Tag Archives: UA Provost Meredith Hay

It’s time, Mr. President: End this “world class” charade

By Shain Bergan

When UA News released this video last week of University of Arizona President Robert Shelton “on the issues”, it was met with little to no fanfare, or even rather no recognition. It’s not hard to see why; there is certainly a lion’s share of routine talking points and the usual stock quotes to which we’ve all become way too accustomed since the initial memo announcing the beginning of the UA Transformation Process hit the presses in September 2008.

You know them—they string together phrases like “world-class institution” and “quality education” as if anyone is really buying that the mass reorganization, consolidation and cutting of UA programs nearly across the board are making us into a better university full of better students who will become better people to create a better world following their UA edification.

The video is almost a perfect summation of the what the UA faculty and students have been damn angry about for almost two years now—the inability of the university leaders to just admit that we’re all screwed.

I get it. Times are tough. It’s difficult to run a university when the state slashes $100 million out from under you. But please, Mr. President and Ms. Provost, call it what it is. It’s not “maintaining a quality education”; it’s trying to make sure that at least some quality is left following cuts and tuition hikes unprecedented in Arizona’s educational history. Students aren’t children anymore; neither are the faculty members. It’s time to fess up and admit what everyone already knows—that the actual “quality” of that piece of paper you get following graduation isn’t what it used to be…and it’s only going to get worse in Arizona.

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UA Faculty Senate Elections: The more things change…

…the more things stay the same. Come and see:

By Shain Bergan

With petitions for those wanting to run in the Spring 2010 University of Arizona Faculty Senate Elections due in just a few short days on Feb. 14, the petitions are rolling in slowly but surely. Today marks the first release of the petitions that have so far been turned in, acquired by the WatchCat News-Journal via a public records request to University Communications.

Keep in mind that in all likelihood, most of the faculty running in this election have yet to turn in their complete paperwork. After all, they have until the rest of this week, plus the weekend. This is a good start, though. The first round of Faculty Senate nominees are as follows:

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Faculty Senate: When the boss is away, the kids will play

University of Arizona President Robert Shelton may have been out of town for an unspecified reason, but that didn’t stop the astute Faculty Senate from their monthly meeting. On the agenda this time around: new school formations, a budget update and uncomfortable relationships. Let’s dive in, shall we?

  • Provost: I have an update; we’re still working… – The administrative report (given by Provost Meredith Hay in Shelton’s absence) was so expeditively accelerated that a tweet would have probably sufficed. Hay stood up just long enough to explain to her faculty leadership colleagues that the UA administration is Continue reading

Staff on the move, Part 2

Staff on the Move, Part 2 – The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Note: Apologies for the lack of links, as much of this information is not link-able due to its emergence from interviews I have had with various CLAS personnel, and press releases that inexplicably no longer appear either on the UA News website or the UA website. Cheers!

Person of Interest: Ed Donnerstein

Previous Position: Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Current Position: Communications professor (on sabbatical)

Background: SBS dean since 2002, Donnnerstein resigned as dean on July 1, announcing he would take on his old job as a communications professor. At the same time, Donnerstein told the media he was going to take a year-long sabbatical, although he would not specify why he was taking a sabbatical or why he was resigning as the college’s dean. Curiously, the UA Department of Communications staff members and faculty could neither confirm nor deny to me whether Donnerstein was actually technically still employed at the university anymore. Hmmm.

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Exclusive UA Transformation Guide: Staff on the move, Part 1

Staff on the Move, Part 1 – The College of Humanities and the College of Fine Arts

Being as the main purpose of this site is to keep up with the highly complicated and mystery-shrouded news of the University of Arizona Transformation Process, we, for quite some time now, have felt it prudent to create a guide, which would both appear in some posts and would be accessible through a tab on this website’s front page.

Well, part of such a guide is before you, and while it is nowhere near complete (Can divulging sensitive info about the Transformation ever truly be complete?), it involves some serious information that has been published nowhere and has been accumulated through secret phone calls, reliable anonymous sources and reading between the lines of press releases and media puff pieces.

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So, how far are you willing to go? Now with working links!!

Much has been made both on this blog and within faculty meetings both public and private on the internal struggle between the University of Arizona sciences versus social sciences. It seems, from this piece in the Arizona Daily Star, that the fight has spilled out into the streets—the public, that is.

Is the concern done with its isolation policy within the UA community? Is the public really taking notice? Only time will tell, but if so, that can mean much more public support for the programs, departments and colleges that are being gutted at each and every stage of the UA Transformation.

Professors, department heads and deans have been looking for a way to get their stories out. This is definitely a step in the right direction for them. After all, the public can only be spoon-fed so much rhetoric by President Robert Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay in budget meetings, university-wide memos and coded political-speak that dominates Arizona Board of Regents meetings before they decide it’s time to take a closer look.

Also within the Daily Star opinions section (and linked to by the Campus Correspondent) is this guest piece written by UA Eller College of Management professor Shyam Jha.

In the column, Jha presents a novel idea: Instead of opening up the flood gates for just any ol’ high school student aspiring to achieve a mediocre post-high school education (think Shelton’s plan presented at the most recent ABOR meeting), the UA should instead raise admissions standards. Actually becoming a “world-class institution” instead of just strangling the hollow term with unbridled masturbatory obsession and inflating statistics to reflect a made-up reality? It’s so crazy it just may work.

Of course, part of the professor’s plan is to raise tuition by at least a drastic 33 percent. He argues that this would both reduce the number of students coming into the university and create more UA revenue. This is probably true. It’s also probably true that such an act could eliminate certain prospective students’ chances of getting into the university, even if increased financial aid is part of the deal within the equation.

If you’re willinig to pony up the extra money, though, or you are willing to take on thousands of dollars in student loans, this plan may actually work toward bringing academic excellence to the UA campus. That’s not sarcasm; that’s the truth. I know I certainly am willing. The truest thing Jha said is that admitting so many students is severely hurting the university’s ability to make its degrees actually worth anything.

So, the question becomes, how far are you willing to go for a quality education? How much do you want to rock the university boat?

UA faculty leaders: We have no idea what is going on, either

UA Provost Meredith Hay shrugs her shoulders in resignation...just kidding---this is just some random chick.

And in other breaking news, the sky is blue.

University of Arizona Faculty Senate meeting. Snoozefest, right? Well, not today, because when you approve the minutes of the previous meeting 52 minutes into the current meeting, that’s when you know you’ve stumbled into something good.

  • Puzzling dialogue does the impossible, makes UA Transformation even murkier

Breaking off from the traditional UA Faculty Senate meeting format, UA Faculty Chair Wanda Howell asked Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee Chair Lynn Nadel (who is a man) to clear up for the faculty exactly what SPBAC is. (In short, they are the committee who makes advisements to the UA upper administration on what to cut and how to save money throughout the UA Transformation Process, although it’s still unclear how active or effective the group really is.)

Nadel described SPBAC as the “nexis of communication” between the UA central administration and the UA community, including the faculty and colleges, after which he said that SPBAC “is beginning to play its role.”

Finally, Phew. I was starting to get worried. It’s only been a year-and-a-half since the inception of the UA Transformation Process and the creation of SPBAC. Good to know that over a dozen months after its creation, the group is finally “beginning to play its role.”

But what takes the cake is this gem of a dialogue between Howell, Nadel and Secretary of the Faculty J.C. Mutchler:

Howell: “Are we going to tell them what to cut? I think that’s what everyone’s wanting to know.”

Nadel: “No.”

Dammit, we almost had something.

Nadel: “The decision rests with the administrators. Anything else is chaos, as far as I’m concerned.”

What. Just. Happened.?

Howell: “So, if they wouldn’t take our suggestions, they would have to tell us why, right?”

Mutchler: “Well, we’d ask them why, but they wouldn’t have to tell us anything.”

Howell: “Oh, they most definitely would have to tell us why.”

Oops, good to see that these people aren’t the only ones who “have no idea what the hell is going on.”

UA President Robert Shelton: “The wisdom of this group is absolutely at the core” of the UA Transformation.

Jesus, you said it, Mr. President.

Whether or not Shelton was tossing out a hilariously-timed, subtle dig at the faculty leadership, the dialogue speaks volumes about the mass confusion and general lack of insight by anyone into the inner-workings of the UA Transformation Process. Right now, the only thing anyone knows is that no one else knows a damn thing either.

  • Faculty friendships getting in the way of effective leadership?

UA Provost Meredith Hay’s speech to the Faculty Senate started out simple enough, with the provost taking a page out of Shelton’s Day 2-of-the-Regents-meeting book by first commending the presentation given at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting concerning the status of arts and humanities at the UA. (Is anyone buying this “We care about social sciences too” charade anymore?)

She then immediately segwayed into the sadness she surely feels from Nadel leaving soon as the SPBAC chair. Hay made sure to note with importance the immense friendship she and Nadel had discovered with each other.

Now, whether this is typical nice-speak that accompanies the departure of a colleague or Hay actually meant it, this has been a major flaw with the faculty’s involvement in the UA Transformation.

A main concern among the faculty has been the existence of too much of a buddy-buddy relationship going on between faculty leadership and the UA administration. Off-the-record interviews I have had with faculty since the beginning stages of the UA Transformation have shown time and time-again that faculty are concerned that faculty leadership don’t really have their concerns in mind. Wanda Howell has commented on this in past faculty forums, saying that faculty leadership is in a tough position, so the leaders must toe the line between the administrators and the faculty in order to meet both sides, compromisingly.

The faculty seem to want someone in there who will fight tooth-and-nail to scratch their way into the minds and attention of Shelton and Hay. If that’ true, sorry, profs—Howell and Nadel aren’t your guys, although I think you know that already.

  • Shelton downplays any UA wrongdoing in “Climategate” scandal

In one of most under-reported stories that is least talked about in university circles, Shelton defended the UA amidst an email scandal involving whether or not UA and world climatology personnel tried to cover up data pointing against widely-held thoughts on global warming.

If you aren’t familiar with the bizarre story, read this, this and this to catch up. Do it. It’s international. It’s interesting. It’s sexy.

Shelton maintained during a speech to the Faculty Senate that there is “no substance” to the emails, saying that the UA faculty submit themselves to the highest integrity of data. He went on to say that independent research groups have backed up the UA professors’ research data.

The president, naturally, blamed the media for the firestorm, and said that the facts are being distorted by those who do not understand how science research works.

“There may be those who do not fully understand,” Shelton said.

Maybe Shelton has a leg to stand on here, as he is a science man. That being said, it sounds too much like the convincing Shelton has continually tried on the UA community concerning the UA Transformation Process—“You don’t need to understand, because we understand.” (Not an actual quote, but you get the idea.)

Of course, whether it’s a global warming scandal or the dismantling of his university, instead of having open discussions about it, Shelton just wants to sweep it under the rug, just like some of the inner-workings of the Transformation Process.

And, as the faculty have said, don’t be fooled by the “conversations” the provost and president have had with faculty and student leaders. As has been mentioned in comments from faculty in the faculty poll, these conversations are not so much of a two-way communication as they are the provost telling faculty what’s going to be done and how.

Indeed here, Shelton is telling the faculty what to think about the “Climategate” scandal, rather than offer satisfactory explanation, even though the president was the vice provost for research at the University of California system (a decade before his tenure at the UA started), nowhere near the UA professors, when the emails were supposedly circulating among the climatologists in question.

  • Tuition to rise once again

As if you could expect anything else in a year when the state budget is in turmoil, the UA’s budget is cut by about $100 million and the upper administration is working on reshuffling the entire university structure, Shelton announced that tuition will once again rise up to absurd proportions.

“There is no doubt in my mind that tuition will have to go up and go up significantly for next fall and the following year,” he said.

Even after the great tuition increase of 2010 becomes official at March 11 and 12’s ABOR meeting on the UA campus, the university will still be in big trouble financially, Shelton told the Faculty Senate.

However, the president said he has no plans to recoup the $100 million lost via tuition dollars only, as current plans for tuition will only cover “about half of that.”

Shelton added that he doesn’t see the possibility of the UA’s in-state tuition to skyrocket, like the UC school system, in the near future, but does think it would be a good idea to adjust to the median of the UA’s 15 peer institutions, which would put tuition high but manageable, he said.

Surprisingly, Shelton said he meets on a regular basis with students leaders and Student Body President Chris Nagata in particular. What are these meetings, though? When are they going on? We always hear about these meetings, but we never see them, and we never see what I guess are supposed to be the results of them.

  • Other tidbits from the Faculty Senate meeting

-Graduate Student Government Leader David Talenfeld did not bring the UA graduate students’ “Statement of Rights,” downgraded from “Bill of Rights,” to the Faculty Senate for approval, and mentioned that the statement will probably not be ready for the January Faculty Senate meeting, either.

-The spring 2010 Faculty Elections petition process will begin in January, with the elections taking place in March. Those not wanting to run for re-election were encouraged to find a suitable replacement to run instead.

-UA Law Professor Andrew Silverman commended the UA for officially severing ties with Russell Athletics amid a scandal involving international sweatshop labor and union controversies. Apparently, after the UA terminated its contract with Russell, the athletic apparel giant started entering in negotiations for union labor, rehired some workers and provided compensation for others. If all goes well, Silverman said the UA may enter back into a contract with Russell Athletics, information he said he obtained because of his position as the UA chair for the Committee Monitoring Human Rights Issues.