Restructuring the CSU or Wrecking It? What Proposed Changes Mean and What We Can Do About Them

College students from around California protested proposed budget cuts to higher education at the capitol in Sacramento. ( Jacqueline Johnston/Photo)

College students from around California protested proposed budget cuts to higher education at the capitol in Sacramento. ( Jacqueline Johnston/Photo)

Like so many other public institutions these days, the California State University is under attack. Not just from the deep and persistent budget cuts, but also from a radical change in the way university administrators want to deliver higher education.

Today, the California faculty Association has released a white paper detailing this disturbing trend entitled, “Restructuring” the CSU or Wrecking It?

This authoritative report seeks to address the top down call for “restructuring” occurring throughout the CSU and UC systems and offers insight into the political agendas that may be driving the trend.

The white paper also makes it clear that, without any public conversation, there is a profound shift in public policy taking place concerning the CSU’s mission.

Throughout this period of unprecedented cuts to the CSU budget, the Chancellor and his administration have failed to confront elected leaders or even to educate the people of California about the costs of political choices made around the California budget.

Instead, they have embarked on a mission to “restructure” the university in ways that will profoundly affect the educational opportunities and experiences of Californians for generations to come.

Over the last decade, faculty and students have repeatedly expressed frustration at the failure of the Chancellor and the CSU Board of Trustees to fight for the system. Instead, we’ve seen a quiet acceptance of every cut while student fees have more than doubled, faculty positions have been eliminated and enrollment limits established.

What all of this means is that access to a quality four-year higher education – which is exactly what the CSU mission promises – is quickly disappearing.

We are denying a whole generation of students access to higher education and in doing so we are denying them their chance to achieve their American Dream.

On top of that, we are digging ourselves into a deeper economic hole in California. If we aren’t educating our population, we are not going to be able to prepare enough skilled workers to drive our economy. Experts agree that the availability of an educated workforce has been a key feature of California’s prosperity.

The administration’s “restructuring” plans will have long term consequences for the entire state and everyone should be alarmed.

Here are just a few of the key points in this white paper:

  • First, drastic changes for the CSU are the goal of “restructuring”. The Chancellor’s office has in mind much more drastic changes than enrollment caps, tuition hikes, and faculty layoffs. An internal memo from Benjamin F. Quillian, CSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, to campus financial officers states that “the budget reduction strategies must yield a fundamental transformation of the ways we meet the needs of our students, faculty and staff.”
  • Second, the Chancellor’s office argues that restructuring is inevitable due to the budget crisis. We disagree. Clearly, where there is political pressure and political will, there is a choice. Just take a look at the trillions of tax-payer dollars that were spent last year on bailing out banks. There are other options.
  • Third, the CSU Administration believes that restructuring is a positive development for the University. Hamid Shirvani, President of CSU Stanislaus, recently editorialized that budget cuts to the CSU actually offer an opportunity to “reengineer education” in a way that reduces Californians’ sense of “entitlement” to a college education. He says that college education “has driven expansion in higher education beyond what is reasonable or necessary.”His words are disturbing. What Shirvani calls entitlement has been a 50-year promise to Californians expressed in the Master Plan for Higher Education – and an opportunity for students to thrive and to participate meaningfully in our democracy.
  • Fourth, there are serious long-term social effects that these changes will have, specifically on low-income people and communities of color. The provision of a broad liberal education for communities that might have no other access is at the heart of the CSU’s mission and that is the heart of what is under attack.

Lillian Taiz

Lillian Taiz is a professor of history at California State University, Los Angeles and President of the California Faculty Association.

Republished with permisssion from The California Progress Report, where it first appeared.

Published by the LA Progressive on December 3, 2009
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