What does it look like when academics are sacrificed to other priorities at the university? This is the main reason Chico State faculty have issued a “No Confidence vote about the President of Chico State, Paul Zingg. Let me take my own Department of Sociology at Chico State as an example. We have lost eight tenure track faculty positions since 2011. These have been replaced with three new tenure track positions so far, and perhaps one more next year. This would be ok, if the total number of students we were asked to teach, or the demands for “accountability” were to drop. But in fact the opposite has happened. We have been asked to teach more students the same curriculum, and there are ever increasing demands for reports about what we teach and how we teach. And this is happening across campus, and at a time when we are told that the State of California is increasing allocations to the university so that we can offer students classes in a fashion that will move students along to graduation. From my vantage point, this is not happening.
It is true that this has been in part compensated for by the hiring of a few more adjunct faculty. Indeed, adjuncts, who are the most poorly paid, are now picking up the brunt of the teaching load demands in sociology with ever larger classes in a way that us on tenure track can have lesser increases. (Why is it that large lecture classes so often end up going to adjuncts, and not tenure track?) But we on tenure track are in turn pressed into service to write ever more performance reviews of the new hires, file assessment reports for the ghosts of accreditation reports to come, and so forth. I’ve already written a number of these this semester. Then there are the extra programs that are not typically written down in workload accounting: Master’s Theses, Honors Theses, Club Advising, Major Advising, Major, Curricular Innovation, and then at the very end seems to be an elusive “research.” All are disappearing from our work day as the number of course preparations, students, and bureaucratic demands increase.
In short the system of assigning work and workload is breaking down at Chico State, and the Vote of No Confidence reflects this. This is in addition to the other budgeting ills that Marianne Paiva wrote about yesterday in her blog Chico State: We Have No Confidence. It is indeed true that the Adjuncts have led the charge on these issues, as they are the most exploited in a system where their salaries are poor, and for too many of them there is little employment security. But tenure track faculty are also feeling the squeeze, albeit in different ways.
What should also be clear is that the capacity to deliver quality academic programs is also crumbling at Chico State. Quality demands faculty-student interaction, and this has suffered in recent years, even as there are increasing demands for accountability, assessment, and other types of reporting..
I guess the good news is that Chico State is undertaking a search for a new President who can perhaps develop among the faculty and staff already here a coherent vision for what can be done, and what cannot be done. But whoever the Board of Trustees chooses needs to come in with open eyes, that see that things are not as they should be. When he or she gets here, I am confident they will find allies on-campus to guide the campus in that direction.