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Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate's comments on the Strategic Academic Plan

Strategic Academic Plan

• Read the Chancellor's Introduction to the Strategic Academic Plan

• Read the Strategic Academic Plan (455K PDF file)

• Read the Chancellor's Response to the Academic Senate's Comments
 

The UC Berkeley Strategic Academic Plan is an invigorating vision of key issues required to maintain and enhance Berkeley's academic excellence and standing in the international community. The academic excellence of this campus must remain the foremost concern of our faculty and administration.

The following Academic Senate committees reviewed and commented on the Strategic Academic Plan:

Committee on Academic Freedom
Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation
Committee on Admissions, Enrollment, and Preparatory Education
Committee on Computing and Communications
Committee on Courses of Instruction
Committee on Educational Policy
Graduate Council
Committee on International Education
Committee on the Library
Committee on Research
Committee on Special Scholarships
Committee on the Status of Women and Ethnic Minorities

The comments were incorporated into this document and approved by the Divisional Council.

Admissions and Enrollment Growth

• Undergraduate admissions.
The Committee on Admissions, Enrollment, and Preparatory Education (AEPE) endorsed the following statement: "At the same time the Strategic [Academic] Plan gives us a clear and explicit statement of U.C. Berkeley's purposes, AEPE will consider the implications of those stated purposes for admissions policies and procedures at Berkeley."

• Graduate enrollment growth.
The Strategic Academic Plan makes a clear recommendation on UCB enrollment growth in response to "Tidal Wave II": 33,000 should be the upper limit on the Berkeley student population by 2010-11, implying growth of 2,000 – 3,000 students. But the Plan is less clear on the mix of undergraduate and graduate students in this incremental growth, and is silent on the implications of the mix in any graduate enrollment growth between professional or master's degree students on the one hand, and doctoral students on the other hand.

The Strategic Academic Plan notes that graduate students constitute 27 percent of current UCB enrollment, a share that is below that envisioned in the 1957 Regents' Academic Plan and below that of many peer private and public institutions. The Plan expresses concern at the possibility of further decline in this share (p. 17), although elsewhere (p. 15) the Plan accepts that such a decline is nearly inevitable. The effectiveness of a strategic plan is likely to be greater if the goals of such a plan are clearly defined and articulated. The ambiguity in the Strategic Academic Plan over the importance and feasibility of the goal of maintaining the current ratio of graduate to undergraduate students on the Berkeley campus weakens its usefulness as a planning document.

A second issue of equal importance concerns the mix in any future graduate enrollment growth between professional or master's degree students and doctoral students. The Plan correctly notes that doctoral students in particular play an important role in supporting and enlivening faculty research and in undergraduate teaching, in contrast to most master's and professional degree students. At the same time, recruiting the "best and brightest" doctoral students is likely to require significant additional resources, something that is much less pressing for master's and professional students.

The mix in any graduate enrollment growth between professional/master's and doctoral students therefore has significant consequences for the UCB research and educational enterprise and for the resource requirements of growth and continued excellence in these areas. But the Plan is essentially silent on these critical issues. There is a contradiction in asking faculty to invest more of their time to teaching undergraduates while at the same time stating the need to increase the population of graduate students.

We also observe that graduate students can play a valuable role as mentors and models as well as instructors: their own student experiences are not only more recent but often more relevant than those of the faculty. For this reason, it is crucial that the graduate students reflect the full diversity of the talent pool (p. 17).

Undergraduate and Graduate Education

On page 2 and later in the Plan (p. 12) there is expressed the notion that undergraduate education and the fundamentals of leadership are about "liberal arts." It may be more appropriate to emphasize that students should be liberally educated, and that even those undergraduates whose majors lie in the professional schools deserve a broad and liberal education.

The Senate would like to see more emphasis placed on the roles and benefits of interdisciplinary programs in undergraduate and graduate education (e.g., in section 4). Although brief reference to such programs is made in Action A.5, that action only refers to the Review of Interdisciplinary Programs. The campus should stimulate and encourage interdisciplinary programs. It is clear that the boundaries between disciplines are becoming increasingly fuzzy while the overlap between them grows. But regrettably, most students have difficulty in relating what they learn in one course to what they learn in another. Students may see the trees while missing the forest. Interdisciplinary programs are valuable not only because they illustrate the multidimensionality required to understand real-world problems and because they reflect the current intellectual climate, but also because they help to provide the integrated education that we seek for our undergraduates.

The Senate believes that the issue of student throughput as raised in the Strategic Academic Plan, in particular the points detailed in Proposal 4.6, raise significant and important questions about the scope and purpose of the undergraduate educational experience at UC Berkeley. Is the goal simply to get students through as fast as possible? To prepare them for graduate and professional schools? Or to ensure that they receive a good liberal arts education? Concerns have been raised that students are overwhelmingly encouraged, via advisors, social pressure, and in some cases faculty themselves, to approach their education solely with an eye towards professional development, getting into the best graduate schools and the like. The Strategic Academic Plan appears to tacitly share this view while at the same time stating that the quality of undergraduate education must be maintained. The Committee on Courses of Instruction (COCI) is concerned that this presents a possible contradiction and it believes that the campus community should address these fundamental questions.

The Senate notes that students benefit from mentors who serve both as guides and role models, particularly for those students interested in pursuing advanced work in the field. We cannot achieve true excellence in this function unless the faculty better reflects the diversity of those it must serve.

Diversity

Maintaining and improving the educational and research performance of the Berkeley campus requires continued efforts to enhance diversity at all levels of the campus population—undergraduate, graduate, staff and faculty. It can be argued that the UC system's future viability as a great public university in a state of enormous ethnic and racial diversity may well be affected by these factors, and efforts to enhance diversity therefore are of great importance to the future of UCB. The Strategic Plan notes the importance of "social and cultural diversity," but says little about the ways in which such diversity can be enhanced, or the resource requirements of such efforts (p. 2).

We believe social and cultural diversity are essential to the University. They stimulate creative thought and new paths of inquiry, ensure that the research questions we tackle address the whole of society, and enable us to train leaders who encompass the entire spectrum of California. This is why we recognize diversity to be an integral part of excellence at Berkeley.

Another area of change with profound implications for Berkeley is the growing diversity of the State population (p. 3). California is now one of the most diverse states in the Union. This reality should be reflected in our students, faculty, researchers, staff and leaders. We must strive to remove the impediments, and build new paths to, full participation in the life and work of the campus by all. This is a goal we must vigorously pursue through the administration and evaluation of campus programs, and the distribution of campus resources. Continued efforts to achieve greater gender equality within the faculty also are essential. These complex issues merit greater attention in UCB strategic planning.

A vital and dynamic intellectual community does not arise and thrive spontaneously - it must be recruited, welcomed, retained and supported. These must be primary considerations in each investment decision (p. 4).

The Public Service Component of the University's Mission

Traditionally, Land Grant universities, such as the University of California, have stressed teaching, research and service as the primary components of their overall mission. While the Strategic Academic Plan addresses numerous aspects of teaching and research, the current version of the document leaves the public service component relatively undeveloped and out-of-balance with the other two. Unless this component is enhanced, it may appear that the campus does not fully serve the people of California.

It is a natural extension of the origins of the University as a Land Grant institution to shift from a concentration on developing the state's natural resources in the last century to developing its human resources in this century. Throughout the 20th century, the University's public service roll has expanded dramatically to include many areas – serving as a driver of economic development, especially in high-tech and bio-tech industries, improving health care, national defense, and especially K-12.

California has a long tradition of trying to establish policies that provide access to the University for qualified students regardless of background. Recently, Berkeley has been particularly active towards supporting that tradition. Should the plan not say something about this subject? What should the campus do to encourage recruitment and admission of potential students who are in some sense disadvantaged and therefore not aware of their eligibility for admission or, because of limited exposure to the possibilities of a better life, not sufficiently motivated to seek admission?

As such, the Senate believes that the public service component of the campus's mission should be strengthened in the Strategic Academic Plan, specifically reiterating our commitment to proactive engagement in K-12 education and continuing education.

• K-12 education.
The campus's role in K-12 education goes far back, when in the 1880s, UC took on the role of accrediting all California secondary schools. The University ended this activity in 1963, but continues to this day to review and approve all A-G college preparatory courses offered in all high schools in the State. For a variety of reasons, the campus's role with respect to K-12 education has substantially increased in recent years. The passage of SP-1 and Proposition 209 has also quite properly refocused our attention on the general problems of K-12 education.

Recently, a high-level task force on outreach set forth many recommendations and goals for the University system wide. Until the budget crisis of 2003, the University was granted substantial support in the State budget for this function, and the current governor mandated academic programs designed to assist K-12 outreach on the campus through explicit legislation, such as the Principals Leadership Institute, among others. The Strategic Academic Plan should address the campus's proper role in this university-wide activity, which has many implications for our constellation of academic programs and activities, and the resources and infrastructure needed to implement these activities.

It is also important to note that this year about 17.5 percent of the California residents who were admitted to campus as freshmen were underrepresented minorities. The percentage of California applicants to the campus who are underrepresented minorities was 18.8 percent, and the percentage of UC-eligible California high school graduates who are underrepresented is estimated to be in the range 15 - 20 percent. Thus, it appears that the outcome of our race-blind admissions process compares reasonably well to the demography of the applicant pool and the eligibility pool. However, this admission's rate differs substantially from the percentage of all high school graduates who are underrepresented minorities, i.e., approximately 40 percent. This gap between a figure in the 15-20 percent range for eligibility and applicants and the figure of 40 percent for all high school graduates represents a serious long-term threat to the well being of the university, campus, and ultimately, the state.

The University should be a key player to address this threat, which means a sustained and heightened commitment to K –12 education.

• Continuing education.
The University endeavors to provide a world class learning experience for students that instills abilities for critical and creative thought that should serve them well throughout their adult lives. However, it is increasingly clear that the modern world requires learning to be a lifelong endeavor, not one limited to a short period of one's life. This is true in all areas of enquiry.

There are several factors that suggest the need for increased emphasis on continuing education. For instance, it is noted that individuals change employers and even vocations more frequently today than ever before. This generates unique demands for continuing education. In addition, the state's economy is increasingly driven by rapidly evolving industries, many which did not even exist a decade or two ago. In these fields (such as high technology, biotechnology and so on) there is increasing difficulty in finding adequately trained employees, managers and scientists. Within these fields, an individual can suffer functional obsolescence within a short period unless knowledge and skills are continually updated. Moreover, the spin off to other fields of concepts and technologies developed in these fields requires workers throughout society to have dramatically new understandings and capabilities. At the same time, there is increasing need by individuals to carry out advanced studies that help them realize their personal goals for self-realization. Ultimately, the increasing social, political, economic and technical complexity of the modern globally connected world generally requires a state with a population and workforce having understanding and skills that can only be provided by a commitment to continuing education.

Continuing education needs to be highlighted in the Strategic Academic Plan. While continuing education may be viewed as a responsibility, it also provides unique opportunities for campus faculty to disseminate the results of their research and the benefits of updated pedagogy. Thus, efforts are needed to explore possibilities for better integration of continuing education into academic programs and even the development of new academic programs that address the special needs for continuing education.

Program Review Issues

The Strategic Academic Plan proposes a set of new "design principles" for program reviews that will enhance the coverage in such reviews of undergraduate educational issues and (all concerned parties hope) will promote the completion of these reviews in a timely fashion. The Plan also recommends the provision of additional resources to support the revised program review process outlined in Appendix A of its report. The Senate strongly supports the Plan's recommendation that additional resources be provided for this review process. In its "steady state," the review process envisioned in Appendix A will conduct reviews of 10 departments, graduate groups, and other programs each year. This is a significant increase in the number of reviews annually overseen by the Graduate Council. An increase of this magnitude will require additional resources for the Graduate Division and the Academic Senate.

Some means also should be developed to provide staff support for departments being reviewed. The amount of data requested in departmental reviews is growing rapidly with the passage of time and the expanded scope of these reviews, and responding to these expanded data requests places an enormous burden on departments, particularly smaller departments.

Although the plan acknowledges maintaining more esoteric, smaller programs/areas of study, there is a danger of constructing a built-in bias against such programs. If a program is well funded it is likely to be successful. If it isn't, it is likely not to be successful. By tying funding to success (indeed, almost defining it as success), a vicious circle may be created whereby the University defines as unsuccessful those programs it doesn't or never supports (why they were unsuccessful to begin with) and then cancels them in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In general, the Plan makes an attempt to protect academic freedom in the largest sense - not only recognizing the formal freedom to pursue our own research but also the need for proper support and resources for research that may very well not be economically or politically popular.

"Independence of Mind in the Pursuit of Knowledge" is one of the features considered to be "The Essence of Berkeley". The explanation of this is interesting: "Notwithstanding the inherently political nature of a public institution, we believe the pursuit of knowledge must not be constrained by temporal economic or political considerations. The research university is by definition a place where perceived truth is under constant challenge.

Further, on page 5, under the heading "Resource Decisions", we find another important claim related to academic freedom in the widest sense: "While the flow of extramural funds into certain programs undoubtedly benefits those programs, the campus must ensure the activities they support also have long-term value to the academic enterprise as whole. The campus must also ensure disciplines that are critical to the academic enterprise, but lack abundant extramural resources, have the support they require to thrive".

Taken together, there is a recognition that certain disciplines must be supported in order that researchers can pursue their work freely despite a lack of support from the "temporal" world outside the university. This is of course a worthy claim. The concerns lie with other places in the document where this commitment to academic freedom is threatened by some of the policies suggested.

In particular, the Plan is also very much interested in transforming the organization of the University to attack better new problems from interdisciplinary perspectives, and while this is hardly something to be discouraged, the Plan acknowledges that certain programs and even departments will have to be eliminated to accommodate these changes. The criteria given for these decisions are not only vague but seem at times to go against the spirit of the earlier claims to protect all forms of important research. For example, on page 3 ("Berkeley Today") it is said that we must "recognize many fields of scholarship have enduring value that transcends current interest. However, it is also essential to be able to discern, and respond to, long-term fundamental trends in society" when deciding to expand, contract or eliminate programs.

First we need to recognize the value of work that counters "long-term" social trends (and those people that are "discerning them" in various ways); and second, we need to be very clear about who (the question of proper representation) will be developing the criteria for these program decisions that will turn on what is "transcendentally important" and what is considered to be simply behind the times (however they are defined, and again, by whom).

This seems essential when we come to Proposal 2.2 (p. 9) on program reviews - one of the steps in maintaining "excellence" and for identifying potential targets for contraction/elimination etc. The second question for evaluation (coming after the question of leadership in that field) is: "Does the program have the vigor and resources to yield significant advances in knowledge?" It is important to make sure that the university make available support for the kinds of research that may not draw a great deal of outside funding despite its intrinsic value, before we use a "lack of resources" as a specific measure of failure.

Finally, it follows from the recognition of diversity as an integral part of excellence, that program review must contain diversity as one of the dimensions of evaluation.

New Strategic Initiatives and Allocation of Faculty FTE

Only one of the ten initiatives has a strong link with the humanities. Humanities also tends to be under-funded. There is a real danger to the quality of a Berkeley education (and the quality of the institution itself) in not maintaining a vigorous, healthy and diverse humanities division. The apparent lack of humanities components in the new initiatives, and the dangers posed to small programs, suggest that Berkeley must address these issues directly.

The Senate needs to be heavily involved in discussions of the reallocation of faculty effort. The draft states that possibly deans would make decisions on this matter. That is cause for concern.

International Education

The Senate is pleased to see that the Plan includes Proposal 4.7, which identifies encouraging and facilitating international education as one of seven actions for enhancing undergraduate education at Berkeley.

The issue of housing for international students, including reciprocity students, is a separate and critical issue in Section 9. Unlike in-state and out-of-state students, international students cannot visit Berkeley early in the summer to secure housing. The Berkeley campus must make a commitment to provide guaranteed housing to all international lower division students who desire it, and to provide effective assistance for housing to all international upper division and graduate students that it admits. We know that International House is considering an expansion and this would be a welcome step toward addressing this critical need.

Internal Staff and Administrative Support of the Academic Enterprise

The excellence of a research university relies not just on the faculty and their vision and vigor, but on a support system that strives to reduce inefficiencies and provide services needed for modern research enterprises (which in essence require skills needed to run small businesses). These services and their quality vary widely across the campus and are serious issues, and impediments, in many units. Just as academic units should be subject to frequent review and modification, the non-academic side of the University must be subject to frequent evaluation in order to maintain pace with internal and external requirements and developments. There is the question of who is to do the reviews. As these are non- academic units it may be appropriate for them to be reviewed by non-academic specialists from outside the campus. Some key areas of focus for the long-term productivity of the faculty include:

  • Staff and technical support system reviews and upgrades.
    • Staff support for research and teaching has diminished greatly in many units in past decade and faculty asked to do more administrative and technical work in both research and teaching (this must be balanced in light of increased computer capabilities that allow these changes). However, inadequate or uneven staff support in computer and communications across departments make these tasks inefficient and unproductive in some cases.
    • Research in experimental and observational sciences requires availability of advanced technical expertise in machining, electrical and glass working (as examples) and close proximity to purchasing. These facilities may indeed need to be consolidated and centralized, but their importance to the research enterprise must be reviewed in concert with programmatic needs.
  • Review of administrative procedures (e.g. accounting) and upgrades. (Modern extramurally funded research programs are small to medium sized businesses that require accounting and personnel support that equal or exceed that found in the private sector.)
    • Streamline and upgrade campus accounting procedures and functioning.
    • Streamline and upgrade purchasing procedures (e.g. credit cards for PI's).
    • Improve communications, and reduce cost, for traveling faculty through agreements with telecommunication companies.
  • Integrated campus strategy for capital resources for matching funds in grant applications.
  • Technical support to classroom instruction.
    • Adequate hardware for all faculty.
    • Adequate assistance in all units for computer/web based instruction.

Computing and Communications

The campus needs more discussion of the future growth and planning for technology
resources. Digital technologies are changing teaching, research and our daily experience. We anticipate increasing use of electronic communications, both within campus and for distance learning. Wireless networking will have dramatic effects on how campus spaces are defined and utilized. There is an urgent and ongoing need for upgrading campus computing hardware, software, networking and technical support.

Departments would benefit from uniform policies for providing these resources. Such policies must balance between the economies of scale gained from centralized budgeting, purchasing and computing, and the flexibility needed by departments to determine and support individual priorities. Berkeley will also require new policies on network privacy, piracy and student IT fees.

Excellent steps are being taken, but we urge the acknowledgement of the importance of these issues and a recommendation that steps be taken to develop a Strategic Academic Plan for computing and communications.

Issues related to Strategic Capital Investment

The Strategic Academic Plan identifies a number of important programs that should be expanded and new initiatives that should be undertaken related to Strategic Capital Investment. The Senate strongly supports energetic and effective actions to advance these items, and through Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocations (CAPRA) is working with Capital Projects, the Executive Campus Planning Committee (ECPC), the Space Assignments and Capital Improvements Committee (SACI) and others to bring them to the point of implementation. These activities cover a wide range of capital investments that must be integrated and strategically planned. These activities relate to:

• The master plan for teaching infrastructure (Proposal 5.5).
• The new research centers (Proposals 7.3-7.4).
• The expansion of university housing (Proposals 9.1-9.5).
• The location priorities (Proposals 7.2 / 8.2-8.3).
• The information network upgrades (Proposals 8.5-8.6).
• The places of interaction (Proposals 8.7-8.10).
• The new partnership models (Proposals 7.3 / 8.4 / 9.4).

In addition, the Strategic Academic Plan calls for two specific, major strategic actions. The first is the establishment of an Office of Real Estate to provide a more coherent and proactive approach to space acquisition off campus. The Senate supports this effort, and is represented by CAPRA on the Real Estate Task Force that has been formed to set the mission for this office, as well as to develop job descriptions, deliverables and schedules.

The Strategic Academic Plan also calls for increased stewardship of space and other assets on campus with an expanded role for SACI that calls for:

• Guidelines and required findings for location priority.
• Guidelines and required findings for space utilization.
• An ongoing program of space audits to verify the actual use of campus space.
• Comprehensive reviews of campus instructional and research space.

The Strategic Academic Plan suggests that SACI should prepare a five-year work plan and budget for this broader mandate and present it to the Chancellor for review.

The Senate supports the enlarged strategic role for SACI, particularly the specific activities recommended by the Strategic Academic Plan related to asset stewardship. However, the Senate is concerned that the staff resources needed to carryout the specific recommendations highlighted above are insufficient.

It is important to recognize that the term "facilities" includes not just buildings but major pieces of equipment (mainframe computers, electron microscopes, large language labs, IC fabrication labs). Federal grants are frequently available for such equipment but most require large amounts of matching funds and then there are space needs for the equipment and continuing operating/maintenance costs. The Senate recommends that attention be given to these types of capital investment as well.

Parking

On page 6 (paragraph 4), there is the following statement: "While a few parking lots and other infill building sites remain on the core campus…" The Senate strongly objects to the de facto reference to parking lots as sites for future buildings. As several committees have mentioned previously, preserving and increasing the number of parking spaces available on this campus is important to maintaining the educational mission of the campus, especially during this period of enrollment growth.

External Context of UC Berkeley in California Higher Education

The long-term success of Berkeley rests not only on strategic planning, but on the maintenance of the essence of the Master Plan and the autonomy of the UC (page 3, Berkeley and California Master Plan). The Berkeley campus must take a leadership role in any re-evaluation of the Master Plan to assure that the UC remains and grows as the research arm of the California higher education system and that it retains and enhances its autonomy from exterior influences on its academic programs. Only in this context can Berkeley maintain and grow in its role as an international research and educational force.