Blaise Pascal, PenseĆ© 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.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Budget Task Force Revised (Friday, February 3, 2012)

The Recommendations of the Budget Task Force, Revised,
"I think I have the back-trick simply as strong as any man in Illyria"

Craig Bernthal

On January 28, 2012 Provost Bill Covino made the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Task Force revisions of its October recommendations available to the faculty. It is a memo written by the Task Force to the Provost. You can read it in full, in the blue print, below. I would like to highlight some aspects of that memo, which, for me, raise troubling questions:

1.  The opening phrase: “In April 2011, you [Provost Covino] worked with the Academic Senate to form the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Task Force. . .” In what sense did the Provost work with the Senate?  Did the Senate pass a resolution forming the Task Force? No. Did the Chair of the Senate help him to pick the Task Force members? Yes. Was the University Budget Committee, as body, involved with the Task Force? No. 

The Senate has had the barest contact with the Budget Task Force from beginning to end. This is why Chris Henson, one of the senators from English, proposed resolutions to bring the Senate back into the process and why the Senate’s response to those resolutions was virtually unanimous approval.

So again, I ask, on what basis does the Task Force make the claim that the Provost “worked with” the Academic Senate?

2. Why did the drafter or drafters of the Task Force revisions consider it necessary to tell the Provost something he must know already—that he did work with the Academic Senate. Was this for the benefit of the Provost’s memory or an advertisement inspired by an Administrative Muse? Do the members of the Task Force sincerely believe that the Provost worked with the Senate to create the Task Force? Did they really think he needed to be reminded?

3. Recommendation 1c has been standard operating procedure for years. Cancel low-enrolled classes. Make classes bigger. I cannot remember the day that we have not had “aggressive enrollment management efforts.” 

4. I don’t know what recommendation 1a actually means. At first, I thought it meant what 1c means. Maybe it means reduce curricular offerings, but if deans and chairs are canceling low-enrolled classes, why bother?

5. We all want to teach well. Congratulations to the re-designers of Biology 10. Redesign, worked out by colleagues within the same discipline can improve what we do, and Biology initiated its own revision to make its course better and more user-friendly to GE students.  I’d like to know more.

Still, the scariest recommendation in the Task Force revisions is 1b.“Redesigning courses to improve student performance.” It sounds idealistic enough. But if this is where CSALT enters the classroom, or CSALT-like procedures, or one size fits all teaching programs, then the quality of education at Fresno State will only suffer. 

This is what worries me: We are going to be urged to help create a fig leaf for higher student retention rates. Let’s be real. Raising retention rates while not reducing academic standards for a student body that comes to this campus with great remedial needs is extremely difficult. OK, administrators want student money because state appropriations are dropping.  And at the same time they want to convince the public that quality hasn’t slipped. Those are the administrative concerns, but I don’t want to help them square that circle.

Here is what should concern the faculty: That we are being asked to perpetuate a fraud. The fraud will be that nothing has happened here at Fresno State despite the budget cuts. Yes, we have GE classes with substantial writing requirements, with 300 students, but don’t worry, we’ve redesigned our courses, so now students are learning just as much as ever, and our retention rates are even higher! 

Here is the faculty concern: That we will be required to adopt syllabus designs and lesson plans (as high school and elementary school teachers are now required to do) that do not play to our strengths as teachers—that in fact, get in the way of teaching to our potential. In the end, nothing will reduce the quality of education at Fresno State more than dictating to professors how they must teach. We all find our own way. Bill Russell didn’t play basketball like Wilt Chamberlain, and it’s a good thing no one tried to make him. 

Centrally mandated redesign is a far more direct and dangerous incursion into curriculum and instruction than cohort hiring.

6. The revision announces that the College of Sciences and Mathematics will not be drawn and quartered. Well that’s good news, and interestingly slid into the report as an adverbial phrase, as if it had already been mentioned: “While the proposal to disperse the College of Science and Mathematics is withdrawn . . . “ Huh? Did I miss something? 

No, nothing missed, I discovered after two rereads. This is the first mention of the Science and Mathematics reprieve, and, as if this were not an important revision, the rationale for the change is not discussed. 

Open Question to Task Force: Why did you withdraw your recommendation about Science and Mathematics? If splitting it up was a good budget idea in October, why isn’t it a good budget idea now? I’m happy you’ve reconsidered, but since your charge is to make the best budget recommendations, what budgetary reasons made you reconsider?

7.  There is no similar reprieve for Arts and Humanities. It is not mentioned at all. If you came to the conclusion that there was no good budget rationale for dispersing Sciences and Mathematics, why did you retain the merger of Arts and Humanities with Social Sciences? 

8. There is nothing in the Task Force report about the financial relationship of the university to Athletics. [No fault of the Task Force—I don’t think they were asked.]

9. There is nothing in the Task Force report about the financial relationship of the university to the Save-Mart Center and Campus Pointe. [No fault of the Task Force—I don’t think they were asked.]

10. There is nothing in the Budget Task Force report addressing carry-forwards in the Academic Affairs budget of $6,574,783, as posted June 30, 2011. 

What are these funds for? The carry-forward of the preceding year was also about $6 million. I assume, on the basis of earlier answers, that the first year’s carry forward was federal stimulus money, but what about last year’s? 

Here, it is also important to note that carry forwards in Academic Affairs were in the range of $1—2 million before Bill Covino became provost.

No doubt the Task Force recommendations will provoke other questions to other faculty members, and I hope they are aired at the Senate meeting on Monday, February 6. I can’t see the Task Force revised recommendations as the product of an independent committee writing to the provost. Rather, the Task Force’s revisions seem more like Sir Andrew Aguecheek’s “back-trick,” a rhetorical dance step in response to faculty alarm. I would love to know what the faculty members on the Task Force candidly think of it, for I suspect that they, like the rest of the faculty, have found themselves corralled in fiscal fantasy land. 

What follows, in blue, are the final recommendations of the Budget Task Force as we received them from Provost Covino by email:

DATE: January 27, 2012

TO: William Covino, Provost

FROM: Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Task Force

In April 2011, you worked with the Academic Senate to form the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Task Force and requested it address the following charge and questions:

Following orientation to the budgets, visions, and reduction strategies under way in units within Academic Affairs, the Task Force will recommend sustainable approaches to closing the estimated base budget between University level A allocation to Academic Affairs and the recurring costs of operating Academic Affairs units, in accord with University, Academic Affairs, and College/School strategic priorities and enrollment targets. 

At issue will be the question of sustainability: What can we sustain? What must we sustain in order to move forward? (not just survive). Howcan we sustain what we must?
On October 26, 2011, we provided you with an initial projection of the base budget gap based on information provided by each of the Deans and a set of recommendations to close that gap and position the University for the future consistent with the strategic priorities mentioned.  We then participated with you in listening sessions in November and December. We met with faculty, staff, students, and community members in every college and in several other venues. In addition, the Academic Senate provided an on-line site to post anonymous comments that were reviewed.  Finally, you shared with us a number of written comments you received and asked us to revisit our recommendations and make any changes we deemed necessary.  
We have considered all of the feedback mentioned above.  Additionally, the Deans of the colleges/schools have provided you with a midyear re-assessment of the budget gap which has been shared with us.  Many of the ideas contained in our original report have already been implemented at the School/College level and resulted in almost halving the earlier gap reported by the Deans (the original projection of $1.7-$2 million is revised to $900,000-$1.2 million). However, the Deans report an almost $8 million gap between the base budget and their expenditures.  This gap is being bridged using an all funds budget strategy (self-support programs, open enrollments, grants and contracts, earnings from endowments, etc.).   Given the size of this gap, the $5 million cut to the University in January 2012, and a possible additional cut of $11 million in November 2012, we reiterate a number of our recommendations while modifying some and clarifying others.  

We retain the following recommendations with clarifications. Parentheticals reference the numbering in our original recommendations.
1.Aggressive enrollment management efforts (original recommendation 2) that include:
a.Redesigning curricula to be both more effective and fiscally responsible (original recommendation 2a).  The university teaches about 3,250 sections of 1,500 courses each semester (not counting supervision courses).  A curricular redesign that reduced the need to teach just 1% of these sections would save over $300,000 per year-at $5,000 per section.
b.Redesigning courses to improve student performance (original recommendation 2b). Some of the feedback suggested this effort would reduce quality. That is not the intent.  Reducing failure rates should not be accomplished by ‘dumbing down’ content.  Evidence from a redesign of Biology 10, demonstrates a significant reduction in failure rates without reducing content or quality.  With a lab redesign, the failure rate fell from 31% to 13% while 200 more students were enrolled.  While reducing failure rates by 50% may not be possible in all courses, it can have significant budgetary impacts in large enrollment courses.   
c.Review the offering frequency of low enrolled courses and increase scheduling efficiency (original recommendation 2c).  We identified one department alone that saved over $100,000 this year.
2.Initiate a training program for chairs and faculty on the fiscal implications of curricular and enrollment management decisions and the use of assigned time. (original recommendation 2d).  
3.Generate greater efficiencies in centrally funded programs and offices that report to you. (original reduction 3).  In making this recommendation, we recognize the continuing and ongoing need for faculty development and support of critical initiatives in Academic Affairs.  We also note that you have reduced the number of MPP positions by 11.  
4.Centers and Institutes that are not now self-sufficient must become so over the next three years or demonstrate to you why they should continue to operate (original recommendation 4).
5.Develop and implement a simplified academic affairs budget allocation methodology (original recommendation 5). Such a methodology should provide incentives that reward good fiscal decisions, allowing Schools/Colleges  to capture some of the savings (after the gap is closed) for other uses that support their missions.
6.We continue to call attention to the need for strategies that would reward excellence and encourage student progress (original recommendation 6) by decreasing failure and opening seats for other students. Examples include roadmaps, earlier registration windows for those making progress towards degree, early warning systems, disincentives for students failing to make progress towards their degrees, and incentives for promoting student success.
We have modified the following recommendations

1.We favor cost reductions in administration over those that impact classroom operation, faculty, and staff. Therefore, mergers between colleges/schools or between departments should remain under consideration. While the proposal to disperse the College of Science and Mathematics is withdrawn (original recommendation 1a), there can be significant savings associated with a merger of deans’ offices. The associated costs and benefits and the size(s) of the resulting college/schools should be taken into account. Shared services across the university, between colleges/schools, and between departments should be given serious consideration and we suggest you engage the appropriate committees of the Academic Senate in this discussion (see below).  Additionally, some of our original reorganization proposals remain on the table for sustainability and long term programmatic development.  
a.Move Child and Family Sciences to the Kremen School of Education and Human Development and Fashion Merchandising to the Craig School of Business
b.Move Economics to the Craig School of Business.  
2.We have revised our proposal for review of undergraduate majors and graduate programs (original recommendation 1d).  The original recommendation provided a size range to trigger review.  We now recommend that all programs (both undergraduate and graduate) should be carefully reviewed to determine the role they should play on campus.  The task force recognized that a small program may meet the needs of our students and community better than other larger programs. All undergraduate programs should be reviewed to consider reduction of majors,  options/emphases, and minors.  A number of undergraduate programs may be valuable to the campus without continuing to provide a major.  As we pointed out before, at the undergraduate level, changes should be mission driven, create a greater synergy and enhance collaboration.   Consideration should be given to enrollment history, graduation rate, potential for employment or further graduate study, strategic plan fit, number of faculty (FTE) needed to offer the major, faculty load (SFR/Class Size/ Cost for FTE), and compensating benefits. At the graduate level, consideration should be given to enrollment history, graduation rate, potential for employment or doctoral study, use of Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants, strategic plan fit, and number of faculty (FTE) needed.  
We make the following new recommendations.
Many of the comments in response to the original report expressed confidence that Deans, department chairs, and faculty could find substantial cost savings through means other than reorganization.  Based on that input we recommend that you ask each Dean:
1.To produce a balanced budget for 2012-13.
2.To carefully consider the use of assigned time.  In 2010-2011, Deans awarded over 2000 WTUs of non-reimbursed assigned time to faculty (equivalent of up to $3 million).
3.To consult with their Department Chairs to produce a plan that would make changes that are future focused and would place their school/college in a sustainable fiscal position. Such a plan should be presented in a college/school forum for faculty input and completed by April 15, 2013. This might be an annual process/deadline. 
Finally, relative to proceeding with the recommendations above dealing with reorganization, program review, and a revised allocation methodology, we note that the Academic Policy and Planning (AP&P) is the “deliberative body of the faculty on matters relating to university academic policy including but not limited to undergraduate: curriculum,degree programs, graduation requirements, grading standards, school organization and departmentalization…” (italics added).  Similarly, the Graduate Committee is the deliberative body on matters relating to graduate education and the Academic Senate University Budget Committee is the deliberative body on budget and resource use.  We note that the Budget Committee has already started work on a revised allocation methodology.  We recommend that you work with the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate to engage these committees in discussing and implementing the recommendations above, and establish deadlines for this activity (e.g. begin work by March 1, 2012, deliver an Interim Report by Dec. 1, 2012, and produce Final Recommendations by February 1, 2013).

Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Task Force Members

Antonio Avalos
Michael Caldwell (co-chair)
John Constable
James Farrar
Robert Harper
Dawn Lewis
Dennis Nef (co-chair)
Colleen Torgerson
Rick Zechman
Manoochehr Zoghi

No comments:

Post a Comment