (Department of English, Portland State University)
At Portland State University, we voted to authorize a strike this spring if our collective bargaining team could not reach an agreement with the administration. Nine days before the strike would have begun, on April 6th, a tentative agreement was achieved. PSU-AAUP members voted April 15th and 16th on whether or not to ratify the agreement. The expectation is that the agreement will be ratified.
PSU has had a collective bargaining chapter since 1978 but never voted to authorize a strike before.
Why now?
The rot here is no different from that seen across the nation at countless state universities: spiking student tuition for a student body least capable of shouldering  debt; drastic decline in state funding over thirty years; gradual and now unsustainable increases in non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty over the same thirty years; more top administrators than ever before, more of whom are “outsiders” bereft of institutional history and relationships.
Surely the story here is a familiar one elsewhere as well? Surely, elsewhere, too, the once vital shared governance between an almost wholly tenure-track faculty and a set of administrators who rose from their ranks has deteriorated into what faculty term a “shit show” of open hostility and contempt from both sides. On one side is an increasingly disaffected and resentful mix of tenure-line and non-tenure-line faculty; and on the other, an administration distracted by its search for quick fixes (MOOCs!)

It doesn’t surprise me that our union decided to stake everything to force some of these issues onto the bargaining table. What surprises me is that the administration looked so baffled and so bewildered when they played and we didn’t dance. What did they think happens when a university’s budget is leveraged on a disposable workforce? Did they expect new levels of trust in, and loyalty towards, the institution?

Why here? That’s a tough question to answer since I imagine that many universities are on the cusp of the same set of events we’ve just experienced. Does it ultimately come down to the confluence of individuals involved? A union President and bargaining team with the courage to force a crisis, a set of administrators singularly unaware of, and so unprepared for, the depth of the dysfunction under their noses? An analysis that lights on individuals in their uniqueness and freedom is not one that a structuralist like me offers with great confidence but what else?
What now is the more important question. I had moments of deep frustration with the union leadership over these last months. In particular, I felt that the narrative they relied upon was one that scapegoated the two people at the very top – the President and Provost – for a rotten infrastructure that was many years in the rotting. We – the faculty, those in union leadership, many members of senate, department chairs and senior faculty—had been here much longer than had either the president or provost and my experience as chair of my department had taught me very clearly that we – tenured faculty and chairs—had done as much to create the mess as anybody else. Were we going to be able to fix things if we weren’t honest about how they’d gotten so messed up in the first place? Driving two people out of their jobs would not break down the system and rebuild it along more sustainable and ethical lines.
The reality that we were all going to have to account for ourselves—not just the President and Provost—sunk in when I attended a forum held by the union leadership in the final days of bargaining. The most dramatic testimony that night was given by someone who had been an adjunct at PSU for thirteen years. He talked about the letters of recommendation he’d written over the years. Letters of recommendation—like so much else at the university—presume a stable faculty paid the kind of salary and given the kind of professional status that allows him or her to do many numbers of things without negotiating for a “wage” in return.
So PSU hired this person term after term, paid him peanuts, and relied upon him to write letters of recommendations for a generation of students. Our president had been here six years and the provost one and a half. They didn’t even know this adjunct existed. Who did? The chair of the department he taught in. And if the tenure-track faculty in that department did not know he existed, they should have. When they asked for a course release to finish their book projects, did they ask about the adjunct who would be hired to fill their place? The fact that this person was invisible was not one person’s fault but nor do I want to invoke the phrase “broken system” here. Real people signed these contracts; real departments relied upon this labor. It is the fault of  both administrators and tenured faculty.
Calling out our own quiet complicity in the deterioration of the university and the exploitation of adjuncts is not for the faint of heart. Rebecca Schuman, whom few people would consider faint of heart, was herself deeply shocked by the vitriol that spewed forth when she suggested in a blog post that we stop hiring adjuncts. Well-meaning tenure-track faculty ask her all the time, she wrote, “but what can we do?” Here’s a thought, she said: Don’t hire someone on wages you wouldn’t accept. People were not prepared for that answer. We have become far more comfortable blaming administrators as if they alone run universities. Those of us with tenure are also responsible for what happens at our universities.
Unions like PSU-AAUP have taken the first step: they woke up our administration. “I have heard you, and I'm listening,” President Wiewel told Faculty Senate in remarks that were then forwarded to the rest of the campus community. “We should explore strengthening tenure by looking at developing a system that works for what are now fixed-term faculty,” he said. He did not mention adjuncts. But we must. It’s up to the tenured faculty to see him on “strengthening tenure” and raise him one by bringing adjuncts into the picture. If we fail to do this over the next two years, I hope the same confluence of unique and free individuals rise to the occasion again when a new contract is bargained. 

Deltopia in Review, Part 1: Party Riot or Police Occupation?

April 17, 2014 - 13:32
Ten days after the Deltopia: Party Riot trailers and pirated clips hit the Internet, my effort to watch 100% of the clips and read 100% of the accounts has led me to this conclusion: this was not the student-run production that I was told to expect. My expectations were fueled by media coverage that depicted students and other student-age partiers turning sour and attacking the police. "Deltopia Leads to 100 Arrests, 44 Hospitalizations," screamed the early Huffpo headline about the Saturday April 5th event. The local ABC affiliate announced, "Mob Turns on Cops. A second clip from this station, KEYT, featured both a stabbing of one visitor by another (suspect apprehended) and the arrest of a UCSB student for dancing on his friend's car. The weekly alternative student newspaper,The Bottom Line, furnished full-tilt riot coverage. When I saw that this student eyewitness account lined up with that of our local retiree-oriented TV station, I thought there must have been a serious student / partier offensive against beleagured law enforcement.

I went looking for images of and eyewitness testimony about this specific claim -- "mob turns on cops."  I devoted part of a  lecture on The Grapes of Wrath to a discussion of Deltopia with the 180 students in my "Noir California" course, discussed the event with a 17-student honors section,  contacted various Isla Vista residents about their experiences, talked at some length to about fifteen individual students, walked I.V. to speak with people there, and repeatedly asked various groups for eyewitness accounts and video evidence.

I wanted precise detail in order to distinguish between two distinct narratives of the event, summarized by these sample headlines:

1. Police Shut-Down of UCSB Deltopia Party Sparks Some Resistance: Officer Was Injured During Arrest

2. UCSB Deltopia Party Becomes Riot: Student Attacks on Police Continue for Hours

Obviously the riot story attracts eyeballs, while an isolated case of resisting arrest and later dumpster-dragging does not.  The riot story is also far more damaging to the reputation of UCSB and its students.  If the media is going to drag UCSB through the "drunken party school" mud again, there had better be some decent evidence that the student body was not only drunk that night, but picking fights with police.

I was not pleased when I tuned into KPCC's Airtalk on April 8th and heard its host, Larry Mantle, describe UCSB as "better known for its hard drinkers than for its academics or community service." The station nailed down this stereotype by conducting a poll on the question, "UCSB Spring Break Riot: Will Deltopia violence spur a change in party school mentality?" My immediate thought was, "screw you Larry (though I know you care about public universities): UCSB is great, and so are our students."  My second thought was, OK, he has the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's public information officer Kelly Hoover on the show; let me listen to her evidence.

Deputy Hoover said that they were prepared for a large crowd, and then described the incident (starting at 1:45).
What happened was, around 9:30 at night, there was a UCSB police officer that was breaking up a fight. He was hit in the head with a backpack that contained large bottles of alcohol. This was a significant injury that required twenty stitches to his head.  We had an officer down. We had law enforcement that were running to assist him. And with all of that commotion it drew a large crowd. And then it just turned.   It just turned into an us-versus-them kind of a mob mentality of people starting to throw rocks, and bricks, and bottles, and full beer cans at law enforcement. It spread over a couple-of-blocks radius, and you know it just kept snowballing on from there, and just getting worse and worse. It took us several hours to be able to get true order over the situation. we called in mutual aid. We had more than a hundred resources come in from both Santa Barbara Count and Ventura County to help us. (my transcription here and below) Deputy Hoover put the Airtalk audience squarely into the Story 2 riot zone.  The first section of her statement, about the injury to the officer and call for assistance, is similar to the official account that Sheriff Bill Brown delivered to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors the Monday following the incident.   Sheriff Brown didn't continue with claims about widespread student attacks. The backpack slinger was identified as a 17-year-old boy from Los Angeles. He was later arrested and charged as an adult.

Mr. Mantle then invited Deputy Hoover to dogwhistle the popular theme of taxpayer resentment about subsidizing spoiled brats during their college years (the high cost of policing party riots and of funding the University of California itself, with one listener demanding that all state funding be cut so the university would depend on tuition 100%). When an Isla Vista caller suggested to Mr. Mantle that the prior police clampdown had made things worse, Deputy Hoover called the listeners comments "hurtful" (8:08).
It would be ridiculous to have law enforcement back off any more than they are.   Any time we step in it's to . . . . [pause] Of all the hospital transports that we had, the majority of them were for alcohol poisoning. People that were so drunk that they had overdosed on alcohol. People were jumping on top of cars. People were vandalizing.  Is he [the caller] OK with that? Is he OK with women being sexually assaulted?Larry Mantle interrupted Deputy Hoover to clarify: "it sounds like Ed is saying for the police to say out and let that students handle it. That's what I understood him saying."  ("Ed" was actually saying that police conduct was a more destructive form of governance than student self-policing--more on this theme in the next installment.)  Deputy Hoover continued:
There's just no way. There's just too much criminal activity. It's too dangerous. You have people that have been drinking alcohol from morning till night, that are not able to make good decisions, that can get hurt. Like last year, we had a woman fall of the cliffs and die. We had a balcony collapse; that injured several people. We've had recently women sexually assaulted by multiple suspects. We have had a stabbing earlier in the night. We had a robbery, an armed robbery.  If anything we need to have more crackdown on law enforcement [sic], not less.Deputy Hoover was folding all these separate incidents into Deltopia, which became their master source.   When Mr. Mantle asked how the injuried deputies were doing, she replied,
I do want to clarify, we had four that were transported to the hospital; they all had significant injuries.  I am not talking about just getting hit in the head. I'm talking about twenty stitches for one, eight stitches for the other, a hand injury for one that's going to require surgery. These are significant injuries. And also, probably every sheriff's deputy I talked to that was out there was hit with something. They may have not been transported to the hospital, but they have bruises, one was hit in the eye with a bottle, with shrapnel from a bottle. And it's just not OK. It's just absolutely ridiculous. It's uncalled for. Out-of-towners yes, they're coming in and they are causing problems. But we really don't agree with students encouraging Deltopia and opening their doors to people from out of the area who may cause trouble. We do have people arrested who are UCSB students and who are City College students as well. . .  By the time she had finished, the Sheriff Department's information officer had firmly established Story 2, Party Riot, complete with widespread criminality, arrested students, and a mob turning on cops on a scale large enough to have injured virtually all of 160 (or 200?) officers who were there from multiple agencies that evening.

The Airtalk webpage had a number of comments, many of which disputed the riot story or at least the drunken UCSB student stereotype.  The arrest statistics show that 0.65% of the crowd was arrested (130 of 20,000), and that of these 16 were from UCSB and 10 from SBCC. 17 of the 130 arrests involved the nighttime disturbance, with an unknown subset--perhaps just the original one--arrested for a violent felony. Although these numbers don't suggest a massive blowout, the riot stereotype had now been confirmed by an official law enforcement source, and was strengthened by the UCSB administration's hangdog statement on the same webpage.

Deputy Hoover's description of Deltopia is inflammatory--unless it is literally correct (160 injured deputies, a "mob" acting in concert to attack police).  The Sheriff Department has doubled down on it, having launched an ongoing effort to identify people "involved in criminal behavior activity during Deltopia."   The investigation includes interviews with I.V. residents and calls to landlords of property that may have been involved in the launching of objects at officers.  The Sheriff's Department is reviewing audio and video from the surveillance cameras that the UCSB administration paid to have installed at key intersections in Isla Vista (they were removed April 14th).

The Bottom Line's Giuseppe Ricapito reported that the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department has extended the dragnet to LEEDIR, the Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository. LEEDIR is an "eyewitness platform," designed to accept and process digital information about emergency events from civilian witnesses.  It is operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department with technical support provided by Citizen Global and Amazon Web Services.  Its information page says it was set up in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, where attendee photos proved helpful in identifying the two main suspects.  LEEDIR's splash page now has an "immediate request for eyewitness photos and videos" for only one event -- "civil unrest at Deltopia in Isla Vista, CA."

This means that Story 2 has not only established Deltopia as a violent riot, UCSB students as drunk, and I.V. residents as incapable of running their own affairs, but has now fed the sheriff's investigation into an electronic repository in which images of partygoers may remain in law enforcement databases indefinitely. LEEDIR defines Deltopia as an "large emergency event," and will store images of people who jumped on cars or threw trash or simply milled around in Isla Vista on the night of April 5th alongside those of the Boston Marathon bombers. 

So Story 2 had better be true.  But in my next post, I'll argue that there is no evidence for it, and then move on to discuss the term "police occupation" in my title.

Further Troubles with UC Care

April 10, 2014 - 20:36
by Judith Paltin, UC Santa Barbara

On this blog last October, Berkeley Anonymous pointed outthat the UC’s employee compensation/benefits website, At Your Service, was promising:,"If you do nothing, you will be enrolled in the new UC Care plan, with the same dependent coverage you have now. UC Care has the same in-network and out-of-network coverage you have now, with much more.”

However, the stories brought to the UCSB Faculty Association meeting on April 9 demonstrate that faculty coverage and, consequently, their medical decision-making, are in fact very different under UC Care. One faculty member, unable to find any labs contracted to provide Tier 1 benefits, was advised to travel 80 miles to Santa Monica to receive covered lab services, a trip she would have had to make repeatedly. Upon her objections, she was told (incorrectly, according to the insurance company) to “use whatever lab [local Tier 1 medical clinic] Sansum uses” – she is now attempting to appeal the insurance company’s subsequent denial of her lab charges. A UCSB Health Care Facilitator told her that the UCOP “forgot to negotiate” with any nearby labs. 

One pregnant faculty member said she signed up for UC Care under the understanding that she would be covered for a Sansum obstetrician and a Santa Barbara delivery. Now her UC Care choices are to bear the Cottage Hospital Tier 2 charges for herself and the baby (up to $6,000), or to risk having her baby on the open road on the way to UCLA. Another reported: “My wife needs surgery…  so the Sansum doc will do it outpatient rather than have us go to UCLA, or face the Cottage costs.”

Finding UC select providers (i.e., those who count as “in-network”) has proven to be a challenging exercise in Deep Web research. Members reported yesterday that after due diligence, they have not been able to compile a complete list of UC providers, and that insurance specialist personnel at UC medical centers have been unable to tell them which doctors, labs, anesthesiologists and other specializations with privileges at their facilities count as UC providers. (According to a licensed health benefits specialist at BalanceCare, a national health advocacy service provider, most private insurance companies do not provide lists of anesthesiologists, since patients have no control over that selection, but the companies nevertheless routinely rule these to be out-of-network charges, leaving a majority of patients in multi-payer systems with the additional post-surgery task of appealing anesthesiology charges.)

An assistant professor reported: 
I live in Ventura and there is no physician coverage here. The only coverage here are clinics structured to cater to farm workers and the uninsured. Kaiser is not an option for my family, since it too is in another city [Woodland Hills, about 40 miles away]. Seaview Medical Group, a physician group that used to participate with UC, dropped participation with Healthnet Blue & Gold where it formerly participated. To get my family to primary care providers and specialists we have to drive 30 or more miles to Santa Barbara. The doctors in the medical groups in Santa Barbara are oversubscribed and it takes months to get appointments. Given the increased cost, the university effectively dictates which medical practices get UC workers as patients. Mostly this seems to be Sansum Clinic.This faculty member  has tracked a massive flight of Ventura-area doctors from UC health networks since she first signed on. She reported being told, improbably, that the Ventura conditions are “only a problem for five people.”

Many attendees agreed that doctors in Santa Barbara are heavily over-subscribed and one may wait months for an appointment. Sansum Clinic offered one attendee who requested an ophthalmological consult an appointment in February 2015.

Another faculty member said, 
I signed up for UC Care originally and recently switched to HealthNet. The reason I switched is that I didn't realize that lab work wouldn't be covered as Tier 1 in UC Care, even though the work was done right inside Sansum Clinic.  This can end up costing a lot, as the deductible is quite high. It is frustrating that UC Care costs a lot per month for a family and yet out-of-pocket is also high.Another was surprised to discover that a leg cast counts as an (out-of-network) lab charge.A third person observed: “In my 14 years as a UC faculty member, I have witnessed higher costs and lower benefits… Did you know our co-pay for mental health has increased about 40% since January?”

Another faculty member’s doctor recommended immediate surgery for a suspicious mass. In order to have that work done at UCLA, the nearest UC Care provider, the faculty member would have had to locate a new doctor, schedule a consultation, a pre-operative appointment and surgery. Fearing the length of time that would take, the UC Care subscriber decided to accept Cottage hospital’s offer to schedule the surgery within five days. This faculty member is still waiting to see what all the bills will add up to.

In a dramatic set of meetings held in front of overflowing crowds last fall, outgoing UCOP CFO Peter Taylor, whose resignation was announced abruptly at the end of March, alleged that Cottage Hospital wants “too much money” from UC. At Wednesday’s meeting, Faculty Association President and labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein called that “egregious,” even if true: “Just leaving us out of the pool defeats the whole point of insurance.” Since it is the nature of insurance that some places and providers are more expensive and some less, the insurance pool is created precisely to even out those differences.

The promise of UC Care was that it would effectively provide the best of both worlds by combining the negotiating power of a single, large-scale payer with the range of choice offered by a menu of multiple plans. In fact it seems to have picked up the worst qualities of each type of system:  It has refused the advantages of single-payer or large-scale systems by denying parity to its campuses and faculty, treating each campus as a separate negotiating entity, and has also refused to allow individual campuses to negotiate for themselves with the local folks they know. So far, this UCOP strategy has not been conspicuously successful. Although Santa Barbara does not have the same quantity of medical facilities some other campuses have nearby, it is not a medical desert; the city does have lab services and a well-regarded hospital and emergency room, which just happen to be unavailable because UCOP failed to reach an agreement with Cottage, and only achieved a one-year agreement with Sansum. Moreover, the changes in faculty benefits also affect the collectives which have a “me too” clause, such as UCSB’s pool of lecturers.

Concerned faculty are calling for an open forum online where they can share information, broken promises, provider experiences and interactions with university administration, and want the Faculty Association to seek legal advice. (The blog has started a page called "Share Your Healthcare Story.")  

The Faculty Association has scheduled a general meeting open to all on May 7, featuring representatives from United Academics, the new collective bargaining group representing tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure track and adjunct faculty, in addition to librarians, research assistants, post-docs, and other academic employees at the University of Oregon. They will talk about similar experiences at the University of Oregon, and how collective bargaining is working out for them. 

Re-thinking the Role of Technology in Higher Education: A reflection on the 2014 Berkeley Online Learning Summit

April 3, 2014 - 07:42
By Jenna Joo (UCSB)

This was my second visit to the Berkeley Online Learning Summit. The first visit took place a year ago in March, 2013, around the time when the excitement over MOOCs was at its peak. I remember sitting through the panel discussions last year, genuinely worried about the future of higher education as a graduate student who was just entering the field. Will MOOCs be the future? Will MOOCs replace faculty and instructors? Will teaching and learning happen mostly in online in the near future? Fortunately, MOOCs have been greatly challenged since then.

The 2014 Berkeley conference definitely held a very different atmosphere compared to the one held last year. The focus of the conference was on residential institutions (with the majority of the panelists coming from elite institutions)—how they think about their own classroom pedagogies and finances while using technology. The general consensus now is that MOOCs (and technology in general) are not the answer to all the problems we have in higher education. They alone will not ensure cheaper, faster, and better education. Flipped classrooms, small-group discussions and blended learning are increasingly being recognized as the key features of quality learning.

In the session titled, Opportunities for Consideration in K-12 Education, one of the concerns raised was the great divide between K-12 and higher education systems. David Malone, a Teacher on Special Assignment with San Francisco Unified School District, pointed out that different educational systems stress knowledge in different ways. In high school, for example, students are encouraged to take as many AP classes as they can and score high on standardized tests just to get into college. Once they are in college, they are expected to perform higher-order thinking skills such as problem finding, interpreting, and analyzing—all of which do not precisely reflect the kinds of preparation they received prior to entering college. The lack of coordination and communication between the two systems could impede successful transitions and consequently diminish educational opportunity for many students. While “the choices that we (higher education) make will have profound impact on K-12 education” (Justin Reich, HarvardX Research Fellow), there is also a lot we need to learn from K-12 classroom research (Robert Lue, Faculty Director of HarvardX). The two systems are interconnected therefore must be studied together, not apart from each other.

In the Learning Analytics session, the promise of big data to solve problems in education was discussed. Big data from online learning environments can be used in at least two following ways:
  • To improve learning spaces: By employing in-vivo experiments that would allow better understanding of the design spaces, we can redesign and improve learning spaces for future use (Ken Koedinger, Professor in School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon).

  • To implement interventions: By logging meaningful user interactions in online environments, we can inform teachers about “at-risk” students so to implement appropriate interventions (Ryan Baker, Associate Professor in Human Development, Teachers College at Columbia University).

  • What I have noticed from the discussion is that there is a rather obvious divide between researchand teaching. I agree that big data can be wisely used, but I would like to know more about exactly how results from such data could actually be used. For example, in what ways, forms, and shapes will they be communicated to teachers? Also, who will have a say in which type of intervention may be appropriate for students? In order for such data to be properly used, there must be an ongoing communication between learning analysts and teachers. While we embrace the promise of big data, we cannot undermine the “invisible” classroom data that teachers “collect” in their day-to-day interactions with students which could inform them about students’ strengths and weaknesses. I think that a lot more is expected of teachers and researchers especially after the post-MOOC era. Teachers must be highly competent and knowledgeable in their subject matters while having the skills to communicate with outside specialists. Researchers likewise need to have the skills to effectively present their findings to teachers, other researchers, and also to the general public.

    There was a lot of discussion on different ways to re-conceptualize and re-imagine student learning. Dr. Eric Grimson (Professor of Medical Engineering and Chancellor of MIT), in his keynote speech, asserted that higher education should change because “our consumers (students/parents of MIT) are changing.” Students in today’s world want more than simply earning a degree in something; they are “eager to learn in a global way.” In an effort to expand access to qualified learners and to re-invent campus education, several ideas have been proposed—one of which is creating “modules,” or a set of independent units with a set of outcomes, to increase flexibility in degree and pedagogy. Moreover, by sharing these modules across departments and individualizing them for field-specific interests, modules can “permit re-bundling of an education in new ways.”

    This is definitely a noble idea, but it needs to be approached with caution. It is true that the demands of students are different in today’s world. According to a blog post in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Jeff Selingo in 2012, the number of college students taking on double majors has sharply increased over the years. Students seek these opportunities in order to meet the demands of the rapidly changing economy and the job market. For students in prestigious universities, doing a double or even a triple major may not be a huge challenge; but this may not be the case for the majority of college students. By re-bundling of education, new highly specialized jobs might emerge that only a very selective group of college graduates may enter into, which may further worsen the already stratified workforce.

    In addition, in an effort to re-think the role of students’ residential experience in terms of their learning spaces, Dr. Grimson noted that MIT is thinking about dropping all of their big lecture halls and replacing them with small, interactive spaces to promote development of collective intelligence. I can positively relate with this idea because I truly believe that active, small-group interactions are the key to learning. However, such interactions must occur via extended and supportive relationships built under trust and respect. I wonder whether our higher education system as a whole has (or will have) the necessary resources to achieve this dream in the near future.

    When Dr. Robert Lue (Faculty Director of HarvardX and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard) questioned the audience at the end of the conference, “To sustain a healthy and evolving instructional ecosystem, what issue is/was the first priority for your institutions,” “integrated pedagogy” arose as the first priority (35%) and “revenue experiments” as the least priority (6%). Many people are genuinely concerned about student learning and are interested in how best it can be enhanced. Dr. Lue asserted that we really need to think about this within the interconnected “ecosystem” that involves not just faculty and other professionals but also students as “profound collaborators.” Reshaping the future of higher education will definitely require collaborative efforts.

    UC Vice President Taylor Leaves Suggesting Even Greater Debt for Students

    April 1, 2014 - 19:33
    UC departing Executive Vice-President Peter Taylor gave an interview today to the Daily Bruin.  In it, VP Taylor explained his reasons for leaving UC and also sought to defend his own record as the University's CFO.  Throughout the interview he described his concern for educational access and achievement and expressed worry that UC was losing its chief focus on education and research.  But then there was this:
    DB: In the past, the UC has relied on student-based sources of revenue like tuition increases and non-resident enrollment to resolve issues of lower state funding. What kind of revenue solutions in the next few years would best help the University achieve fiscal sustainability? Any thoughts on what the new tuition model should look like?
    PT: That varies campus to campus, but I can see frankly an increase in professional master’s degree programs, I can see an increase in technology commercialization versus what we do now, in addition to things like a slight increase in nonresident enrollment. We’ll keep pounding away with advocacy at the state level and hope (they) bump up their contributions to where we’d like it to be.
    It is hard to see how this squares with Vice-President Taylor's concern about either the cost of education or core function.  The growing emphasis on technology commercialization causes important distortions in the processes of research.  And the growth of professional master's programs is a sure way to increase student debt.

    Indeed, the recent New America Foundation Report on the growth of graduate student debt was less a report about graduate student debt than a report about the growth of debt for students in master's and professional programs.  By their calculations roughly 40% of $1 trillion student debt is a result of MA programs of one sort or another.  Given how many fewer MA students there are than BA or Associate students, this percentage is remarkable.  In suggesting that UC increase its use of terminal MA programs, Peter Taylor--whether he is aware of this or not--is suggesting a policy through which the University would simply expand its encouragement of student debt and its reliance on a new group of enrollees as a source of cash.

    This is not to say that there may not be good educational reasons for particular programs.  But those should be approached because of educational not financial reasons--and not because there is a plausible market to exploit.  As VP Taylor notes in the interview, "the core competency of the University, the reason we exist, is to teach students and to do academic research."  His actual proposals ignore his own concern.

    It is commendable that Vice-President Taylor wants to step down to help underprivileged students gain access to higher education.  But as his Daily Bruin interview reminds us, the Wall Street perspective that is increasingly dominant in UC finances and throughout higher education is inextricably linked to the imposition of debt onto students.  Let's hope that UC resists the siren song of exploitation.

    University Week: Virgin Air, UF Online, and the Price of Privatization (Updated)

    March 30, 2014 - 17:32
    It's been a big week--and month--for the afterlife of online higher ed.  After sponsoring or forcing the adoption of online programs over the course of 2012 and 2013, college presidents now admit that at least the MOOC version won't fix budgetary or educational issues. At the Berkeley Online Summit I attended earlier this month, the chancellor of UC Berkeley and the president of Stanford described online as a supplement to hands-on instructor involvement and as good for specific student populations. Elsewhere, UC President Janet Napolitano chimed in with the same message--if online is done well, "it doesn't save all that much money."  Quelle surprise!  There are no savings! The LAT's Michael Hiltzik asked, "Are you listening, Gov. Brown?"

    This year the conventional wisdom is that online is here to stay as a non revolutionary complement to teaching rather than as a disruptive replacement--much like course management software, additional videos, study groups, and required texts.  As John Scott reported here last Sunday, the most interesting online practitioners now see its value as controlled by the social practices in which it is embedded. Leading online designers like Anne Balsamo and her FemTechNet alliance, or Robert Lue of HarvardX, reject the MOOC broadcast model of passive education that seemed to solve the public university's "cost disease" only one year ago.
    Online continues to function well as a means for private firms to access public funding. This was the mechanism behind the Udacity-San José State-style partnerships we've covered here, and that produced major pushback from the UC Academic Senate and the SJSU Philosophy department, among others. At the online summit, I asked Ellen Junn, then SJSU's provost, whether they had identified the budgetary savings expected from online conversions like the Udacity-SJSU partnership of the kind she continues to advocate. In that case, she replied, we didn't know.  All of the costs were paid by Udacity.  
    Nobody batted an eye at this stunning admission.  To me it meant that for at least some of these major deals university officials didn't actually run the numbers on the cost savings to verify net savings of the kind assumed by policy heavyweights like Gov. Jerry Brown--the online providers ran the pilot service like a K-Mart blue light special, selling it for nearly free. The apparent absence of financial due diligence on the part of administrative or Regental / Trustee advocates is not only irresponsible--I would certainly not give my own money to these folks to invest--but is an epistemological crisis with which we still haven't come to terms.
    Last June I analyzed the Udacity-Georgia Tech contracts that Inside Higher Ed reporter Ry Rivard got through a public records act request.  I found no MOOC cost savings.  I assumed that more financial data would appear and more reports would analyze them. Perhaps they would be written by certified accountants or by the business consultants that have their noses in every other aspect of university affairs.  No such luck: I haven't been able to find another such analysis, or to get better data myself.
    The news this week reminded me why. In Florida, Jeff Schweers at the Gainsville Sun tried to find out how much University of Florida Online paid to a division of Pearson LLC, the giant publishing and education corporation headquartered in the UK. He was rebuffed.  
    Something seemed fishy at U Florida by mid-March, when the press got wind of the sudden departure of UF Online's director, former ASU provost Elizabeth Capaldi Phillips, after only two months on the job. UF Online was much like what Gov. Brown wanted to set up in California. It got a $15 million start-up fund from the legislature, the promise of $20 million more over four years, and a requirement that it be a fully online program that could "offer the same academic level of coursework as the bricks-and-mortar institution at 75 percent of the cost to in-state students." Nearly half the students were to be non-residents, and were to pay four times the in-state rate for a fully online degree. Pearson was hired to, among other things, use its marketing prowess to recruit students who would be willing to pay high tuition to get a UF degree at home. How much was UF going to pay Pearson to turn a program with many obvious problems into a major success?  On March 21, Mr. Schweers reported, In response to a public records request from The Sun, the university this week released heavily redacted documents that blot out the amount of money UF will pay Pearson over the life of the 10-year contract — saying that information is a trade secret exempt from the public records law.UF did admit that it had to pay Pearson cash up front: it just wouldn't say how much.  A week later, Mr. Schweers reported that through various documents he'd been able to show that UF would pay Pearson Embanet $186 million over the 11 year life of the contract.  The business plan sounds much like the Udacity-Georgia Tech deal. It involved very large growth projections to 13,000 students paying full in-state or non-resident tuition for an all-online program by 2018, with Pearson getting, in addition to its fee, $19 million of $43 million in projected revenues.  13,000 is the size of UF's first year class.

    [NOTE 3/31: the next 3 paragraphs have been corrected in the UPDATE below.]

    The revenue estimates are worth pondering. Even if Pearson fails, it will effectively pocket all of the state funding that was given to UF for online, and some internal UF money besides. Pearson is owed $186 million over time for getting involved, and the state provided $35 million.  Pearson will contractually absorb all of the state money and then be entitled to another $151 million of UF's internal funds.  (UF Associate Provost Andy McDonough says that Pearson will get $9.5 million in the first five years, but it is not clear whether or how this reflects the still partially redacted contract.)

    If somehow the Pearson dragnet finds thousands of students to pay full tuition for an all-online program with the University of Florida name, UF is slated to gross $24 million in 2019, which is projected to rise to $48 million five years later.  In this best possible scenario, UF will get back its initial $151 million around ten years from now.  The University will thus be ready to earn its first net dollar in 2025.

    This is a bad business deal, but that's not it's point.  The point is for the University of Florida to function not as a university with a need for new revenues but as a pipeline for sending existing revenues somewhere else.  Taxpayer funds--the $35 million-- are funneled to the private corporation Pearson Embanet. Additional operating funds (tuition and state monies)--the $151 million--are also supposed to go to Pearson.  Pearson assumed that UF will conceal these terms from the public, since it had requested and been granted trade secret projection.  In exchange, Pearson seems to provide marketing, "proprietary digital content" and a range of other services that simply duplicate what any university already does ("admission and enrollment support," "providing on-demand student suppert," and so on).  Pearson's global brand is supposed to muscle this albatross into the air, but its exchange of non-essential services for guaranteed income qualifies as extraction rather than exchange.

    Pearson has extensive operations in the UK, and has been involved in the UK's experiment in wholesale higher ed privatization.  This past week its failure was in the news again.  The universities minister David Willetts, architect of the tripled fee cap that was to replace the elimination of most public  teaching funding, admitted that the government is likely to be spending more on grants and loans to cover tripled tuition than it had been spending on direct outlays. The government will continue to need to make additional cuts in its higher ed budget--to maintenance grants for example-- in order to make up the shortfalls in the loan program.  Needless to say, students, academic staff, and a growing number of administrators are furious, and feeling tricked, and as usual uncertain of what to do.

    The Guardian also reported that a former Willetts aide who is the new head of the Higher Education Policy Institute now agrees that the "government got its maths wrong." His solution is that student debtors start paying back sooner and from a lower income threshold.   Andrew McGettigan's analysis in The Great University Gamble has been tragically vindicated (Stefan Collini's review is here, and mine is here).   His government testimony is also borne out. Writing in The Guardian and on his blog, Critical Education, Dr. McGettigan has explained yet again that the higher ed budget is being hollowed out not just by the overall loan scheme but by the share going to new for-profit providers, whose claim on public money has risen 2100% since the government encouraged private companies to provide university services.

    How do governments "get their maths wrong"? How do universities cut deals that due diligence would tell them will cost them money rather than net them new returns?  The most helpful explanation I found this week came from David Runciman's analysis of the habitual deal strategies of Richard Branson, Virgin CEO. Prof. Runciman notes,
    Branson’s modus operandi is to identify and target industries that he claims are being run as monopolies. He presents himself as the man who introduces competition by shaking the industry up with his innovations. Reality, however, is rather different. For Mr. Branson doesn't want to end monopolies, but to exploit them.
    He has made his fortune out of the regulated parts of the economy, which he has milked to extract government subsidies, tax breaks, licensing agreements and protected income streams. Transport works for Branson – trains as well as planes – because it rewards the person who gets the routes. How do you get the routes? By persuading government officials and industry regulators to give them to you. Pearson, Udacity, Coursera, and other private providers came to public universities touting a similar paradigm: universities are little more than holders of a government-sanction monopoly power--to grant degrees.  Say you want to innovate to improve and/or end the monopoly, and then keep the monopoly in place to capture as much of its revenues as you can.  The analogy to Virgin's bad train service (and many other failed enterprises) is strapped university instruction, which at public universities badly needs the scalable upgrade they have no money to build.

    In all this, university managers get to play the role of earnest regulators who are in over their heads. They don't want to hurt their industry, but they lack historical leverage; just as important, they lack confidence in their own institutions and its social mission.  Prof. Runciman again:
    In the absence of robust trade-union representation, Branson is much freer to strike deals at the top table of government and finance. He is able to spin his magic without having to worry too much what the people at the bottom think. One of the consequences of the demise of labour power has been that personal contact among the rich and powerful carries more clout. This is connected to the second trend that has worked in Branson’s favour: the progressive deregulation of finance and business since the late 1970s. There are still plenty of regulators, of course, often with increasingly complex and demanding responsibilities. But without the heavy artillery of robust social democratic states behind them, they have been put on the back foot. The new generation of regulators has turned out to be surprisingly easy to flatter and perhaps not so surprisingly easy to bully. Branson is skilled at both.Sebastian Thrun at Udacity and Daphne Koller at Coursera functioned, in their own ways, as charismatic Branson monopoly-busting monopolists, criticizing the massification of higher learning so they could massify it even more.  They played university managers like Mr. Branson plays transportation regulators.   In this context, it's hardly surprising that private partnerships haven't fixed public university financial problems, since that is exactly what these partnerships are not meant to do.  Instead, private partnerships are meant to make the private provider money.  In general, university executives are eager to help. 
    Universities may have a cost disease, but they now have a privatization disease that is even worse.  It confronts us with one or more of the following scenarios:
    1. University, corporate, and political officials will reinvest in public universities--capping tuition and paying down student debt--once the economy really gets going again.
    2. Corporate and political officials will block public reinvestment--as too expensive for them.  Their university counterparts will keep muddling through. They'll call for more public money (maybe 5-6% a year), "moderate" tuition increases (3-6% a year), while tout ingfundraising and efficiencies as they have for decades.
    3. Corporate and political officials will block public reinvestment, and their university counterparts will try to "scale up" the New Sources of Revenue. These will provide net returns to universities and also net educational benefits.
    4. Corporate and political officials will block public reinvestment, and their university counterparts will try to "scale up" the New Sources of Revenue.  Most or all of their value will go to the private providers, and university officials, desperate for deals and distant from education, will rely on wishful thinking rather than due diligence. 
    I'm hoping for (1), most hearing (2), and expecting (4)--while finding counter-forces on a recent speaking trip that I'll talk about next time.

    UPDATE 3/31. Over at e-Literate, Phil Hill has been writing about the UF Online contracts. In his post today, he rejects my reading of the Sun reports of the UF Online-Pearson contract when I say that "Pearson will contractually absorb all of the state money and then be entitled to another $151 million of UF's internal funds." Mr. Hill states that in fact "Pearson will only make 27%" of the state of Florida's $35 million in support for setting up UF Online, and that the rest of Pearson's $186 million will come from its share of online student tuition and feels.  He has also found the UF Online business plan, which he kindly sent to me, and he has updated his post with images of some of the spreadsheets and further discussion.  Here's what my first rapid pass through the business plan makes me think:

    A. Phil Hill is right and I am wrong about the extent of Pearson's direct access to state funds. 27% of that $35 million, or $9.5 million, goes to Pearson up front, but the "Additional Fixed Fee" going to the coded entity "P3" ends in 2018 (p 84).  So strike from the record the calculations of the three paragraphs I identify above.

    B. Do not strike from the record the framing commentary and conclusions. I was being too literal-minded about the transfer of publicly-funded value to the private sector.  A better way of thinking about it is that this value comes in at least two forms: direct transfers from public to private via a university intermediary, as with the $9.5 million; and foregone value of a public investment in a public entity, as with the remaining $176.5 million.  Were UF to build the same mandated online program in-house and achieve the same success, it would have that $176.5 million instead of Pearson, and it would be available to support UF's academic programs.  In the business plan, that revenue goes to Pearson for services that are not well articulated in the text. For UF, the "cumulative fund balance" over 11 years comes to $43.6 million (p 82), which I interpret to mean that UF's returns are about a quarter the size of those projected for Pearson.  UF is making less than $4 million a year on average for this large effort, even if it works: what would be its returns if it did "fully online" services itself? How does this compare to returns for something it already knows how to do--face-to-face teaching of the same number of additional students? Although I still need to go through these spreadsheets line by line, it still looks like UF got Bransonized.

    C. "Where are the Savings?"   UF's costs increase by a factor of 10 over the contract period, while "total revenue" increases by a factor of 5. As I argued in the Georgia Tech-Udacity case, the private provider is supposed to offer economies of scale through technical expertise. Where are the economies for UF in exchange for foregone $176.5 million?  I don't see it in the spreadsheets, and missing economies helps explain why UF can gross less than Pearson even with a higher cut of tuition revenues.

    There are other familar issues--implausible enrollment growth, excessively cheap course production costs--and so on. I will have to defer these to next week when I return from a trip.  

    Why Solidarity is Important, or, An Open Letter to UC Faculty

    March 25, 2014 - 12:39
    By Earl Perez-Foust, Comparative Literature, UCSB
    Dear UC Faculty,
    I am a graduate student at UCSB and a rank-and-file member of the UC Student-Workers Union (UAW 2865).  As you may have heard, my union has declared a strike for April 3rd with some campuses striking April 2 as well.  This is the first Thursday of the Spring quarter and it will likely add further disruption to what is already a chaotic time of the year.  The strike is over an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge that the UC has intimidated members of the union with respect to their participation in the November 20thsympathy strike with AFSCME 3299.  In a recent statement, the Berkeley Faculty Association called on the UC to “respect the protected rights of union workers to take collective actions free of undue managerial interference.”  I would like to echo this and call upon all UC faculty to take stock of their stakes in this conflict, which at the very heart of it deals with the misuse of power dynamics within the University, and show solidarity with their graduate students.
    This letter, however, is not meant to be an announcement of the strike nor a detailed breakdown on the charges within the ULPs – I have attached a link to these materials if you're interested in finding out more.  Instead, this letter is concerned with what it means – and what it feels like – to be a graduate student who is invested in the quality of their, and their colleagues', working conditions but who may feel intimidated by the prospect of approaching faculty with these investments.  Some of this may come as a surprise to you, a lot of student-faculty relationships are bracketed by an implied camaraderie and friendship.  However, perhaps especially when it's an issue of work stoppage, students may feel as if any disruption might be registered as a personal affront to this relationship.

    To be sure, a strike is a legally protected concerted activity and any managerial intimidation with respect to one's participation in a strike is a violation of the law.  However, there are hidden mechanisms of intimidation and we all know what these may be: the infamous things which “just happen” (ie, TA appointments which “just happen” to go to someone else, a fellowship competition you “just happen” to lose, letters of recommendation which “just happen” to be poor ones).  These things, the “just happens,” are terrifying and can make the prospect of approaching our faculty daunting.  

    No doubt some of you are thinking that you would never do this to your students and I'm not calling this into question.  You need to understand, however, that this isn't completely apparent to us – there is just so little room to talk explicitly about the workplace in these relationships.  We simply don't know what the response is going to be.  This strike gives us an opportunity to redefine the terms of our relationships within the University.  It gives us an opportunity to rethink what labor within the University means and what an ethical relationship within it could look like.  Navigating this is dizzying and can be confusing or difficult to situate.
    For these reasons, starting the conversation may be the hardest step – we are unequipped with a language with which to speak about these issues.  If you are approached by one of your students or hear about the strike through another means, your unequivocal support is necessary.  The details and the context of the strike are important, but there is at least one other question in this conflict: what sort of working conditions are faculty endorsing?  We need to change the lexicon of our student-faculty relationships, which is to say that we need to be able to talk about the conditions in which we live and work.  Your expressed support of our collective action is an incontrovertible part of this.
    I hope to see you on the picket line and that you will offer your support to myself and my fellow academic workers.

    From MOOCs to FemTechNet: a Review of the 2014 Berkeley Online Summit

    March 23, 2014 - 11:41
    by John Scott, School of Education, UC Berkeley

    Located on opposite sides of the country, San Jose State and MIT are not usually linked together in the popular imagination.  Without any of the obvious ties, one might be inclined to ask: What could these two universities possibly have in common?  The answer can be found on a MOOC platform, where they both cohabit MITx, MIT’s instance of the MOOC provider EDx.  Both universities were also represented at the recent Online Learning Summitheld at UC Berkeley by Provost Ellen Junn (SJSU) and Chancellor for Academic Achievement Eric Grimson (MIT).

    Junnand Grimsonspoke about the enhanced learning potentials of a ‘flipped classroom,’ where video-lecture content, and online learning activities and assessments opened up new spaces for classroom interactions and student engagement.  Junn lauded results from an SJSU pilot study that revealed significant gains in performance for students participating in the MITx course “Intro to Circuits and Electronics” (virtually taught by MIT’s Anant Agarwal) compared to their own equivalent brick and mortar version.  Grimson pointed to similarly positive reports on the MIT side, where rapid interventions for struggling students and the ability to revisit lecture videos and course content at a student’s leisure improved performance across a number of key intro-level courses.  Grimson insisted, that not only did online content improve student performance, but also that online course delivery models were necessary for addressing the shifting needs and interests of a 21stCentury learner entering a university life at what he named the third major historical disruption to education- printing press to the blackboard to the digital.

    Despite their shared optimism and inspiring statistical reports, their presentations revealed one crucial characteristic of MOOCS.  In the typical MOOC model, a single professor or institutional entity controls the production of course content and standards of learning for thousands of students across multiple institutions.  This kind of centralization creates the potential for asymmetrical relations between participating universities based on whether or not they play the role of producer or consumer of course content.

    Junn’s presentation focused on SJSU students gaining flexible and free access to highly coveted MIT content, and while she explored other dimensions of their online education initiatives, she did not move far beyond this point of access and student convenience as the major benefits of their partnership with MITx.  Positioning SJSU students and faculty as consumers of MIT-generated content, her measure of a successful student experience seemed to narrowly focus on content mastery and skills development.  The idea of faculty being relegated to facilitators of content produced exclusively by another university became a point of critique in the highly publicized letter authored by SJSU faculty members in April of 2013.  In “An Open Letter to Professor Michael Sandel [Harvard professor of the JusticeX course] from the Philosophy Department at San Jose State U,” the authors describe a single, universal MOOC course on social justice as “downright scary- something out of a dystopian novel.”

    Grimson pointed to similar gains for MIT students participating in online courses, but he imagined these skills put to use in radically new institutional contexts where MIT students would be able to pursue projects of potential impact, play with cutting-edge technologies like 3D-printers, and discover fresh opportunities for socialization and collaboration.  Provost Junn may also share a similar vision, although it did not come through in her talk, instead choosing to focus on access and skills development.  But not all access is created equal. In a world of free and open content, there are crucial advantages gained by both the institutions involved directly in its production as well as their students.

    For the MIT students, there is an advantage gained not just in their physical proximity to the professors generating course content, where they enjoy an increased opportunity to either interact directly with the professor responsible for the course or with closely affiliated faculty.  But these students also benefit from a kind of cultural proximity to the content in the sense that institutions both select (through admissions’ processes) and cultivate (through their discursive contexts) student identities and learners who more closely resemble the ideological character of their institution.  For the institution, while the gains might not be realized immediately by MOOC providers such as MIT in the form of financial capital, it undoubtedly benefits from an increase in the value of its brand, while potentially devaluing that of its consumers.  What does it mean for an institution no longer to produce the content of its own courses, while being relegated to a consumer and mediator of MIT content, or a mere authentications portal to an MITx MOOC?

    While I listened to Junn and Grimson, it was too hard to imagine a leveling of the playing field across higher education, and too easy to envision two disparate classes of students, where SJSU students scramble to master a discrete set of skills and MIT content as MIT students put the same set of skills to use in creative contexts and with greater social and cultural capital.  Further, although Junn pointed to the positive results from SJSU’s pilot study on MITx, the results from a pilot with MOOC provider Udacity that targeted struggling or at-risk students appeared less promising.  If MOOCs already pose a threat to a widening of the digital divide, they also increase the potential for a digital divided, where a class of students with a non-transferrable, decontextualized skillset cannot compete with a more privileged class of students with access to these empowered institutional spaces, in effect massively reproducing class disparities and socioeconomic immobility.

    So what kinds of delivery models can we imagine for online education, models that could leverage digital tools for content sharing and multimedia experiences while at the same time avoiding the content production monopolies of MOOCs? On another panel at the OLS14 conference, FemTechNet’s Distributed Online Collaborative Community (DOCC) offered an appealing alternative.  FemTechNet’s DOCC model emphasized the creation of an infrastructure for distributed dialogues across multiple online platforms while preserving institutional autonomy in designing courses around the teaching of feminist principles.  Although MOOC advocates often assume that good learning data requires content standardization, the distributed model can still operate at scale without a centralized institutional force imposing its will on a network of participants who are thus relegated to the role of content consumers.  FemTechNet enables increased opportunities for institutions to produce their own course content while also allowing them to curate these courses with content from a network of institutions. This makes it easier for course designers to craft experiences sculpted to address the particular needs of their students.

    Creating horizontal structures for institutional collaboration could not only help ensure heterogeneity of course content, but also generate opportunities to connect students across courses and create even richer peer-to-peer interactions and engagement.  Furthermore, projects like FemNetTech’s “Wikistorming” help motivate critical inquiry and skills application in real-world contexts while supporting student engagement and activism as digital citizens.  With the collapse of Net Neutrality and the consolidation of many web services, institutions of higher learning share a responsibility to protect access to a diversity of web content, to promote pluralistic models of knowledge production, and to cultivate a generation of digital citizens who can maintain the web’s equity and openness.

    Abortion in the Culture Wars: Some Effects of Academia's Weakness (Updated)

    March 17, 2014 - 15:24
    The national media has spoken on a confrontation between a professor and an anti-abortion group at UCSB on March 4th.  It is not pleased with the professor. 

    On March 4th, one of my colleagues at UC Santa Barbara, Feminist Studies professor Mireille Miller-Young, was walking to her office when she was approached by members of an anti-abortion group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust (SAH).  One thing led to another:  the police report picks up the story:
    She said an argument ensued about the graphic nature of these images. Miller-Young said that she [sic] situation became "passionate" and that the other students were "triggered" in a negative way by the imagery.  Miller-Young said that she and others began demanding that the images be taken down.  Miller-Young said that the demonstrators refused. At which point, Miller-Young said that she 'Just grabbed it [the sign] from the girl's hands." Asked if there had been a struggle, Miller-Young stated, "I'm stronger so I was able to take the poster."Miller-Young said that the poster had been taken back to her office. Once in her office, a "safe space" described by Miller-Young, Miller-Young said that they were still upset by the images on the poster and had destroyed it. Miller-Young said that she was "mainly" responsible for the posters destruction becaues she was the only one with scissors.The SAH protestors seem to have consisted mainly of two sisters, Joan Short, 21, and Thrin Short, 16.  Thrin Short began to film Prof. Miller-Young and a few students departing with her sign.  In the video, you can hear ongoing exchanges between the two groups, see the UCSB group enter South Hall and try to take the sign up the elevator, hear what must be Joan Short calling the police and narrating events to them, see the UCSB group refusing the Short sisters entry to the building elevator amidst some scuffling-- at which point the video ends.

    The event got immediate campus coverage in a student paper, The Bottom Line, which ran a story and a picture of one of the anti-abortion posters. The Santa Barbara Independent covered it a week later, identifying the group as SAH and  narrating its account of the events, for by that time Prof. Miller-Young had an attorney and was being advised not to speak about the case. The conservative blog The College Fix posted an account on March 12th, showing the scratches on Thrin Short's wrists and Joan Short with her signs.  So we can be clear what we're talking about, here are the signs on UCSB's campus on March 4th:

    Rush Limbaugh got into the act on the same day, spinning the story in his usual way on his Quick Hits Page under the title "Leftist Professor Goes Berserk, Attacks Pro-Lifers" (scroll down). Fox News picked it up on March 13th (the SAH account has more media links at the bottom.) On March 14th, the Short sisters appeared on Megyn Kelly's Fox news show with an augmented version of the original video.  When Ms. Kelly asked how they felt about the professor's claim that she was "triggered" by the images and that she had the "moral right" to take the signs away, Thrin Short said she was sorry that the professor was "offended in any way. But after all, she does teach or show porn to her students, so she's not really the one to talk about offending images." (Joan Short is on the left, her sister Thrin on the right.)
     On March 15th, just to make the media circus complete, Salon got involved: Mary Elizabeth Williams turned the incident into an object lesson called "Why You Should Never Engage with an Abortion Protester."    She summed up her position by saying sarcastically, "Well, thanks, Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, because now these two sisters, who might otherwise have been just a campus nuisance, have overnight become national right-wing heroines."

    OK, so much for the media fun.  Let me see if there's a way of threading a path through all this.

    First of all, Prof. Miller-Young was wrong to take the Short sisters' sign, as she acknowledges in the police report (page 5 of 5).  She and the students were wrong to leave the scene while taunting the Short sisters, wrong to scuffle with them, and wrong to destroy the sign upstairs of out the Short sisters' reach.  I see no reason to disagree with the reporting officer when s/he says, "I explained to Miller-Young that vandalism, battery and robbery had occurred." 

    Second, the Short sisters are not isolated citizens expressing a passionately-held moral belief (though they are obviously sincere, and their type of activism takes guts).  They are part of a right-wing institutional world that makes many people feel unwelcome and unsafe, including the women of color who confronted them at UCSB on March 4th. This is an important context for what happened that day.

    The Shorts were trained as activists by SAH, a group founded by Jeff White.  Mr. White, according to his website, was National Tactical Director for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, a group known for its aggressive tactics, and which is very much still in the game (Kansas example).  Mr. White continues to specialize in attention-getting public confrontation, as in this bizarre conflict with a Hollywood lighting crew in 2010.  He is apparently well-connected within conservative activist and funding networks.  Mr. White seems to have had great recruitment success within the Short family:  there is at least one more SAH Short sister, Mary Rose, who can be seen protesting in Albuquerque in November 2013, and who was protesting outside a high school in Jackson, MS in March 2012 when two SAH colleagues were arrested. 

    Given their front-line position in a well-developed national anti-abortion activist network, there is no reason for the Shorts to play dumb about their intentions.  The sole point of their gruesome signs is to shock and offend people into opposing abortion.  They signs aren't "conversation starters": they freak people out, as they are meant to do. Even if you are sixteen years old, you should take responsibility for the likely impacts on actual people of what you are deliberately doing.  If you try to provoke people, you will eventually succeed, and if you work for someone like Jeff White, you have a full understanding both of what these provoked people might do and of how you can use this with the media.

    The deeper issue here is that the Shorts arrived at UCSB as the institutional representatives of what for convenience I'll call Limbaugh's America--the forever angry wing of the American Right that disparages its opponents rather than debates with them.  The Shorts also represented that Right in the rhetorical strategy of their signs, which said quite plainly that pro-choice people, like some of the college students walking by, favor murdering "preborn" babies.   In this sense, the signs aren't just graphic: they are calculated insults of the moral viewpoint of the presumptively pro-choice onlooker.

    UCSB student Delyla Mayers made this point clearly in her editorial in UCSB's Daily Nexus:
    These groups have taken no consideration to the individuals who are directly or indirectly affected by abortion. UCSB prides itself on inclusivity and diversity, yet these groups have actively chosen to ignore the myriad people these images negatively impact. These groups have chosen to overlook these experiences, placing harmful and potentially damaging materials in front of students without so much as a warning. Student announcements are sent out every day, giving students warnings about numerous things; why aren’t such events required to do the same? I don’t think any group should be above that. It’s not the position I have a problem with, but rather the approach that is very insensitive, non-inclusive, violent and dangerous. These groups have failed to give students the right to choose to partake in such events, stripping individuals from their choice to practice self-care in topics as deep as abortion.Prof. Miller-Young was aware that her students had the sense that the signs represented categorical hostility both to their views about abortion (if they were pro-choice, they favored killing unborn babies) and in some sense to who they are, that is, "campus liberals," and women of color.

    Isn't this overreacting? No.  The Right's anti-intellectual dismissal machine has a long reach, and used anti-feminist and racial dogwhistling in this case as in so many others.

    For example, in her appearance on Fox News, Thrin Short made a direct connection between Prof. Miller-Young taking offense at her signs and Prof. MIller-Young teaching pornography as an academic subject.  That same day, Rush Limbaugh had established the same equivalence.
    We have hyphenated name? Check. Teaches multicultural nonsense? Check.

    Attracted to perverted and worthless areas of academic emphasis? Check. Instinct to lash out violently at those who disagree with her? Check. Resorts to violence when she doesn't get her way? Check. Logical conclusion: She is a madcap leftist and she has tenure. She is teaching young skulls full of mush, inculcating them with this worthless drivel that their parents are paying through the nose for.

    Now, you might say, "Rush this has always gone on."

    Not to this degree, folks.

    The higher education curriculum has been in the process of being corrupted by militant feminazis for I don't know how long, but it is continuing to normalize what 10 years ago were extremes.   The extremes 10 years ago are the normal today. The extremes 15 ago are the normal. A professor teaching a course in black cultural studies, pornography, and sex work on her faculty Web page? Well Rush, actually yes: Black culture has obviously been a fountainhead of American life from its  beginning, and consuming pornography is America's national pastime not to mention an important form of popular culture, as UCSB's Constance Penley has been arguing for two decades. But in Limbaugh's America, studying Black culture or representations of African American women in pornography is all feminazism.  Mr. Limbaugh says these things regularly, they become right-wing common sense over years and decades, they get echoed by front-line people like Thrin Short--and then folks wonder why feminists or students of color get upset.

    My third point is that in this context the theft of the SAH poster, though illegal, can be seen as an act of (non-violent) self-defense.  Many people, including many women and many people of color, do not feel safe in or respected by Rush Limbaugh's America. Many of the targets of the routine practice of disrespect see universities as refuges of enlightenment or at least basic rationality in a country whose media is saturated with personal attacks and hate speech.  The appearance of the SAH signs ended that fragile protection (as Ms. Mayers noted above).

    On Fox, Megyn Kelly displayed disbelief at Prof. Miller-Young's line, apparently directed at a Short sister, "I may be a thief, but you're a terrorist." The most relevant definition of terrorist in this case is Jean-François Lyotard's in chapter 2 of The Postmodern Condition, where he defines terror as "eliminating, or threatening to eliminate, a player from the language game one shares with him."  This is the effect of SAH signs, and it is the core Limbaugh / Fox News strategy--not to debate an opponent, but to discredit her in advance as a dangerous buffoon. Non-Limbaugh America, now associated by the Right with Barack Obama's electoral majority built of various communities of color, feels quite unsafe in a mediascape and political world in which their positions are held up as ridiculous.  The university has come to function as one of the few escapes, and it was something that Prof. Miller-Young, in her way, was trying to defend.  This is why the police report records her saying that her actions "were in defense of her students and her own safety." The fact that they took an illegal form, as noted above, doesn't change their meaning as self-defense. I believe, she said to the reporting officer, that I have a "personal right to go to work and not be in harm."

    Fourth, where are university administrations in all this? My basic feeling is that individual professors and students wouldn't have to be inventing ad hoc forms of self-defense against the presence of groups that disrespect them if the university had a reputation for defending itself.  By defending itself I don't mean universities should ban groups like SAH or eliminating free speech zones that welcome non-students. On the contrary, universities must continue to support the kind of debate that would be ejected from everywhere else in commercial America, like its bank lobbies, office cafeterias, and shopping malls. I mean, instead, that universities must build a counter-common sense through which the general public immediately understands why a university must have things like feminist studies departments and pornography scholars--that the university studies everything important, and studies everything according to professional rules of the knowledge-seekers own making, in uncoercive dialogue with the general public.

    As it is now, the university has no answer to the Right's carefully constructed anti-intellectual culture, which allows its members to interpret new knowledge as an affront, a heresy, and an assault on all that is good.  All academic knowledge is vulnerable here, from stem-cell medical research and climate-related oceanography to studies of farmworker health, white suburban poverty, and new sexualities.  The result is that after three decades of culture wars, activists trained by right-wing groups like SAH know that if anything bad happens to them on campus, they can discredit their academic opposition in the media by appealing to ad hominem  stereotypes of liberal professors.   My sense is that the general public decreasingly thinks of universities as serious places that will protect themselves, their functions, and their people, and that anyone can do political hit-and-runs with impunity.  Obviously the Right's brilliant long-term institution-building is the main source of the weak cultural position of universities, which undermines individual academics when they most need help. But high-level university silence paved the way for the Right's control of the framing of university teaching and research.

    As an institution, the university needs to build a discursive and cultural framework in which its own heterodox activities can be understood.  Tactically, university officials should not get down in the weeds and debate the value of porn studies with each anti-abortion protest group. But strategically, organizations like the American Association of Universities, presidents of major colleges, and other prominent educators need to help scattered associate professors confront and overturn the Limbaughian worldview.  The AAU is happy to speak officially in what it sees as a necessary defense of Israel, as when it formally denounced the American Studies Association's alleged infringement on academic freedom via its support for boycotting Israeli academic institutions.  The AAU should do the same, on an ongoing basis, around the the academic freedom of faculty of color to teach and conduct research, in dialogue with the public, on Black culture, Black actors in porn, possible racial bias in private medical research funding, the shortage of people of color in children's stories, or anything else that society puts in front of them.

    Such high-level statements should also involve something we might call campus cultural, intellectual, and personal safety for students, an issue that recent protests by Black students at the University of Michigan, UCLA Law School, and elsewhere have put back on the agenda--again.  The long-term project is to build a cultural common sense in which the university's unavoidable violation of orthodoxy is the heart of its public mission--and where its community can be safe from the harassment that Limbaugh-culture reserves for that public mission in all its forms.

    More locally, my hope is that the Short sisters will drop charges against Prof. Miller-Young in exchange for some kind of  statement or restitution from her.  It might be interesting to invite Joan and Thrin Short to a Feminist Studies classroom to talk, rather than to affront with signs, the professor and the students they tangled with before.  Who knows--Thrin Short might even stop ditching high school to protest abortion.

    UPDATE 3/23
    On Friday, Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced that she was filing misdemenor charges against Prof. Miller-Young for theft from a person, vandalism, and battery.  The Santa Barbara Independent has coverage here. So does Fox News, which adds a quote from the Short sisters' father to a repeat of its earlier framing.

    UC Care Stories

    March 14, 2014 - 09:12
    Now that the UC Care debacle has moved beyond the poor planning stage (leaving some campuses with significantly less access to care while paying the same amount) it is clear that although UC Care has held the line on premiums, for some people, at least, those cost savings are being lost to increases in co-pay requirements and other financial and logistical burdens that have been shifted onto faculty and staff. We continue to receive emails and blog testimony about issues with UC Care at non-medical and medical campuses alike (e.g. this example from UC San Diego).

    It is our hope that shared information will enable employees to better organize through the Senate, Faculty Associations, Staff Unions and representatives, and just better prepare for pushing back at the new costs.  As a result, we have created a new page for people to share their UC Care stories. 

    If you look above the posts you will see a button entitled "Share Your UC Care Story."  If you click on this it will take you to a page that will enable you to report your experience and any problems you have faced as well as read others' stories.  Please participate.  We hope the information will prove helpful to everyone trying to navigate and improve this situation.

    When Will UC Stop Downgrading Faculty Salaries and Benefits?

    March 7, 2014 - 10:51
    by Colleen Lye and James Vernon
    Co-chairs of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association
    Cross-posted from the Daily Cal
    Graphic from UC Accountability Report (2013)

    UC faculty need to wake up to the systematic degradation of their pay and benefits.

    In 2009, when the salary furlough temporarily cut faculty salaries between 4 and 10 percent, faculty were outraged. Yet since then, our compensation has been hit by a more serious and seemingly permanent double blow.

    First, despite modest salary rises of 3 and 2 percent in October 2011 and July 2013, respectively, faculty take-home pay has been effectively cut as employee contributions to pension and health care have escalated. Faculty now pay more for retirement and health care programs that offer less. Second, faculty are no longer treated equally. Different groups of faculty are increasingly pitted against each other as depending on our age, where we live or when we were hired, we receive different levels of retirement, health and other benefits.

    Faculty salaries were already uncompetitive. They remain 10 to 15 percent below the university’s own comparable institutions and fell behind those of Stanford, Yale, Harvard and MIT. Unsurprisingly, Berkeley faculty salaries rank a dismal but unsurprising 28th among those offered by elite research universities.

    Back in 2009, strong benefits in the form of pension and health care provisions allowed the university to excuse its uncompetitive salaries by reminding us of what it called our “total compensation package.” This is no longer true. Now, as continued austerity management grips university administrators and as campaigns are launched to divest public sector workers of their pensions and retiree health care, faculty are being stripped of these deferred (and other) benefits.

    One reason faculty are largely unaware of the degradation of their benefits is that changes have been made incrementally, and they target different constituencies. Gone are the days when all faculty and retirees were treated equally and received the same benefits. And yet, for all faculty, these changes mean we are paying more and getting less.

    First, faculty are divided by a new two-tier pension system. The old pension, the so-called 1976 tier, has seen a steady escalation of employee contributions from 0 percent in 2009 to 8 percent in 2014.  These raises alone mean that faculty take-home pay has deteriorated by as much as 3 percent.

    The new pension introduced for those hired since 2013 has begun with a 7 percent employee contribution. Despite paying more, new faculty get less. The minimum retirement age has been raised from 50 to 55, the retirement age for maximum pension has been raised from 60 to 65, and the lump-sum cash-out and subsidized survivor benefits have been eliminated.

    Second, although there is as yet no legal evidence that retiree health benefits are less “vested” (and thus unalterable except by legislation) than pensions, they have been progressively stripped. And here, again, different groups of faculty are treated differently.

    Since 2010, the university’s contribution to retiree health benefits has fallen from 100 percent to 70 percent — but this pales in comparison to the changes introduced in 2013, which have affected 50 percent of faculty and staff. All new hires, together with those with fewer than five years of service or those whose age plus service is fewer than 50 years, will now receive nothing from the university toward their health care if they retire before 55. Meanwhile, contributions for those retiring after 56 will be on a sliding scale (depending on length of service), beginning at just 5 percent!

    Worse still, in what is being considered a test case by the UC Board of Regents, retirees no longer living in California have been removed from university’s insurance plans. Instead, they will be given a lump sum of $3,000 per year to help defray costs not covered by Medicare. This represents a significant shift of risk and responsibility for health care from the university to retirees. If it generates the projected $700 million savings of total liability as reported by the UC Office of the President’s CFO to the regents this year, it is likely to be coming soon to a group of retirees near you.

    Third, in the fall, more than 3,000 faculty and staff at UC Berkeley alone were forced to change their health care plan in a little more than two months. We were promised these had been negotiated to secure great savings for the university and lower insurance rates for all UC employees. It quickly became clear to us that those lower monthly rates masked a huge turnover in eligible providers, geographically uneven coverage of service and considerably higher deductibles. It is too soon to calculate how much more faculty are paying for their health care, but once again, we are certainly paying more for less.

    Finally, at the very end of last semester, a cursory email gave us a one-month warning for major changes to the Mortgage Origination Program and Supplemental Home Loan Program, which had allowed so many faculty access to the inflated Bay Area property market by offering below-market rate or interest-only mortgages in excess of 30 years. A new program is promised but has yet to be announced. We can assume it will again ask new faculty to pay more for less.

    It is time for faculty to wise up to this systematic and universal downgrading of our salaries and benefits that also sets different groups of us on different tracks. The contrast with the new contracts recently signed by California Nurses Association and UPTE (and offered to AFSCME) is worth noting. In addition to significantly improved salaries, these unions have been able to maintain a single-tier pension  (for an additional 1 percent contribution) and retain retiree health benefits without the “rule of 50” exception.

    So how will faculty respond? With a sigh of resignation? Determination to get an outside offer that would increase one’s personal compensation package? Or will we seek better mechanisms that would permit faculty to negotiate all elements of our compensation rather than have it decreed — and diminished — from up high? It certainly seems unlikely that our administrators will realize that the degradation of faculty compensation will make it harder to recruit and retain the scholars who have made this the best public university in the world.


    March 5, 2014 - 11:08

    Students and faculty at UC Davis have created an interactive site (One University, One Debt) for representing and sharing information about the growing debt burden that students face as a result of rising tuition and other costs of attending colleges and universities.  Although focused at Davis, the organizers and curators are eager to have responses from elsewhere and include resources for students and ways to join in or share information and stories.

    The home site is Here.  You can go from there to get a wide range of information.  And to respond click to the tab marked "Participation and Response." The curators would like to encourage anyone who wants to share their story and/or is invested in resolving the student debt crisis to us their hashtags: #onedebt and #oneucdavis.

    University Week: Are Public Universities Cool Again?

    March 3, 2014 - 11:48
    Business Week thinks so: its headline is "Krugman Move Boosts CUNY Effort to Escape Columbia, NYU Shadow."   In this piece, cool is a public city college doing the following things:

    • stealing star faculty from rich private universities, recalling the glory days when CCNY "graduated 12 Nobel laureates between 1930 and 1950."
    In recent years, CUNY has hired a number of professors away from elite universities, including Jeremy Kahn, a mathematician from Brown University; Vijay Balasubramanian, a theoretical physicist from the University of Pennsylvania; David Joselit, an art historian from Yale University; and Cathy Davidson, a technology scholar from Duke University.
    • reclaiming the core mission of mass quality:
    CUNY has about 274,000 students seeking degrees and almost 250,000 in continuing education and certificate programs, said William Kelly, interim chancellor and past president of the graduate school. It has 24 campuses spread across five boroughs.
    “A university can be both public and provide access to a half-million students and pursue the highest goals imaginable,” said Kelly. “What has happened here is that the university has reclaimed its commitment to both access and excellence. Public universities need to do both.”
    • hiring large numbers of full-time faculty: "CUNY has stepped up faculty recruiting, boosting the number of full-time professors to 7,500 from about 5,000 over the past 10 years."
    • not saddling its students with debt: at CUNY "about 80 percent of baccalaureate and associate degree students graduate without debt."  Prof. Davidson made a particular point of saying "part of the draw was the university’s high quality and the low cost to students."
    •  having high levels of innovation: Prof. Joselit remarked, “Public universities are much more willing to experiment with the format, at least in the humanities and social sciences,”
    Is public anything more experimental than its private version?  That's how it reads.   Although the job moves of these major scholars are largely symbolic, their visibility, along with statements like these, might help make public colleges seem exciting again.

    * * *
    How has CUNY been able to do all this full-time faculty hiring at its tuition level of under $6000 per year?  Not by suppressing wages: faculty salary tables at the Chronicle of Higher Education show CUNY sometimes above and sometimes below average salaries in all professorial categories (2012 Almanac).  The recipe seems to be to staff most of the campuses like colleges rather than like research campuses--with the obvious exception of the Graduate Center.

    Graduate Center staff consists of about half full-time and half part-time professors (75% of full-time professors are tenure-track);  about two-thirds of its overall teaching staff are graduate students. On the other hand, a check of a few of the CUNY colleges shows lower percentages of full-time faculty.  Hunter has 705 full-time and 1175 part-time faculty (or 37.5% full time): the comparable figures are 38.3% full-time at CCNY and 41% at Queens.

    Teaching loads are also pegged to standards for teaching rather than research universities, judging from the experience of the faculty I know at Queens, Brooklyn, Hunter, and Baruch Colleges, meaning that everyone I know in the humanities and social sciences is teaching three or more courses per semester rather than 2 and 2. 

    As for research itself, CUNY does much less bench science than universities of comparable size.  The NSF's Higher Education Research and Development Report for FY 2011 ranks the top CUNY unit, CCNY, in 182nd position, with expenditures of less than half those at lowest-spending University of California campus, UC Riverside. Hunter is at 219th, Queens at 265th, and so on.  The Graduate Center doesn't appear, and may be lumped together with CCNY, but it's worth noting that none of the recent hires mentioned in the Business Week piece require laboratory facilities.

    One conclusion is that it's easier for public universities to be experimental when they don't have to pay fo rexperimental science.  CUNY also isn't paying for full-scale, full-time research faculty spread throughout the system.  CUNY hires great full-time research faculty at all of its colleges, and then doesn't give them research faculty conditions. Obviously this limits  CUNY faculty's overall research output.

    Can public universities maintain or upgrade instruction while staying major players in basic research? The first answer is yes, in the sense that they have been maintaining their 2/3rds share of overall R&D (Appendix Table 5-3).

    A second answer is no, they won't sustain this going forward, since they are already having a hard time affording STEM research. For example, they spend nearly twice the share of their own resources supporting research as do private universities: "Public academic institutions supported a larger portion of their S&E R&D from their own sources—22%, compared to 13% at private institutions."

    A third answer is that public universities will always be able to sustain or even increase research output--if they increase the share of non-STEM research in their mix.  CUNY can lag in overall R&D expenditures while still having a huge arts, humanities, and social sciences research output since these fields (borrowing the AHS acronym from Gerald Barnett) spent only $3.5 billion of the $65.8 billion spent on R&D in US universities was spent on STEM.)  You can be 265th in expenditures while being an AHS powerhouse, given these fields' much greater bang for the buck.

    * * *
    A contrasting example appeared in the news last week--Duke University--whose costs were the subject of a piece at NPR's Planet Money.  Duke, the article noted, claims that the University loses money on the $60,000 a year it charges to go there, since it allegedly spends $90,000 per student per year.  This is about 6 times UC's combined per-student in-state tuition --minus financial aid--plus state general fund).

    The gap in per student expenditures between top privates and mass publics is shocking and socially inefficient: it's something this blog has been denouncing for years, that the Delta Project's studies made visible to policymakers (Figure 18), that education economists like Archibald and Feldman have analyzed, that I've argued causally reduces attainment and increases racial disparity.

    The innovation in the Planet Money piece is that an MSM outlet stages a debate between standard and alternative higher ed accounting, juxtaposing Duke's provost Peter Lange and UC Berkeley's independent budget analyst, professor emeritus of physics Charles Schwartz.

    Using the standard approach (I am describing, not endorsing it), Duke reports that a quarter of the $90,000 of per-student expenditure is affluent students subsidizing other less-affluent students, and that another quarter goes to paying faculty salaries. (In the context of familiar claims that academic salaries are the core of higher ed's "cost disease," this is not a large slice.)   Another quarter goes to "sponsored activities," which is close to the normal 20% or so that research universities spend to subsidize extramurally-funded research. The final quarter of the pie chart goes to overhead, which includes facilities and non-teaching staff.

    Prof. Schwartz's point has long been that faculty research time gets lumped together with teaching time, so that the faculty cost of instruction is exaggerated.  Provost Lange counters that research and teaching are intertwined at a research university.  (For the record, Prof. Schwartz has never denied this, but has shown how they can be disaggregated so we at least know how much universities are spending on what.)  The Planet Money piece produces an accurate description of the debate:
    In the end, Schwartz and Lange don't disagree on the value of what goes on at places like Berkeley and Duke. The disagreement is over the story that Duke tells its undergraduates. So if you're a student at Duke, are you getting a massive discount on the cost of your education? Or are you subsidizing a giant educational edifice that you as an undergraduate student will barely come into contact with? The answer sort of depends on what kind of student you are. If you're engaged in research and capitalizing on your professors' expertise, maybe you're getting something that's worth more than what you paid. If you've got a good financial aid package, you're definitely getting a good deal. But if you're a full-paying student, who's not learning much from professors outside the classroom, it's the university that's getting the deal.This formulation puts huge pressure on elite universities like Duke to subsidize student costs and to make sure every single student is experiencing artisnal research-learning.   This would be a big change for students who are buying a brand affiliation that will get them to the head of the line for the careers of the 1%, which, judging from Laura Newland's alarming memoir of her Duke undergrad years, is most of them. (You can listen to Doug Henwood's interesting interview with her January 30, 2013).

    After many lousy years, I think momentum is starting to shift back towards public colleges. The challenge for them now for has several parts:
    • Get affordable for students again--by being honest about the limits of financial aid and restoring correct levels of public funding.
    • Define hands-on and research learning that brings Duke-style intensity to public university students.
    • Build budgets that allow research and teaching to interact at all types of public colleges. This means transparency about research costs so that research activity can be increased.  
    Fewer people than ever will pay $60,000 or even $16,000 for a degree. But they will pay for real learning--if they understand its costs. 


    February 27, 2014 - 15:35
    AFSCME announced today that they had reached a tentative agreement with UC and that the strike planned for next week has been called off.  As you will see, this tentative agreement is the result of a long series of bargaining sessions and will be voted on soon by the AFSCME membership.  Negotiations between AFSCME and UC about the contract for Patient Care Technical Workers will continue next week.  I have copied the announcement below.


    Members Must Ratify 4 Year Agreement; Strike Scheduled for March 3-7 has
    been Cancelled; Bargaining with AFSCME 3299 Patient Care Technical
    Workers to Continue this week

    Oakland: The University of California and AFSCME 3299 have reached an
    historic, tentative, 4-year contract agreement for the system’s 8300
    Service Workers. As a result, next week’s scheduled strike by AFSCME
    3299 represented UC workers has been cancelled.

    For UC Service workers affected by the agreement—99% of whom are
    currently income eligible for some form of public assistance—the
    potential settlement includes 13.5% across the board wage increase (over
    4 years), affordable healthcare benefits for both current employees and
    retirees, and important new safe staffing protections—including limits
    on contracting out.

    “After more than a year of good faith bargaining, we have finally
    reached a historic agreement with UC that will pull thousands of its
    full-time employees out of poverty and begin to rectify staffing
    practices that needlessly put our members and the people they serve at
    risk,” said UC Service Worker and AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn
    Lybarger. “While this proposed settlement includes compromise on both
    sides, it honors the contributions that career service workers make to
    this institution, as well as UC’s responsibility to build ladders to the
    middle class. Our members are deeply grateful to the thousands of
    students, faculty, colleagues, elected officials, and everyday taxpayers
    who have stood with us, and stood for the principles of fairness and
    dignity that bind every member of the UC community.”

    While UC Service Workers have secured a tentative agreement, the 13,000
    UC Patient Care Technical Workers represented by AFSCME 3299 remain in
    bargaining with UC, with more sessions scheduled for later this week.
    The Patient Care Technical Unit had been scheduled to sympathy strike
    with Service Workers next week.

    “The Patient Care Unit has been engaged in good faith bargaining for
    more than 20 months—even longer than Service Workers—and like Service
    workers, has already given UC 80% of what it wants, including the
    university’s top priority of pension reform,” Lybarger added. “Having
    seen the unflinching resolve of our membership and the many thousands of
    Californians who support them, it is our hope that the spirit of
    compromise that UC finally brought to the table yesterday to reach a
    settlement with UC Service workers will continue in upcoming bargaining
    sessions with the Patient Care Technical Unit. If it does, we believe
    that an end to this unfortunate, protracted dispute may finally be
    within reach, and a new period of cooperation can begin."


    Dear Brothers and Sisters:

    We did it!

    Late last night, the Bargaining Time signed an historic, 4-year
    tentative contract agreement for UC Service Workers (SX) that meets all
    of our core demands on wages, staffing and job security.

    Accordingly, we have cancelled the system-wide strike that was scheduled
    for March 3-March 7th.

    Here is what UC Service Workers Have Won:

    Wages: 13.5% in ATBs; 2% steps in 2014, 2015, 2016; plus $200 signing bonus.

         4.5% ATB 60 days after ratification, plus $200 signing bonus
         3% ATB July 1, 2014 +2% step
         3% ATB Oct. 1, 2015 + 2% step
         3% ATB Oct. 1, 2016 +2% step
         Double Time Pay after 12 Hours

    Staffing: New Protections on Contracting Out, Seniority and Layoffs.

         Arbitration language to ensure UC cannot layoff SX employees due to
    contracting out

         Agreement that Service work at new UC facilities (UCSD/Jacobs
    Hospital, UCSF Mission Bay, and UCLA/Luskin Hotel and Conference Center)
    will be performed by AFSCME 3299 SX Unit

         Seniority in Layoffs, Transfers, Promotions, and Scheduling

         Temps must be laid off before career workers

    Healthcare Benefits and Retirement:

         1 Tier Pension
         Freeze on Kaiser and Healthnet Premiums for life of the Contract
         Current Employees Grandfathered into Old Rules on Retiree Healthcare
         Freeze on Kaiser Rates for Retirees during life of the Contract

    And NO PTO!

    Download the Victory flyer in ENGLISH, SPANISH, and CHINESE.  More
    information about member meetings and a ratification vote will be coming

    But we are not done yet.

    By standing firm these past twenty months, you made today’s historic
    victory possible. Now, we must keep up the pressure to ensure our
    brothers and sisters in the Patient Care Unit receive the same fair
    contract settlement.

    PCT Bargaining is scheduled for February 27th and 28th. And we are
    asking you to call Janet Napolitano at 510-987-9074, to remind her that
    AFSCME 3299 will not stop fighting until UC provides Patient Care
    workers the fair wage increases, staffing protections, and job security
    they deserve.

    Thank you for your continued strength and resolve.

    In Unity and Solidarity,    

    Is Higher Ed Privatization Helping to Destroy the Economic Future?

    February 22, 2014 - 16:46
    David Dayen has a provocative article at the New Republic on the effects of student debt on household formation.  Drawing on a range of studies, Dayen is able to show that the recent skyrocketing of student debt, combined with the continued depressed state of the economy and the job market, has led young people to put off the traditional American steps towards household formation and generational independence--particularly purchasing of housing.  Dayan makes clear what others have pointed out, that the rise in student debt is not only dismantling the future of recent and current students but is also producing an ongoing drag on the larger economy that will only lengthen the country's economic weakness.

    Actually, things are worse than Dayen suggests.

    Dayen draws particularly on two reports produced by the New York Fed (or related economists).  The first report reminds us that not only did outstanding student debt as "reported on credit reports" pass the one trillion dollar mark in 2013 but that it increased by $114 billion in that year.  Put in perspective, the increase in debt in 2013 alone was more than half the total student debt in 2000.

    The second report sharpens the issue however.  It makes clear that in recent years a significant shift in debtors' practices has taken place.  Before the recession, individuals with student debt were more likely to enter the housing and automobile debt markets (due to their greater confidence in their prospects) than were those who did not have student loans (primarily I think because they had not attended college).  But since 2008 that has reversed itself.  Individuals with student debt are now less likely than those without student debt to have longer-term credit investments.

    Now no one knows, exactly why this is.  It is likely a combination of factors.  As Dayen and the Fed researchers note, it is related to the collapsed job market, to the fact that it is harder for young people to get credit with tightened restrictions on individual borrowing (I guess that was instead of actually regulating Wall Street and the Banks) and because the increase in the size of student debt makes people less willing to take on other debt (quite sensibly).   But as with unemployment, underemployment, and lowered wages more generally, there are ripple effects that serve not only to hold back student debtors but the economy as a whole.

    Yet Dayen does not draw out the full implications of the data.  As do many, he points to the long-term rise in higher education tuition, drawing on data provided by Bloomberg.  In so doing, he accepts the undifferentiated chronology contained in the claim that tuition has risen by more than 500% since 1985 and thereby throws us back on the neo-liberal emphasis on the "cost-disease."  But if you look more closely at Bloomberg's data you will see that nearly 60% of that growth has occurred since the early 2000s--in other words since the beginning of the heyday of state disinvestment in higher education.

    Insofar as the dramatic increase in student debt is helping to undermine the future of the economy, the internal privatization of public higher education (the shift of burden from public investment to private debt) has played an important role.

    Oh, and just for the record: UC has not done that great a job on this issue despite its claims for its financial aid programs.  According to its own 2013 Accountability Report the average debt for UC student borrowers was just under $20,000.  According to Fed researchers the average student debt was just over $20,000.

    Can A Faculty Strike Break a Legislative Loop?

    February 18, 2014 - 17:47
    Out here in California, our Democrat-controlled state government has been busy repainting higher ed austerity as abundance. Last week's Legislative Analyst's Office reports form an interesting case in point.

    Appearing to be a rejection of Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown's college funding scheme, they assert the full adequacy of the current public funding base and call for inflation-capped funding augmentations that will come in large part from tuition increases.  The LAO does want higher ed segments to get a budget keyed to workload, which is an improvement on the governor's more Platonic approach to university funding. But the LAO folds in UC's unfunded students, accepts the current cost share between the general fund and student tuition, and sets up figures that will be impervious to current senior managemnt arguments for better funding.

    Meanwhile as Michael noted, the faculty at the University of Illinois-Chicago are going on strike today.  Reading through an explanation for the strike, I found at least one argument that would work better with state government that what most public universities are doing right now. 

    What are we doing now? We are in general broadly hinting that current state funding isn't enough. For example, in an interview with UC's President Janet Napolitano, the Chronicle of Higher Education's Eric Kelderman noted that California is on the "vanguard" of economic and demographic shifts towards low-income and first-generation students, and asked whether UC's post-cuts funding was enough to meet the needs of the state in the future.  Pres. Napolitano replied, "No. We have to be talking to the state about increases--increases in the right way" (3:13).

    Does this mean more than the 5 percent partial restoration of prior cuts that Gov. Brown has said is the upper bound? Pres. Napolitano didn't say.  UC has previously calculated that it needs annual 12 percent state restorations (see previous posts like  "Addressing the Austerity Lock-In at Public Universities," Jan. 2013) or "The Old State Funding Model is Dead: What Will Replace It?, Nov. 2013).  The Governor and legislative leaders have assured everyone that this will never happen. The current track is that UC will have climbed back to the same state general fund income in 2015-16 that it had ten years before, uncorrected for inflation and enrollment growth.

    But why should public universities get much faster state funding growth, exactly? What do public universities need more money to do?

    President Napolitano mentioned maintaining and building large capital facilities, keeping low tuition, and planning future enrollment growth.  (She did not mention faculty salaries and pension costs, for which I am very grateful.)   How do these needs play with state government?

    Enter on cue the LAO report, "Analysis of the Higher Education Budget," which is not to be confused with the no less attractively titled "A Review of State Budgetary Practices for UC and CSU" referenced by Dan Mitchell at the UCLA FA Blog.

    The LAO shows UC core funding as better than ever (Figure 1), up 10 percent over two years in a soft economy and in the midst of a tuition freeze.  The crucial calculation from the state point of view comes in Figure 2, below.  As you read it, bear in mind that the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recently calculated that the country's 468 "most selective" universities spend on average $13,400 per student per year on instruction (Part 2).

    The LAO tells us that even after massive state cuts, UC spends nearly $10,000 more per student than the "most selective" college average.  It also shows UC spending twice what CSU can spend per student, and four times what the community colleges spend.

    I am not saying these numbers are accurate: they no doubt greatly overstate how much money winds up in the classroom.  But as presented, the figures destroy any UC claim to inadequate funding. They also make a tacit case for giving new state money to CSU and CCC, since entry-level learners need more instructional resources if they are going to achieve the national goal of increased degree completion.  (The Georgetown report, Separate and Unequal, is a searing, unforgettable analysis of the economic and racial consequences of underfunding).

    The first element of a better public research university response would be that much of that money goes to support the core mission of basic research: in UC's case, that we are after all a research university.

    On this point, President Napolitano's major innovation has been the new slogan, "We teach for California. We research for the world." This has played well in the state: you may have noted the Sacramento Bee's enthusiasm for assurances that, in spite of a major shift towards the admission of non-resident students, UC is still in the business of educating Californians.

    But the second half of the statement implies that UC research should be supported not by the state but by rest of the world, since it's the world that mainly benefits.  This isn't true, and in fact the opposite of the new slogan is just as true: We increasingly teach the world, thanks to the pursuit of non-resident tuition, and we research for California--in ethnic studies and literary history as much as in agriculture and electrical engineering.  Our research is also tied to our  instruction, and is not a separate activity in which undergraduates have no role to play.  Were they separate, UC students should save half of their tuition by going to Cal State.

    We've often criticized insufficient support for research costs on this blog (e.g. Michael last month)--and the lack of transparency about them.   If the state doesn't understand the costs of research, it has no reason to pay them.  That is exactly what has been happening, as we can see clearly in a figure from a Public Policy Institute of California report that I discussed in 2012.  The numbers are different from the LAOs because this figure excludes tuition revenue.

    The state has plainly decided to fund UC, the research university, more like Cal State, a comprehensive, teaching-oriented university.  If the state doesn't need to help fund research, why shouldn't it cut per-student general funds to Cal State levels?

    To keep this convergence from continuing, UC needs to disaggregate and explain research costs.  These can indeed be justified, and we need to do this as a large-scale collaborative project.  UCOP will be formally required to present disaggregated expenses information to the state next year.

    While we are waiting for this to happen, we can also focus on instructional costs.  And here, Chicago is more helpful than Sacramento.

    Michael has linked an article about the UIC faculty strike by Lennard Davis and Walter Benn Michaels, and they start from the fact that UIC's student body is working-class and first-generation--that it is, in other words, a lot like UC's:
    Only about a third of our students come from families making over $60,000, and many of our students are from immigrant families, live at home, hold full- or part-time jobs, and even have children of their own. . . . [T]he UIC faculty and the UIC administration are completely united on the fact that we don’t think that the way to solve [retention and related academic] problems is by getting “stronger” (which is to say, richer) students. In fact, when we put together a “Strategic Thinking Report” back in 2005, we explicitly said we’re not looking to recruit “better” students; we want to do a better job of educating the students we have.The main goal of UIC strategy, then, is to increase educational quality--which any reader of this blog has undoubtedly noticed has become a national movement.   Profs. Davis and Michaels add, "The UIC faculty is committed to that mission. And the whole point of the strike is to help us fulfill it."

    What is the relationship between improved retention of lower-income students, educational quality, and a strike? At first it would seem wages as such: "The median salary of all faculty at UIC is about $65,000," they write, "less than what the average Chicago public school teacher makes.   But the deeper issue is working conditions that allow quality instruction: 
    Start with the retention problem. The biggest falling off is between the first and second years of college, so our administration is (rightly) concerned with the first year experience. What courses do first year students take? Who teaches those courses? Every entering UIC student takes at least one writing course; most take two. Not surprisingly, our writing courses are overwhelmingly taught by lecturers (i.e. non-tenure track faculty), on year-to-year contracts and paid a standard salary of $30,000. Furthermore, although the administration carries on endlessly about the importance of merit, they’re unwilling to mandate a promotion track for non-tenure track faculty, the whole point of which would be to reward merit.  So what exactly does it mean to insist on the importance of the first year experience and then pay the people most responsible for that experience a wage that virtually requires them to work a second job? What does it mean to claim you want to reward the best and the hardest working when you not only won’t promote them, but you won’t even provide a position they could in theory be promoted to? You’re short-changing both the faculty and the students.Public universities need new revenues to give students full-time faculty who can be more devoted to feedback, follow-through, advising, and the other forms of face-to-face contact that have been repeatedly shown to improve persistence and learning. They can get them from tuition hikes, which then deters and/or indebts exactly the most vulnerable students that they are trying to help. Or they can get these revenues from the state--on the grounds that a major upgrade in student learning--on a mass scale--is a public good that defends the future.

    UIC and UC are research universities that operate in a state political environment in which the Cold War research funding deals are completely finished, and where tuition hikes can and should be capped by the basic facts that public college students are poorer and more diverse and more indebted (and arguably more interesting, worldly, and engaged) than ever. This means that we all have to make the teaching and the research case in interconnected ways and at the same time.  I think we are up to this, and the UIC faculty are making arguments that can help us in California.

    UIC Faculty Go On Strike (UPDATED BELOW)

    February 18, 2014 - 10:11
    The Faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago have gone on a two-day strike to protest wage compression (for both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty) and also to draw attention to misplaced spending priorities at the University.  At UIC the median salary for tenure track faculty is $65,000 and the standard salary for non-tenure track faculty is $30,000 per year.  The Union at UIC is pressing the administration to allow larger and more regular salary increases for both categories of faculty.

    Just at the tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty are standing together, the strikers are also demonstrating solidarity with their students.  As Lenny Davis and Walter Benn Michaels note in a recent statement, UIC students tend to be poorer than their counterparts at related flagship campuses and face larger retention challenges. In order to improve their ability to stay in school students are required to take writing courses, writing courses are taught by lecturers and lecturers are not paid what is a sustainable wage (given the costs in Chicago).  By striking for 2 days the faculty have also ensured that they do not penalize their students.

    You can get more information at the union's SITE.


    You can read an interview with the Union President here

    And for more context of the strike in a longer perspective see here.

    FOR NEWS ON SECOND DAY see here.

    Beyond Program Closings, a More Significant Menace

    February 10, 2014 - 14:02
    by Philip E. Lewis, Vice-President
    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

    Let me try to set the stage for discussion of our announced topic, the cost of program mergers and closings. I first considered the topic closings when, three years ago, the immediate past president of the Mellon Foundation, Don Randel, asked me whether we should consider a grantmaking initiative in support of such traditional fields as German, Italian and Russian studies or specifically in support of teaching the German, Italian and Russian languages. The question arose in the wake of the 2010 MLA report on enrollments, which discussed long-term trends in the study of foreign languages essential to scholarship in the humanities. However, the impetus behind Don Randel's question was more particularly the foundation's concern with retrenchment in colleges and universities that were reacting to the Great Recession of 2008. The MLA report on enrollments barely reflected the moves toward retrenchment, if it did so at all. However, we had previously had occasion to discuss a June 2009 article by Scott Jaschik in IHE about troubles in the field of German, and early in 2010 we were already hearing about cuts in Title VI support of international studies and foreign language programs that Congress was contemplating.

    So the larger concern we proceeded to broach with people in various colleges and universities we work with was that the financial difficulties caused by the Great Recession of 2008 could have particularly severe effects on vulnerable academic programs or departments that were already plagued by relatively weak enrollments, a poor job market for Ph.D’s, sub-par resources for supporting a large corps of non-tenure-track language and writing instructors, and a great deal of facile public discourse about the need to connect undergraduate education to gainful employment. Over the next year or so, we came to the conclusion that it would not make sense to support those embattled traditional, commonly taught languages or other apparently imperiled humanities fields in the somewhat rarefied universe of institutions that Mellon serves. We undertook instead some discrete grantmaking related to areas studies and the less commonly taught languages.

    Since that moment three years ago, two additional factors—one general and one particular—have come into play. The general one is obviously the interest in online educational opportunities that extend far beyond the domain of for-profit institutions that offer career-oriented degrees. The new online thrust, focused on the design of online courses eligible for credit in non-profit institutions, further loosens the once largely unquestioned hold of traditional in-classroom delivery of instruction. The particular one, which is perhaps unique to Mellon’s liberal arts colleges program, stems from institutions seeking to join in collaborative arrangements for the teaching of Arabic; they can only afford to do it consortially, but at least they are trying to do it in response to strong student demand. This latter trend points toward a related factor—an incidence of program-creation that is greater than that of program-closing—that needs to be included in the context we are considering.

    All the factors I've noted--enrollment trends, the job market, the weak position of adjunct faculty, the shift of resources into professional programs, the growth of online instruction, and multi-institutional collaborations in Arabic language programs and often in Islamic Studies as well--contribute to a horizon toward which the topic of mergers and closings beckons, i.e., the effort pervading the whole of higher education to reduce costs by organizing the academic enterprise more efficiently or strategically.

    Now, given the structures that prevail in the stratified, marketized system of higher education that we have, which do limit the room to maneuver of the responsible administrations, it is not surprising that closing departments and programs and forcing mergers are frequently considered managerial options. I believe it is fair to say that the data we have on closings and mergers that have actually occurred over the past several decades is thin and that analytic work on the phenomenon is sorely needed. But with that caveat in place, given that the closings and mergers reported over the past five years are relatively spectacular because they turn out not to be all that numerous, and given that administrations do not seem to be rushing at every turn to pursue them, one can reasonably ask why they have not been used more frequently.

    At this juncture, the primary observation that I would make is that in classic institutions that would be in the upper quarter or third of the more than 4000 post-secondary institutions in the system, the most prominent effect of the department and program closings that have occurred in well established zones of their curricula has been to draw collective attention to the problems and risks we are facing. A closing or a merger typically results in serious intra-institutional discussions about what is at stake when operational changes are necessary and about how the integrity of an academic and scholarly mission can be preserved or undermined. So there have actually been benefits as well as costs, and one benefit of note has been the mobilization of programs at risk that need to renew and defend themselves. It’s not surprising that administrators hesitate to eliminate components of a curriculum and look for less visible means to make cuts.

    Can we nonetheless imagine a scenario that has not yet occurred in which the numbers of closings and mergers that dilute programs would escalate? Could there be a really damaging shakedown that would spread across hundreds of institutions? Such a cataclysm seems far less likely to me than a rather more common phenomenon, less dramatic than outright program closings, that is also far more widespread and harder to study than the shuttering of programs.

    The likelier scenario is what I would term shrinkage by attrition and reorganization, in which mergers--the folding of small departments or academic units into larger ones--would be a major device, but perhaps not the most significant one, which would be exemplified by the downsizing that occurs when faculty members retire and their positions are either eliminated or moved to another area of the academic enterprise. That process of resource reallocation is one that can occur with little fanfare. It is the natural result of the principle that allows the intra-institutional market, defined through the lenses of enrollment patterns or student demand, to dictate the ongoing reshaping of the academic structure (or perhaps one should say enterprise).

    My guess, which stems from a sense of the history and structure of the system, but which the data worshipers in our world would correctly say is not yet well supported, is that the cost of this subtle, incremental diminution of support for the language and literature, for the liberal arts and humanities, for education as a broad intellectual project is far greater than that of the visible closings and mergers we have witnessed up to now. (A broad perspective that resonates with mine is offered by Russell Berman in “The Real Language Crisis," Academe (September-October 2011.) It is important for us to be talking about how we can recognize and combat that larger and more nebulous trend even as we try to draw the appropriate lessons from such closings and mergers as have occurred.