Fall 2009 Convocation Speech

Susan Moulton
Chair of the Faculty
August 24, 2009

Fall 2009 Speakers

Ruben Armiñana
President

Eduardo Ochoa
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Susan Moulton
Chair of the Faculty

Heather Hanson
Associated Students President

Dolores Bainter
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate

Welcome and thanks to our visiting Italian Musicians:, il Premiato Corpo Bandistico "Citt‡ di Monte Urano" and their Director,  Lanfranco Navisse. Il Premiato Corpo Bandistico was founded in 1877 and has performed around Europe and in the U.S. And, thanks to the Chair of our Music Department, Brian Wilson who has helped oversee this on-going exchange of musicians between Italy and Sonoma State.

Benvenuto e grazie ai musicisti del Premiato Corpo Bandistico da Citta di Monte Urano che ha fatto stamattina questo bel concerto. E veramente uno scambio internazionale in un linguaggio universale.

I would like to express my gratitude to Scott Miller for his faithful service last year as your Faculty Chair, to Tim Wandling for finishing his three year stint and for continuing as Chair of the Senate Budget Committe.  And to Laurel Holmstom-Vega our Academic Senate Analyst extraordinaire, for holding the Senate together and keeping us on track and for the wonderful short film that has accompanied the music today. Thanks also to the Executive Board Members and Andy Merrifield our CFA Chapter President, Melinda Barnard and Larry Furukawa-Schlereth and numerous others who worked hard this June and July to respond to the furlough crisis while the Provost was away and the President was ill. And finally, thanks to Andy Merrifield and the CFA who have generously provided coffee and tea for us at this Convocation.

Announcement: Dean Elaine Leeder and our new students invite us all again to attend the new Student Convocation at 11:30 tomorrow. Faculty with or without regalia should meet at the loading dock of Stevenson Hall to walk together to event.

Acknowledgment of members of campus community whom we lost last year:

  • David Bromidge, English
  • Mel Graves, Music
  • Walt Kuhlman, Art
  • Hobart "Red" Thomas, Expressive Arts
  • Dennis Harris (Memorial Celebration) September 20, 2 pm. University Commons RSVP Bonnie Harris 322-8762

Could we take a moment of silence to remember our colleagues, some of whom taught here for 20 or 30 years or more. I would also like to honor those faculty who retired or who left SSU last year and to acknowledge their years of service and contribution. And, I would like to welcome those new faculty and staff who are joining us for the first time this year.

RECLAIMING OUR CHERISHED IDENTITY

These are difficult times for us all. We have just finished a rocky summer with debate around whether to furlough or not to furlough, and then how and when to furlough. The reality of these precipitous events is just now manifesting itself in our reduced paychecks and the sad loss of a number of our lecturers. Nonetheless, even though we are still reeling from the impact, we must shift the discussion to the larger issues facing us in the near and distant future, including addressing threats to the core identity and role of education in our culture and an anticipated 2010-2011 budget cut of another $4 million.

We live in an increasingly horizontal world dominated by information and fueled by corporate values and hyperbole, particularly after the mid 1990 publication of the conservative Rand Corporation assessment of higher education with its emphasis on technology driven education, on accountability as quantifiable outcomes and education as a product. As a result, the ruling orthodoxy is now based on economics and abstract formulae for determining educational value. Marginalized in this shift are wisdom, imagination, moral and ethical judgment and the role of higher education in creating culture, its values and discriminating citizens.  In this ethics-challenged era higher education must re-focus on things that are difficult, if not impossible, to quantify, but which are essential for creating a vibrant culture of the future. We must regain our humanity and reclaim our historical mission.

As your Faculty Chair this year I see two main challenges ahead: 1) to successfully navigate this uncharted, stormy water of furloughs, reduced incomes and increased workloads while anticipating a fiscal scenario that will probably be even worse in the springñone for which we must plan right now since schedules and cuts for the spring will occur in September; and 2) to move beyond the dialogue of furloughs, to plan for 5 and 10 years from now to ensure that SSU retains its character and integrity. To accomplish this we need to communicate with our state legislators, our Chancellor and Board of Trustees, as well as to identify local fiscal solutions that will soften the impact of statewide budget cuts, and then, to pull together as faculty, staff, students and administration to respond in such a way that we do the least damage to our students, ourselves and our mission. This requires trust, transparency, respect, equal representation in key decision making for all constituencies, particularly around budgets and expenditures, and a shared commitment to SSUís core academic mission. There must be new awareness that jobs are not the only educational outcome; that education needs to target life outside the corporate cubicle. Epictetus was prescient when he said, "Only the educated are free." As educated men and womenñparticularly managers and supervisorsñcollectively and individually we must commit to the recent Harvard Business School Oath that stresses morality, integrity and putting the best interests of people ahead of corporate profit.

38 years ago I came to a youthful SSU as a 20 something part time Lecturer. Ronald Regan was Governor and Glen Dumke, Chancellor. Ground was being broken for the first residence halls. There were no computers.  Registration was done in person with the help of spouses of the faculty and staff in the main Gym. The start of each semester was like a gala homecoming. We had one Academic Vice President and a handful of managers who oversaw budgets and ran the physical plant. The head of Plant Operations used to carry my 4 year old son around campus on the crossbars of his bicycle. SSU was known for its liberal bent and its humane, progressive values. We cared about and knew almost everyone on campus, especially students, and we went the extra mile to see that the nurturing environment so essential to education was available not just to them, but lay at the heart of our identity. The buildings were few, with ugly prison-like architecture, framed by temporary trailers, but the community feeling was expansive and the intellectual exchange, dynamic. We looked forward to coming to campus. Teaching was a joy, despite the perennial problems that nag every academic community. There were statewide formulae that governed staffing for administration, staff and faculty based on student enrollments. Although faculty felt this was never enough, we could count on it as a standard to be used during times of growth and also retrenchment. Our glasses were always half full, but it sufficed.

Before the 1990s came along with its characteristic corporate-speak, its dense hierarchy and glitzy corporate image, SSU had the feeling of a small community. We weathered fiscal ups and downs, helping each other, taking colleagues into related departments and lecturing outside our own areas of expertise. Hutchins, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies and ITDS along with other creative enterprises reflected SSUís collaborative spirit. Deans and administrators were mostly drawn from faculty ranks and frequently returned to them, thus bringing with them a deep awareness and appreciation of our unique identity and commitment to our mission. As we find ourselves once again in a time of crisis we need to refuse to be victimized. We need to change the conversation, to recapture our humanity, our sense of sharing and helping each other that, I believe, still remains a part of SSUís academic "DNA" and to advocate for the critical cultural role of higher education.

Now I would ask you to jump ahead, to imagine sitting in a similar convocation 38 years from now. What essential things would you hope to see, to feel, and to know about SSU? What do you envision would be the essential spirit and signature of this campus?

Would we have the range and diversity of academic programs essential to a well-rounded liberal arts education that help students discover who they are, to challenge their myths about themselves? To dissect rationally not only what they are being told, but how it is communicated in many forms? To nuance their search for individual pathways to careers, families, citizenship? Would they be able to parse the issues of diversity to create a new inclusive future? Would they know what they will need to know to adapt to rapid change? Would there be SSUís signature face-to-face interaction by caring instructors in adequately equipped settings? Or would we all be teaching from remote locations, sitting in front of computer screens, the future iteration of ipods or new technological equivalents, interacting virtually, taking and grading exams that had no human face to them and by which means the university would focus on measurable educational outcomes and economic profits? Would the CSU look more like the University of Phoenix?

Would we feel part of an academic "family"? A nurturing community of scholars and students in which we all felt secure enough to make mistakes, to try new and sometimes frightening ideas, to engage in challenging, visionary, inclusive, empathetic dialogues outside our comfort zones?

What kind of skills and values would our students glean from their years here and their interaction with us and with our programs and our co-curriculum? How would they help society face their looming global issues? What kind of citizens and taxpayers would our students become? What would they believe about war and peace, torture and genocide? Investing in the common good? Health Care and Education as basic human rights?

The past 15 years have witnessed a steady administrative shift of CSU and SSU resources into corporate-inspired directions with a focus on new buildings. These engendered a rapidly expanding management that seeks an education-as-business identity with salaries to match that regard students as "customers" and faculty and staff as "stakeholders." This change brought SSU a 25 year commitment to a high school on campus in order to gain local bond money to build our "learning center."  It led to the Green Music Center (GMC), proposed at $10 million and now costing beyond $110 and still incomplete for which we have mortgaged our future and that of our students for the next 30 years. The accreditation of our Business School carries with it sizeable annual contributions from every other academic program. The administration undertook expensive remodels of old and new buildings, sometimes charging Academic Affairs for the work as they did with Darwin Hall and the entrance to the School of Education. They built top-of-the-line dormitories which attract students from upper class, less diverse backgrounds (150 beds in three of which now sit vacant at a loss of about $1.5 million this year). Statewide, the CSU adopted a multi-billion dollar technology infrastructure that is constantly in need of expensive upgrades and fails to serve the needs of academic programs.

Last January while students rallied for more classes because some could not get even one of them, $1,770,000 stood vacant in largely unoccupied administrative positions. At the same time Management Interns received $82,000 in raises, benefits or re-classifications. Between $5 and 7 million beyond previous years was invested in higher pay, new personnel and benefits for management. This was during a year of wage and hiring freezes. Retired faculty were not replace and adjuncts not rehired, while the campus continued to make sizeable investments in signage, buildings and landscaping. The President continues to grant management employees the equivalent of tenure without the intensive review process used by faculty by treating them comparably to permanent tenured faculty and staff. Risky fiscal management of non General Fund money is the on-going subject of study by the local media.

At SSU in the face of dwindling funds, student fee increases of 32% and budget cuts to Academic Affairs, our faculty, support staff and students have done more than has been asked of them. You are all to be commended for your heroic efforts. But, you must also protect your health and your rights. Given our high Student to Faculty Ratio, SSU student access to faculty is less than any other equivalent CSU; SSU students pay among the highest fees in the system; SSU faculty have among the lowest salaries, while we pay $3 to 6 million more for administration than do other CSU campuses of equivalent size. We have around 60 administrators paid over $100,000 and, when benefits are factored in, many who receive more than $200,000. News media have reported that the top administrators of the CSU and SSU receive more compensation than do most state governors, the US Secretary of State, our Supreme Court Justices or Ben Bernanke. Our Foundation, Auxiliaries, and Discretionary funds are so mixed in terms of re-imbursed funding for personnel support that our administration, when asked, often cannot identify which funds support which positions. San Francisco Senator Yee has proposed SB 217 and SB 218 to address these issues of Executive Pay and Auxiliary Transparency. Because of our debt of almost a quarter of a billion dollars and our need to service that debt which costs SSU more than $5 million annually, in these times of budget cuts SSU may now be worse off than many other CSU campuses.

How many lost classes does this debt service and expanded management represent? How many lost dreams for students who couldnít get classes? How much faculty research and creative accomplishment directed to solving the urgent problems we face as a society? We need audacious changeóto quote President Obamaó imagination, and vision to move into the future and regain those values that once made SSU the gem of the CSU.

Key ingredients for this change begin with real shared decision-making laced with a generous dose of budget and statistical transparency. For over 15 years a number of us have been intimately involved with planning on this campus before the recent push for administratively directed planning. This summer, with the Senate Budget Committee, I spent several weeks going through the 2008-09 Expenditure Report, page-by-page and line-by-line, comparing it with earlier Expenditure Plans to get a clear sense of funding priorities and patterns. It was this review that led to my concern about our campus asymmetry in funding practices and priorities.

Some critics have written that most of our fiscal problems originated with the Reaganesque de-regulation of the CSU with the coming of Chancellors Barry Munitz and Charles Reed, both of whom served on the board that charged the conservative Rand Corporation to prepare the report on Higher Education which became the CSU template for change. Under a new 1990s corporate model, the CSU campuses were essentially "deregulated" and given "autonomy" in their budgetary decisions, rather than following the formulae based on enrollments of earlier decades. President ArmiÒana and the Chancellor declared SSU a "Beta" or test site, although for what was never clearly explained. While academic funding continued to be regulated by the old formulae, administrative funding was deregulated and freed from close public budgetary scrutiny.

Recently, in desperate need of funds to support the soaring costs of the GMC and other "unfunded mandates", SSU managers began to make ever riskier investments with discretionary funds in real estate ventures, hedge fund investments, and unevaluated, unregulated self-promotion based on a 1990s belief in unending growth overseen by a CFO who also serves as head of Administration and Finance. Then came the stateís financial meltdownñ with its own kind of Shock and Awe politicsñ and our scramble to respond this summer.

As reported by the Board of Trustees this July, and recently in a newspaper interview with our President, technology, rather than an investment in people, appears to offer one way out of our current economic crisis. Our President said that faculty may not like it, but would do it. Top down decision making of the administration collides here with the democratic processes of faculty and its oversight of the curriculum. As the venture bubbles of the 90s burst, the growth model failed. But SSU practices were slow to change. Inclusive oversight, moral reform and economic parity, determined by concensus are desperately needed across the country and on campuses like ours in these economically challenged times.

Anticipating our October WASC visit and in response to their report last year, the Provost convened and directed a workshop on Shared Governance this month with the Deans and members of the Senate Executive Committee along with the President and the Academic Senate Analyst. We discussed different models of governance in the abstract and identified some goals for the future. Over lunch and in conversation we also found that Deans and Administrators feel the pressure and suffer from negative comments as much as faculty feel marginalized and disrespected. While faculty feel that their glass is half empty, some believe the administration feels the glass belongs to them. Clearly, besides new governance practices we must find ways to restore civility and respect for one another. But, as was noted in the retreat, respect is something to be earned as a result of actions not philosophy. Shared governance is practiced, not convened; it is a collaborative, inclusive process. It is desperately needed in these harsh economic times of unending budget cuts as SSU seeks to respond to its current $15 million reduction and looks forward to another projected $4 million cut in 2010-2011.

To address some of these issues I propose some Goals/Outcomes for this year that echo the suggestions of a number of previous Senate Chairs:

BUDGETS AND BUDGET PROCESSES:

Revisit our campus budgets and restructure budget decision-making to include an equal faculty voice (as did Sacramento State in the wake of its vote of no confidence in its president, and as does Long Beach State, Chico State and other campuses).

Create a collaborative, representative neutral budget oversight committee.

Eliminate assessments to academic programs and divisions, and redirect funds back to the academic mission, to stabilize programs, minimize or eliminate any additional loss of faculty, academic support staff, or classes for students in the spring or next year.

  • Include faculty governance and union representation on the Presidentís Cabinet where key budget and funding decisions are initially made and then reported down the line.
  • As Tim Wandling has suggested, increase the Marginal Cost formula which identifies the disbursement of General Fund money for Academic Affairs from 38% to 50%, or, alternatively find a realistic formula in these harsh economic times that allows us to achieve our academic mission as our top funding priority.
  • Make all campus budgets, including income sources and expenditures for all divisions open for campus discussion, accessible digitally, and transparent to the public.
  • Reduce non-academic sectors, especially those that benefited from pay increases last year before downsizing faculty.
  • Require all managers live up to the Harvard Business School Oath, and take thepledge ourselves.

2. MODEL CAMPUS SUSTAINABILITY IN CURRICULUM AND PRACTICE: The future-global climate crisis, global economic and social problemsñ require training men and women in the theory and practice of sustainability. Campuses across the country and around the world are pursuing this end that requires bottom-up collaboration and concensus rather than top-down decision-making.

  • Make a long term commitment to alternative energy and conservation on campus with solar panels on all buildings where possible, programs and competitions to reduce utility usage and the enhanced recycling of campus water and waste, much like San Jose Stateís "Ecological Footprint Challenge.
  • Make funding the development of new curriculum that addresses the urgent social, financial and ecological realities of the 21st Century a top priority.
  • * Engage with the local community to build out mutual support through a collaboration of people and resources, including working with organizations like GoLocal here in Sonoma County.
  • * Reinstitute humane language and signage that defines who we are: students, not customers; faculty and staff, not stakeholders.

3. MAKE DIVERSITY A REAL PRIORITY. Fund programs, curriculum, people and offices that further the goals of diversity. This should not be one of the first things we sacrifice in times of economic hardship. Our students still appear to be both the whitest and richest of the CSU campuses.

4. RETURN OVERSIGHT OF ACADEMIC INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY TO ACADEMIC AFFAIRS: Since the departure of Provost Bernstein, all of IT has been housed in Administration and Finance and support for Academic Technology has dwindled. The Pappas Report last year identified SSU as under-funding IT by $7 million (it currently spends $6 million a year) and we lack a dedicated academic technology specialist for every 100 faculty. Specific technology needs for academic programs must replace the current "shrink-wrap" only software mentality. If technology is to be one panacea for our fiscal problems, we need to invest in a technology infrastructure that works for academic programs, faculty and students including resources for retraining, academic copyright protection for faculty, and a recognition that technology delivered curriculum is exceedingly labor intensive. No matter how popular or predominant, we must also remember technology is a tool, not the sole vehicle for delivering education, and it is very, very expensive and rapidly outdated. Technology is here to service higher education, not vice versa.

5. MAKE A COMMITMENT TO TRANSPARENCY AND EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AT ALL LEVELS: True shared governance and strategic planning require that we all have timely access to all the information available and that it be communicated effectively. Change without information can result in overreaction. Budget cut decisions, non-rehiring of employees and cutting of programs must be discussed openly before they occur. This is a public institution. Our statistics and budgets should be easily accessible on-line to the campus community for purposes of oversight, planning and review. The several hundred page, hard-copy only, Expenditure Plans come out after the academic year is over making debate about funding priorities difficult. The Academic Planning Committee (APC) has called for public access to information in the form of a "Statistical Dashboard." Other campuses have digital access to their financial and statistical records. Given the recent publications discussing the Carinalli loans and use of Foundation and Auxiliary funds, money for the GMC, and executive pay, complete transparency is essential to correct any disequilibrium and to rebuild confidence in the handling of our institutional finances.

What I believe we all have in common today is our concern for the welfare of the whole institution and its commitment to our students. We are confronted by an urgent need to respond thoughtfully and constructively to the financial maelstrom, the global climate crisis, and the social problems created by fiscal collapse and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a very few. We know in our bones that education is the solution. We need to give its virtues voice. Without a liberal arts and sciences education there would be no freedom, no true democracy. It provides empowerment, constructive value-based vision, democratic decision-making, self-awareness and thus self-esteem, insight about what it is to be human, courage based on knowledge that leads to wisdom when examined, commitment to moral and ethical values above material or personal gain. The liberal arts and sciences help us know "how to be" through face-to-face debate, confrontation, and a reasoned search for truth. They help us to know how to collaborate and share what we have with others. Education is at the very heart of our freedoms and our role as citizens. It has been estimated that every dollar invested in higher education returns 4 dollars to society.

SSU describes itself to WASC as committed to the "Whole Student," with close campus relationships and mutual support, and a humanities-based agenda. These "civic indicators" are hard to measure with formulae or as quantifiable outcomes. The market for morality is rapidly eroding in our country. We must invest our capital to dislodge complacent minds to rebuild the study of the inner world of ideas, of inspiration, of the imagination found in the humanities and the liberal arts and sciences where students can explore the multiple dimensions of our reality and gain the skills needed to address urgent problems of the future.

I am awed by the responsibility of this position as your Chair and ask you all for your help and collaboration as the year unfolds, particularly those of you who have perceptions of our situation that differ from mine. Push-back is vital and welcome. I ask, in advance, for your understanding and tolerance when I make mistakes, which I certainly will. 

I pledge to make myself as available to you all as possible. To that end I will be in the Commons on one Tuesday a month from 11:30 until 1 to share ideas, conversation, and a cup of coffee or lunch. I have also asked that twice a semester members of the Executive Committee join me and you in the Commons for conversation around issues of the day. In addition, there will be a number of Town Hall Meetings to discuss these issues we face, including the Academic Foundation situation. WASC will be making its follow-up site visit in October. These events will be announced on Senate Talk and Senate Announce. Please join us for these formal and informal discussions about things that matter to all of us and help maintain the collegiality that will sustain us through these challenging times. Together, particularly in times of duress, we can restore and sustain that cherished identity of SSU.