UPAC moves for merging of colleges
May 11, 2010 10:30 AM
Note to readers: When this article was published in the 15th issue of the Golden Gate [X]press newspaper on May 12, 2010 Katherine General, field representative for the California Faculty Association, was incorrectly attributed. The quote was on behalf of the entire CFA board, not just General. The [X]press staff apologies for this mistake.
A recent proposal drafted by the University Planning Advisory Council is calling for the elimination of two colleges, leaving departments to be shuffled around and faculty wondering if they will still have jobs.
In the proposal, UPAC advised that cutting administrative salaries could save the University upwards of $1 million by reorganizing colleges with fewer deans and staff.
"I don't know if it will save enough money with all the organizational and structural chaos it will create," said James Martel, chair of the political science department.
"I think we need to stand in solidarity with our staff, we can't let them absorb all of the losses."
In the UPAC draft, there is no direct mention of any specific job losses that will occur when the colleges and departments are combined, which worries faculty and staff.
"All sorts of concerns are raised -will we lose jobs? Will departments be shuffled around and then disappear? Will deans be replaced?" asked Chris Bettinger, a professor in the psychology department.
"We all have worries about losing our jobs. The staff is worried they're on the chopping block."
The goal of the draft proposal was to get input from the campus and use the ideas to come up with ways to save SF State money in the harsh economic climate the University is currently suffering in.
A similar draft was created a couple of years ago, though it never took affect.
"UPAC wants to spur discussion, I just think they're going about it the wrong way," Bettinger said.
"I'm surprised they're going down the same road as last time."
With an $18 million budget, the University is trying to think of creative ways to save money without cutting more classes and raising fees.
Most of the input that was received by the Council called for administrative restructuring, which includes reviewing both salaries and job positions. Another faculty worry lies in the proposed organization of the colleges themselves, and if the departments will work well together.
"It's helpful for behavioral and social sciences to exist as a college --it's a hybrid of different disciplines," Martel said.
"It's what makes us who we are, and it saddens me to have us broken up like that."
"The changes to the College of Science and Engineering under the tentative proposal is that the geosciences department and the environmental studies program would come to the College of Science and Engineering," said Sheldon Axler, dean of the college of science and engineering. "Right now it's too early for comments, because the UPAC has not even made a recommendation yet to the president and provost."
While the UPAC urges faculty and staff to give their input on how to make the restructuring work in the best way for the most people, many faculty are feeling left out of the decision-making process.
"The CFA (California Faculty Association) believes that faculty should be a central part of the decision making process and not merely the recipients of change," said Katherine General, field representative for the CFA. The CFA is a group that advocates for faculty rights in the CSU system.
"We understand UPAC was doing the job it was mandated, but budgetary constraints do not justify failing to incorporate the full and meaningful participation of faculty in shared governance."
For now, UPAC is looking at the restructuring as a way to curb long-term costs while also saving over $1 million each year after initial costs are accounted for during the first year the program is implemented.
"The short-term costs may not total the savings, which start now," said UPAC chair Shawn Whelan.
The short-term costs include new signs and letterheads for example, but after the first year "the costs would be absorbed," according to Whelan.
A meeting was held by the Academic Senate in the Seven Hills Conference Center May 11 to discuss the UPAC proposal, as well as other policies. The group discussed the "restructuring documents" while also addressing the "discontinuance policy," which looks at which academic programs should be cut if the budget calls for such action.
"My concern is that this is the beginning of a statewide battle to try to downsize and reconfigure the CSU (California State University) system," said Jerald Shapiro, professor in the school of social work and member of the Academic Senate.
"It seems to be heading in a corporate approach to higher education and that presents real problems for a social justice institution such as SF State."
In the next year, the Governor has proposed a $305 million boost in funding to the CSU and University of California systems, though the University is still preparing for a 10 percent fee hike for students.
It is up to UPAC and other organizations to find different ways to cut costs while passing down the least financial damage on students and University faculty and staff alike.
"There is no magic solution that won't hurt anybody," Bettinger said. "UPAC has to make a hard decision.
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