CSUF Planning Committee deems Humanities “Esoteric”
“If degrees obviously lead to jobs in fields like healthcare, public administration and pre-legal training, science and engineering, research support, communications, business, pre-medical and dental training that can be seen as crucial to society, then we make our case. More esoteric offerings such as literature, philosophy, fine arts, and so forth will only be justified in the minds of the public as they are clearly related to practical concerns. The fact that these are traditional parts of comprehensive universities is no longer a strong enough argument to the public.”
1 President’s Planning Retreat
Jan. 20, 2010 Cal State Fullerton
As the president said in his invitation to this retreat “the difficult and protracted financial difficulties facing California make it impossible to believe in “business as usual” for the CSU as well as many other institutions. In the coming months we will have to make some hard choices about what is central to our mission and what is merely desirable.” He went on to remind us that „the eighth and last of our campus goals is to “strengthen institutional effectiveness, collegial governance and our sense of community”. To do this we agreed to:
VIII A. Assess university activities and programs to ensure that they fulfill our mission and to identify areas of needed improvement, change, or elimination.
VIII B. Create simplified and responsive decision-making structures that reduce fragmentation and increase efficiency.
VIII C. Strengthen shared collegial governance in order to build community and acknowledge our collective responsibility to achieve the University’s goals.
VIII D. Provide a good work environment with effective development and training programs that assist employees in meeting their job requirements and in preparing for advancement.
VIII E. Ensure our reward systems are compatible with our mission and goals by reviewing the multiple roles of faculty and staff through the various stages of their careers.
VIII F. Integrate advances in information and communication technologies into work environments.
VIII G. Enhance a sense of community to ensure that faculty, students, and staff have as a common purpose the achievement of the overall goals of the University.
In part this retreat emerged as a result of the fall joint meeting of the Academic Senate Executive Committee and the President’s Administrative Board. Although the topics of the day included many items, several related to vision and strategic planning, the opportunities for structural changes on campus (and how they might be collegiately effected), and a review of policies related to making University changes during this difficult time. So, while our campus planning typically involves the University Planning Committee (which includes the PAB, PRBC, college deans and external representatives), this time the President expanded the group to include all the members of the Academic Senate as well as department chairs and other appropriate administrators from each division He also expanded the group to include many students beyond the ASI board. 2
Finally he noted that “though we are in complex times we must approach the future carefully and thoughtfully. We have to answer questions like following:
In a comprehensive university how do we decide what is “core” and what is merely “desirable?”
What do we want to be like in 5-10 years?
What will students need from higher education in the years ahead?
What innovative approaches are other campuses doing?
What policies and processes need to be in place to make needed changes?
Do we need to restructure our organization in some ways to achieve our goals?
The following documents attempt to provide background material for the day’s discussion.
Strategic Planning, the Budget Crisis, and “Core” Activities
Imagine for a moment that you are the administrator responsible for the services and activities within a unit or office. You have decided to reduce support for some functions and eliminate others in order to preserve the core functions (activities/services) of the unit. You have been challenged to justify your decision. To what rationale would you turn to justify your decisions. The problem of discerning and appropriate rationale —the rules or guidelines—for which budgets to cut is rarely an easy one. Such a rationale might include factors such as:
scope of the offerings (the proportion of users that are served)
public benefit provided
relative efficiency and effectiveness of the operation
historical precedents for offering the activities/services
relative necessity of the activities/services for enabling other important services
popularity and competitive advantage that the services/activities offer when compared with other universities
how well the service/activity supports the mission and values of the campus
legal and/or regulatory requirements that the service/activity be offered
importance for accreditation
Earlier opportunities to think of strategic planning as planning for “what we want to do next”—in addition to what we are already doing—now looks bittersweet in light of the protracted economic downturn. Although we don’t like it very much, we are asking ourselves which activities we can stop doing (or do less of) in order to save resources and still be viable. If we are to decide what is marginal and what is central to our activities in such a way that we will have the will to cut at the margins, we must be sure that we have examined the issues from all important perspectives. It comes naturally to look from one‟s personal perspective of “what will this cut mean to me?” and from the perspective of “what will this cut do to my Division?” We could also make the decision by simply declaring that the things that we do best are our core and the things that we have had long-term difficulty with are at the margins. It is not likely that analyses from these perspectives would be sufficient or convincing to a jury of our peers. Yet other “big picture” perspectives on what is core are harder to acquire.
The Budget and State Governance Problem
The state of the State of California is part of the external context that explains why we must analyze our most essential services and activities. Since the importance of politics and the economy to determining essential services and activities cannot be overstressed. It may be worthwhile to examine features of California’s political and economic scene. There’s a growing consensus that state government in California is broken.1 What does this mean? First, it means that Mac Taylor, the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst, projects a budget gap for 2010 of $21 billion. This amount is larger than the entire spending on California’s prisons and higher education combined! So at a time when government spending should be expanded to stimulate the state economy it is forced to do the opposite.
1 California: the ungovernable state. The Economist, May 16th -22nd, 2009. pp 33-36 and Keynes in Reverse, Dec. 5-11, pp. 34-36.
The biggest part of the answer lies in why California, the richest and most populous state, has the worst bond rating and the worst ongoing budget deficit in the nation.
In the early 1900s the Southern Pacific Railroad tended to dominate California politics. Gov. Hiram Johnson led the charge for a greater direct democracy by introducing the ballot initiative to redress the balance. However, the 1970s—a decade of polarization and voter distrust—led to a state tax revolt with the passage of Proposition 13, which not only limited property taxes, but also greatly constrained sources of state revenues and how they could be spent. More recent initiatives have further constrained what state representatives can do. Term limits, predetermined allocations to K-12 education, mandated prison terms, and many other issues are often decided directly by voters. This “ballot box budgeting” continues to usurp a greater part of the budget leaving less and less discretion to state government. Generally the initiatives are funded by special interests of the
rich, or by unions; usually they are poorly worded, confusing and often lead voters to vote opposite to their intentions.
Budget passage requires both houses of the legislature to have a two thirds majority (this is true for only two other states). Taxation and budgets are determined separately (like twelve other states) and tax increases require a two thirds majority. No other states have both of these requirements.
Only a minority of Californians vote. Most voters tend to be older, white, and richer than the rest of the state’s population which is younger, of color, and poorer. Of those who vote, they have sorted themselves into highly partisan districts exaggerated by gerrymandering. As a result, elections are won in the primaries rather than in runoffs between the two parties. Thus, there is a tendency for extremists to be elected into office who have no incentive to be moderate or pragmatic.
Presently, because Republicans are in the minority, they have no budget influence until time to vote and then they have the power of the veto—thanks to the two thirds requirement.
Since any attempts to effectively modify or rewrite the state constitution and make state government effective will take years, public higher education is in a perilous situation. Moreover, anti-intellectual tendencies over the last decade have made it harder for many folks to see the value of large quantities of state revenue going to universities.
Market positioning for public higher education took little effort up until the above structural problems in the California State Government collided with the forces of recession. So in the long term our very future depends upon persuading the citizenry of its value to society while in the short run it requires making tough choices and downsizing. This means that the core activities identified must guide the reallocation of resources (including the repurposing of faculty/staff) toward those activities that will maximize the social mandate—the perceived return to the public—such as high level job preparation, community partnerships and services, and other near term benefits.2
2 Kaufman, Roger. Toward Determining Societal Value Added Criteria for Research and Comprehensive Universities, the center reports (March 2001).
While in the short term there is much doom and gloom about the state it must be remembered that even now California would rank as the eighth highest producing country in the world—if it were country area. California leads the nation in reducing energy consumption. As a nation comes out of their recession, California is likely to still be leading the way. 5
Sorting Out Core Activities
We can think of each of our core activities as having multiple dimensions:
Student/parent: An activity is core if it is crucial to recruiting and serving student aspirations and wellbeing. What do public universities offer potential students and their parents? They offer a stimulating and safe environment in which to finish maturing into adulthood with a broader world-view (knowledge and cosmopolitan values). They offer degrees and credentials to begin a professional life. They offer co-curricular activities that teach students about civic and cultural life, entertain them in off-hours and they offer medical, psychological, and social support for learning to function cooperatively in a stressful and complex world.
We can ask if students view a service or activity as essential to their wanting to matriculate, pay fees, participate broadly in the life of the University and graduate quickly. It is not “quality” and “excellence” in themselves that make public universities unique since private universities can sometimes do these even better (perhaps). It is the value-added at an exceptional price that distinguishes us. We can also ask how (from the standpoint of parents and students) does any given service rank with other options and opportunities? For example, since the career focus is so important to students and parents, does this service clearly support their primary needs.
External: An activity is core if it is crucial to making our value-added case to the community (partnerships with organizations, local governments and businesses), tax-payers, legislators and voters; it is core if it substantially strengthens our social mandate. Athletic and artistic events must be broadly appreciated. Likewise, research that doesn’t take great financial support must be seen as practical and valuable to the state. Degrees must produce a needed expert labor force to replace the gradually retiring largest workforce in our history. If degrees obviously lead to jobs in fields like healthcare, public administration and pre-legal training, science and engineering, research support, communications, business, pre-medical and dental training that can be seen as crucial to society, then we make our case. More esoteric offerings such as literature, philosophy, fine arts, and so forth will only be justified in the minds of the public as they are clearly related to practical concerns. The fact that these are traditional parts of comprehensive universities is no longer a strong enough argument to the public.
From the standpoint of the community how important is this service for community enrichment, increasing business and governmental productivity, or otherwise improving the lives of Californians? As we review the variety of our services/activities and attempt to determine what is “core” one set of concerns is political. In light of the California economic and political context, how warranted will it be perceived to be spending taxpayer and parent money on this service? How hard is it to make the case that this is 6
more important than putting the money into p-12 education, prisons, infrastructure, or back into the reduced salaries of other state employees?
Internal: An activity is core if it is crucial to maintain our organization. The activity is essential to efficiently and effectively maintaining the orderly activities of the campus or in enabling other core activities. Many business, training, development activities show themselves to be core because, without them, the campus could not function.
Only after the first two dimensions are addressed should we concern ourselves with how well the service meets internal needs and desires of campus personnel.
A final test of whether something is core, merely desirable, or marginal is to see how well it comports with our mission. Let’s look at our expressed core goals/values for a moment.
1. Ensure the preeminence of learning
2. Provide high quality programs
3. Enhance scholarly and creative activity
4. Make collaboration integral to everything we do
5. Create an environment where students have opportunities to succeed
6. Increase external support
7. Expand connections and partnerships
8. Strengthen institutional effectiveness collegiate governance and our sense of community.
Any core service/activity will surely address something in the Mission/Goals/Strategies document. However, deciding what is core, what is merely desirable, and what is of marginal value can only be partly done by justifying an activity based upon our goals, however. It is not enough for an activity to support the preeminence of learning; it must do so in such a way that it efficiently and effectively is supported by internal university processes, is attractive to students/ parents, and addresses the social mandate of the local community and state taxpayers. This is true for any university activity. The more clearly an activity supports a goal in all three dimensions, the easier it is to justify it as a core activity.
Previous Discussions about our Highest Priorities
The 2005 Campus Community Forum was devoted to the theme of planning for the future Cal State Fullerton workforce. Suggested improvements for the campus included:
Improving recruitment, mentoring, creating career paths, compensation and promoting our benefits package, diversity training, promoting the reputation of the campus and its departments, and enhancing our community and private sector relationships.
Greater support for research, staff recognition, grants and contracts, collegiality, and better public transportation (mass transit) to the campus were also discussed.
Enhancing the possibilities for telecommuting using laptop computers, better communication from campus leaders, fears about the common management system, the need for greater childcare support, more affordable housing, the need for a faculty staff club were also frequently mentioned.
In 2007 PRBC outlined the highest priorities in five categories: students, faculty, staff, and administration. These were identified based upon strategies included in our mission and goals document.
The highest priority student items were timely graduation through increased class availability, fee reductions, enhancing accessibility and attractiveness of the campus, a better learning environment, and high quality academic programs with a highly qualified and diverse staff and faculty.
For faculty the highest priorities were maintaining or reducing the student faculty ratio, increasing faculty support, recruiting and retaining qualified faculty, improving or enhancing continuing education and professional programs, and greater IT support and support for the library, support for alumni programs and finally better integrating scholarly and creative activity.
For staff the highest priorities were a high-quality attractive, accessible, and clean campus environment, better links between rewards and work, more participation in decision-making, effective work load management and retention programs, and more training and helpful technologies. Both faculty and staff ranked recruitment and retention of a highly qualified and diverse members among their ranks as the most important priority from among our strategies.
The administration priorities also included timely graduation and effective retention as well as recruiting and retaining highly qualified personnel. In addition the administration priorities included a balanced budget, effective information technology, a more effective communication system, strong collegial governance, and enhanced private giving.
Maintaining an attractive campus and recruiting and retaining highly qualified and diverse personnel were highly ranked across all groups.
An Historical View of Core Activities
What does the history of the university teach us about core issues? The core values of universities have gradually morphed several times during their thousand year history. A brief historical analysis of the changing social fabric of society and how it is shaped and was shaped by the institution called the “university” helps us to think about the significance of core activities and how to use them to the greatest effect. 8
The University was created in medieval Europe a millennia ago out of monastery and cathedral schools as a cultural institution of the Christian church and secondarily of the aristocracies of Europe.3 The earliest focus was upon theology and classical Latin—the language of the church and learned discourse. 4 The social mandate that created the early University was to prepare upper class young men for lives in the church or at court. In both cases it was about maintaining and promoting these institutions. At the level of the individual it provided a vehicle for obtaining the credentials to enter a career.
3 For instance in the universities of Bologna (1088) , Salamanca (1218), and especially Paris 1167, Oxford 1167, and Cambridge (1209). (Of course Middle Eastern higher education from Athens to Constantinople and eastward preceded the European University by 1000 years.
4 Some of the most famous professors of the medieval university include our Magnus , Thomas Aquinas, Peter Abelard, and Robert Grosseteste.
5 Bartolo da Sassoferrato, Andrea Alciato, Andreas Vesalius, Galileo Galilei, and Martin Luther are among the most famous professors prior to the enlightenment.
During the enlightenment, the focus shifted to a more secular curriculum in Halle, Oxford, Cambridge, and then Harvard, Columbia (then called Kings College), Princeton and hundreds of other universities. The “trivium” (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the “quadrivium” (geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy)—the liberal arts that traced back to classical Greece—were gradually disconnected from theology and moved toward natural history and humanism accelerated.5
Although the earliest American universities continued to have a religious orientation, even three hundred years ago the spirit of the enlightenment had progressively shifted thought towards a secular and especially to a nationalistic orientation. To be seen as worthy of support universities had to advance the practical purposes of the nation state through a new focus on statecraft, public administration, medicine, and the law. The focus upon ancient languages and history in the early enlightenment shifted quickly to the natural sciences, mathematics, and philosophy. The focus upon Christian goodness gives way to the goal of ethics and citizenship (or virtue in the service of society). Today we would say that the core values that emerged for the University became service to the nation-state on the public side, and knowledge, culture, and professional credentials on the private side.
The idea of the university pulled in two directions as it copied the innovations of Halle and the École Polytechnique on one hand and Berlin on the other. Halle and the École Polytechnique progressively focused upon practical matters of the state while the University of Berlin focused upon “pure knowledge” through the intellectual realization of disciplines. These two divergent views lived in an uneasy balance into the 20th century and the move to practicality continued with the emphasis on the arts of agriculture, mining, business, engineering, and other applied sciences. 9
By the beginning of the 20th century service to the nation, promoting citizenship, and progressively differentiating academic disciplines—as well as producing professionals—was taken for granted as the purpose of higher education. At the end of WWII state supported universities prepared students not only for science and the arts, but for a wide variety of occupations. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (known as the G.I. Bill) became a broad education endeavor for 5.8 million veterans and then afterwards for their children. By the late 1960s, higher education enrollment had grown exponentially when compared with that of the pre-war period.
The discipline/department structure of universities, as it had evolved from the late 19th century, proved useful and was maintained. The assumptions and focus of each discipline allow for an intensive professional conversation within the discipline. Abstracting and focusing upon a few aspects of reality—as a discipline—makes it possible to reduce complexity and offer a hope of clarity Yet at the same time each discipline‟s unique assumptions, focus, and terminology, do not lend themselves to easy understanding and usefulness by those outside. There is even a tendency for each discipline to see itself as unique and exempt from public demands; as its experts become progressively more specialized, practical concerns are often marginalized. The life of the intellect and the thinking of gifted individuals becomes an end in itself.
This disciplinary approach to knowledge has shaped general education for over a century now, but it is not without its problems. The study of a smorgasbord collection of brilliant ideas from a variety of unrelated disciplines does not promote a coherent or “general” worldview for many students. In spite of the fact that there is little social mandate for the “Ivory Tower,” the autonomy of disciplines sometimes works against a broader base of social support—since most big problems are interdisciplinary. It is unclear if new social purposes (such as overcoming global warming, creating a self-sustaining civilization, ensuring equality, overcoming the disparity between so-called third world and first world countries, and the acceleration in scientific and technological knowledge) will guide the evolution of the University.
The increasing force of digital technologies on the way we live and work is often mentioned as a game changer to higher education.6 Even so the classroom-based pedagogies of the last century remain in place with only modest enhancements. Self-directed learning, new learning environments, and problem-based pedagogy, may come together to shape a new learning industry (with or without university participation).7
6 Noam, Eli M. Electronics and the Dim Future of the University, Science, Vol. 270 pp-247-249, 1995
7 Providing larger classes along with extensive small group projects, three years bachelor‟s degrees for those who are prepared for accelerated learning, extensive use of course management software, and distance education, are surely only a start. 10
The social mandate has begun to shift once again. International markets and economic growth are often seen as more important than political interests. Likewise, international trade is often seen by society as a vehicle for producing international peace, while at the same time the individual pursuit of wealth is seen not simply as a personal good, but as a way to democratize prosperity. So international corporations, the European economic Union, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international trade groups have become an organizing principle for society and are once again reshaping the nature of universities. The pursuit of individual personal gain and corporate earnings (using graduates to serve the global economy) has moved the focus away from serving the nation and, although it is true that educated people tend to pay more taxes, this somehow does not offset the apparent disconnect of public funding for private purposes in the minds of many citizens.
Nowhere is this new incarnation more obvious than in universities such as the University of Phoenix where education has become a commodity based upon the economic power of mass customization—programs are tailored around the current needs of adult students seeking to quickly enter or advance in professions. Students become “consumers” and the University becomes a “producer”—they are organized around the demand for and supply of university degrees. Developing the mind, the human spirit, citizenship, and aesthetic taste become incidental. In part this comes about because of a shift from an industrial economic base to the knowledge economy where knowledge becomes “human capital.” Not surprising, programs that do not have direct relationships to careers often do less well at attracting majors. In this new context, traditional universities are at a disadvantage since their multiplex purposes are costly when compared with the kind of singularity of vision (and perceived practicality) represented by such mass-market universities.
In summary, the social construction of the University over the last thousand years is anything but fixed. The institution that was the medieval university dramatically changed in the secular eras that followed. The shift from meeting church needs to meeting the practical needs of the nation-state was as tremendous as was the shift from Aristotelian science to modern science. The disconnect between universities like state universities that provided qualified citizens and professionals to support the nation after World War II and the emerging global capitalist orientation may be just as great a shift.
Still another shift may be emerging. Addressing global issues is just on the horizon as a purpose for universities. The less than adequate link between consumption and happiness, between career and personal meaning might likewise be taken up. Similarly the lack of a link between disciplinary knowledge, moral judgment, sustainability, and autonomous practice generally is becoming evident and could be taken up as a university purpose.
There is no El Camino Real to a positive future for public universities. Culture once used the university to transform religious fanaticism by prompting a change to a focus on the nation state. National fanaticism helped prompt university reorganization toward corporate and 11
personal economic interests using the university as an instrument. Finally economic and environmental fiascoes are beginning to prompt new organizing principles around sustainability and social cohesion.
The history of the University teaches us a hard lesson. Since the mandate for higher education is both public and private, it places the public university in a risky position. So long as funding is publicly based, the individual students‟ justification is less important than the perceived short-term payoff to the taxpayers and voters. Private institutions can train people for any type of personal edification—whether for society’s benefit or not. Public universities no longer have this luxury. Like it or not they must base their core values and activities on obvious social benefits and only secondarily cater to the aspirations and motivations of individuals. This is a very disorienting state of affairs for those of us not used to having to subordinate education to external demands.
2. Has Joseph Schumpeter’s “Economics of Creative Destruction” Come to the University?
The circumstances under which the CSU generally and Cal state Fullerton in particular grew and thrived have changed in so many ways. Suburban Orange County is now almost entirely urban. The forward-looking through a system becomes a virtual parking lot—sometimes twice a day. The cost of higher education had grown much faster than incomes. Digital technologies have partly reshaped the way research and teaching are conducted and the social behavior of students. State revenue is decimated by the protracted economic downturn. The CSU not only struggles with a diminished state budget but also against competing interests such as the growing costs of the prison system.
Even though our circumstances have changed, education remains one of the most labor-intensive services in the economy. While business technologies have continuously improved the efficiency of most services and reduced the cost of most products, this is not true for higher education. In spite of gradual improvements no breakthroughs in pedagogy have emerged to revolutionize our efficiency or effectiveness. The public has come to expect better services even as they resist paying more taxes and higher student fees. Not-for-profit universities (with much more limited and less expensive “business models”) are intruding upon the space once occupied only by the community colleges and the Cal State system. As online courses become popular the public asks if instruction can be made less expensive. Although students desire the traditional University experiences of co-curricular activities such as sports, theater, and recreation together with specialized 12
services such as medical care and extensive libraries access, these are the high cost services and activities that are avoided by competitors to the CSU.
Joseph Schumpeter, an economist from earlier in the 20th century popularized the notion of creative destruction to explain how innovation transforms businesses, helps create business cycles, and is the force that sustains long-term economic growth. New businesses succeed by making the products of older businesses obsolete, Schumpeter argued. For example, in the 1950s the Xerox Corporation revolutionized photocopying and Polaroid revolutionized instant photography. Digital copying and photography of come to replace both. The older companies were forced to radically change their products or go broke. Their dominance was destroyed by rivals with new designs for businesses and products. Similarly, in the 1960s the record player was replaced by the eight track, then by the cassette tape in the 1970s, then by the compact disc in the 1980s and has been undercut by MP3 players and other technologies in more recent years. Department stores like Montgomery Ward and Woolworth’s were replaced by innovative competitors such as Wal-Mart. Perhaps online shopping will obsolete Wal-Mart next? As a final example, the traditional newspaper may be on its last legs as online free newspapers sites such as the Huffington Post, the National Review and many more have used new advertising and business models to successfully compete. This is the process of creative destruction that continually improves productivity and technology while at the same time making workers obsolete, creating layoffs on the one hand and on the other creating opportunities for newly trained workers in new productive enterprises.. Companies that cannot compete —as well as workers who cannot acquire the right training and experience to keep up—experience great hardship.
California newspapers not only decry the cutbacks in admissions to higher education but also describe a bleak assessment of its future. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, a think tank in San Francisco, over 40% of the jobs in California will require college degrees in 15 years, but only 35% of Californians will have graduated from college—a shortage of about one million college educated workers. A state like California with a high cost of living must grow its own scientists and engineers to remain competitive. A less educated workforce would make the state less attractive to business. Less business means less tax revenue. Less educated workers make less money which means less tax revenue. Less educated workers create a greater demand for social services which require greater tax revenue. This is a poor prospect, indeed. Moreover, a predictable tax structure that puts schools through boom and bust cycles—together with higher dropout rates and reduced higher education access—can lead to only one result. The result is an economic climate where higher funding for higher education does not resonate with California tax payers. The US is the only industrialized country where the younger generations are less educated than their elders. And this is the first time in our history this happened.
Already the enrollment at the University of Phoenix is greater than that of the CSU. Could the not-for-profit universities end up replacing us? It’s hard to say—even over the long 13
run. Currently, their focus is upon more mature students who are also more capable of paying higher tuition and fees. Without the vast infrastructure, the wide variety of programs and services that the CSU offers at a lower price, they cannot currently compete. To the extent that the public comes to see higher education more and more as merely professional job training, however, our array of offerings and services may matter less and less.
The community colleges—frustrated with the CSU’s current inability to admit their graduates—are now proposing that they offer undergraduate degrees in direct competition with the CSU. Because they do not offer the extensive range of programs nor require the extensive research and creative expertise that the CSU does, and because they do not demand ongoing research and creative activity, they can require faculty to teach more courses per year. The higher quality that results from instruction by those with PhD’s who practice research and creative activities does not seem very important too much of the public when compared with a higher cost. So now the community colleges as well as the not-for-profit universities make State University funding models seem obsolete.
The advice of many business advisors is as follows: when faced with new forms of competition in a time of economic downturn, downsize as quickly as possible in order to free up resources that can then be reinvested to create a new competitive advantage, avoid obsolescence while avoiding being on the negative side of creative destruction. Of course universities are complex organizations with many differences from corporations, but to the extent that they are alike, we need to consider the consequences of losing our competitive advantage.
3. Reform in Higher Education
As we attempt to envision a want to be like in five years and beyond, it may be useful to consider what reforms of higher education are being called for both nationally and in California.
Robert Zemsky and George Keller are perhaps the most recognized names in higher education planning. But where Keller’s last book focuses primarily up on lamenting the way in which change has taken place, Zemsky‟s latest book examines the culture in which lamenting itself takes place.
Zemsky—who was a member—tells about the history of the Spellings Commission and its desire to federalize accreditation.8 The Commission showed no interest in the research and
8 The “Spellings Report made controversy of claims about the shortcomings of higher education. This report argued that accountability, quality and transparency coupled with changing technology and the changing structure and globalization of higher education requires a transformation education. Among other findings the report called for plans for cost-cutting, 14
cost-containment, and productivity improvements to make higher education more affordable. It also calls for greater transparency and accountability arguing that the University data was too limited and inadequate lacked comparability between institutions. The report argued that accreditation processes and standards were inadequate for public accountability and that a culture of innovation was lacking as well. Finally, they asserted that universities must become able to respond faster to rapidly changing circumstances in order to deal with the powerful forces a change now facing us.
discovery function of the University nor in finding better ways for teaching and learning to occur, Zemsky notes. Rather the Commission‟s interest was simply how to use testing to hold universities accountable and then blame them for their shortcomings, he argues. If the blame game reached its zenith with the Spellings Report then lamenting, Zemsky suggests, became loudest when John Merrow and Richard Hersh” in a 2005 PBS documentary Declining by Degrees, Higher Education at Risk “were blunt about what they sought: the “crown jewel of our[educational] system restored to its former glory.” Similarly, for Patrick Callan, as head of the National Center on Public Policy and Higher Education [perhaps most famous for the report Measuring Up 2002: a National Report Card on Higher Education] “it was a time to return to a California of yesteryear—largely public, largely free, largely accessible to everyone, though with different options for people with differing levels of academic preparation.”
Zemsky recounts the history of many reform movements in higher education that have “gone nowhere.” While higher education traditionalists argue that reform is not needed and while reformers brand universities as “Teflon coated enterprises” the public seems to consider the issues beyond their understanding or interest.
“Much of the story of reform in higher education has been written by the exhorters who challenged us to do better while at the same time suggesting that they know exactly what “doing better” entails. Often the best known exhorters have been university presidents—Charles Eliot of Harvard, Robert Maynard Hutchins of the University of Chicago, and Clark Kerr of the University of California come readily to mind. More recently, higher education’s leading exhorters have come from organizations that promote improvement. Russ Edgerton as president of the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) and Lee Shulman as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching are good examples. Whether institutional leader or organizational promoter, however, each of these exhorters has led by example as well as precept 15
and in the process has significantly altered the development of the nation’s colleges and universities…”9
9 Zemsky, Robert. Making Reform Work: the case for transforming American higher education, Rutgers University Press New Jersey 2009, p. 22.
10 Zull, James E. The Art of Changing the Brain: enriching teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Stylus Pub.,Sterling, Virginia, 2002.
“Will the American system of higher and postsecondary education provide the same competitive advantage in the future that it has in the past?” Zemsky asks. What would constitute a viable strategy for change in higher education and where is change needed? He argues that true change is a process and not the result of a Commission. It is a multiyear—even decade-long—activity that is disciplined and focused, the demand must be internal and its success depends on “truly systemic change” in higher education generally. He argues that only some “dislodging” event” of sufficient magnitude that all colleges and universities would have to respond would be sufficient to create large-scale change.
Zemsky three areas where universities misunderstand their circumstances.
Our interests are not “global” but rather “international”. A global company (e.g., Toyota) standardizes so that place doesn‟t matter—for colleges, place does matter, often international efforts subsidize the home campus. Here is an area where Phoenix can compete—their classes are standardized, not under the control of individual faculty, they don‟t build loyalty to a place but offer efficient and standard classes
Technology hasn‟t revolutionized teaching or learning…yet. We haven’t created the “stickiness” in our web sites like Amazon has. Learning management systems such as Blackboard have lots of data about the student, but they don’t utilize it to suggest classes based on preferences, learning styles, etc. Moreover, instructional technology will have to be redesigned into curriculum modules, in order to create flexibility. And technology will come of age when faculty differentiate into “design faculty” and “student based faculty”—both committed to a curriculum that is technology enhanced.
We must also take advantage of neuroscience‟s growing ability to show how learning occurs.10 Faculty need to stop talking only about curriculum and talk instead about the purpose of higher education and what the curriculum should be trying to accomplish; then they could better focus on means and methods. He cites learning axioms from—how to build the networks necessary for learning instead of reinforcing previous pathways.
Intermittent CSU strategic plans are promulgated with the expectation that they will be promoted at the campus level. For example, in 1998, the plan, called Cornerstones, articulated 16
five commitments to the following: student access; learning-centered education; outcomes-based education; funding stability; and accountability. A new plan was completed in May 2008 called Access to Excellence. Within this plan, the CSU reaffirmed the commitments of Cornerstones while turning its attention to areas that have changed. These include population growth and demographic alterations, such as an aging population and greater diversity, changing technologies, a reduced workforce, projected budget shortfalls and continued reductions in state support for the CSU. The report identifies further trends toward a knowledge economy and internationalization requiring new aspects of education if the state and the country are to remain competitive. Greater proportions of the workforce need access to postsecondary education, while at the same time, we are seeing stagnant or lowered levels of educational attainment. (Underrepresented groups such as Latinos/Latinas will make up an increasing part of enrollment and yet the proportion of California‟s African-American and Latino students qualified for enrollment is the lowest in the United States.) It is projected that California must nearly double the number of degrees attained in next 15 years in order to close degree attainment gaps and meet workforce needs. In short, the master plan needs to be modified to create greater capacity and access to higher education to ensure an educated citizenry capable of responsible democratic engagement, service and leadership in an ever more populous state. Over the last few months many have argued that the master plan is been dismantled as a result of the great recession and a weakened social mandate for higher education.
Two recently released books suggest how marketplace forces are playing a progressively greater role in determining the future of higher education. As Jack H. Schuster and Martin J. Finkelstein wrote in The American Faculty treating academia like a business is a “major ideological and philosophical shift in how society views higher education.” Louis Menand has recently argued that the traditional split between liberal education and professional education is wrongheaded since it not only marginalizes the humanities, but promotes an unwarranted sense of irrelevance.11 In the hopes of putting public universities on a solid financial footing James C. Garland argues that government subsidies should be ended altogether and thus allowing supply and demand to rule higher education . For students to be supported by both federal and state aid to individuals—something like a voucher system.12 As Patricia Cohen noted in her review of these books in the New York Times (Sunday, January 3, 2010) “what both of these books and a shelf of others share is an urgent sense of crisis. Radical changes in technology, financing, demographics and purpose have so strain the system at the rivets holding it together are about to burst. We ask our universities to do a lot: to meet practical needs and to ponder the nature of
11 Menand, Lewis. The Marketplace of Ideas: reform and reaction in the American University. WW Norton & Co., 2010.
12 Garland, James C. Saving Alma Mater: a rescue plan for Americans public universities. University of Chicago press, 2009 17
existence, to cherish eternal truths and to challenge them, without figuring out how to pay for it all.” The debates about reform in higher education seem to be accelerating.
4. The Debate about Books, Digital Media and Learning
Some 10,000 years ago humans started learning how to move their eyes over linear arrangements of peculiar shaped dots on a page in such a way as to create vivid experiences and transfer information. This fiendishly complex set of computations known as reading are still having revolutionary consequences for education.
Digital technology is shaping higher education in many ways. Perhaps the most obvious is that we have more information at our fingertips. Smart phones, information search engines, inexpensive laptops and other appliances such as electronic book readers all streamline finding information, Mash-up technologies allow students to combine software packages can customize ways. (For example, online maps can be combined with e-mail programs or with demographic information to produce new instructional interfaces.) Classroom environments are becoming more interactive and thus dynamic. Students can use handheld devices to interact with professors; multimedia can be downloaded to the classroom; virtual laboratory simulators allow students to perform exercises anywhere at anytime without having to purchase expensive computers and software. Touch enabled whiteboards allow students to get up out of their seats and manipulate pictures, diagrams, and data.
Social media are a special outcome of digital innovation. Social media have moved far beyond e-mail and the Internet. Facebook, blogs, and twitter enable a grassroots conversation that is growing and moving faster than higher education management can react. Social media are obviously excellent for publicizing University events, showcasing student and faculty activities, producing nontraditional media and posting it on YouTube, and perhaps for holding Facebook office hours. They are clearly a collaborative technology. Using the cloud concept the CSU could create a CSU wide portal allowing system-wide services. Likewise, virtualization allows for simulations as well as Second Life kinds of virtualization’s. Virtual labs could replace physical labs in some cases. To the extent that we desire, we could create an Amazon like interface where students use shopping carts to select courses while observing the ratings presented by other students.
Yet even as these innovations spread both students and faculty complain about the growing cost of traditional textbooks. Publishers decry the cost of producing high-quality textbooks and seem to be only able to make a profit by making new but modestly changed editions that make the resale texts obsolete. It is common nowadays for a student‟s textbooks to cost $1500 per year or more. Electronic textbooks (e-textbooks) are not usually perceived as 18
easy to use and restrictions on them are often cumbersome. Still, webpage based books make delivery more efficient and allow many multimedia and other links. Of course, the utility of such e-texts varies with the course topic. Sometimes the self-tutoring aspects of self assessment quizzes are effective (as in math classes where they create a degree of individualized help not possible for faculty with large classes). In courses where technical information changes annually, textbooks can be made more timely since paper texts often are out of date even on the day they are published. Moreover, feedback from other professionals and textbook users can allow for rapid changes to the text. Although there are many problems with reaching the point where e-textbooks are easily accessible, printable, and affordable, improvements are rapid. Finally, in the age of ever greater accountability, there’s a hope that e-books could improve student outcomes while offering the possibility of standardizing the measurement of student performance.
Another intriguing example of technology influencing higher education is “wiki-nomics.” Just as Wikipedia created a free encyclopedia that can be constantly and voluntarily updated by experts anywhere, a variety of learning materials are being created and updated by consortiums of experts volunteering to produce knowledge and information. MIT‟s OpenCourseWare and Wikiversity created by the Wikimedia Foundation are two examples.
Although distance education does not have the long history of traditional teaching, there is considerable evidence to show that the current level of online instruction is not significantly different in its effectiveness from the traditional one—at least in places where the sense of touch, smell, and taste are not necessary. As distance education gets more mature its focus is less upon learning to use technologies and more about teaching and learning. (Quality in online instruction becomes an issue when attempts are made to transfer classroom instruction to online without the proper understanding of the differences in learning methods that apply to each.) Distance learning requires a student-centered approach and it may work better for students that are more self disciplined. However, all types of media are available at the user’s fingertips and make it possible to facilitate student engagement in ways that the regular classroom cannot. Although many lab or other performance-based courses would be difficult online, the CSUF Nursing department is now using “Virtual Patients” for some of its clinical training. To determine whether material is a good candidate for distance education one needs to think carefully about where and why real time, physical presence is required.
Since distance education is digital and asynchronous, it allows for students to take course work any place and at anytime. Some students are now even taking courses from mobile phone devices using modern 3G networks. Many types of students who could not otherwise get an education or an advanced degree can do so now. Those who work full-time and cannot attend scheduled classes, those who have small children or are responsible for care of an ill relative or are ill themselves and can only complete coursework during small windows of time or at unusual hours are candidates for distance education. Online is convenient, green, and has no geographic or temporal boundaries. Access may be its greatest advantage. 19
Institutions that are the most successful with distance education have a University-wide rather than college or department level of support. While faculty development programs are excellent ways to start, having a campus-wide instructional design studio is necessary (including excellent support for faculty in online teaching methodology, course development and technical support, as well as support for students to meet out of class needs). All necessary services available to on-campus students must be available to online students (with no requirement for them to come to campus). Since many services such as use of the health center are not available for these programs, it would be helpful to have a different fee structure that would make them more competitive with private distance education programs. Moreover, faculty incentives should be part of the funding formula.
On our campus distance education development has been left to individual faculty using the Faculty Development Center while an extensive campus-wide strategy to exploit the technology has not been developed. Recruiting students to online courses and developing unique fee structures are needed. In addition hybrid courses do not take full advantage of distance education’s ability to avoid using classroom space. Ultimately, considerable online enrollment would allow us to achieve FTES targets while relying on less use of campus facilities, energy and especially parking.
We often read about exceed concerns as to what these technologies may be doing to student learning habits and expectations. “For today’s younger people, Google is more likely to provide a formative cultural experience than The Catcher on the Rye or Catch 22 or even the Harry Potter novels. Tyler Cowen argues.”13
13 Cowen, Tyler. Three Tweets for the Web, The Wilson Quarterly, Volume 33, No. 4, Autumn 2009.,
Reading a book requires that we be able to follow a writer on a journey of some sustained intensity. This may challenge our natural fluctuating impulses of frustration, excitement, satisfaction, and boredom. In past decades—before the Internet—we were invited to acquire the skills to do sustained reading, critical interpretation, and sometimes even a critical synthesis of multiple sources. Though this may not have been a joy for many students—for some part of the educated public —it became edifying and promoted further learning. Yet even in the 1960s Daniel Boorstin and others expressed grave concern over a culture that was becoming image- saturated. They wondered if TV and advertising would distort people’s sense of judgment, making it difficult to distinguish the problems of life from the effects of mass media were we becoming viewers and voyeuristic participants in an egotistic and solipsistic world? .
Now, as the Internet matured at the beginning of the 21st century, we’ve seen social text, reality TV, and other social media do more than provide wonderfully culturally and personally transformative and democratic opportunities. A screen intensive culture may lead to a public so use to distraction, consumerism, sensation seeking, online self-referencing (“OMG I just bought the shoes on sale”), and above all attention seeking , that critical thinking—let alone critical 20
reading—is marginalized forever. In the past the book was a one-time purchase to be consumed in privacy; it is now often electronic and linked not only to other information but to other possible books, magazines, and products advertised endlessly. This becomes yet one more way that electronic culture makes constant and elaborate demands for attention.
We participate in the public discourse less and less and are happy to be observers participating only second hand. Nowadays, conceptions of reading to unlock our imaginations, to place ourselves in the singular viewpoints of authors, to see new ways of understanding ourselves and our place in humanity— these seem quaint to many. In an age of “information overload, titillating imagery, and text messaging, replace reading serious fiction, let alone essays. The text book may be doomed for reasons other than high cost.
But is this really a new evaluation prompted by a totally new digital world? Nearly 200 years ago Samuel Coleridge observed, “the great majority of men live like bats, but in twilight, and feel the philosophy of their age only by its reflections and refractions.” The invention alphabetic writing, the scroll, and then of f-set movable type (together with the invention of the steam powered and then rotary press a few hundred years later) certainly changed the concept of the manuscript and opened human experience in remarkable ways. The British Library in 1800 held nearly 50,000 volumes and over 4 million items one hundred years later; in the year 2000 it contained something like 150 million items. The expansion of printed material caused many to decry pulp fiction one hundred years ago. Online customized printing through the web, the digitizing of many thousands of out of copyright books, and now the electronic book are challenging the future of the publishing industry and challenging the intellectual landscape in new ways.
While many worry about the loss of traditional reading skills, others point out that every new cultural medium suggests cultural collapse to some. Students are gaining new skills through web research, absorbing information from a variety of sources very quickly, overcoming information overload by learning to filter out unwanted information. Today’s students seem especially interested in collaborative learning and social media may be enhancing the skill. The argument as to the positive and negative effects of this digital age on learning will surely continue throughout the next decade. 21
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