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Threats to International Education and Shared Governance at UC

Written By: kernrg on November 22, 2009 3 Comments

How ironic that during International Education week, the news should arrive that the Berkeley Divisional Council voted to eliminate the Academic Senate Committee on International Education.  How ironic that Berkeley should now be the only UC campus other than Merced and San Francisco not to have a Committee on International Education—despite the fact that Chancellor Birgeneau names international education as his third goal for UC Berkeley in his “Access and Excellence” vision statement.

The elimination of the Committee on International Education (CIE) had first been proposed this past summer by the Task Force on Senate Organization and Effectiveness, charged with streamlining the Academic Senate and increasing its efficiency by reducing the number of Berkeley Academic Senate Committees from 31 to 18.  The stated rationale was partly financial (the Academic Senate had to reduce its staff) and partly altruistic (budget cuts had increased faculty workload and faculty were furloughed, so service workload reductions were in order).  Although the recurrent theme in the task force report was improving “efficiency,” it was not clear how adding the work of 13 closed committees to the remaining 18 committees was going to achieve this goal.

CIE responded vigorously to the task force in September, pointing out that this was the worst possible time to eliminate CIE.  International educational has never been more integral to Berkeley students’ preparation for the global environment in which they will live and work. At the same time, the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) is being progressively dismantled by the Office of the President, and the cost of studying abroad is being shifted directly to students’ wallets, eroding the longstanding principle that all UC students should have the opportunity to study abroad and can do so without paying additional fees.  Meanwhile, the Universitywide EAP Office in Santa Barbara is undergoing radical restructuring—a process that demands faculty input.  All these changes have placed unprecedented demands on the Study Abroad offices of each individual campus, and yet funding to these offices has been drastically reduced.  CIE has played a key advocacy role for the Berkeley Programs for Study Abroad office.  Now, however, EAP will no longer have a faculty advocacy group on the Berkeley campus.

Of greatest concern, however, is what this decision signifies in terms of shared governance.  None of the stated rationales for eliminating CIE stands up to scrutiny.  Financially, closing CIE means saving one-tenth of one staff FTE.  This is a trivial savings—and it is certainly outweighed by the amount of “free” work that the committee does. Altruistic motivations are equally absurd.  All the members of CIE are busy people, but we gladly serve out of a firm belief in the importance of international education for our students, and I am sure that the committee would stand ready to serve without staff support.  One is left to suppose that there must be another reason.  The only other explanation that comes to my mind is that eliminating CIE (among however many other committees that were voted for elimination last week) is really about narrowing the scope of areas in which faculty influence is wanted—in other words, grenoble2a direct attack on faculty governance in the name of “efficiency.”  I don’t want to believe that this is the real motivation, but in the absence of any official explanation that makes any sense, I don’t know what else to believe.

What is proposed is that international education concerns will be dealt with by the Committee on Educational Policy—a large committee with an already long agenda. This amounts to no more than giving lip-service to international education. Adding two CIE members to CEP will not provide an adequate range of expertise to deal with the many issues related to international education on the Berkeley campus.

Berkeley students and faculty need to be aware of the steady erosion of international education at UC, and they will have to be increasingly vocal about their interests, needs, and rights, especially now that there is no longer an Academic Senate committee devoted to the issue.

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3 Responses to “Threats to International Education and Shared Governance at UC”

  1. Youki on: 23 November 2009 at 3:37 pm

    such a paradox
    a world-class education
    which excludes the world.

  2. Sirpa on: 28 November 2009 at 9:39 am

    You’re so right, Youki. Rick, is there anything we can do to publisize this? As if that helped?

  3. daveski on: 29 November 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I hope it helps. I’d be interested in knowing how to help advocate too.

    Yesterday I sent this message to the community mailing list at the Graduate School of Education, which has been pretty active the last several days following the strike and protest.

    Hello GSE community,

    I’ve been inspired by Celia’s and everyone’s emails to this list over the
    last several days, pointing out all the injustices being done on our
    campus and in our state, and the work of students to further the cause of
    an education more equitable and long-lasting than current administration
    seems to be able to.

    The gutting of international education at Berkeley is an issue that hasn’t
    been in the headlines much. But, considering the devaluation and outright
    exclusion of linguistic and cultural diversity that has been an outcome if
    not explicit aim of much educational policy from K-12 and upward over the
    last decade or two, and witnessing again Berkeley’s selling itself as an
    “international university” to the broader public (see the “International
    Strategy” in Chancellor Birgeneau’s “Access and Excellence” vision piece
    here: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/news/chancellor/access/access.shtml),
    it seems to me the transformation of study abroad from “education” to
    “edutainment”–or just plain tourism–deserves our attention too.

    Rick Kern, graduate of the GSE and now director of the Berkeley Language
    Center, writes about this in a blog post from several days ago, entitled
    “Threats to International Education and Shared Governance”
    (http://foundintranslation.berkeley.edu/?p=5079). In it, he describes how,
    as part of the forced ‘downsizing’ of the Berkeley Senate Academic
    Committees that look into the quality of education in various sectors on
    campus, the Committee on International Education has been eliminated.
    Meanwhile, study abroad offices across the UCs are being ‘restructured’
    and removed from faculty oversight–facts which are profoundly changing
    what it means and how much it costs to study abroad. The bottom line seems
    to be, UC figuring out how it can make more money from students, while
    paying less attention to what the actually learn.

    But I struggled with whether to send this on to the GSE Community list,
    since, the little self-critic inside me said, maybe international
    education isn’t central to the fight that’s happening over mammoth tuition
    and fee increases, firings and furloughs, and the elimination of programs
    ON this campus.

    But then I thought again … silencing, as often as not through a kind of
    self-censorship that has itself been learned, seems to be the fate of
    language, language studies, and other ‘subjects’ harder to quantify in
    times of tightening budgets. Defining oneself as “not central” seems a
    sure way to become “not strictly necessary”. As I write, I wonder what
    Berkeley’s (our) vision is for the role of students on our campus who come
    speaking other languages and other Englishes than the one governed by
    money; how the voices of international students here at Berkeley can be
    heard in their diversity and not seen by the institution as just burden or
    boon because of their higher tuitions; and how the dominant and
    oft-hegemonic discourses carried and spread by current and future
    generations of Berkeley students in our state and on study/travel abroad
    programs around the world can be questioned, challenged, displaced, and
    then put in their place. Having chances to–or even being required to, for
    those who haven’t before–study and use languages in a critical and
    sustained way seems like a pretty good starting place.

    Thanks again everyone, for all you’re doing.

    Dave Malinowski
    PhD Candidate, Language, Literacy and Culture

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