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January 8, 2004

Goodbye to All That

Tomorrow Governor Ahhnold will roll out his vision for higher education, a move that will directly affect things around here.

"In his bid to stabilize student fees, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could trade California's reputation as a provider of cheap, world-class higher education for something maybe more valuable to parents: more predictability about how much it will cost to send their child to college."

So tuition will go up, but within limits, and what we're able to spend is heading down fast. We've been asked to plan for a 25% cut in faculty budget. The details aren't set, but it's clear that next Fall we'll all be teaching more students and more classes. We'll have to let most of our part-timers go and some tenured faculty are going to be teaching courses they'd rather not touch. This will pass, but interesting times loom ahead.

We discussed all this and hatched strategies to minimize the pain at our department meeting this afternoon. Thankfully I've got great colleagues all pulling in the same direction and enjoying each others' company. I'd hate to be in some other department where a shrinking pie brings out the nastiness in everyone.

As educational technologists we're better prepared than, say, a Linguistics department to imagine ways to reinvent the way we do business. Everything about higher ed, though, resists change no matter how creative your ideas are. We need flexible scheduling, streamlined bureaucracy, differentiated staffing, a blurring of the lines between extended studies and regular courses, the ability to count distant courses as part of our load... lots of things. Maybe this crisis will open up some possibilities but I'm guessing it won't last long enough to alter the fundamentals.

At the halfway point in our meeting we all went down to Scripps Cottage to have a department group picture taken. First time we've done that since the early 80s when there were only four of us.

I hope we won't look back at this picture and think, "That was us in a golden time just before things fell apart."