UC Berkeley Faculty Association

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BFA Annual Report: Academic Year 2013-2014

This has been a year of transitions.  While Janet Napolitano became the new President of the University of California and Nicholas Dirks arrived as Berkeley’s new Chancellor, there has also been a change of guard in our organization.   Colleen Lye and James Vernon became co-chairs of the BFA, just as Patricia Morton from UC Riverside became chair of CUCFA (the Council of UC Faculty Associations).

Despite revival of the state’s finances, it is clear that we still have considerable work to do to convince legislators in Sacramento that the University of California needs greater public funding to ensure all Californians enjoy access to a world-class higher education.  In fact much of the public discussion has been instead on the so-called ‘cost problem’ of higher education, with online classes still commonly seen as a potential solution. With Napolitano promising a temporary tuition freeze, our new Chancellor has accelerated his predecessor’s policy of bridging the gap by raising private funds and increasing the numbers of international and out-of-state students.

The BFA has sought to ensure that neither the interests of faculty nor the promise of a high quality undergraduate education for Californians are undermined. We have supplemented the work of the Academic Senate by both providing analyses of the changing conditions on our campus and speedy mobilization around specific issues.

•     Faculty Welfare
Many faculty were deeply concerned by the changes in healthcare coverage announced with little warning last Fall.  The BFA alerted members to these changes and through CUCFA helped register faculty disquiet to UCOP.   We also highlighted how those changes, including the abandonment of out-of-state retirees with a good luck/lump-sum payment, were part of a broader systematic degradation of salaries and benefits, including our pension plans. Having last year prompted the Academic Senate to investigate the extent and cause of delays in the processing of merit and promotion reviews, we look forward to the review of this years cases as well as the report of Vice Provost Broughton’s committee on inequities in faculty salaries.

•    Online Education
We continue to believe that the rush to online education represents the biggest threat to our mission as a public university.  In its media work, petitioning and lobbying in Sacramento, BFA and CUCFA played important roles in revealing the dangers of the San Jose State model of opening up publicly accredited classes to private providers.  This year we discovered how many companies are already in business on our own campus providing online classes and programs.  Having obtained copies of their contracts with the campus, and the university’s own contracts with instructors, we alerted the Senate to how faculty and lecturers are being asked to sign contracts that surrender copyright control of their own classes.  We published a piece on this issue, and what it means for faculty and for the quality of undergraduate education, in The Chronicle of Higher Education. We have also outlined some of the provisions an ideal contract and urge colleagues to also follow the launch of Author’s Alliance by our Berkeley Law colleague Pam Samuelson

•    Academics First
BFA has continued to push Senate for proper oversight of Intercollegiate Athletics: protesting the commercialization of campus space by Fox Sports TV, questioning the need and expense of the new Aquatics Center, and ensuring that Senate established an Athletics Committee as mandated by the Academics First Resolution of 2009.  We also coordinated support from faculty and Department Chairs to ensure Berkeley can continue to recruit the best graduate students by urging UCOP to provide them with a competitive stipend and livable wage.  The excellence of our research and undergraduate teaching depends upon maintaining the quality of our underfunded graduate programs. The UC Santa Cruz Faculty Association has launched a petition in favor of better working conditions for graduate students and a speedy resolution of their contract negotiations at http://ucscfa.org/petition2/.

•    Membership and Finance
Having introduced a more progressive fee structure last year, we have continued to renew and grow our membership this past year – as many of you new recruits know!  Membership dues mostly go to staff salary, but as our membership grows they enable us to undertake more projects on behalf of faculty, such as hiring an IP lawyer to consult on the issue of copyright and online contracts.  If we continue to recruit more members, we hope to be able to reduce membership fees.  So please spread the word and encourage your colleagues to join!

There have been many other issues that we have been monitoring, analyzing, and organizing around: the privacy and efficacy of bmail and the proliferation of other new information systems on campus, the deterioration of historic facilities on campus, strong communications with student government and staff unions, and university disinvestment from fossil fuels.

The elected members of our Board – Gillian Hart, Colleen Lye, Greg Levine, Kevin Padian, Chris Rosen, Leslie Salzinger and James Vernon  – were returned unopposed on May 15. They appointed Michael Burawoy, Lyn Hejinian, Celeste Langan, and Shannon Steen to the Board for a two-year term, while Charles Hirschkind, Zeus Leonardo, and Dylan Riley have a further year to serve.  Kathryn Abrams, Wendy Brown, Ananya Roy and and Dick Walker continue on the Board as advisory members.

As ever we encourage members to get in touch and let us know of your concerns and how we can better represent your interests.  And most of all we thank you for your continuing support.


BFA Annual Report: Academic Year 2012 – 2013

This has been a busy year for the Berkeley Faculty Association.  Although Proposition 30 passed in the Fall it effectively amounted to a stay of execution: cancelling cuts planned for this year but doing nothing to ameliorate the impact of previous cuts or to protect us from further cuts in the future.  In this uncertain position we welcome a new Chancellor at Berkeley and a soon to be announced new President of the University of California. The BFA looks forward to working with both of them to ensure we continue to work in world’s best public university.  Our own new officers, unanimously elected by the Board, assume their positions on June 30th: They are Colleen Lye and James Vernon (Chairs), Chris Rosen (Vice-Chair), and Leslie Salzinger (Secretary).   The BFA has sought to advance the interests of its members around a variety of issues briefly summarized below (for full details see our redesigned website http://ucbfa.org/.)

  •     Faculty Welfare

We prompted the academic Senate and Vice Provost Broughton to investigate the extent and cause of delays in the processing of merit and promotion reviews that had adversely affected many of you.  We also worked with parents, the Association of Academic Women, and the Senate to ensure that the campus’ much-loved Early Childhood Education Program was not outsourced to a private contractor. We continue to monitor the rising costs of faculty healthcare and the restructuring of our pensions.

  • Online Education

We believe that the rush to online education through MOOCs and venture capital funded edtech companies represents the biggest threat to our mission as a public university.  Although we exposed the 7 million flop of Dean Edley’s pilot UC Online, the Regents and many state politicians mistakenly believe that online models could reduce costs and expand access. Our petition against SB520 collected over 1,500 signatures and helped ensure important revisions to a bill that still threatens to give public accreditation to classes taught by private providers. We are also pushing to ensure that the 10-1 Senate vote against online course evaluations in Spring 2011 is respected in the face of administration plans to implement them despite continuing concerns about poor yields (which impact faculty merit reviews) and confidentiality.

  • Staff and Campus Services Restructuring

Faculty research and teaching rely heavily upon the excellence of our administrative staff and infrastructure. Yet many of us continue to experience the degrading of basic services—from telephones to office cleaning to tech and office staff support – as the consequences of Operational Excellence are unfurled.  We are closely monitoring the impact of Campus Shared Services and the prospective reorganization of library services.

  •  University Financing

We continue to be alarmed at the growth of senior management positions (and their salaries), which now outnumber regular teaching faculty.  We continue to investigate the scandal of funding for inter-collegiate athletics, which has already saddled us with large and potentially growing debts for the football stadium and is now planning a new $15m high performance Aquatics Center. We continue to insist that private funding should not determine the future direction of the University. And lastly, we continue to advocate that only public funds, not endowment or commercial income, can make good decades of disinvestment.  Restoring the entire system and setting student fees to where they were a decade ago would cost the median California taxpayer just $48.

In these endeavors we are beholden to your support and membership.  If you would like to get more involved or raise issues for the Board and its Officers to address, please don’t hesitate to let us know.