An Update from the Strategic Planning Committee

By Kathleen Barrett
May 24, 2001

On May 1, 2001 the Undergraduate Division sponsored the fourth in a series of Colloquia on Undergraduate Education. To an overflow audience of staff and faculty, Divisional Dean of the Humanities Ralph Hexter moderated a question and answer session with the co-chairpersons of the Strategic Planning Committee: Vice Provost William Webster and Senate Chair David Dowall.

Coming on the heels of the Strategic Planning Committee’s more formal Road Show presentation, this venue allowed for interested parties to submit questions on specific issues of concern. Questions were grouped into eight topic areas: faculty, staff, students, academic programs, space, summer session, off-campus facilities and campus planning. The co-chairs were given the questions prior to the meeting.

William Webster began by noting how pleased the committee was with the turnout at the road shows, particularly at the staff presentation. The commitment and concern of staff was conveyed quite effectively to the committee at that presentation and the committee has already made modifications to its proposals.

  • Faculty. Faculty can not be hired until the students are on campus and the monies given by the state for each student (marginal cost of education funds) are paid out. The hope is that the 1300 FTE summer session students will provide a funding base for the hiring of new faculty. In addition to funding concerns there are other issues such as lack of GSIs, and the hiring of lecturers versus ladder rank faculty. Co-chair Dowall noted that the Senate’s main concern is to maintain the quality of instruction. He also alluded to the important labor issues that will accompany any changes in the way we staff our courses. On a positive note, a lecturer can normally be hired more quickly than a ladder rank faculty person can.

  • Staff. VC Webster noted that the cutbacks that occurred in the early 90s are still a problem because as funding became more available to replace the positions lost the labor market tightened. This translates into hundreds of vacancies and staff that are currently over-worked even without the additional students expected from Tidal Wave II. The Committee is also aware that staff has traditionally used summer to catch-up and expanded summer enrollments will diminish their ability to do that. Both men pledged to make staff workload issues a more central part of the planning process.

  • Students. Questioners raised concerns about time to degree, ratio of students, the distribution of these additional students among the colleges and the resources needed to accommodate additional students. VC Webster believes that student ratios will not change dramatically from their current levels of three undergraduates for every graduate student and about 35% lower division and 65% upper division. It was noted that the lower division and upper division numbers are soft due to things like advanced placement work which means entering freshmen can quickly look like sophomores or juniors, yet still be intending to spend four years (or more) at Berkeley. The presenters also noted that decreasing the time to degree could help to alleviate some of the expanded enrollment problems. Only 48% of entering freshman currently graduate in 4 years, although the reasons for this have not been studied thoroughly. Increased throughput means we could handle more students and not increase cost significantly. It costs approximately $75,000 per student in capital costs. Resources for students, particularly housing, will be an on-going challenge. Although new living space with approximately 1000 new beds is in the works, these residence halls will be several years in the building.

  • Impacted and underutilized majors. It was noted that the short-term planning group, which will be meeting in the summer, will be looking at underutilized majors. As Co-Chair Webster noted, if a major has a history of underutilization it might be time for a change.

  • Space. Space is and will continue to be a major issue for this campus. In terms of acreage we are one of the smallest campuses of almost any major research institution. We could build up (the Manhattanization of Campus), but not out. Several scenarios are being reviewed including expanding into downtown Berkeley or decentralizing campus to other facilities around the bay. In addition to affordable housing for students Co-Chair Dowall also noted there is a growing need for housing for faculty and staff. He sees the current situation as an opportunity to create exciting co-housing that could include research facilities and living spaces. In addition to providing living spaces the campus must also provide parking space. Again, this is a scarce resource getting scarcer. Both men note that almost 30% of staff and faculty currently arrive on campus by means other than a car. In follow-up questions, audience members wondered about offering additional incentives including sliding scales for parking fees, a fast pass much like students currently have for AC Transit and bonuses for those who don’t use cars to come to campus. And last but not least is classroom space, particularly labs, which is destined to become even more impacted.

  • Summer Sessions. Summer will begin to more like a regular semester although it is hoped that it will not lose the ability to offer unique classes. What is likely to occur is that more faculty will teach in summer session in lieu of teaching either in a fall or spring semester. Departments worried about losing their summer income should note the VP Gray does not project a decrease in these monies for either this summer or next. However, as we regularize summer session it is unlikely that the campus will be able to hold departments harmless for lost summer revenues: new funding sources will have to be found to cover expenses now covered by summer-session revenues. VC Webster noted that we can’t yet predict all of the effects of faculty swapping semesters.

  • Off-Campus Facilities. Co-Chair Dowall hopes that new growth and lack of space will create exciting opportunities to build residential housing clusters for student, faculty and staff along transportation corridors. Alternatively, the Strategic Planning Committee may suggest creating co-housing units that could contain research facilities and housing. Satellite campuses in locations throughout the Bay Area could house some of the professional schools or other programs that could be bundled together. At least a year away, Cal in the City is going ahead slowly, spearheaded by the UC Extension office. The program will consist of cross-disciplinary courses that integrate the subject matter with the surrounding environs.

  • Campus Planning. The Strategic Planning Committee will spend the summer focusing on the various scenarios designed to address space issues on campus. (Please check the Strategic Planning Committee website for further information.) The SPC members will then present what they feel is the best-case scenario to all the stakeholders in the Fall. Early in the Fall the Committee will also present ideas for the best ways to manage short-term growth—the next 2-3 years. Their next task will be to present long-range plans for growth and development.

Dean Hexter then opened the forum for further questions.

Jan Kiehling from the Berkeley Staff Assembly wondered why the Education Abroad Program (EAP) had not been mentioned in the forums. Both chairs quickly responded that EAP is still a significant part of the plan to alleviate expanded enrollment.

A question was raised about who is deciding on how many staff will be needed to accommodate the growth in enrollment. Staff ratios certainly do not tell the whole picture as certain programs and departments will be more impacted than others will. A sub-committee with representation from Human Resources is tackling this issue.

The Co-chairs were asked to give an update on the staffing/budgeting proposals that Department chairs submitted. There have been rumors that decisions have been made about staff allocations. As a Divisional Dean, Ralph Hexter assured the questioner that decisions have not been finalized and that we should know by mid-May.

The colloquium was brought to a close at 5:00pm.

The L & S colloquia, which take place once or twice each semester, provide opportunities to learn about and discuss the overarching issues affecting undergraduate education at U C Berkeley. For more information on upcoming or past programs, contact Alix Schwartz at alix@uclink4.berkeley.edu or (510) 642-8378.

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