Mission creep strangles the local and statewide once-vaunted college system

CA schools were supposed to work in tandem, from UC’s down to CCC’s like Santa Clara’s Mission College. Today, they suffer from “mission creep”—degree inflation, union power grabs, and administrative bloat now cannibalize resources and inflate tuitions. California Policy Center’s Peter Constant (not the former SJ CM) suggests revisiting the Master Plan.

Once the envy of the world, California’s public college and university networks have been plagued by mission creep, confusing and diluting their ability to achieve the purpose for which they were originally designed. Incremental state legislation over the years has reduced the once independent and robust tiered system — California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU), and the University of California (UC) — to an amalgamation of misaligned and competing colleges and universities where academic excellence and student needs have been deprioritized while administrative budgets have ballooned.

The Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (1978), or HEERA, enhanced collective bargaining rights for faculty, staff, and all other employees. HEERA increased the overhead costs of running institutions by tipping the scale in negotiations significantly in favor of the employee unions, which allowed substantial wage and benefit increases without legislative oversight.

Assembly Bill 1725, enacted in 1988, was perhaps the largest blow to the effectiveness and streamlining of faculty within the system. The bill introduced changes to the structure of community colleges by giving faculty greater involvement in decision-making processes over curriculum development, hiring, and program review. Although the bill was intended to enhance the value proposition of attending CCCs and build a framework to help students in achieving their education and career goals, ultimately, the bill required greater bureaucratic intransigence and reduced efficiencies by creating committees of decision-makers. Further, implementing the legislation constrained resources and multiplied administrative burdens incongruent with the intent of the Master Plan.

When it was introduced, the 1960 Master Plan was universally praised for its commitment to accessible, high-quality education for all students. Yet the framework for California’s higher education system has veered from the original mission amid conflicting visions and interests. The distinct roles laid out in the Master Plan have become blurred; in many aspects, the UCs, CSUs, and CCCs schools now appear indistinguishable.

Radical shifts in ideological approaches and pedagogies threaten to further imperil the state’s public colleges and universities. A case in point is the story of Daymon Johnson, who sued California Community Colleges last July after CCC policies demanded Daymon to “employ teaching, learning, and professional practices that reflect” the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) agenda. The DEI governance has forced teachers to include race in subjects where it doesn’t belong; in Johnson’s case, chemistry. 

In California, many teachers’ academic freedom and the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech have been hampered by DEI. This ideological push has not only taken over the lectures in the classroom but has also taken over admissions and faculty employment.

Read the whole thing here.

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