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.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Speeches, Republican National Convention, Night 2

The two good speeches from the second night of the Republican Convention:

(Condoleeza Rice)

(Paul Ryan Acceptance Speech)

Even Mark Shields had to admit that Ryan's speech was a good one, though the commentators from PBS seemed lost for a response. Ryan invited a detailed debate about Medicare, "Obama Care," and the national debt. He broached foreign policy, which needs to be a much bigger topic in this election. The Republicans are trying to do whatever they can to combat the Democratic portrayal of Romney and Ryan as plutocrats pushing old ladies in wheelchairs over cliffs. They have a good start with Ann Romney's and Paul Ryan's speeches.

Speeches, Republican National Convention, Night 1

I'm going to collect the speeches from the Republican Convention in three blog entires, and will do the same for the Democratic Convention.

These are from the first night of the Republican Convention:

(Mia Love, Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah; Congressional Candidate)

(Artur Davis, Democratic Congressman who changed affiliation to Republican Party)

(Ann Romney)

I was particularly impressed with Ann Romney's speech. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Emeriti Letter to President Welty

The following letter from 55 emeriti and community members has been sent to President Welty:

Date:                   August 15, 2012

To:                      Dr. John Welty, President
                            Fresno State

From:                  Concerned Emeriti Faculty and Community Members

Contact:              Joyce Aiken,

Dear President Welty:

The destruction of one hundred sixty four beautiful, mature trees demonstrates that something is seriously wrong at California State University, Fresno. A decision of such importance would normally have been made in consultation with the faculty and appropriate community groups who have helped improve the campus as an arboretum and as a living laboratory for years. At a time when community support is more important than ever, confidence in your leadership is eroding. California State University, Fresno, has become a sad spectacle of poor communication, unilateral decision-making, and disrespect for faculty.

The necessity for faculty consultation is clearly stated in the shared governance document entitled “A Constitution for the Academic Assembly of California State University, Fresno” and it is legally articulated in The California Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act [HEERA, section 3561(b)]. Moreover, shared governance is supported by the CSU Board of Trustees through its 1985 adoption of “The Report of the Board of Trustees Ad Hoc Committee on Governance, Collegiality, and Responsibility in the California State University.” Proper faculty consultation is the means by which the values of higher learning and the mission of the university are translated into the daily operation of the institution. Over the past year the faculty has requested that you and Provost Covino abide by university policies and California law through senate resolutions and open letters.

A significant number of people, well known to you, have been aware of attempts to resolve differences between the administration and the faculty. We have remained silent in hopes that respect for student and taxpayer interests would prevail. The senseless destruction of the east campus urban forest appears to have closed that chapter with finality. We urge you to take immediate steps to rebuild your relationship, based on trust, with the faculty and the community. It is not too late to restore mutual respect and focus on the university’s mission.

We also urge you to resolve the problems that stem from excluding university faculty from traditional decision-making. These include the escalating displays of bureaucratic authority leading to poor fiscal management, the large carry-forwards in times of budgetary crisis, and arbitrary practices in administrative hiring. We hope that you respond affirmatively to the resolutions passed by the Academic Senate and give budget priority to teaching, research, and hiring practices based on faculty decisions.

We, the emeriti and retired faculty, alumni, and community members, look to you to provide leadership in resolving the escalating crisis of confidence between the faculty and your administration. We hope that you can restore the legacy of trust, shared governance, and academic freedom that has been the hallmark of California State University, Fresno.

Below is a partial list of those who support this letter.


Philip Levine                                                      Bruce Blackerby
Noel Harbertson                                               Jack Pitt                       
George Kaufman                                                Marguerite McMenamin
Dick Haas                                                           Connie Pitt
Alex Vavoulis                                                     Bob Levine
Howard Watkins                                               Jennifer Williams
Dale Bush                                                           James Highsmith
Bob Hirth                                                            Barbara Ulman
David Grubb                                                       Sam Franklin
Shirley Valett                                                      Robert Ware
David Frank                                                         Ronald Holmes
Ed EmanuEl                                                        Howard Latimer
SteveYarborough                                                Mike Brown
Eleanore Bluestein                                               Steve Rodemyer                                   
Ray McKnight                                                      Roger Chittick                                   
Burke Zane                                                           John Donalson
Fred Brengelman                                                  C. Loc Chua
Helen Gigliotti                                                      Ray Reichert
Janice Rosenberg                                                  Manuel Pena
Margaret McKnight                                              Kin-Ping Wong
Frank Laury                                                          Debbie Vaught
Ethelynda Harding
Manuel Olgin
Charles Shields
Don Priest
Joyce Aiken            
Gerald McMenamin
Linnea Alexander
Hugh Williams
Charles Hanzlicek
P J Mistry
Sasan Fayazmanesh
Stan Poss

El Camino de Santiago de Campostela: To Finisterre and the End of the Earth

In our last days at Santiago, we became tourists and one day took a bus trip to Muxia and Finisterre, “the end of the earth.” Finisterre juts into the Atlantic farther than any point on the continent of Europe, and you do get the sense, as you look out and about, that there is nothing but water—and after that, possibly nothing at all. It was a fit conclusion to a pilgrimage, a literal coming to the end, and this apocalyptic note resonated with what I’d been thinking about for much of the trip.

As I met and got to know so many different people with so many different beliefs, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s great chapter about “charity”—or “love” if you prefer—became an object of daily contemplation for me. In Greek, the word we replace with “charity” or “love” is agape, which has no exact English equivalent. C. S. Lewis explains the meaning of agape in The Four Loves as a love that is passionately committed to the well-being of the other for the sake of the other. It doesn’t look for reward. The problem with the English word “love” is that we now so often associate it with eros. The problem with “charity,” which I think is a closer translation, is that it doesn’t have the connotation of passionate commitment.

Paul’s main point in 1 Corinthians 13 is that having agape is the single most important thing in anyone’s life. Faith and hope are essential Christian virtues, but agape is the one that lasts, and without it, the others mean nothing:

Though I speak with the
tongues of men and of angels,
and have not agape, I am become a
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of
prophecy, and understand all mysteries,
and all knowledge; and though I
have all faith, so that I could remove
mountains, and have not agape. I am

And though I bestow all my
goods to feed the poor, and though I
give my body to be burned, and have
not agape, it profiteth me nothing. . . .

Paul goes on to explain that when Christ returns for the second time and the world is transformed, prophecies will fail, speaking in tongues will pass away, and our partial knowledge will be complete. Faith will then be replaced by certainty, and hope will be unnecessary, because all hopes will be fulfilled. But agape will abide:

And now abideth faith, hope, and agape, these three, but he greatest of these is agape.

Agape is the greatest because it will last. God is love. We will be in the right relationship with God, and that means being within agape.

It wasn’t until walking the Camino that I thought much about what this meant. A hierarchy of Christian virtue is being established by Paul, and it applies now as well as in the eschatological future. Agape has trumped everything. I had met people of different faiths, different backgrounds, people who might claim they had no faith at all. But they all had a measure of agape, and some of them more than I. Faith and creedal adherence did not, it was obvious, line up with one’s capacity for unselfish love. And who is closer to God and therefore closer to Christ? The Catholic or Lutheran who goes to church every Sunday, proclaims the Nicene Creed, and leads a selfish or self-centered life, or a Moslem, Jew, or an atheist who puts the good of his fellow human beings first?

The way God works in people is a mystery having little to do with creeds and perhaps even less to do with our conscious awareness. Jesus said “Judge not least ye be judged.” I don’t think he was saying, never judge certain behavior as evil—he clearly wanted people to distinguish the good from the bad: “I set before you life and death—choose life,” Moses says, and Jesus wouldn’t disagree. What he meant, I think, was never presume to know how anyone stands in relationship to God. It is not only presumptuous to do so, but blasphemous, the worst form of playing God. It isn’t for us to say who is finally included in the kingdom of heaven and who isn’t.

What a relief.

Young Soo at the End of the Earth

Me and Bruce at the End of the Earth
The End of the Earth

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kaiser Peak

Labor Day used to mark the end of summer, and I wish it still did. But for people going back to school in August, the end comes sooner, and for me, a trek to the top of Kaiser Peak has taken the place of Labor Day as the temporal boundary between summer and that ambiguous California season, fall.

Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet, from 7,000 at Huntington Lake to 10,320 at the top.
Hiking Time: 3.5 hrs. up; 2.5 hours down
Distance: 6 miles up and another 6 down, from the stables at Dry Creek
Take a lot of water.

(Huntington Lake before College Rock)

(Luke, Sarah, and Gail Bernthal)

(China Peak over the lake)

(At College Rock)

(The trail getting close to Kaisar Peak, over the tree-line)

(Edison Lake)

(In the midst of the Sierra Nevada)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reading President Welty's Reply to the Faculty Open Letter

I have read and reread President Welty’s response to the Faculty Open Letter before making this response. I hope in the following I have been fair and honest. This is my response to the letter, and I don’t offer it as anything more. I do make some predictions about faculty opinion and judgment, but they are my best guesses. I’m not claiming to speak for the faculty.

President Welty’s stated commitment to shared governance and consultation is encouraging, as is his willingness to talk to the faculty. I am all for a continuing dialog, because I think there is a lot to say. That dialog should start at this Friday's Academic Assembly. The university is in the midst of a fundamental course change, and no doubt diminished state allocations have a lot to do with it. The faculty is the ultimate watchdog when it comes to the quality of education given to students. The university is now so oriented toward marketing itself that the substance of what we do as teachers and researchers is becoming threatened. That is what worries me.

President Welty’s response addressed consultation as an overall faculty concern as it applied to the logo, the destruction of the trees in parking lots A & J, cohort hiring, and the budget task force. He acknowledged that he could not address all the issues, which is understandable, but I do want to point out what hasn’t been addressed. Here are my thoughts, item by item.

The Main Problem with the Logo

The principle objections in the Senate to the new logo were professional ones. Senators did not think the Bulldog spirit paw print was an appropriate logo for use in professional correspondence. 

President Welty notes that, “I did respond to the Academic Senate resolution,” with regard to use of the logo, and has provided for “the use of the seal on stationery for correspondence internationally, and with academic societies, publishers, and for reference letters.” This is good news. The response occurred at the end of last semester and I did not know about it until seeing President Welty's response to the open letter.

I am happy that President Welty listened to what the senators were telling him and addressed the senate resolution. He has given us a good result. The language quoted above is contained in a letter from President Welty to Academic Senate Chair, Lynn Williams, dated May 23; it can be accessed through the “Campus Branding Standards" link referenced in President Welty's response.

Consultation Regarding the Logo

I was much less happy with President Welty's assertion that adequate consultation regarding the logo took place before it was unveiled. The argument is a familiar one: focus groups were used that included faculty and even senators.

Focus groups are a fine way to do marketing research--but they are not elected by the faculty for the specific purpose of consultation, and who was solicited to be on them or that they contained some members of the senate doesn't dispose of the consultation problem. What matters is that final consultation happen through the Senate. Had that rule been followed before adoption of the logo—had there been discussion in appropriate committees and on the senate floor, we could have avoided a divisive controversy: Bulldog boosters would have gotten their logo; the faculty would have had appropriate letterhead.

There is a simple principle here. Departments are connected to university decision-making through the senate. Good senators get advice from their departments about issues coming before the senate, i.e., they represent their departments. Consultation has not occurred if there is not full department representation through the senate, and this does not happen when "focus groups" are used as a substitute. Once again, it is hard to escape the conclusion that, given a history of senate resistance to using “Fresno State” rather than “California State University,” the administration really did not want consultation on this issue.

Query: Will the administration now order two letterheads and continue to supply departments with professional letterhead?

The Substance of the Decision to Cut the Trees in Lots A and J.

The loss of the trees as an aesthetic and educational asset is not addressed in the President's letter. The string of falsehoods which was published to justify the cutting of the trees is not addressed: they were old, diseased, needed irrigation it was said to the media, but all of this was untrue. Through its spokesmen, the university lied to the public about these matters. It is said we needed 500 more parking spaces, yet our student body is shrinking. How does this add up?

There seems to be a great gap between what the faculty and wider campus community values, and what the administration values, and this is one of the most troubling elements in today's Fresno State. The cutting of the trees is emblematic of this problem .No sense of loss is recognized in the letter—no recognition that something of human value will be gone for many, many years. 

Consultation Regarding the Cutting the Trees in Lots A and J

Regarding the destruction of the trees in Parking Lots A and J, President Welty's letter suggests that there was a faculty default in committee participation, so that lack of consultation was not totally the fault of the administration—it was, at least in part, the faculty's fault. For instance, the removal of the trees was introduced at one FACEL meeting on February 1, at which no faculty attended and at which minutes were not taken. (In February, we should remind ourselves, faculty were desperately trying to stop a merger between the Schools Arts and Humanities and Social Science and to prevent the dismantling of the School of Science and Mathematics. Many of us were quite occupied.) President Welty says that the Master Plan included a parking structure to be built on Lot J: "Obviously, construction of a parking structure would require the removal of trees." Well, yes, but all of the trees? All 164 healthy trees in Lots A and J? of the beautiful pistache trees that framed the entrance to the Peters Building?  Finally, a finger is pointed at faculty for not providing members to the Campus Planning Committee (CPC), "despite numerous requests from the Office of the Vice President for Administrative Services" and indicates there were no faculty representatives at "the" meeting of the Campus Planning Committee where tree removal was considered.

Perhaps faculty participation on committees is an issue that needs to be addressed. But as President Welty himself notes, there has been "a dramatic disinvestment" in the CSU. I have watched the faculty steadily shrink since 1991. We are spread rather thin, and since our most important commitments are to teaching larger and larger numbers of more and more remedial students, spread even thinner. Then there's writing and research, if we can get at it.

I take some comfort in the following lines from President Welty: "After reviewing the process followed on the reconstruction of these lots, I agree that there should have been more faculty participation in the discussion about these lots. However, the facts do not support a conclusion that faculty were ignored. There is shared responsibility in this matter, and clearly our governance processes did not function adequately. . . . I am confident we can establish systems which will assure significant faculty participation in the future. I apologize that this process did not meet the standards of consultation that I believe are important for our University community." 

I'm happy that steps are being taken to make sure immense reconstruction projects don't fall through the administrative / faculty cracks, so that they simply happen without discussion. But I don't think it is an overstatement to say the faculty was ignored in this instance. Lack of faculty participation was obvious. The charitable response to the problem would have been to seek other avenues of consultation. It would have been so easy to go to the Executive Committee about this, and one would think an obvious thing to do, given the impact of the project. Again, I cannot ignore the possibility that the decision to cut the trees was “blown by” the faculty because it would have encountered a storm of protest. Perhaps this is ungenerous, but it is hard to believe the parking lot renovation would have survived a senate discussion or that our decision-makers did not understand that.

The Budget Task Force Recommendations

President Welty writes: "This process did get the attention of our University community, but it did not result in productive recommendations for the University Budget Committee to consider. I believe the process did tell us what would not be acceptable to the community." I can only agree, and only speculate on how many schools we'd have today had there not been a storm of protest from faculty and donors.

What disturbed me most about this episode was the lack of budget information provided to the community and that proposals to eliminate two schools would be given serious consideration by the administration. The on-line budget books were very late in being published. They indicated a carry-forward from the previous year of $65 million, an astonishing amount. Even the Budget Task Force did not know about this. President Welty does not address the issue of why the budget books were not made available earlier, or why there was a $65 million carry-forward, or why even the Task Force didn't get this information. I know very little about what happened within the black box of the Budget Task Force, but given the magnitude of their proposals, and their publication to the university, one has to conclude that the administration was initially behind them. Their implementation would have done enormous damage to the liberal arts core of the university: humanities, art, social science, science, mathematics. 

Does the administration care about the liberal core of education, or is it managing with the objective of offering whatever it thinks it can market? Given the ever-constricting state allocations, I can truly understand why the managers of the CSU are thinking in terms of branding, marketing, and consumers. But what can be marketed and what constitutes a real education do not necessarily coincide. Students are not the same thing as consumers and branding is not more important than substance. This is the biggest issue the university has to face, and I believe management's objectives and the faculty's commitment to education do not line up. President Welty's letter is encouragingly open to dialog, and we need a wide-open and candid discussion of where education at Fresno State is going. 

Cohort Hiring: The Substantive Issue

Cohort Hiring, when mandated by the Provost, restricts department hiring choices and transfers some power over hiring and therefore the curriculum to the provost. Departments have always had the option to get together, generate a cohort idea, and hire accordingly—but until the last two years, cohort hiring has never been mandated as a portion of university hiring. That it has become a portion of faculty hiring during a "hiring freeze"--or more accurately, a period of diminished hiring—makes it all that more significant proportionally.

The problem here is simply one of diminished department choice. To the extent that a department has a line-up of hiring preferences which do not coincide with a cohort hiring category, their chances of hiring who they want and what they need are diminished. The temptation, then, is to transmogrify what the department wants into a cohort hire, with problems down the road in retention, tenure, and promotion decisions for people hired in cohorts who may be a better fit for the cohort than the department.

I believe that if cohort hiring were put to the faculty for a vote that it would lose by about the same margin it did in the senate, which was over 75% against.

Part of the "sell" of cohort hiring is that money is being taken from central funding to get these hires that otherwise would not be funded. I don't see the funding source as significant. Given our desperate need for more faculty, if money is available, distribute that money and let hiring continue as before, without cohorts. If the money is available for hiring, it ought to be used for hiring without the new restrictions. (The question of what pulling money from central funding will do to the financial structure of the university remains an open issue.)

As I have said many times on this blog, curriculum is traditionally the primary responsibility of the faculty. To the extent that hiring is controlled by the provost through cohorts, the faculty loses control over the curriculum. I think that this administration wants to send Fresno State into significantly different curricular territory because it wants more control over marketing and what gets marketed, hence the attempt at more control over hiring. (It also looks good on the provost's vita.) I think this is part of a new university that is being cobbled together under our noses, course by course, from parking lots to logos. Cohort hiring may be the most significant issue that faculty will continue to confront because it is to closely connected to the administration's idea about Fresno State's future "brand" and the faculty's vision about education and its own identity. "Buy into my marketing and rebranding plan and I'll give you the world." That's the temptation to faculty who get whisked up to the fourth floor.

Consultation Regarding Cohort Hiring 

President Welty's letter indicates that he will address cohort hiring in a separate document to be posted to the Academic Senate website and that the senate discussion was based on major misconceptions. I would make a modest suggestion: it would be better to put something of this importance out to the entire faculty by email, just as, I believe, it would have been better to put the news out about the change in logo policy to the faculty by email. Few of us have the time to regularly canvas the bulletin board or the Senate website--and especially not at the beginning and ending of semesters, when teaching duties have our full attention. We need better and more communication about important issues, including, for instance, logging off parking lots or being blacklisted by Google or Comcast or Yahoo. I do not think the demands on faculty time are appreciated or the time-budgeting decisions that we have to make as teachers, researchers, and writers.

Although consultation with regard to cohort hiring was not specifically addressed by the President, he did make a suggestive comment: "All requests for cohort hires for 2012-13 originated with the Department Chairs and Deans, before being authorized by the Provost." First, the cohort-hiring concept itself originated with the provost. He put it to the deans, who said yes. The deans then presented cohort-hiring to the departments as a fait accompli. There was no significant consultation on the idea of cohort hiring, and this is a separate issue from whether there was consultation on cohort designations.

Many senators spoke up in the senate about their department's lack of choice in specifying cohort positions and the lack of consultation. A nuanced discussion of the problems of cohort hiring took place. See the entry on this blog:  Senate Meeting of April 9, Part 2 which provides a transcript of the meeting. Put cohort hiring to a vote by the entire faculty later in the year, after all arguments have been fully aired and re-aired. Barring some major news in the President's promised document, I am confident in predicting that it will go down to defeat in a landslide. (And by the way, it is good news to hear that Lynn Williams plans to schedule weekly meetings of the Academic Senate as business demands. Last year, the Senate did not have enough time.)

In conclusion, a full, candid, continuing dialog is a necessity. I have never seen a greater distance between faculty and administration in the 24 years I've been here. Last February's publication of an open letter in the Bee, signed by 141 faculty members, and the July "Open Letter" to which the President has responded are the best evidence of faculty frustration, not just about substantive issues but about being heard at all. In this context, President Welty's response and invitation to talk is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Open Letter from Faculty to President Welty / President Welty's Reply

On July 10, the following open letter to President Welty was delivered, signed by the faculty members listed. On August 10, President Welty's reply was received by email by the faculty signers. I offer both the faculty letter and President Welty's response below, and I invite comments on both. I take President Welty's letter to be a message to the campus community as a whole, and so trust that I can publish it. I for one am grateful for his detailed response to the open letter.

The issues identified by the open letter require an on-going community conversation and I hope I can help that to happen by offering this blog as a forum.

July 10, 2012

Dear President Welty,

During the last two years, we have seen a drastic shift from shared governance at CSU-Fresno toward central administrative decision-making and control; lack of transparency in administrative actions has become the norm. The traditional role of faculty as citizens in a functioning university community is being consistently ignored and its role in determining instruction and curriculum compromised. The result is a steady degrading of the quality of education at this university and its ability to serve the community.

This was shockingly demonstrated in the cutting of all 164 trees in parking lots A, J, and UBC, which came as a complete surprise. No one on the faculty was consulted about this project: faculty expertise on relevant committees, including the Arboretum and Sustainability Committees, was ignored. The email notifying the campus community came after the cutting had begun. The trees added to the beauty of the campus, gave needed shade to cars, and also functioned as a lab for more than one biology course. Now, a vital university resource has been lost.

The evasion of faculty consultation began most dramatically last year when the University Budget Committee was bypassed and replaced with a non-elected Budget Task Force, and continued with the failure to disclose basic budget information to the faculty in a timely manner. We have seen a 65 million dollar carry-forward from last year to this year with no explanation and a directive to spend $1.8 million dollars at the end of the year on a miscellany of proposals to the provost. Budgeting at California State University-Fresno is not only mysterious and opaque, but often irrational.

The faculty has not been consulted on cohort hiring or the 50% funding scheme the provost has adopted for many new hires. This was thoroughly discussed in the Academic Senate when you were in attendance, when one senator after another complained about non-consultation, about having cohort hiring presented to them as a fait accompli. Mandated cohort hiring is an administrative intrusion into the traditional role of faculty in determining curriculum and instruction, because hiring is a critical factor in what gets taught and how. The provost’s recent response to the Senate resolution against cohort hiring is little more than a brush-off and fails to address the serious issues presented in the Senate.

The way the logo was developed and presented to the university again was another example of non-consultation. The Academic Senate was never brought into the process of approving the logo, but as with the Budget Task Force and cohort hiring, simply presented with a policy which it then was forced to confront. The logo is utterly inappropriate for use on official stationery in which the faculty must present itself to the academic and professional community, as senator after senator testified.

In each of these cases, the structure of the Academic Senate was ignored and “focus groups” or specially formed committees or task forces were declared to be consultative. But the Academic Senate is the consultative body of the faculty, not groups of people hand picked by administrators. For effective, non-confrontational government to take place, the structure and purpose of the Senate must be respected rather than deliberately and obviously thwarted. The pattern is the same in every instance: the administration makes and imposes decisions and follows them by specious claims of consultation—displaying a lack of honesty that is demoralizing to the entire university.

Non-consultation has become the norm at CSU-Fresno. This is a violation of the MOU and of Section 3561(b) of the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) which lays down the basic principle of faculty consultation and is incorporated into the MOU:

“The Legislature recognizes that joint decision-making and consultation between administration and faculty or academic employees is the long-accepted manner of governing institutions of higher learning and is essential
to the performance of the educational missions of such institutions, and declares that it is the purpose of this act to both preserve and encourage that process…”

As we go into one of the most challenging budget years the university has ever faced, we ask you to abide by the resolutions on budget, cohort hiring, and the logo that have been passed in the Senate during the past academic year and to announce your willingness to honor these resolutions at the Academic Assembly which begins Fall Semester.


Craig Bernthal, Professor of English
Mark Somma, Professor of Political Science
Yishaiya Abosch, Professor of Political Science
Katherine Adams, Professor of Communication
Linnea Alexander, Professor of English
Jacinta Amaral, Professor of Spanish
Tim Anderson, Professor of Kinesiology
Michael Becker, Professor of Political Science
Ted Bergman, Professor of Spanish
John Beynon, Professor of English
Diane Blair, Professor of Communication
Steve Blumenshine, Professor of Biology
Michael Botwin, Professor of Psychology
Paul Bush, Professor of Economics
Carmen Caprau, Professor of Mathematics
Dan Carrion, Professor of Theatre Arts
Honora Howell Chapman, Professor of Classics and Humanities
Lori Clune, Professor of History
Virginia Crisco, Professor of English
Paul Crosbie, Professor of Biology
Henry Delcore, Professor of Anthropology
Stefaan Delcroix, Professor of Mathematics
Doreen DeLeon, Professor of Mathematics
Michelle Denbeste, Professor of History
Walter Dodd, Professor of Anthropology
Yolanda Doub, Professor of Spanish
Kathleen Dyer, Professor of Child, Family and Consumer Sciences
Edward EmanuEl, Professor of Theatre Arts
David Engle, Professor of German
Sasan Fayazmanesh, Professor of Economics
Jill Fields, Professor of History
Kathryn Forbes, Professor of Women’s Studies
Sean Fulop, Professor of Linguistics
Magdalena Gilewicz, Professor of English
Chris Golston, Professor of Linguistics
Connie Hales, Professor of English
John Hales, Professor of English
Kenneth Hansen, Professor of Political Science
Chris Henson, Professor of English
James Henson, Professor of Information Systems and Decision Sciences
James Highsmith, Professor of Finance and Business Law
Thomas Holyoke, Professor of Political Science
Ruth Jenkins, Professor of English
James L. Johnson, Professor of English
Andrew Jones, Professor of Sociology
Brad Jones, Professor of History
Madhusudan Katti, Professor of Biology
RuthAnn Kern, Professor of Biology
RoseMarie Kuhn, Professor of French
Steven Lewis, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Maria-Aparecida Lopes, Professor of Chicano and Latin American Studies
Melanie Ram, Professor of Political Science
De Anna J. Reese, Professor of History and Africana Studies
Larry Riley, Professor of Biology
Frederick Ringwald, Professor of Physics
Meta Schettler, Professor of Africana Studies
Fred Schreiber, Professor of Biology
Doug Singleton, Professor of Physics
William Skuban, Professor of History
John Suen, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Agnes Tuska, Professor of Mathematics
Hans Van der Noordaa, Professor of Physics
Toni Wein, Professor of English
Lisa Weston, Professor of English

August 10, 2012
Dear Colleague:
I am in receipt of your letter which expresses concern about shared governance and consultation at Fresno State.

The dramatic disinvestment in higher education over the past four years by the state of California has placed extraordinary stress on our University community. We are attempting to serve approximately the same number of students with $15 million fewer dollars than we had in 2008-09. This situation stresses the entire fabric of our University community, and I recognize the anger and frustration that you feel. Our University community can be very proud of its commitment to shared governance and consultation over the past twenty years. We can be even prouder of the commitment we have demonstrated to our students, whose benefit must always remain the focus of our decision making.

It may be helpful to review Article 2, Section 5 of the Academic Assembly Constitution of California State University, Fresno, which outlines the role of the Academic Senate in policy consultation and recommendations.

  1. “The variety and complexity of the tasks performed by institutions of higher education produce an inescapable interdependence among governing board, administration, faculty, students and others. The relationship calls for adequate communication among these components and full opportunity for appropriate joint planning and effort”.i The deliberative process of consultation is therefore required. Meaningful consultation from initial formulation through final determination of policy and procedures, consists of thoughtful deliberation and presentation of facts and opinions leading to consensus or agreement.
  2. To achieve optimum communications, consultation and cooperation within the University, responsibilities of Academic Senate Standing Committees shall include:
    1. Formulation of policy recommendations in consultation with the Administration;
    2. Development of procedures that accompany policy recommendations in consultation with the Administration;
    3. Consultation with the Administration on the implementation of policy;
    4. Consultation with the Administration on other appropriate matters;
    5. Consultation with other Academic Senate Standing Committees as appropriate;
      and Consultation with the Council of Deans as appropriate.
Office of the President
California State University, Fresno
5241 North Barton Avenue M/S
ML48 • Fresno, California 93740-8027
P 559.278.2324 F 559.278.4715 THE CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY

C. Policy recommendations or reports, except as defined in Section 8.C, emanating from Academic Senate Standing Committees, Subcommittees, task forces or ad hoc committees shall be forwarded to the Academic Senate for appropriate review and approval before submission to the President for final action.

I have been committed to consultation on policy matters, and that commitment will continue in the future. Please allow me to address the specific issues; some which are policy matters, and others that are not, which you refer to in your letter.

First, with regard to parking lots A and J. In 2005, the campus initiated a comprehensive planning process to develop a master plan for the campus, which was completed in November 2006, after extensive consultation with the campus community. The completed Master Plan indicated that a parking structure would be constructed on Lot J. Obviously, construction of a parking structure would require the removal of trees. This plan was modified during the 2011-12 academic year as a result of declining enrollments, economic conditions, and the need to minimize student fee increases. The revised plan called for a reconstruction of Lots A and J to increase the number of spaces by approximately 500 to serve students. The increase will address our parking needs for, at least, the next ten years. This plan was presented to the FACEL Committee of the Academic Senate on February 1, 2012. Unfortunately, there was very poor attendance at this meeting. The next consultative group responsible for reviewing the plans was the Campus Planning Committee (CPC), which is supposed to have two faculty members on the committee. Despite numerous requests from the Office of the Vice President for Administrative Services, beginning in August 2011, for the Academic Senate to make appointments to the CPC, there was not sufficient faculty representation at the CPC meeting when this matter was considered. Further, this matter was not considered by the Arboretum Committee because parking lots are not part of the University’s arboretum.

After reviewing the process followed on the reconstruction of these lots, I agree that there should have been more faculty participation in the discussion about these lots. However, the facts do not support a conclusion that faculty were ignored. There is shared responsibility in this matter, and clearly our governance processes did not function adequately. Vice President Teniente-Matson has a complete record of efforts made to consult and to get individuals appointed to committees, and she will provide this record if you so desire.

I have reviewed the process for consultation concerning facilities, the arboretum and sustainability. Vice President Teniente-Matson will present recommendations for changes to the Academic Senate Executive Committee for consideration at its first meeting this fall. I am confident we can establish systems which will assure significant faculty participation in the future. I apologize that this process did not meet the standards of consultation that I believe are important for our University community.

With regard to our budget planning discussions, I do not agree that the University Budget Committee was "bypassed and replaced with a non-elected Budget Task Force". It was the charge of the Task Force to provide recommendations for consideration by the University community, and ultimately the University Budget Committee and the Academic Senate. Many of the suggestions considered by the Task Force came from recommendations which have been voiced by the University Community in previous years. This process did get the attention of our University community, but it did not result in productive recommendations for the University Budget Committee to consider. I believe the process did tell us what would not be acceptable to the community. As you know, the broadly inclusive consultative process included a special meeting of the Academic Senate and resulted in
2revised Task Force recommendations that the Provost accepted and explained in an open forum last spring.

With regard to cohort hiring, the Academic Senate did submit a resolution to which the Provost responded to Academic Senate Chair Lynn Williams on May 21, 2012. As indicated, there were some erroneous assumptions used in the resolution. The full response has been sent to School and College Deans for distribution to the faculty, and will be posted on the Academic Senate website.

I recognize that the issue of cohort hiring has become contentious for some. It is important to recognize that we have lost $15 million since the 2008-2009 academic year. It is very unlikely that this money will be restored. In this context, maintaining and growing our tenure-track faculty is a crucial priority. The reduction of faculty positions to accommodate budget cuts has freed up dollars in the benefits pool, and the Provost is devoting these dollars to faculty hires. Some of these are cohort positions, all of which address crucial needs identified by the Departments, and entail some interdisciplinary collaboration consistent with the Department expectations and determined by the faculty. There is a growing consensus in the higher education community about the value of interdisciplinary approaches to students.

The process of identifying faculty needs for new hires rests with the departments and Schools/Colleges. This process will continue.

All requests for cohort hires for 2012-13 originated with the Department Chairs and Deans, before being authorized by the Provost. Once an appointment is complete, the School or College will receive permanent funding for these positions. Thus, the addition of these faculty positions will permanently benefit a School or College.

It is necessary that we reexamine the Level B funding model to consider all sources of funding since there has been such a dramatic change in the sources of funds we use to support our programs. Therefore, consistent with the Task Force recommendations that were accepted last spring, I am requesting that the University Budget Committee consider a revised Level B funding model this fall that reflects the multiple sources of revenue that are supporting the Schools and Colleges, including revenue provided through the partial funding of faculty positions. It is my hope that these revisions can be recommended by the end of the fall semester so we have a clear and predictable model available to use as we address funding based upon the outcome of the November election. The University Budget Committee will forward the appropriate policy recommendations to the Academic Senate for consideration.

I will be discussing the budget situation, our carry-forward, and related issues at the Faculty and Staff Assembly on August 17. These remarks will provide full and up-to-date information on our fiscal situation as we begin the semester.

The final specific issue identified in your letter is the development of a new logo. The process followed is fully described at the following site:

[Here is a link to the above site:  Campus Branding Standards]

You are correct that the Academic Senate was not asked to approve the logo. However, either the Chair or the Vice Chair of the Academic Senate has served on the Integrated Marketing and Communications Council since its inception, and invitations were extended to all members of the University community to participate in this process. The extensive research efforts were led by a faculty member. Senate Executive Committee minutes of May 2, 2011 indicate that “Chair Caldwell announced the Integrated Marketing and Communications Council (IMCC) is conducting a focus group to report on its work and seek input from campus stakeholders. An invitation to participate in the focus group has been sent to faculty via email. Caldwell encouraged participation from the Executive Committee.”

I did respond to the Academic Senate resolution, and that response can also be found at the above noted site. I believe that response did acknowledge some of the most intense concerns raised by members of the Academic Senate, and provides for the use of the seal on stationery for correspondence internationally, and with academic societies, publishers and for reference letters. Further, I have asked Senate Chair Lynn Williams to use the appropriate processes to appoint two members of the Academic Senate to serve on an advisory committee, which among other duties will consider modifications to the graphic standards guidelines and use of the logo. I believe this will help us resolve critical issues through a positive consultative process.

I am committed to shared governance and consultation in policy matters as outlined in the Academic Assembly Constitution, and I believe I have demonstrated that in the past. I have had numerous discussions with our senior administrative leadership about the importance of effective consultation. I pledge to you, and the Academic Senate, that I will make every effort to follow our guidelines, policies and practices to consult, consistent with my responsibilities. I am very pleased that Senate Chair Williams plans to schedule weekly meetings of the Academic Senate as long as the body has business to address. I will do everything possible to work on improving our shared governance process.
I recognize that this written communication does not address every issue or concern expressed by those who have signed the letter. I would be very interested in discussing these issues with you, or a representative group if you so desire.

This fall, we face an extraordinary election in which the citizens of this state will be called upon to express their commitment to funding of public higher education. The outcome of this election will affect our students and future students for years to come. We must be focused on doing everything possible to gain support for this effort. I hope you will join me in that effort.

John D. Welty President
cc: Dr. Lynn Williams, Chair of the Academic Senate Academic Senate Members
Cabinet Deans

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Another Phishing Expedition

It is clear that with phishing, the IT staff at Fresno State is struggling with a problem whose size and difficulty I did not appreciate. I am sorry about the tone of the last entry on this blog. I did not mean to pick on IT. I was surprised that we could be blacklisted by Google or Yahoo or Comcast, even intermittently, without the campus as a whole being notified through email by a senior administrator, and frankly, I still am. Especially for faculty trying to publish or attend conferences, any break in the lines of communication is serious--and even more serious if we do not know about the problem. But I doubt it was IT's duty to ring the alarm bell for the campus.

There seem to be two main ways the phishing problem manifests itself to Fresno State email users. One is when an individual account is compromised, has to be shut down, and then reopened. You'll know if it happens to you: your email won't work at all. Jim Michael addresses this in a bulletin post of July 26, referred to by Yola in her comment on the last blog. See Please Watch Out for Phishing Attempts

The second problem is blacklisting of the university by Google, Yahoo, or some other big provider because of the volume of spam that goes out from our compromised accounts. We all suffer from this, even though we may have avoided being "phished" ourselves. The problem here is that we don't know about the blacklist until our emails either don't go through or we find that we haven't received emails. This seemed to be happening to me, on an irregular basis, for several months. It is confusing, though, because sometimes I get gmail from senders and sometimes I don't. Sometimes email that I sent to a perfectly good email address would get bounced back, not always immediately--and I didn't know why. Several people I've talked to have had the same trouble. Now at least I have a sense of what this is happening and can be on the lookout for it, though I still don't know much about how blacklisting works.

Had I been informed of this problem, I'd have switched to my backup gmail account, both for communication with family and friends, and for communication with academics and publishers, and I if I was concerned about how this looked professionally, I would have explained why it was necessary for me to be gmailing rather than fresnostate emailing.

It has been suggested to me that this is a problem that didn't need to be addressed. I disagree. Not being notified of the blacklisting was the problem, and this is a typical Fresno State pattern, hence my irritation. But it wasn't necessarily a Help Desk problem or an IT problem, so I apologize to them. The standard for what gets communicated and how fast it gets communicated is set from the top down, and we've seen how that works, from budget information to parking lot renovation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Touching the Void: Fresno State Email User Problems

            For the last two or three months, various people in my family have asked whether I’d received their emails, and I have noticed that some of my emails have gone unanswered—into the void, you might say—but this summer having been more helter-skelter than usual, I just let it all go by. So when my daughter, who goes to Brown University, asked me why I hadn’t been returning her emails, I finally decided to get busy and see what was up. First I checked “spam.” Nothing in there. Nothing in “trash.” Nothing in “junk.” OK, I thought, I’ll go to the people with all the answers, and I called 278-5000: The University Help Desk.

            First, you get the recording: "Thank you for calling the Help Desk. Currently, there are no issues to report."
            “Hi. I’m Craig Bernthal. In the English Department. I don’t seem to be getting emails that people are sending me.”
            “What’s your user name?”
            “No. Craig B. C-R-A-I-G-B.”
            “What’s your name?
            “Craig Bernthal”
            “Can you spell that?”
            “Sure. Craig. C-R-A-I-G. Bernthal. B-as in boy. E-R-N-T-H-A-L”
            “OK. Now, what emails are you not getting?”
            I digested that one for awhile, but regrouped. “I’m not getting them from my daughter.”
            “And what’s her email address?”
            “Well, I’m not calling from my home, and I don’t know.”
            “Is it Google? Yahoo?”
            “Yeah. One of those.”
            “Well, we can’t get email from Google or Yahoo.”
            “You can’t?”
            “No. It’s because of the phishing.”
            “Oh. How’s that?
            “It all has to do with the behavior of our users.”
            “It does?”
            “They get phished. They give their account information out of them and then millions of emails go out from their Fresno State accounts. Millions.”
            "Millions of emails."
            "From the accounts of our users. They get phished. You know 'phishing'?"
            “I guess so. So, what’s the solution.”
            “There is no solution. It’s based on the behavior of our users.”
            “I’m sorry. When will it be fixed?”
            “I don’t know. It’s based on the behavior of our users. Google and Yahoo won’t send us email anymore. Millions of emails. Everytime they get phished.”
            “Can we get AOL?”
            “I don’t think so.”
            “So, let me get this straight. Because people using Fresno State email get their account information phished, and all of these emails go out, we can no longer receive email from Google, Yahoo, and maybe AOL?”
            “That’s right. It’s based on the behavior of our users.”
            “What’s being done to solve the problem?”
            “It’s our users.”
            “So, there’s no technical solution in sight.”
            “Our users have to change their behavior.”
            “OK. Well, ah—thanks.”

            So, fellow users of Fresno State email. Change your behavior! Because this problem is unsolvable by engineers or programers. Or shift to gmail, which probably won’t boycott itself because it’s been phished. My daughter tells me Brown University has gone to Google as its internet provider, and she has a second yahoo account, so that explains the void. But what does Brown have to say to Fresno State anyway?

            By the way, did Fresno State ever send an email notifying it's email users that they were off-line for gmail and yahoo? And how would anyone ever know?

8/8/12 addition: Since writing this blog entry and reading some of the email responses, I've been wondering how many other universities are blacklisted by Google or Yahoo and what the reasons might be. I have not been able to find data on that, but the University of Pittsburgh has had this problem, and their IT dept. published the following overview of blacklisting: University of Pittsburgh and Blacklisting. This indicates that forwarding email from a university account to a Google or Yahoo account is part of the problem, at least for Pittsburgh.

Other universities are confronting the "phishing problem," such as Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. Here is their IT page about the problem: Phishing at Queens University

Our campus does gives us advice about recognizing "phishing" email, including "do not post your email address on your website," which I can't quite understand, because we publish a campus directory with everyone's email address. Here is our page on "phishing": The Help Center on Phishing

How, I wonder, does Google deal with its own users being "phished" and their accounts compromised? It is hard to believe that our university has email users who are more gullible, as a whole, than that of other universities or of Google gmail users as a whole. It seems more likely that every university on the planet with its own email is subject to this problem and could expect some of its users to be taken in. How does any university keep its email in business?