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Faculty members debate budget issues
Stanford's budget crisis presents the university community with issues that cannot be resolved by self-interested parties, Prof. Stephen Krasner told Faculty Senate colleagues during a combative budget discussion on Thursday, Oct. 3.
Nevertheless, faculty members are trying to reach consensus about principles they think university officials should apply in cutting approximately $40 million from the operating budget.
The challenge was apparent in three meetings held Oct. 2-3 to discuss recommendations of the Faculty Senate's ad hoc Committee on Education and Scholarship at Stanford (SC-ESS) and hear reports from the group's five task forces.
At a special Faculty Senate meeting and two open forums, various professors:
The moveable feistiness started Wednesday evening, Oct. 2, at the first of two faculty open forums when chemistry Prof. Richard Zare taught budget basics to approximately 140 of Stanford's 1,300 Academic Council members. Zare is chair of the ad hoc senate committee, which spent the summer developing a faculty vision of the university's future (see Sept. 19 special budget issue of Campus Report).
Citing figures from June 1990 to June 1991, Zare said the university experienced a $37.5 million shortfall. Lower research volume cost Stanford $8.4 million and the lower indirect cost rate led to $22.4 million in red ink.
The situation remains fragile, he said, quoting statistics showing that a relatively small number of faculty members attract money for sponsored research.
Not including the Medical School, a mere 10 principal investigators account for 26 percent of research income. The projects of 50 investigators draw 52 percent of the income.
(At the top of the list is Arthur Bienenstock, who is listed as principal investigator for all $12.1 million going to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory. SSRL accounts for 9 percent of the total research dollars.)
Zare said the number of nonteaching staff employees dropped last year because of repositioning, but still outpaced student enrollment and faculty growth by a "fairly substantial margin" in the last five years.
Space utilization by administrative offices increased 46 percent in the last decade, while space for teaching labs fell by 20 percent, he said.
Senate discussion on creativity
The next day, a special senate meeting took up the debate of task force reports on undergraduate education and revenue enhancement.
The discussion began with Zare clarifying his ideas on creativity in the wake of criticism that his committee, in giving primacy to "scholarship," ignored the importance of the creative and performing arts.
Zare said artists, scientists, doctors, engineers and scholars in humanities, law, education and business all can be creative.
"Creativity is an earmark of outstanding research and scholarship," he said.
The Stanford community "insists that if the faculty does an activity, it must be done superlatively," he said.
English Prof. Nancy Packer, head of the creative writing program, told Zare that from the very beginning, the arts were central to higher education. Later, "universities added courses like chemistry, biology and economics," she told the chemist as colleagues chuckled.
Zare's committee placed priority on the creation of new fundamental knowledge, she recalled.
"What is more creative or newer or indeed more fundamental than the arts?" she asked. "I assumed the arts came under 'scholarship.' If Stanford makes the arts take a big hit this time, this will be a very dreary and dry place to be."
Art Prof. Al Elsen at one point put Humanities and Sciences Dean Ewart Thomas on the spot by asking him to repeat a tribute to the arts that he made during Centennial Finale weekend.
Zare then good-naturedly held up in front of his chest a piece of paper with a red bull's-eye target, telling Elsen to wide laughter, "You're supposed to send it this way."
Biological sciences Prof. Pat Jones, deputy chair of Zare's committee, said that the senate committee did not specifically consider whether the fine arts and creative arts should be eliminated.
"We considered that the important criteria for maintaining programs and departments is the quality of creative production - scholarship and research or creative results - and centrality to what we feel must be represented at a great university."
The committee as a whole felt Stanford would not be a great university without representation of the fine arts and creative arts, she said. "That is my recollection of the discussion."
The word "scholarship" encompasses creative and fine arts, she said.
The discussion prompted political scientist Krasner to say that "every one of us could sit here and give an articulate reason why our particular area or discipline was critically important to the education of undergraduates or graduates."
General statements about the value of different disciplines are not going to help "because we each have different views and they aren't resolvable and they will, I promise you, be very close to our self-interest."
Krasner said that the committee believed the criteria for program cuts should be measures of excellence. He asked rhetorically: "How good is the drama program? How good is the political science department? How good is the chemistry department?"
Bratman's undergraduate task force
Presenting the report of the task force on undergraduate education, philosophy Prof. Michael Bratman outlined the difficult task of studying in six weeks major issues that have come to the senate in "the last 15 years."
"We saw ourselves as defending undergraduate education," he said, but the group had to study relative importance of things. For the committee of 13 faculty and three students, "it was a very painful exercise."
The task force earlier suggested preserving the existing number of faculty billets devoted to undergraduate education; cutting back some on lecturers, using in their place advanced graduate students; and cutting back on undergraduate distribution requirements.
Bratman also presented a second interim report that began with a statement of support for the university's fundamental commitment to diversity and multiculturalism.
Most of the report set forth more detailed suggestions about the Athletics Department, which the task force said should have a lower priority than central academic programs. Among the new proposals:
Athletics is divided into the intercollegiate auxiliary enterprise, which in recent years has received $300,000 annually from general funds, and the physical education and recreation unit, for which the university provides $3.5 million.
Bratman defended the proposals, saying he could not condone cutting CIV lecturers if athletics escaped heavy cuts.
President Donald Kennedy took issue with the task force's characterization of golf course income as an "indirect subsidy." The golf course was developed 60 years ago to generate income specifically for the intercollegiate athletic program, he said.
"You can go in and unmake old arrangements if you want and take their money, but I don't think you should justify it by calling it a subsidy," Kennedy said. "Let's not dress it up with words."
Lecturers vs. graduate students
The discussion of CIV lecturers -- and a suggestion of substituting advanced graduate students for some lecturers - drew fire from English Prof. Ron Rebholz, who reminded the senate that he had opposed changing the Western Culture program into CIV.
"I am now converted," said Rebholz, who teaches in the Great Works and the Literature and the Arts tracks of the program. CIV "is the basis for a liberal education."
"We don't know who we are and why we hold certain values unless we know where we came from," he said. "We can't understand the relativity of those values unless we're in a position to confront them with values from other cultures."
Lecturers make both CIV and Freshman English "excellent programs," he said.
"They are superb teachers, whose evaluations I envy," Rebholz said.
While Freshman English uses some fifth-year graduate students to teach writing, CIV is a far more difficult program of courses, for which it would be "ludicrous" to use graduate students, he said.
Collman's revenue enhancement study
Prof. James Collman, chemistry, who headed the task force on revenue enhancement, introduced his report saying the group started its summer study "thinking we could find a lot of revenue," but in the end "we found no pots of gold."
The task force recommended that trustees consider an interim increase in Stanford's current 4.75 percent "payout" rate - the rate of income paid out of the endowment to support university activities. Other endowment income is reinvested so the endowment's value will keep up with inflation.
Collman acknowledged that increasing the payout posed "many dangers." It was a choice between present quality of the institution and growth of future endowment, he said.
A proposal to "tax" restricted gifts was added by Zare's committee -- it was not a task force recommendation, Collman said.
Faculty members seemed wary of Collman's idea of increasing undergraduate enrollment, which includes a provision that the incremental students would not qualify for financial aid. One way of handling the additional students would be to follow the model of eastern universities in requiring students to complete one term during summer, he said.
The university also could accept more master's students, again with no financial aid, the task force said.
Prof. John Eaton, mechanical engineering, said the practice could result in significant tuition income. Departments could be encouraged to add master's students if the university split the resulting income with them, Eaton and Collman agreed.
Second faculty forum
After a dinner break, the budget-weary gathered for the second faculty open forum, this time hearing reports from task forces on research and scholarship, headed by Prof. Sharon Long, biological sciences; graduate and professional education, headed by Prof. Herbert Lindenberger, English and comparative literature; and Krasner's panel on administrative services.
As a condition of press coverage, only names of those making presentations or representing the senate committee could be revealed.
The three task force reports will be discussed again at the Oct. 10 Faculty Senate meeting.
Long, whose presentation drew appreciative applause, said that in the face of budget cuts, nothing is more important than maintaining the excellence of the faculty.
"If that quality declines, every other agenda will fail," she said.
Other programs could be rebuilt in four to five years, but rebuilding the faculty could take a generation, Long said.
Research excellence should be the criteria for program preservation, she said.
Long pleaded for "special protection" for the University Libraries, which took a large cut during repositioning.
Faculty teaching the humanities should have equal stature with those in science and technical fields, she said. Her task force proposed a research fund to be controlled by humanists so they can become, as she spelled out, "principle investigators."
Several audience members told Long they opposed her group's proposal to temporarily suspend special acquisitions in the libraries.
Faculty members work closely with curators to fill gaps in many fields, one faculty member said. Suspending retrospective acquisitions would damage the university's ability to attract faculty, another added.
"It is scandalous that we don't have a director of libraries," a professor said to wide applause.
Lindenberger on graduate, professional education
Presenting the task force report on graduate and professional education, Lindenberger said his group supported the idea of using advanced graduate students to teach CIV.
This drew questions from a speaker associated with the Freshman English program, who suggested the university was doing nothing more than looking for a pool of cheap labor, at the expense of graduate students.
Lindenberger gave an impassioned plea for retention of the Stanford University Press. Universities have a shared obligation to publication of scholarly research, and university presses are the most common way for faculty in humanities and some social sciences to publish, he said.
Two faculty members defended the Press, an auxiliary enterprise that receives a university subsidy of several hundred thousand dollars annually.
A great press is an element of all world-class universities, said one speaker, citing Stanford's need to remain competitive in this regard with Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
Reacting to various comments, one long-time faculty member said he was disturbed about "the Balkanization of the university, and what I mean by that is each person is really arguing for their own kind of thing."
He went on to vehemently attack the administration for the "destruction of the most efficient administrative unit we had around here - Karlene Dickey's graduate-student funding office." Another faculty member agreed, calling it "a blunder of great magnitude."
The decentralization adds expense to departments and "we'll end up not having the kind of expertise we had where you could make a phone call and find out what kind of package you put together for a student in a very efficient way," the first professor said.
The decision was not made by "someone on the firing line," the faculty member said angrily. "Too much decentralization is going to result in a different set of rules for every department."
Issues of who is making key decisions should be addressed, he said to applause.
Another audience member said the decentralization is actually more costly, but was done for "academic reasons" by the Provost's Office and eventually is projected to cost no more than the centralized office.
Krasner on administration
That exchange set the stage for Krasner, head of the task force studying administrative services, to open discussion on "the area we all love to hate."
There is no question that the administration "will take a big hit" in the budget cuts, Krasner said.
But he also sought compassion.
"One thing that is striking about Stanford is the degree to which the staff is supportive of the faculty -- more so than any other place that I've been," said Krasner, who also has taught at Harvard and the University of California-Los Angeles.
While faculty are now "moaning and groaning," it is the staff "who are really vulnerable," he said.
"It's important in this process not to say 'all the weight's over there, fire every last staff member before you touch us.' "
Krasner said it was difficult, if not impossible, for most faculty members to make judgments on such hypothetical questions as whether human resources functions should be centralized or decentralized.
In the end, the mechanism for greater faculty involvement is not through a senate task force but instead through the liaison committees that are studying administrative units under auspices of the Cabinet Committee on Budget and Strategic Planning, he said.
Mechanical engineering Prof. John Eaton, a member of Zare's committee who is serving on a liaison team, said that through the liaison teams faculty members "are taking the lead in decision making."
Eaton is helping to study the School of Engineering, Law School, the Vice President for Administrative Resources and the Vice President for Planning and Management. The liaison team is headed by Chuck Holloway, business. Other faculty members include Steve Chu, physics; Garth Saloner, business; and Bob Tatum, civil engineering. Saloner and Tatum were added recently when the work of Krasner's task force was shifted to liaison teams.
"We have represented you aggressively," Eaton told his colleagues.
Public Affairs, Legal Office criticized
Several faculty members expressed contempt for the Office of Public Affairs and the Legal Office. One said he was pleased but surprised to discover that the Legal Office had completed a 20 percent cut during repositioning.
"It is a litigious society we live in," responded a faculty member who serves on the liaison team studying the Legal Office. If the department is cut too much, the university would spend more retaining outside counsel, the professor said.
Costs are not the only factor, said another faculty member, questioning the policy role of Public Affairs and the Legal Office. "Some of us feel they have an undue influence on the policy of this university.
"I hope that there is real pressure put on the public affairs office," the professor said. "Why is it a vice presidency?
"Why after repositioning do we have more vice presidencies than before repositioning?" he asked to scattered applause.
Serious mistakes were made in handling the indirect cost controversy as a public relations issue rather than an accounting problem, another faculty member said.
"It is not the perception of faculty that the administration is good," he said to applause.
Krasner responded that the influence of Public Affairs and the Legal Office depends on leadership at the top, and not on the organizational structure. Change, if it comes, will come with a new president, he said.
Medical School "deal"?
A professor recently returned from a year-long sabbatical amused the audience by comparing himself to Rip Van Winkle.
From his vantage point, he said, it appears the Medical School "cut its own deal" with university trustees.
Senate committee member William Northway, diagnostic radiology, explained that the Medical School's $55 million projected deficit is being spread over five years -- an average of $11 million per year. The roughly estimated $40 million university problem averages $13 million annually over three years. "There is a difference," he acknowledged.
A number of faculty positions are being lost or frozen, and the Lane Medical Library is facing problems similar to the university libraries, he said.
English Prof. George Dekker, also a member of the senate committee, said the Medical School was more adversely affected by the drop in the indirect cost rate and therefore required more time "to be able to get into equilibrium."
Scrutinize all costs
Costs outside the operating budget should not escape scrutiny, said another faculty member, citing the university phone system and the "empty" shuttle buses looping the campus.
Eaton responded that service centers are being studied.
A big ticket item under study, Eaton said, is student housing and food service. Lower costs in that area might allow for slightly higher tuition increases, which would directly help the operating budget.
Two professors pleaded for more time to study issues. Faculty members should "work with trustees to try to slow down the process and do it more effectively. It is hard to make these very tough decisions in a short time," he said.
Another faculty member talked of the need to share information so faculty members could make their own judgments about tradeoffs.
"How many lecturers are there in CIV and how much is the subsidy for the University Press?" he asked. "How do those figures compare to the total cost of all interdisciplinary programs?"
Individuals can make cases for various programs they care about, "but to arrive at consensus we need more information," he said.
The forum ended with a faculty member pointing out that there are mechanisms to control student enrollment and a billet system for faculty.
"Why isn't there a billet system for administrative positions?" he asked.
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