Merced strikes back… but is Yudof helping?

Some new documents have come to light… well, at least to my attention, and the plot just gets more interesting.

The first piece is an official letter of response from UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang. He tries to minimize it by saying that it was just “a small group of faculty” calling for his school to be sacrificed (yeah, but they were all chairs, buddy).

He also brings up an interesting point, which is that, in his view, UC Merced “is making great strides as it develops into a full research university campus.” Wait… I thought it was “the pretence [sic] that all campuses are equal” that bothered Andrew Scull so much. In fact, no one is even pretending that Merced is up there yet; rather they’re stating that it shouldn’t be strangled in its cradle before it even has a chance to ge tthere.

This, of course, just underscores how heinous it is for established research universities like UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz to be lumped together with… wait a minute! Aren’t I just falling into the same trap that I railed against in my last post? Well… that’s the interesting part.

You see, in his attempt to reassure his “campus community,” Kang links to the official response by Mark Yudof (PDF file), President of the University of California. The reassurance, however, is a bit off. For one thing while Kang talks up about the “innovative, student-centered learning environment” at his campus, in addition to its research potential, Yudof focuses almost entirely on research (there is a throwaway reference to “instruction” at one point).

Another issue is that Yudof seems to have, at times, an interesting relationship with the truth:

It has come to my attention that one suggestion that has been initiated by a group of department chairs at one campus has become particularly distressful to the faculty at other campuses. This suggestion describes an approach in which [the administration] would deliberately de-emphasize the research missions of three of the ten campuses-Merced, Riverside, and Santa Cruz…

I am chagrined to learn now that, in some media and some state-wide governmental offices, this suggestion is being interpreted that [sic] certain UC faculty are suggesting that the University should “close” one or more of these three campuses. As a result, this suggestion may receive some public attention. (emphasis mine)

Ya think?! Well that’s what really bothers him; not that the suggestion was made, but that the dirty laundry was aired in public. Well President Yudof sir, I may not have hacked it in the interpretative arts so far (although I’m not sure how well you’d have hacked it in my composition class), but I’m really sure how else to interpret the following sentence from the Scull letter:

Or, if [cutting research funds] is too hard, we suggest that what ought to be done is to shut one or more of these campuses down, in whole or in part.

It doesn’t take a literary critic, pal.

So what does Yudof do after blaming the media for trumping this thing up?

It is the extraordinary record of this single University system that membership in the Association of American Universities–the most significant group of research universities in this country–has grown from one UC campus in the 1960s to six UC campuses today… Further, [sic] I strongly believe that in the near future, it is not unlikely that one or more of the trio of campuses mentioned above could well also earn membership in the AAU.

It’s times like these where I start to see that I perhaps wasn’t, ahem, serious enough about understanding how the game was played when I was a graduate student, because I’d never actually heard of the Association of American Universities until I read that letter. So these are the elitists who determine which universities actually “count”! It’s not really just matter of innuendo, after all! Of course, I immediately consulted their membership roster, wondering who didn’t make the cut (and of course, already knowing)

University of California, Berkeley (1900)
University of California, Davis (1996)
University of California, Irvine (1996)
University of California, Los Angeles (1974)
University of California, San Diego (1982)
University of California, Santa Barbara (1995)

While it’s nice to know that I got my BA from an AAU-approved institution (although I started going there only three years after they were admitted), I think it was, to put it lightly, much more relevant to me whether or not my graduate institution was in the club. It wasn’t.

So, how dare Scull compare UCR and UCSC to UCM? Well, Yudof, in defending us from Scull, just did the same thing. These merely “aspirational” institutions. If the people there act like good little boys and girls, they may get to sit at the grown-ups table someday.

In a comment on what was perhaps the original blog post on this subject, Jorge Mariscal of UCSD darkly ruminates:

I don’t think Yudof or anyone else at OP would have a problem with Scull’s proposals if they thought they could get away with them politically.

Most of my colleagues cheered his remarks, but I was intitially skeptical. Now, seeing how similar Scull and Yudof’s thinking actually is (and how intellectually dishonest Yudof is in attempting to protect Scull from his own words), I’m not so sure.

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