Blaise Pascal, Penseé 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Academic Senate Meeting: February 13, 2012, Part 1

Craig Bernthal

            I am forced to report on tonight’s Academic Senate meeting in at least two sections, awaiting publication of a document read to the Senate by Chair, Michael Caldwell. Caldwell’s statement was a history of the formation and operation of the Budget Task Force, and, though written beforehand, was offered in response to this question, by me:

            Was John Constable [chair of the University Budget Committee] or anyone else on the Budget Task Force told to keep information considered by the Task Force or the deliberations of the Task Force confidential to any degree?

            The short answer to this question, from Provost Covino, was “No,” but I will discuss his full answer at length after I can pass on Caldwell’s prepared statement.

            Michael Caldwell has promised to get me his history by email, and I have emailed him, asking for a copy, so that he can attach it in prompt reply. He also promised to post the statement to the Senate website. When I get that statement, I will pass it on in this blog. The history Caldwell offers opens a number of new issues, especially with regard to the breadth of the charge to the Budget Task Force, which went way beyond just considering the budget.

Most of the Senate meeting was taken up in discussion of one of two motions introduced by Chris Henson, English. These also demand discussion, and I will address them within the next several days. 

Here are Chris’s two motions, color coded for easy distinction. The first, requesting a state audit of Fresno State, was discussed extensively, but not to conclusion. The motion regarding cohort hiring is on the Senate agenda for discussion at the next meeting. (I have had some trouble matching format, so please bear with any mistakes.)

Academic Senate Resolution on the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Task Force Report and Revised Recommendations

Presented by the Academic Senators from English:  Chris Henson and Alex Espinoza

Whereas:  California State University, Fresno currently faces a base budget gap of $900,000-1.2 million for the academic year 2011-2012 and  the possibility of an additional $11 million cut for the academic year 2012-13; and

Whereas:  Contrary to well-established University policies on consultative procedures, the Provost did not consult with the University Budget Committee of the Academic
Senate on how the University will make the cuts necessary and instead created
an ad hoc committee, the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Task Force (AABATF)
“to recommend sustainable approaches to closing this base budget gap”; and

Whereas:  The AABATF did not communicate during its deliberations with the University Budget Committee; and

Whereas:  Neither set of recommendations produced by the AABATF provides a financial rationale for the recommendations made; and

Whereas:  Both sets of recommendations are restricted to cuts at the College/School level and below and do not recommend cuts in other areas of Academic Affairs nor do they
address cuts in the portion of the University budget outside of Academic Affairs;

Whereas:  The cuts which have been recommended would have severe impact on students and faculty and the University’s core mission of teaching and research; and

Whereas:  In trying to evaluate the AABATF recommendations and plan for the current budget cutback and the possible cutbacks to come, faculty must have full, accurate, and
documented information about the budget plan for the current year, the actual
expenditures over the past two to three years, and the actual expenditures to this
point this year; and

Whereas:  Repeated efforts on the part of the Academic Senate and the faculty at large to
obtain information concerning the 2010-11 and 2011-12 University budgets, the
budget information on which the AABATF  recommendations are based,  and the
basis for the cost savings estimated in those recommendations have been met with
resistance on the part of the  CSUF administration, thwarting the faculty’s right
to consultation and putting the proper administration of public policy in peril;
therefore be it

Resolved:  That the Academic Senate of California State University, Fresno, request an
                  audit by the California State Auditor; and be it further

Resolved:  That such an audit should include but not be limited to the following:
 --the allocation of general funds to all units of the University, academic and
non-academic; the percentage of cuts made to those allocations as a result of    budget cutbacks; and any increases in any part of the University budget during a time of  budget cutbacks and the justification for those increases;
              --the existence and disbursement of any carry-forward funds from the preceding
                      two years;
              --the existence and disbursement of any reserve funds;
              --funding and increases in funding to special programs, initiatives, or centers
              during a time of budget cutbacks;
               --evaluation of the projected savings in the AABATF recommendations;
               --the amount of revenue obtained from student fees; the ways in which
                that revenue is allocated; any portion of those revenues being held by
                any unit of the University; and the intended use for student fee revenues being
                   --expenditures within the administration of the University, including salaries,
                      salary increases, the creation of new administrative divisions, staffing, and
                      travel expenses;
         --the relationship between the University budget and commercial projects such as the Save Mart Center and Campus Pointe, including any transfer of University  funds and any financial obligations incurred by the University through those projects;

                     and be it further

Resolved:  That this request be made to the state legislators and offices listed below within two weeks of the passage of this resolution:

                   State Senators:  Michael Rubio, District # 16
                                             Tom Berryhill, District # 14

                    State Assembly Members:  Henry T. Perea, Assembly District # 31
                                                                Linda Halderman, Assembly District # 29

                   State Senator Alan Lowenthal, Chair, Senate Education Committee

                   State Assembly Member Marty Block, Chair, Assembly Higher Education

                    Legislative Analyst’s Office, section on Higher Education;

                    and be it further

Resolved:  That this resolution be forwarded to the Provost and Vice President for
                  Academic Affairs and the University President.

Academic Senate Resolution on Cohort Hiring Through the Office of the Provost

Whereas:  California State University, Fresno currently faces a base budget gap of $900,000-1.2 million for the academic year 2011-12 and the possibility of an additional  $11 million cut for the academic year 2012-13; and

Whereas:  The recommendations from the Academic Affairs Budgetary Advisory Task Force (AABATF) for cuts within Academic Affairs are restricted to cuts at the
College/School level and below; and

Whereas:  Colleges/Schools and Departments have already absorbed substantial cuts which have resulted in fewer sections of classes offered, larger classes, the inability to replace faculty who have retired or left, the inability to hire faculty to develop and teach curriculum in crucial areas of need; and

Whereas:  The further cuts that will be imposed will undoubtedly restrict the hiring of new faculty for Colleges/Schools and Departments; and

Whereas:  The Provost currently has a policy of “cohort hiring,” by which one or more central themes are selected and Colleges/Schools and Departments are encouraged to request a faculty position that relates to or falls within that theme; and

 Whereas: Curriculum and instruction are the purview of the faculty, and the faculty are best positioned to identify the needs of Colleges/Schools and Departments based on such factors as the specialties and interests of current faculty, current trends in the discipline, needs in the geographic region, employment potential for graduates, and accreditation requirements; and

Whereas:  The policy of cohort hiring shapes curriculum and instruction by giving priority to cohort hires and by taking away money from other hires determined to be crucial by Colleges/Schools and Departments, giving unprecedented control over curriculum and instruction to the Provost;

Whereas:  In this time of severe budget cutbacks, any hiring that continues to be possible must be directed at the crucial needs of Colleges/Schools and Departments as identified by faculty; therefore be it

Resolved:  That the Provost’s Office should suspend all cohort hiring, including the
                  searches currently underway;  and be it further

Resolved:  That the money allocated for cohort hiring either be used for faculty positions identified by faculty as crucial for College/Schools and Departments or distributed to College/Schools for other purposes vital to maintaining curriculum and ensuring students access to classes and timely completion of degrees; and be it further               

Resolved:  That this resolution be forwarded to the Provost and Vice President for
                  Academic Affairs and the University President.

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