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Preliminary Notes on the Campus Response to the Pre-proposal to Establish the E & J Gallo School of Management at UC Merced

On February 5, 2021, we received the campus’s response to the Gallo School pre-proposal. We thank everyone who reviewed the pre-proposal document and provided significant and thoughtful feedback.

We are encouraged by positive comments on our plan. Some reviewers thought the pre-proposal was well-written and outlined a clear faculty-driven path for the development of a new school that importantly fulfills the campus’s long-standing promise to a key donor. Some saw the proposal as innovative and distinctive, creating opportunities for novel education and research programs related to management and much more. Some saw benefits in promoting multidisciplinary and equity-centered approaches and in multidisciplinary perspectives on tackling global challenges, given themes that align with overall campus strengths and that may help move the campus toward Carnegie R1 status.  

Nevertheless, many substantial concerns were raised, and we hope we can address them adequately in a revision of the pre-proposal. Specifically, we will consult widely among the Gallo-related faculty and across the campus when we return to in-person operations in Fall 2021, aiming to resubmit a revised pre-proposal that has clear campus support before the end of AY 2021-22. In what follows, we outline some of the main concerns and provide some thoughts on how we may respond. We invite you to consider these, comment on them, and help us move the Gallo School pre-proposal forward.

Concerns

Many concerns about details of the pre-proposal were expressed by both administration and senate reviewers. Here, we have organized these into a set of broad questions about the plan and proposal in five categories (in order of intensity of response and frequency of mention): resources and budget, impacts on existing schools and need for a new school, diversity of the proposal team, campus consultation and proposal process, and cross-school collaboration and intellectual identity of the proposed school. This sample set of issues are representative but by no means comprehensive, and our eventual response will aim to address each specific issue that was raised.

Resources

The most commonly and intensely expressed concerns relate to resources, often with respect to the campus’s current financial situation or with respect overall campus priorities. Specifically, many of the resources issues relate to the pervasive assumption that campus finances are a “zero-sum game” and that without any guidance from campus leadership on campus priorities, it is not clear how to trade one priority item (expense) for another. 

The proposal team cannot address the question of campus priorities and how to think about funding and tradeoffs at the campus level. The Chancellor and Provost will need to ensure funding is available and the tradeoffs are sensible. We will continue to work closely with them and expect they will be able to identify funding for the Gallo School and to express clearly their support for the plan.

Related to this is the question of whether now is the right time to start a new school at UC Merced given the current campus budget crisis and hiring freeze.

Regarding the question of timing, as a practical matter, we are waiting. Planning something like this, of this scale and scope, takes a long time (we’ve been at it since at least 2017). Any new school would not be operational for at least two years more. When there is more clarity around the budget and financial health of the campus and the system, we will be able to proceed quickly given the plans we have in place. If we wait until there is clarity around the budget and finances, we will run further behind in developing the school and accessing the endowment and the future opportunities created by the new school.

Other resource concerns relate to details of the proposed budget, for instance, what happens when the Gallo cash reserves are depleted (after year 6 or so) or how already understaffed schools (such as SSHA and SOE) could possibly transfer staff to the Gallo school.

We are in the process of reworking the budget to ensure the plan is sustainable and does not depend on specific new philanthropy or on staff from existing schools.

Yet other concerns relate to space needs for the Gallo School.

Like all other units on campus, we are working closely with the campus space planning office. The pre-proposal contains a specific space plan that was endorsed by the Provost. Space needs for the campus would not differ substantially with or without the Gallo School as proposed.

Impact of and Need for a New School

Related to concerns over resources, the next most common and intensely expressed concerns relate to the potential impact of the new school on existing schools and units, particularly SSHA and particularly in the short term.

As we revise the proposal and budget, we will develop and incorporate a transition plan that outlines exactly how the faculty, resources, and programs will transition from the current state to the future, proposed state. It was a mistake not to include a transition plan in the original submission.

Some concerns relate to assessment of the demand or need for the new school that is being proposed.

There is already demand for the existing programs offered by the departments proposed to join the new school. Specifically, the school will begin as a combination of several already popular programs, including undergraduate programs in Management and Business Economics and Cognitive Science, and graduate programs in Cognitive and Information Sciences and Management of Complex Systems. New programs that are proposed will require some assessment of demand, such as, the external market research done for the recently proposed Master of Data Science and Analytics program. We note also that in collaboration with UC Merced’s Alumni Relations office, we conducted a survey of the recent alumni to gauge interest in the establishment of the Gallo School, and responses were uniformly positive and supportive.

Several reviews suggest that rather than creating a new school, we could instead create an institute, interdisciplinary programs, or a graduate school.

The pre-proposal includes organizational infrastructure for educational, development, and other activities that are inappropriate for a research institute. For instance, an institute focused solely on research would drastically reduce our ability to collaborate and pursue our vision, which includes the development of new undergraduate programs that span our disciplines. Some institutes – such as UCSD’s Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute and University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies – incorporate both undergraduate and graduate programs, and could serve as models, but structurally, these are pretty much identical to schools. Importantly, UC Merced promised specifically to establish a school in accepting the endowment from the Gallo’s, who are clearly interested in producing the leaders of tomorrow in the Central Valley (not just in academic publications).

Campus Consultation and Proposal Process

Several concerns were raised about the extent of campus consultation prior to the submission of the pre-proposal and about the consultation process going forward, particularly consultation with the school deans.

Deans and administrators participated in a number of meetings to discuss school plans, and opinions and suggestions were solicited. Nevertheless, we understand that we must do more work to ensure administrators across the campus are more supportive of the proposal going forward. We are actively engaged in additional consultation now and will continue as long as is needed. We will not proceed without clear and demonstrated support from many more administration and faculty stakeholders.

Some concerns relate to the proposal revision and resubmission process.

Following the process outlined in the systemwide Compendium and in campus policy, a revision is being developed and will eventually be resubmitted for campus review. We are currently revising the pre-proposal with input and consultation with administrators and faculty across campus. We expect this process will continue through fall after we resume some in-person campus operations, enabling more effective communication and coordination with all campus stakeholders.

Other concerns relate to problems in the campus process of reviewing and voting on the pre-proposal.

Unfortunately, this is not up to the proposal team. We hope the senate and school committees will develop processes for managing an effective and unbiased process going forward. We suggest running a campus-wide faculty vote rather than individual school votes – or at least align the timing and messaging of the voting across schools to try to ensure a more fair and balanced process. We learned a lot when going through the first-round review and have many suggestions to improve the process. We hope the senate will consider modifications for future school proposals, and apply them if possible, to the Gallo School proposal process.

Diversity

One concern relates to the composition of team that submitted the pre-proposal and its apparent lack of diversity.

We appreciate this concern and the chance to clarify the process and team that has developed the plan and the pre-proposal over several years. In AY 18-19, the core planning included Heather Bortfeld (PSY) Ramesh Balasubramaniam (CIS), Teamrat Ghezzehi (LES), Rob Innes (EBM), Paul Maglio (MCS), David Noelle (CIS), Leroy Westerling (MCS), and Greg Wright (EBM). In AY 19-20, the core planning included Ramesh Balasubramaniam (CIS), Rob Innes (EBM), Paul Maglio (MCS), David Noelle (CIS), Leroy Westerling (MCS), and Greg Wright (EBM). In 20-21, the core planning team included Rob Innes (EBM), Paul Maglio (MCS), David Noelle (CIS), Tracey Osborne (MCS), Paul Smaldino (CIS), and Greg Wright (EBM). We note that starting AY 19-20, members of the core team were selected independently by each of the proposed Gallo departments. We note further that our extended planning team (from across the campus) includes Roger Bales (CEE), Heather Bortfeld (PSY), Nancy Burke (PH), Jeffrey Butler (EBM), Ajay Gopinathan (PHYS), Andrew Johnston (EBM), Arnold Kim (MATH), Sarah Kurtz (MSE), Roummel Marcia, (MATH), Shawn Newsam (CSE), Peggy O’Day (LES), Josh Viers (CEE), ShiPu Wang (GASP), Roland Winston (PHYS). Going forward, it is our intention to ensure diverse faculty representation on the core planning team more consistently, including racial, ethnic, and gender diversity as appropriate and as possible.

Collaboration and Identity

Some concerns relate to the intellectual and educational relationships among the proposed Gallo departments and the rest of the campus.  For instance, some were concerned that the proposed school lacks focus, incorporates too many campus themes, and may compete rather than complement existing programs.

It is true that our plan for the Gallo School includes components that align with a number of campus themes, such as big data, sustainability, and innovation and entrepreneurship. There is no suggestion – stated or implied – that we would or could take these areas over. In fact, we aim to align with campus priorities. We will articulate the relationship of the proposed school with campus themes and priorities more comprehensively. Further, we note that we are currently working with faculty from a number of departments across campus in developing proposals for new programs – we do not seek to compete at all.

Others relate to the fact that we are not proposing to establish a traditional school of management with an MBA and AACSB accreditation, suggesting a traditional approach might be better.

It is important to note that there is no proposal for a traditional sort of management school in hand – nor has one ever been offered by faculty at UC Merced. The current effort has nearly unanimous support from fifty faculty across three departments who have offered the proposal for campus consideration. Key to that support is the proposed school’s focus on the research, teaching, and service missions of social and natural scientists, engineers, and practitioners in areas of management and science of complex coupled human-technological and human-environmental systems and of behavior, management, and governance of individuals, firms, institutions, and economies. Furthermore, the UC system favors proposals for new schools that do not simply replicate what can be found elsewhere. By our estimate, starting a traditional management school is far more expensive than the proposed Gallo School of Management, and would require additional start-up costs and additional space. Nevertheless, we are leaving the door to accreditation open for the future, though we have no immediate plans to pursue it.

Some suggested that if we are not proposing a traditional management school, we should not use the name “School of Management”, as that sets specific expectations for students.

We are making (and will continue to make) it very transparent that the Gallo School of Management will not be a traditional management school, but rather one that will be a unique and valuable school in the Central Valley through cross-disciplinary education and research in the areas of cognition, decision-making, economics, management and others. Our brand is the “management school of the future”. We think it is unlikely that students will pick a school based on its title rather than its programs. But suppose students see the phrase “school of management”, enroll at the university, and then expect traditional offerings in the school of management. Now, this could only be true for undergraduates, as graduate students are admitted to specific programs. At the undergraduate level, there is in fact a fairly traditional management program that the students could enroll in, Management and Business Economics. At the graduate level, the professional Master of Management, the PhD in Economics, and the PhD in Management of Complex Systems are all programs that students could easily find when applying for admission.

Others suggested that the interdisciplinary nature of the new school will require new standards for advancement and promotion of faculty, requiring details of how the different departments will meet the standards set out in the APM.

The pre-proposal does not describe any new areas to be developed – beyond those already on campus – and the APM does not define specific disciplinary standards, and so it is not clear what the concern is. The most specific description of standards in the APM, section 210-1-d, states:

The review committee shall judge the candidate with respect to the proposed rank and duties, considering the record of the candidate’s performance in (1) teaching, (2) research and other creative work, (3) professional activity, and (4) University and public service. ... As the University enters new fields of endeavor and refocuses its ongoing activities, cases will arise in which the proper work of faculty members departs markedly from established academic patterns. In such cases, the review committees must take exceptional care to apply the criteria with sufficient flexibility. However, flexibility does not entail a relaxation of high standards. Superior intellectual attainment, as evidenced both in teaching and in research or other creative achievement, is an indispensable qualification for appointment or promotion to tenure positions. Insistence upon this standard for holders of the professorship is necessary for maintenance of the quality of the University as an institution dedicated to the discovery and transmission of knowledge. …

The three proposed Gallo departments already have their own expectations and standards, and as far as we know, these have not posed a problem for academic personnel review to this point. As any new area arises, its standards and expectations would have to be defined, whether it is part of the Gallo School or anywhere else.