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2020 April 15

Bureaucracy at its best

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My pessimism about University bureaucracy in times of crisis has been dealt a serious blow!

Our department had been asked by the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) to create a new bachelor’s program, with a fairly short timeline—in February they asked us to create the new program and have the proposal to them before the end of Spring quarter.  Later they moved the deadline up to April 22, which is only the 4th week of the quarter.

My fellow undergrad director and I worked hard to get a program designed, approved by the faculty, and with approval from all the departments offering courses that we were planning to require.  The hardest part was convincing the biology department to let students take the first biology course, even though it is currently required of every bio-related major on campus and has no restrictions on who can take it.

Because I knew we were on a tight timeline, I entered the proposal directly into the database that CEP uses for evaluating programs and which the Registrar’s office uses for preparing catalog copy.  After I had done all that, I attached a cover letter and all the stakeholder approvals, and I sent the proposal up the pipeline to the next level of approval.

At that point I ran into the sort of petty bureaucracy I’ve come to associate with the University:  the proposal was not permitted to go forward, because it was in the database format and not in the format expected of a new-program proposal.  The usual process (brand-new since I last created a new program a couple of years ago) requires a proposal in PDF format with standardized headings. After the proposal is approved, then it all is expected to be redone in the format that I had already done it in.  Why the administrators can’t use the same format as the Academic Senate Committee and the Registrar is one of those mysteries best not thought too hard about.

I was not about waste my sabbatical time (remember, I’m on sabbatical now) running in circles rewriting and cutting-and-pasting to satisfy a bureaucratic craving for redundant effort, and I let several people know about it.  I was ready to wash my hands of the whole thing and tell CEP that I’d done my best, but the bureaucracy had thwarted our department’s attempt to comply.

Then a member of the school staff (the same one who had pointed out the “need” for a specific format) worked late hours reformatting the proposal (asking me just for a few missing pieces over the weekend), getting the proposal finished by Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, both the dean and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs approved the proposal, freeing it to go forward to the CEP and the Committee on Planning and Budget (CPB).  This is record-breakingly fast work—the last time I needed something from the dean it took me 6 weeks just to get an appointment!

I expect that both CEP and CPB will approve the program—the chair of CEP has already seen and commented unofficially on the proposal (even helped me deal with the biology department) and there are no resources being requested, so CPB has nothing to shoot down.  All the courses in the program are ones that are already taught, and increasing capacity in the courses can be handled by the usual allocation of Temporary Academic Staffing funds for teaching assistants and lecturers, which are allocated to departments based on enrollments.

It usually takes a year or more to create a new bachelor’s program at UCSC (grad programs take much longer, because they need to be approved systemwide), so if we get this one done in 3 months  from first idea of the program to final approval, it will probably set a new record.  (I exaggerate a little—the idea for some sort of lighter-weight program has been kicking around for about a decade, but no one had given much serious thought to the details until this February.)

In any case, my pessimism about university bureaucracy has taken a serious hit—it may not recover before I retire in 14½ months.

2019 May 8

UCSC principles of community

This year UCSC has had banners up on the main roads of campus touting the campuses “priniciples of community”:

We strive to be:

  • Diverse: We embrace diversity in all its forms and we strive for an inclusive community that fosters an open, enlightened and productive environment.
  • Open: We believe free exchange of ideas requires mutual respect and consideration for our differences.
  • Purposeful: We are a participatory community united by shared commitments to: service to society; preservation and advancement of knowledge; and innovative teaching and learning. 
  • Caring: We promote mutual respect, trust and support to foster bonds that strengthen the community.
  • Just: We are committed to due process, respect for individual dignity and equitable access to resources, recognition and rewards.
  • Disciplined: We seek to advance common goals through reasonable and realistic practices, procedures and expectations.
  • Celebrative: We celebrate the heritage, achievements and diversity of the community and the uniqueness and contributions of our members.

[https://www.ucsc.edu/about/principles-community.html]

These principles are nice, if rather vague, principles for the community to support, and the banners are nicely designed graphically:

 

(Sorry about “be caring” being backwards—I didn’t hang the banners, but just photographed them on my way to work today.)

I have one major objection to the banners:  they are all paired with “because actions speak louder than words”, but none of them demand specific actions!  They are asking for states of being, rather than calling for action.  The only exception is “embrace diversity”, probably because “be diverse” is something that the community aspires to, not something an individual can do much about.  But even “embrace diversity” is not a very clear action.

About the only one of the slogans that can be easily turned into an action is “be celebrative”, which should be “Celebrate!”

I think that the designers of the banners did not really think through the meanings of the words they were putting on the banners, or they would have chosen a phrase to pair with that did not have this semantic dissonance of exhorting states of being, while claiming that actions are better.

Readers, what common phrase would you have put on the banners, to pair with all the “be” phrases?

2017 August 21

UC salary numbers

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UC posts their entire payroll (redacting names for student jobs) each year.  The 2016 numbers can now be found at https://ucannualwage.ucop.edu/wage/

I was curious about several things: who were the most highly paid at UCSC, how much coaches were paid (the top four payments systemwide were UCB and UCLA coaches), and how my pay corresponds to my colleagues.

Most highly paid

UCSC had 87 people paid $200,000 or more in 2016.  The most highly paid was Chancellor Blumenthal at $396,866 (though I don’t think tat includes the value of his housing and other perks). There were about 24 administrators in this group, though many of them are technically also faculty, even if they aren’t currently teaching.  All five of those who make over $300,000 are faculty, though only one of the five (Lederman) is listed as a professor, rather than by an administrative title.

A surprising number of those paid over $200,000 were astronomers—they get paid more than I expected.  The highest-paid faculty who are not also listed as administrators are Lederman, Madau, and Lin (all physics, astrophysics, or astronomy).

Although I think that a few of those making over $200,000 are overpaid, the numbers are not ridiculous (unlike the millions spent for some of the employees at UCB and UCLA).

Coaches

There are 671 employees across all campuses with “coach” in their title, with payments ranging from $125 to $3,577,299.  UCSC has 45 of them, but the pay range is only $1,708 to $74,902.  This does not count the 4 “ath trainer” positions at UCSC ($9,736–$43,447).

Coaches are not being paid generously at UCSC, so though I still think it unwise for students to be paying fees for supporting intercollegiate athletes (rather than physical education and recreation, which all can participate in), the coaches are not getting rich off the students (unlike UCB and UCLA, where 53 of the top-paid 60 UC coaches work).  If we add in the “ath mgr” positions, UCB comes out even worse.  A big chunk of UCB’s deficit comes from the stadium boondoggle, but UCB continues to pour money down the athletics rathole.

I’m glad that UCSC is not wasting money at the rate that UCB and UCLA are, but I do wish that UCSC would return to the days when student athletes paid for their own entertainment, rather than taxing other students.

Me

My pay is relatively modest—I came out 430th on the list for UCSC.  UCSC is listed as having paid 12,288 people in 2016, though many of those got only tiny amounts.  Of those getting $1000 or more, there were 10,480, of those making $21,000 or more (CA minimum wage at full time) there were 4,248, of those making $30,000 or more (UC’s theoretical $15/hour minimum at full time) there were 3,580.  So I’m estimating that I’m at around the 89th percentile for full-time workers at UCSC: a comfortable pay, but nothing extraordinary.  Among the professors at UCSC who are listed as professors (not administrators), I’m at 263 out of about 566: a little above the median (the total count includes faculty who were only there for part of the year or who had “visiting faculty” positions, but not “recall faculty” who have retired but are rehired to teach a course or two).

In the UC system as a whole, I’m at position 26,585 out of 141,138 making $30k or more (only about the 81%ile—the med-center campuses pay a lot more than UCSC does).

Postdocs

I was curious was postdocs get paid across the UC system and at UCSC.  The range is huge across the system from $14 to $255,950.  (The tiny amounts are probably not really pay—there are tiny reimbursements and honoraria that get counted as pay in the UC system.)  The huge amount is from UCSF, and probably comes from clinical work by an MD.

At UCSC the range is $557 to $70,833, similar to the range for coaches.  The median pay for postdocs at UCSC is $39,150.  This is just above what the City of Santa Cruz requires as a living wage (currently $16.21/hour plus benefits) and is reasonable for a single person, but not for someone supporting a child as well.

There are not many postdocs listed as such on the UCSC payroll (only 173), and many of them were probably there for only part of the year, so the number of postdocs on the payroll at one time is probably only 100–120.

Teaching Assistants

Graduate teaching assistants (“teachg asst” in the compensation database) are more numerous—there are 1003 listed (without names) for UCSC with payments from $91 to $41,927.  The median pay is $15,219.  Given that the median workload is 20 hours a week for 33 weeks, that is a respectable $23/hour, but it is not enough to live on in Santa Cruz.  MIT’s living wage calculator estimates that a single adult in Santa Cruz County needs about $27,779 before taxes (though the calculation probably needs to be fixed for grad students, as they do get some medical and transportation benefits that can reduce costs, but housing within reasonable distance of campus is more expensive than county-wide).

I was a little surprised to see the variation in how much TAs were paid at UCSC, as I thought that the pay scales were fixed.  Quite a few students got $14,995 (so that was probably the scale amount), but above that almost everyone had a different amount.  I wonder what made the differences?

2016 October 23

UCSC athletics “town hall”

A year and a half  ago, I wrote a post, I’m proud of UCSC undergrads, in which I praised UCSC undergrads for rejecting a fee to subsidize the approximately 250 Division III athletes on campus, and last Spring I wrote Not so proud of UCSC undergrads this year, when they voted 63% in favor of being asked if they would support a new fee of $270 a year to support the NCAA athletes (about $4.3 million for 16,000 students, or $14,000/athlete for the 300 NCAA athletes).

Last Spring, the Faculty Senate put together an ad hoc committee to report on athletics, but only those who strongly supported athletics volunteered to serve on it, so it came out with a very strongly pro-athletics report that I don’t believe honestly reflects faculty opinion. I particularly object to the claim

Perhaps more importantly, as faculty, we have great concern that the termination of UCSC student athletics, a program that distinguishes itself in the classroom and in competition, would signal to the world that we cannot maintain a first-class university.

That is BS of the highest order—being a first-class university has nothing to do with athletics, certainly not in the world outside the USA.  And even in the USA, a few Division III teams has nothing to do with the perception of the university.

Quite frankly, I find it shameful that the administration is spending $1million a year of unrestricted funds on NCAA athletics—that amount of money would hire instructors for about 100 more classes, helping about 3500 students, rather than 300.  The big advantage of sports on a campus comes from student participation, not being spectators, so funding models that provide facilities for intramurals and club sports that any student can participate in make much more sense than dedicating funding for a tiny number of privileged athletes.

Last Wednesday the Faculty Senate athletics committee had a “town-hall meeting”, ostensibly to get comments from students, but the audience consisted almost entirely of the NCAA athletes and their coaches, so turned into a “how can we get this passed?” rather than having students discussing whether it was a good idea.  The few students there who were not NCAA athletes were probably too intimidated by being surrounded by athletes to raise any objections—though one student did bravely ask what fraction of the students benefited from the student fee (a bit less than 2%).

There were some very strange ideas being passed around—like that students who weren’t athletes were getting sweetheart funding that the athletes should be getting instead (or perhaps as well).  The question was brought up of where engineering students got their funding from (which was not answered).  That one struck me as particularly strange, as engineering students generally end up either self-funding, crowd-funding, or getting funding from grants that faculty have spent years trying to get—they aren’t getting any handouts from the rest of the students!

A case in point: the iGEM project team needed about $25,000 for the 20-member team for the equipment, reagents, and travel to the iGEM conference. They raised this money through a crowd-funding campaign (which means that most of it came from family and friends).  The instructor’s salary was paid out of summer-school tuition (again, paid for by the team members, as there is no general-fund subsidy for summer school).  Rather than getting a $14,000 subsidy per team member like the athletes are asking for, they were paying out thousands of their own money to attend summer school to be on the team, and doing crowd-funding for the rest.  I have no objection to the NCAA teams running crowd-funding campaigns.

There is some industrial sponsorship for a few senior engineering capstone projects (maybe a quarter of all the capstone projects in the Baskin School of Engineering).  That sponsorship comes as a result of many years of hard work by faculty and administrators making contacts in industry and begging for support for student projects (and those projects come with several strings attached, sometimes including ownership of the students’ work by the sponsoring company, I believe).

Funding for student projects in engineering is much more like club sports than like NCAA athletics—essentially everything is paid for by the students involved, either directly or through fund-raising.  The same is largely true of other student groups on campus (theater groups, dance groups, artists, … ).  All the groups can apply for tiny amounts of money from student fees through the student government—only the NCAA athletes seem to feel that they deserve much, much more than that.

Theater and dance groups often need instructors, the same way that athletes need coaches, but there is no built-in funding for these instructors.  For the most part, they are paid for teaching courses, as OPERS coaches are—why should one group of instructors have a dedicated student fee, when others do not?

The NCAA athletes at UCSC are not dumb jocks—they have a higher GPA and graduation rate than the campus as a whole, so they must be aware that they are asking for very special privileges that are not given to other students.  Why do they or their coaches deserve special treatment?

2016 September 24

US News covers UCSC referendum on athletics

US News and World Report wrote an article,So Long, Banana Slugs? Students Cry Foul About Paying More for Sports, about the UCSC student vote last year on funding athletics.  In it they pointed out that athletics does not really benefit universities:

And while administrators often say athletics benefit their universities—and 77 percent of Americans in a Monmouth University poll said they thought big-time programs make “a lot of money for their respective schools”—the NCAA itself reports that only 24 of its 1,200 member schools take in more than they spend on sports. Even after broadcast rights, ticket sales, sponsorships, sports camp and investment income is taken into account, colleges have to subsidize a median 27.5 percent of athletic spending, much of it from student fees, the AAUP says.

“The fact is, all the data shows that many of the purported academic benefits of sports—recruitment, prestige—have all proven to not be true. They don’t exist,” Tublitz said.

One of the things that I like about UCSC is that sports is a participatory activity, not a spectator activity. A lot more students are involved in intramural sports and in individual fitness activities than bother watching the 250 or so varsity athletes, who the university has been subsidizing at a rate of $1million a year. I’m pleased to see that the national press is noticing that the subsidy of athletics by universities makes no sense, and that UCSC has an opportunity to be a leader in turning their back on this nonsense.

I’ve posted on this topic before: I’m proud of UCSC undergrads, Sports at Any Cost, and Not so proud of UCSC undergrads this year.  I am hopeful that students will realize that subsidizing a couple hundred of their fellow students to play for them is not nearly as valuable as playing themselves—that they are better off taxing themselves for equipment and facilities that all students can use than for special services (coaches, trainers, transportation) for just a few.

I also hope that the UCSC administration comes to its senses and realizes that students are having a hard time getting into the classes they need, because of all the growth in student enrollment without a corresponding growth in instructional resources, and that the $1million dollars a year they pour down the athletic drain  could be used to provide more classes.

That $1million would pay for about 100 more courses taught by lecturers, or 40–50 more taught by tenure-track faculty, about 40 more TA sections.  (Surprisingly, TAs cost departments much more than lecturers, because departments have to pay the tuition for TAs, which get recycled back into other things—like subsidizing athletics, probably.)  The money would benefit about 3000 students a year, rather than the under 300 who benefit from athletics subsidy.

I think that it is past time for UCSC to leave NCAA sports and return to having just club sports, as they did when I first started teaching at UCSC 30 years ago.

 

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