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Katehi maps out UC Davis plan

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From page A1 | March 01, 2013 |

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UC Davis will examine a three-year degree and expand online education as ways to reduce the cost of a degree, Chancellor Linda Katehi said on Thursday.

During a wide-ranging, hour-long state of the campus address before the Academic Senate, the chancellor also discussed the campus plan for growth, faculty diversity, an effort to address the world’s food supply and the progress of reforms following the 2011 pepper-spraying of student protesters.

Gov. Jerry Brown has called for more teaching and online courses and less research, a topic he and UC leaders will take up again when the UC Board of Regents meets March 12-14.

Katehi rejected the notion that faculty should do more. The cost of a degree is the real problem, she said.

“The supermajority of our faculty don’t just work hard — they’ve reached their own capacity in many ways, both in terms of their time and the load that they’ve accepted.”

She illustrated her point by profiling three departments, among them psychology. Its 38 professors all manage active labs, and 98 percent of them hold research grants worth more than $100 million. The department has the largest number of undergraduate majors — at almost 1,600 — and teaches 16,000 students annually.

“I don’t know what more anybody thinks this group can do,” Katehi said.

Saying faculty need to teach more is a “very simplistic” argument, one that shows a misunderstanding of the complex way in which universities operate, she said.

Just explaining what professors do isn’t enough, however, Katehi said:

“We also need to solve the problem for the public. We have a responsibility to say, ‘OK, we understand the problem — the cost of a degree has increased — so let’s talk about the possibilities to see whether there’s anything we can do as an institution to impact that in a positive way.’”

That should begin with improving graduation rates that she said are relatively low for the UC system. Davis students graduate at a rate of 52 percent over four years and 82 percent over six.

Katehi said that she had asked Provost Ralph Hexter to set as a goal improving the four-year rate to 75 percent and the six-year rate to 96 percent.

UCD will also consider a three-year degree pilot program in which the campus makes course content available to select high schools and community colleges.

The goal: Have students spend their high school senior years more effectively, then spend a year at a junior college, before making the leap to UCD.

UC leaders have announced a plan to develop 150 online courses for freshmen and sophomores. Hexter and the Academic Senate will hold a summit this spring to discuss the best ways for the campus to move more teaching online.

“Whether we like it as individuals, or as an institution, online is a tool we cannot avoid. The question is, how do we best use it to enhance the quality of our program?” Katehi said.

UCD continues to face budgetary challenges, even after voters’ approval of Brown’s package of tax increases, Prop. 30. The campus faces a structural deficit of about $40 million.

Under Brown’s budget proposal, UC would get back a quarter of the $1 billion lost to budget cuts during the past five years.

The campus would likely see an increase of about $15 million. Fixed-cost increases, including pension and healthcare costs, add up to $31.5 million, however.

“It’s a long-term problem and we need to think of a long-term solution,” Katehi said.

The chancellor discussed a number of new and ongoing initiatives:

* Her “2020” plan has been given the green light. It seeks to add 5,000 undergraduate students and 300 faculty, in part by increasing the number of out-of-state and international students who pay higher tuition. An implementation plan will be unveiled in May.

“It’s going to be a very complex and important exercise,” Katehi said.

* The Campaign for UC Davis has amassed $929 million. It is on pace to reach its $1 billion goal by summer, more than a year early.

Another, still more ambitious fundraising push will likely start in about two years, she said. It will include a capital campaign to tackle $1.5 billion in deferred maintenance and seismic upgrades.

She said that among the needs that must be addressed sooner rather than later: the building of a new chemistry and chemical engineering building.

* UCD will explore how to increase the diversity of its faculty. Katehi said that the percentage of black (1.7 percent) and Latino professors (close to 5 percent) has remained stagnant for 17 years, even as the state’s demographics have changed dramatically.

Latino students now represent a majority in California high schools. The number of black students on campus has increased, too, Katehi noted.

“We need to provide examples that will help those students dream of their own careers. We have a majority non-white student population, a primarily non-white staff population and a primarily white faculty. It’s a problem. We need to get together and work to create the institution of the 21st century.”

To begin, UCD will use a $3.7 million National Science Foundation grant to fund an effort to attract more women, primarily Latinas, to academic careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

* When the campus hosts an international summit on climate-smart agriculture next month, it will likely announce a vision for a “World Food Center.”

It will be less a place, Katehi said, than “an environment,” knitting together 30 centers on campus that do food-related research and perhaps creating fellowships for academic and corporate researchers from around the world, all attempting to address the need to feed an estimated 9 billion people by 2050.

UCD would set out to raise $100 million for an endowment that would sustain the center.

* A committee will present a report in June on how to better the experience of undergraduate students — particularly those on campus who are undecided on a major and end up “floating around without the ability to find their way in this huge system.”

“We have grown so fast that a lot of our processes that impact students are not working for them,” Katehi said, adding, “We are talking about re-committing ourselves to our students.”

* A number of steps have been taken in the effort to improve the campus climate following the pepper-spray incident. A report on the campus’ progress is due out in  June.

Katehi said a campus community council had been meeting regularly since May 2012; a new emergency operations plan is in place, as is an emergency and crisis team; police, administrators and faculty and student representatives have gone through additional training.

Among the changes at the police department: the addition of a cadet training program that currently numbers 14 students. It will help make the department “more of a student body, rather than a paramilitary organization,” the chancellor said.

An Academic Senate committee on freedom of expression submitted a report on Feb. 15. A broader group will now be formed to create an action plan, she said.

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Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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