PRESS RELEASE — Berkeley, CA
A petition signed by over 1,000 UC faculty opposing SB520 was delivered to Senate Pro-Tem leader Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento) today, the author of the bill that, as formally amended yesterday, forces all three segments of California public higher education to accept online versions of heavily impacted courses for transfer credit.
This new petition spearheaded by the Berkeley Faculty Associations (BFA) lends further evidence of widespread UC faculty opposition to the bill. It also introduces new arguments against it.
The UC faculty petition states: “We believe that this bill will lower academic standards…augment the educational divide along socioeconomic lines, and diminish the ability for underrepresented minorities to excel in higher education. In other words, we predict that SB520 would worsen precisely the situation it claims to resolve.
The petition cites a recent study by Columbia Teacher’s College showing that the performance of all types of students suffered in online courses relative to face-to-face equivalents, and that different types of students adapted differently to online environments. In particular, black students, younger students, and underachieving students tended to do more poorly. In light of the fact that online courses based on current technologies produce the worst outcomes for low income and minority students, the petition argues that SB520 licenses an inferior education for an already underserved population that the bill purportedly intends to help.
Although Steinberg has touted the bill as a solution to the overcrowding of basic college courses, UC faculty leaders representing the UC Academic Council decried the bill for bypassing the rigorous curriculum-review processes and for the “clear, self-interest of for-profit corporations in promoting the privatization of public higher education.” Under Steinberg’s bill, a nine professor panel representing all Community Colleges, California State Universities, and University of California campuses would evaluate and accredit online courses, including those offered by for-profit outside companies. The authors of the petition believe that this panel could not possibly evaluate whether all online courses adequately prepare students for the rigors of higher education.