Gov. Jerry Brown wants UCLA and other schools in the UC and CSU systems to… (Los Angeles Times )
Re "Brown prods UC, Cal State to streamline," Jan. 16, and "Micromanaging the UCs," Editorial, Jan. 17
Gov. Jerry Brown is one of the finest state chief executives in the history of the United States. But in calling on the University of California and California State University systems to offer more teaching and online courses and do less research, he should be careful that he doesn't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The best teaching in the sciences is student involvement in research. Research is the best teaching tool of all to prepare students for careers in the real world. Research is inextricably linked to teaching. Of major importance is that most science-focused professional schools such as medical, dental, pharmacy and others now require research experience for admission, a testament to the importance of student research.
As a U.S. Presidential Award winner for student research mentoring, I can provide data on hundreds of specific examples of how student research results in fantastic outcomes in the real world.
Steven B. Oppenheimer
The writer is a professor of biology at Cal State Northridge.
Brown's suggestion that UC and CSU reduce their ratio of research to teaching has several negative implications. Revenue, in the form of overhead generated by grants to individual faculty, constitutes a substantial portion of an institution's income. In the engineering and science departments especially, professors can generate their salaries many times over in overhead, which goes to support students as well as many of the activities in that department, college and institution.
Taken to its ridiculous extreme, if every professor stopped writing grants and taught three or four courses per semester, the most productive professors would leave and the loss of revenue would result in departmental consolidation, which would make the courses harder than ever for students to find.
Brown is right to push for better completion and transfer rates at the state's public colleges and universities. Thirty-seven states are already moving in this direction. California is behind in producing its fair share of bachelor's degrees. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that the state will soon have about 1 million fewer such degrees than the workforce demands.
Research is crucial for the state's economy, so the governor should restore the $750 million he cut from UC and CSU in his first budget. But in general, Brown is on the right track.
The writer is a member of the California Postsecondary Education Commission.
Brown's concern about the growth of administration in UC and CSU and the decline of teaching is well founded. At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where I continue to teach part time as a professor emeritus, the latest item to catch our attention is an in-house search for an "inclusive excellence curriculum coordinator." This position will remove the lucky faculty member who gets the job from three-quarters of his teaching duties.
A large number of my colleagues, including a dean and a former CSU president, have no idea what this position means, and it's not for lack of trying to find out.
George M. Lewis
Los Osos, Calif.
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