More news from UA complaints

Apparently, it isn’t just a few rotten tomatoes who have problems with leadership at the University of Arizona. Oscar J. Martinez, a Regents professor of history, has gone on the record in a big way in today’s Arizona Daily Star op-ed page.

His piece places blame on the state for not fully funding higher education, leading to a “steady decline in the quality of the institution,” but then he takes aim at the upper administration and especially Provost Meredith Hay. And he doesn’t pull any punches:

“There is overwhelming dissatisfaction among UA faculty and administrators with the policies and practices of the upper administration. This is tragic because the UA has never needed the strong, positive decision-making that it requires now; yet it is getting mostly ineffective and polarizing leadership. Provost Meredith Hay, in particular, has become a lightning rod and legions of faculty and administrators would like to see her vacate her post.”

Legions? Really? I don’t know, but I will say that my e-mail box is filling up with notes from department heads and faculty members who claim to feel the same way Martinez does – but it hasn’t yet reached “legions” level. They all say the same thing – they are afraid to speak on the record because they think they’ll lose their jobs. They point to Juan Garcia being removed from his vice presidential post as Example One of what happens when one crosses Hay.

The problem with that argument is that faculty are protected with tenure (of course, that doesn’t help the junior-level faculty who’ve contacted me) so faculty, at least, don’t have to fear removal for speaking on the record. Garcia, while a tenured faculty member, was also a member of the administration and, as such, was subject to different rules. No leader has to put up with what he/she sees as insubordination from a lower administration member if he/she doesn’t want to.

Not that I agree with removing Garcia – I think it could have been handled in a much more diplomatic “Let’s talk about it” manner, and if it had been, Garcia would still be in his post, UA Defender might never have been launched and a member of the Arizona Board of Regents wouldn’t currently be paying awfully close attention to UA.

So, again I throw this out – if you’re a UA faculty member, department head or dean and you really think, as Martinez wrote in his op-ed and as one department head wrote me, that the Transformation is harming students and/or if you have evidence (printed materials) of Hay violating the memorandum of understanding with respect to faculty governance in making decisions such as the differential cuts to departments, contact me.

UA Defender today has a post that says the claim of faculty governance being dead is “exaggerated’ according to reports from yesterday’s Faculty Governance Leadership Forum. It is an interesting read, so check it out here. And the Arizona Desert Lamp’s Evan Lisull, a UA undergrad, has a smackdown of Martinez’s op-ed that asks some important questions and points out errors in fact regarding who exactly wants the increase in online classes at UA.


17 thoughts on “More news from UA complaints

  1. Downtown: I’d say a “legion” is a clear majority. I’m not sure dissatisfaction at UA has reached that level. I do believe that folks in the departments most affected by cuts – the departments that are getting the higher cuts – are really upset. But I also think there’s hysteria and upset about any number of changes, not all of them bad changes. It all depends on your perspective, how close you sit to the chopping block.

  2. Renee, as a professor in the college of humanities who talks to many professors, I can tell you with strong confidence that at least 85% of the professors and staff in the College of Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts and more than half of the people in the College of Science and Anthro are part of the legion of people who feel there are fundamental flaws with the methods of the administration and that things need to change right now.  The dissatisfaction is not a function of how close one is to the cuts, as you say, but the fact that about 3 people in the university are making all the decisions about the future of an enormous public institution. Regardless of whether those decisions are good or bad, that is not how the place is supposed to be run.  And by the way, tenure is not in end a protection against being fired for speaking out and protesting an authoritarian administration.  It is on the surface, but careful study shows that many of the firings of tenured people across the country have happened because those professors fought the establishment.  Thinking otherwise is naive.


  3. Dear Bob:
    Thanks for the insight. Do you think there may be a division on campus? What I mean is that in the colleges of say, science, engineering, optics, law, business everything is hunky dorey, but in the colleges that feel slighted (even attacked?) by the differential cuts, that they are the ones upset?
    To your second point “this is not how the place is supposed to be run,” I was wondering about that. In the non-academic world, people do what their boss says or its adios. But the academy has a different tone, correct? There is supposed to be more collegiality, more in-put from the people in the ranks to the people in admin? So, if I hear you correctly, you’re saying that people aren’t so much upset with what is happening as they are with HOW it is happening? Where is the faculty senate in all this? Isn’t that the body that is supposed to represent the non-administration point of view?

  4. Dear Renee,  Thank you very much for this blog and for your interest.  It is an important issue.  
    There certainly is a division on campus,as you point out.  There are people who are benefiting from the transformation. Those people are in the minority.  There are other people who are “breaking even” in the transformation, and there are frankly a lot of people who have just given up.That group, less than half, are waiting to see.  At this point the majority of my department (who would all like Meredith Hay to leave) just want to retire or get another job and do not really hope for much positive change.  I have a lot of friends in the hard sciences who would also like her to go, but they are not political people are not being hit hard. Also, they are insanely busy.  Some of them are more tempted to go to another university rather than fight this mess.
    To your second point, The University of Arizona is not a private corporation.  In most of the world, as you point out, the boss runs the show.  But even in that world, as you know, shareholders and boards of directors can oust leaders.
    According to the law, the University of Arizona is supposed to be run in conjunction with the faculty.  Shelton and Hay both signed a faculty governance agreement, and many people feel they have violated this agreement.  I am not a lawyer.  Universities that do not have faculty co-governance agreements often have faculty unions so that faculty can protect their jobs but more importantly so they can protect the quality of education in their programs.  Now, as you say, the faculty senate is supposed to advocate in this situation. There are also high level committees that are supposed co-govern.  Part of the reason people are mad is that they feel Hay has intimidated and bullied in this committees (going so far, in some cases, as to try to dissolve some committees that objected to online education in its current form).  So the mechanisms of faculty governance have been rendered mute or ineffectual.
    Yes, we are tough financial times, and everyone at the university knows that cuts have to be made.  However, cuts are being made first to the services that most impact the students because the students do not have anyone advocating for them accept for us.  
    We need to transition from a reliance on state dollars (which have been declining for more than a decade).  For a case of a successful transition, look at the case of the University of Michigan.  They went from getting over 30% of their budget from the state to only getting 7% from the state.  They came together as a community, made difficult cuts and made efforts to protect the quality of education and research as they moved forward.  More importantly, they had a leadership that brought the community together.  That’s what we need.

    1. Dear Bob:

      Ok, so maybe what we need are other suggestions. What would YOU do that Hay/Shelton are NOT doing? Where would you cut and how? What I know the students have wanted forever are more (and better) academic advisors. I’m not sure where some of those undergrad advisors will now be housed since University College is gone.

  5. Dear Renee, I agree we do no need to think of how best to spend money.  It is ironic that you mentioned advising.  After the death of University College, students with undeclared majors still go to one unit to get their advising.  Two weeks ago I was ther when the Provost Office tried to take that funding and reduce that service, a service used by many first generation college students who have trouble adjusting to college life.  The departments bonded together and we fought that raid off, but that was a rare win on behalf of students.  Bob

  6. Renee:
    Let me say that we could start with a reduction of the enormous number of vice presidents and their staffs – savings of about half a million per office I would imagine.  There were thirty – seven, the last time I counted.  There is a climate of fear at the UA that I have never seen in my 3 decades of service.  I can’t imagine either the Provost or President surviving a vote of confidence by the faculty.  Legions is probably spot on….

    1. The Committee of Eleven and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee are looking into doing a faculty poll about the mood of the campus. They haven’t decided if the poll will be conducted, or when, but discussions are happening. I think that might be the only way to settle the issue about how many employees really think things are going in the right direction or not.

  7. I would be very surprised to see that poll.  I bet strongly that they will not do it because the result could be viewed, rightly or wrongly, as a vote of confidence. 

    Second, there is a lot…and I mean a lot of dissatisfaction. It runs deep. I am not sure I have enough space to say just how deeply.

    To answer your question, Renee, if there are to be differential cuts, they must be made at the unit level and program level.  That is tough and not fun, but there are weaker units than others.  The process of doing that (identifying and cutting units) has been done at other universities. It is deeply painful, but it is usually done after careful thought, with a real process to assess the value of the programs, and with strong justifications attached to the cutting.

    Instead, they layed out a list of completely arbitrary and capricious rationale for the offering of differential cuts to entire colleges..whether they have strong programs in them or not.  They targeted three colleges with the least powerful leadership (two interim deans and one recently named Dean from after a year of interim status). Their jobs are on the line and they cannot feel comfortable fighting back.  Even if they do feel comfortable, they do not have the same power and contacts as other Deans on campus with which to fight.  Next, they passed the buck to those deans to make the differential cuts by unit within their college…and threw them to the wolves so that they will take the heat, not the poor rationale for differentials made by the Provost and President.

    Last, the message that is clearest is this.  A 7% cut to Humanities, Social Sciences, and Arts are at such a level that they will harm the entire college institution.  There is no way that good and strong programs in those colleges can escape serious harm.  Deans cannot accomplish that. The cuts arbitrarily harm programs that even fit the slack criteria offered by the President and Provost.  Some make money, some are directly in the strategic plan, most run more efficiently than any programs on campus (teachign a lot with very little) and they have the lowest budgets of programs on campus.

    I could go on and on.  But if people wish to answer questions…ask over and over how the 7% and 2% differentials were based.  What rationale, what numbers, what facts did they use.  I bet you will find none.

    What drives people crazy is the backroom deals, the lack of transparency, the lack of process, and the fact that decisions are made without consultation.  We are not asking to have the ability to veto, we want rationale, we want leadership, and we want a process that is inclusive and fair.  Look back over your reporting Renee. Honestly, when you have seen that process, it was because faculty leaders privately forced it.  There was never a real transporation process of any kind until faculty took them to the mat.

    1. Well, Anon, you are absolutely right that the faculty forced things out into the open at the beginning of the TProcess and the Faculty Senate slowed things down some. What seems shocking to me right now is that people who tried hard to play the game and protect the administration from scrutiny last year are coming out now and being critical. These are people who supported Hay and to have them say things have gone wrong surely seems to say something. Is there anything you can tell me more about the “backroom deals”?

      1. Here is one backroom deal that deserves some answers. The new School of Mind, Brain and Behavior (formerly Psychology) was a member of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Somehow, without any process that I can see, they were moved to the College of Sciences…within the big college CLAS.  No biggie there if moving withing a college. But here is the rub, they were the largest unit in SBS…(credit hours, majors, and the like), they were moved transfering all this wealth of numbers to Science.  Not that science wasn’t strong before, but this event also took away these numbers from SBS.  Making SBS look weak.  Next, the differentials are not assigned to CLAS as one unit but within.  So then, Mind Brain and Behavior quickly escapes, becoomes CORE, and gets a 2% cut.  There movement allow SBS to look a whole lot LESS core…and get a 7% cut. 

        If there was a transparent process for this, tell me where?  Tell me how they escaped the knife?  Tell me how the largest unit in  a college could simply be picked up and moved without compensation to the unit that once held them?

      2. On what you said about some who tried hard to play the game and protect the administration…and being critical now…

        Two answers:

        1.  They believed that working within the process might work and might get a new administration to change the way they do things. New people make mistakes.  They didn’t want the whole institution to suffer  outwardly if they could fix it.

        2.  Some of those who worked within appear to have benefitted.  A lot of the faculty leadership has long supported differential cuts…and were beneficiaries of very low ones in their home colleges and deparments. Not conspiracy mind you, but maybe they just agreed…until it finally hit them.

  8. I just want to thank Anon above for laying it out the way things are.  Cuts have to be made, but the UA is a complex community, not a corporation. The plan for handing the 7% cuts to the weakest colleges to fight over among themselves was a really stupid idea.  And, as Anon points out, it is a destructive move that harms the entire university. For the moment it has backfired because people are not fighting among themselves in the college–they are focused on the bad management style of the provost.  And it is back firing because every day a new back room deal comes to light.  People are talking, blogging, they are pissed.  People in power–the president and ABOR–hired Meredith Hay because she was known as Hatchet Hay, and they thought she could force the wheels to turn in an entrenched institution.  Instead, after years of living under other poor leadership, people have been pushed too far by her style.  It is just such a bad idea to bring such a divisive, confrontational person into a community and think anything good will come of it.  Even if Hay and Shelton are left in power for some time, how can they successfully govern thousands of surly staff and faculty who have zero trust of them?  It has happened at other universities, and what you end up with is a toxic environment where no one wants to work.  Then you end up with a 10th rate university, if that.
    I second Anon’s call for more transparency.  As Anon pointed out, the rationale for the cuts is an insult to the community.  Even when data is provided, it quickly emerges that the data is twisted or tilted to favor a forgone agenda:  give all the money to a few people in the sciences.  Today at a public meeting with Shelton of the university staff, Shelton said that in the near future support for the university collected from tuition would exceed that collected from state allocations.  A woman in the audience pointed out that droves of undergraduates were driving over to Pima college for classes because they could not get the courses they need in SBS, COH, and elsewhere here at UA.  How, the woman asked, were we going to keep tuition rolling in when students can’t even find classes here?  As part of another conversation about the finances, Shelton pointed out that the science grants bring in the money for the university. How much of that money, someone wanted to know, went toward teaching students.  And then someone asked another, telling question.  SBS, COH, and ARTS bring in 12 Million dollars a year for the university through their summer session, but that is not counted as money generated by COH, ARTS and SBS in the same way that grant money is counted as income for the sciences. Why not? someone wanted to know.  Shelton had no answer.  No answer at all.  
    So, no transparency, and when we do get transparency it is very disturbing to see what is going on.  

    1. Bob: What would transparency look like to you? I keep trying to get, for instance, the exact lines where the $12 million came from and I keep getting the same response “a variety of sources, including savings from the Transformation.” But WHAT savings? Was it the salaries of the 400 people laid off? Shouldn’t someone at the U. know the exact line? I’m just wondering if I’m asking them for too much — or, worse, that the people at UA really DON’T know where the money is exactly coming from. Are you faculty or staff?

      1. The savings may have come, in part, from the number of faculty that have left…and with them…come their salary savings. Have you been able to find out how many faculty have moved on this past year?

        Its a tragedy…and one that the President has communicated well…but has not offered up in real numbers.

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