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Academic Senate Newsletter 2020-21 #2
November 02, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

When I wrote my first newsletter in early September, I thought it might be a once a quarter affair. It seems that the world moves more rapidly than that nowadays, and I would like to take another opportunity to describe the position that the San Diego Division of the Academic Senate has taken on a few pressing and important issues.

  1. Last year the Senate Task Force on the Climate Crisis recommended creating a standing committee on climate change issues at UCSD. I made this a priority as Chair and am pleased to report that at its October 13 meeting, Representative Assembly approved a bylaw creating such a committee, the first in the UC system. The climate crisis is very much on the agenda of the Systemwide Academic Council, but I am proud that UCSD is in the lead on this very important issue.

  2. Our faculty and instructors have done a truly remarkable job of adapting to online instruction, and are working extremely hard under sometimes difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that things are being made even more difficult as a result of confusion and frustration regarding the expectations for asynchronous options for instruction and exams. With many students marooned in other time zones, working without adequate internet and computing equipment, or working in environments that are not conducive to study, providing asynchronous options for instruction and exams is clearly best practice, and the Senate strongly encourages all faculty who are engaged in teaching and mentoring to provide every accommodation that is feasible. However, while the Academic Senate has authority over educational policy, it does not have policy mandating course delivery modality for the current emergency, nor does it consider that creating such a policy in a hasty manner for today’s particular crisis is a wise and appropriate move. Rather, the Senate’s position is that faculty have the academic freedom to make their own decisions in the best interests of their students, and are well positioned to understand what best teaching practice is within their particular discipline. In short, the Senate does not think that the nature of asynchronous instruction can be mandated without policy, which currently does not exist.

    It is the Senate’s position that existing educational policies on final exams and midterm exams should be interpreted in the context of remote instruction, and where apparent conflicts exist (for example, faculty being required to be physically present during exams), the policy exception allowing remote instruction takes precedence. We encourage faculty to review “Educational Policy Committee’s Guidance for Final Exams during 2020-2021” and apply elements of this guidance to upcoming mid-term exams:

  3. Many of you will have read UC President Drake’s proposal for a system-wide curtailment program. President Drake asked the Academic Senate to provide feedback on the proposal, and the UCSD Division and Systemwide Council are strongly opposed to the proposal. In this context, curtailment means enforced campus closure such as the three days between Christmas and New Year. However, since the proposal calls for an equivalent pay cut for faculty who do not accrue vacation, by the definition in Regents Standing Order 100.4 (qq) this is really a furlough (“temporary unpaid time off of work where use of accrued vacation leave, compensatory time off, or any other paid leave or compensation may not be used”). Further, the Standing Order authorizes furloughs only after a Declaration of Extreme Financial Emergency, which has not been made.

    For faculty (and some staff), work will not go away – courses need to be taught and research needs to be done, so this isn’t even time off. The total savings from this program will be 10% of UC’s budget shortfall at best, and given that faculty and staff are already working much harder than normal in sometimes difficult circumstances, the Senate considers that the large negative impact on morale is not worth these relatively small savings. Likely, given the cost of implementation (UCPath is hardly a versatile system at this time), unknown effects associated with essential workers, losing indirect cost recovery by cutting faculty and staff paid off extramural funds, the savings could be a lot less than anticipated.

    Perhaps most importantly, this is a systemwide solution applied to 10 campuses in very different budgetary situations. Our UCSD Administration has presented a budget plan that does not require salary cuts. Other campuses may not be so fortunate, and may even be in a position where no amount of salary cutting will solve their problems. If this program does go ahead, each campus should be given the authority to determine the appropriate number of “curtailment” days, with no minimum specified. Also, the Senate is asking for a binding commitment that the program would not result in reduced retirement benefits.

Steven Constable
Academic Senate, San Diego Division