A campus-wide faculty referendum is currently taking place this week concerning the University Planning Advisory Council’s recommendation to reduce the number of colleges from an eight to a six-college “plus one” structure.
The faculty is voting on three different options for the merger that was recommended by UPAC. The voting began Feb. 11 and continues until Feb. 22.
“All faculty with active appointments, including tenured, tenure track and lecturers, are invited to vote,” said UPAC council member and Academic Senate chair Shawn Whalen. “While non-faculty do not have the ability to vote in the referendum, the president is soliciting comments on the three proposed structures.”
The urgency of the vote, taking place exclusively via email, is heightened by California’s dire economic trouble. As a result, Frank Bayliss, UPAC council member and professor of cell and molecular biology, said that due to the impending budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the University must make serious changes.
“We’ve been cutting our maintenance, we’ve been cutting custodians, we’ve been cutting everything,” Bayliss said. “We’re out of low-hanging fruit. We’re now into meat and we’re going to be cutting the heart out.”
With the proposed $500 million in cuts to the California State University system described as the “best-case scenario,” the University will likely face a $32-million deficit.
If the $10-billion tax initiative proposed by Brown is not passed, Bayliss said, a $50-60 million reduction may result. The college restructure could potentially save $1 million.
“I’ve been here for 35 years and there’s never been anything like this in the CSU. It’s history,” Bayliss said. “It’s untried territory and we don’t know what we’re going to see.”
This fiscal uncertainty and the process of the referendum,established by unanimous approval of Academic Senate Policy No. S92-178 in May 1992, have led many faculty members to question the notion of shared governance and the validity of their voices.
“In practical terms all bodies below the president are advisers,” said Saul Steier, member of the senate.
Although the senate may pass a bill, Steier said, the president can choose to not sign the bill, resulting in no further changes. In short, the president may act on his own.
“We call it shared governance, but obviously the two shared is not equal,” Steier said.
Bayliss said that even if the majority of the faculty decides to vote “no” on all three options, President Robert A. Corrigan ultimately makes the decision on whether the merger will continue.
“It will not be faculty endorsed but the president has the responsibility to manage the University,” Bayliss said. “So, he could in fact go against that item. He doesn’t want to by any means.”
Whalen echoed Bayliss’ words, citing his confidence in the president.
“President Corrigan retains the ultimate responsibility and the authority over these decisions,” Whalen said. “That being said, President Corrigan has a distinguished record of honoring the importance of shared governance and I have every expectation that President Corrigan will continue to do so.”
Jerald Shapiro, professor in the School of Social Work, believes that the voting process is not in accordance with S92-178 and that it does not provide faculty with an adequate position in the decision-making process.
Shapiro had specific concerns with principles five, six, seven and eight of S92-178 as well as with the overall mission of shared governance proposed in the reorganizing of the University.
S92-178 states, “The Academic Senate believes that any such reorganization should be considered and adopted – if accepted by the faculty– in the context of how best to serve the mission of the Univeristy and strengthen the intellectual/academic activities on the University community.”
The policy continues to say, “The Academic Senate further believes that the budgetary concerns do not in and of themselves comprise sufficient reason to alter the organization of the schools/programs on this campus, and that any organizational change of this kind must be considered within the framework or principles and processes to be articulated prior to any actual planning process.”
Shapiro said that having faculty members vote “yes” or “no” on each option, they are not being allowed to voice their opinion that the merger should not happen.
“The problem with the referendum is that it does not provide voters with a way to exercise their vote on the core issue: Do voters approve of reducing the number of colleges or do voters not approve of reducing the number of colleges,” he said. ”By going ahead and indicating a preference for college configurations, voters are actually contributing to the aggregate vote count of people appearing to approve of reducing the number of colleges.”
Shapiro encourages faculty to take the road less offered, which is voting “no” to all three choices.
“That way we can encourage administration to move towards alternative four,” Shapiro said. “That is, a comprehensive study of cost reduction in administrative operations that would inform and justify any sacrifices that might have to be made in the classroom.”
Although the vote ends Feb. 22, it is unknown when the results of the referendum will be released by the Executive Committee of the senate.