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The Chancellors Undergraduate Advisory Board of UC Davis:

An Unforeseen Division

Nikita D. Patel

University of California, Davis

Author Note

Nikita D. Patel, University Writing Program (UWP 1), UC Davis

Correspondence concerning this discourse community analysis project should be

emailed to Nikita D. Patel:



This discourse community analysis paper investigates the brainstorming and networking

processes of the Chancellors Undergraduate Advisory Board (CUAB) at UC Davis. My primary

goal was to identify the genres of communication that the student representatives and

administrators employed in order to inform one another of their major initiatives, concerning

improvement of undergraduate education and life; however, this field of study integrated with a

broader conversation about the role of faculty in administrative activities and growing student

representation within and beyond classrooms. I analyzed over four published articles to examine

the structure and its functional effectiveness of higher education governance at American

institutions from the 20th centurythe Golden Era of Progressive Education to the 21st

centurythe Golden Era of Social Media. Scholarly publications and former CUAB student

representatives critically emphasized the absence of direct communication and its underlying

impact between college administrators, undergraduate students, and faculty due to a perception

gap. Furthermore, the myth of shared governance, which continues to persist in a contemporary

university, has generated a false trichotomy between these three parties. How?1) Structural

transformation within academic communities (i.e. bureaucracy) and 2) Altering character of the

undergraduate population and curriculum.

Keywords: discourse community, administrative language


The Chancellors Undergraduate Advisory Board (CUAB) was established in 2010 by

former Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to foster communication between the student body and

administrators (CUABs Assembled to [], 2013). This liaison, I believe, was a step towards

initiating an intellectual conversation between these two parties in order to construct an educational

platform that embodied inclusivity of all opinions and identitiesa shared goal among CUAB

and the administration. In a span of 7 years, this Board is now composed of 12 student leaders,

including 2 Student Assistants to the Chancellor. Each student leader represents a specific

department, a student organization, and a perspective on academic and campus affairs for

undergraduates; on the other hand, the Student Assistants serve as the coordinators and facilitators

for the committee, the Chancellor, and other administrative representatives (CUABs Assembled

to [], 2013). Furthermore, these Student Assistants, who are the co-facilitators of CUAB, are

members of a broader, interconnected discourse community (see Figure 1.0); this is a striking

discovery that reveals the diversity of disciplines within higher education

governance at UC Davis.

Figure 1.0: As shown above, former Chancellor Katehi appointed 2

Student Assistants to this roster in 2013; this action suggests that
undergraduate students are welcomed to participate in the
advancement of our campus and global society (UC Davis Strategic
Plan Steering Committee, 2013).

Strategic Plan Committee Roster (UC Davis Strategic Plan Steering

Committee, 2013)
Moreover, it also raises two engaging questions, which are yet to be discussed in the following

sections: To what extent is this systematical development effective with respect to sharing

information and ideas between different departments and the head executive of this institution? Is

the shared goal, inclusivity of all opinions and identities, exercised beyond CUAB and the


Before I dissect the brainstorming and networking processes of CUAB, we should deepen

our knowledge of the educational past and the ways it enriches our understanding of the

educational present (Donato, et. Al, 2000, p. 13). The structure of higher education has

diversified within the past century; changes in student demographics, multiplication of

departments and services, new pedagogical approaches, overwhelming budgetary responsibilities,

accelerating technological innovationsfew of numerous trends within this transformation that is

now titled, contemporary academia. One scholar exclusively asserts that the processes of

institutionalization, bureaucratization, and professionalization [have] change[d] the character and

the culture of the organizations [within American universities] (Waugh, 2003, p. 86). Waugh

states that university presidents are not prioritizing academic goals in their administrative agenda;

they are rather serving in executive positions to fulfill management goals, which were established

by external constituencies [] involved in hiring them (2003, p. 84). Executives from private

sectors are conflicting with the traditional values of higher education governance due to adopted

management processes from the business world. The increasing number of recruits from private

sectors lack experience in academic administration, instigating not only financial pressures, but

also stray relationships between administrators, faculty, and students. University presidents, in

particular, become less and less accountable to the student body and its professors through their

entrepreneurial efforts and administrative language, which its attributes will be described in

following sections.

Waughs critique of college bureaucracy inspired me to expand my study on higher

education governance; more specifically, to indicate the trends and modifications that it

experienced before the rise of contemporary academia, and to better comprehend CUABs and

our present administrations shared objectives and communication methods. A research educator

in the late 1960s exemplified the model of organization for a college or university [as a]

bureaucratic one, a concept well described by the German sociologist, Weber. It assumes an

administrative structure resembling a vertical pyramid with the decision-making authority at the

top and the communication in the form of orders and directives flow (Henderson, 1968, p. 79).

If student participation is restricted in the governance of a university, then students will never

acquire and hold authority over their education; furthermore, administrators will never

accommodate to students needs, demonstrating their inability to fulfill an academic mission: To

be inclusive of all opinions and identities. Moreover, by interacting with faculty, administrators

can gain direct insight into students academic/emotional performance levels, AND

gaps/achievements within a universitys educational program. Failure to exercise administrative

responsibility for educational leadership would be a result of involving thousands of human-

beings whose work has been specialized and totally different from that of most of the other persons

engaged in the same enterprise (McGarth, 1940, p. 45).

Hendersons emphasis on bureaucratic modes of administration and their negative impact

on students civil liberties correlates with the views of Waugh and McGarth. Notice the

years of their publications:

(McGarth, (Henderson,
(Waugh, 2003)
1940) 1968)

Administrators have conformed to the existing practices and structures throughout major war

periods. Meanwhile, the federal government became directly involved in higher education, as

social changes accompanied political and economic changes. Reform efforts gradually shifted

authority over academic goals from educators to business leaders and policymakers; the

enhancement of state-school connections was the central focus for this shift, not the learning

experiences in classrooms. Organizational level, performance accountability, and new services to

the public are three of various factors that have contributed to this unquestioned conformity.

Although a ready-made educational model continues to persist today, how has this reform

structure impacted the collaborative efforts between CUAB and the administration at UC Davis?

Overview of CUAB:

According to the current Executive Director of CUAB and Community Resource and

Retention Centers for UC Davis, the purpose of this Board is to advise the administration on

major initiatives that impact the academic student experience on a variety of topics, which include

but are not limited to student enrollment, research and creative activity, diversity, international

experiences, academic advising, and other aspects of undergraduate student life (Atkinson, 2017).

In order to achieve this purpose, CUAB embodies all six characteristics of discourse community:

1) Common public goals, interests, and values, 2) Communication methods among members, 3)

Participatory communication mechanisms, 4) Utilization of a specific genre, 5) Specific lexis, and

6) Threshold level of members with discoursal expertise (Swales, 2011, p. 471-473).


In order to investigate the effectiveness of CUABs communication methods, I interviewed

two administrators, two former student members, and one Student Assistant to the Chancellor via

Email. Each individual held different positions on CUAB; thus, their experiences in this discourse

community varied. Their concern for the future of UC Davis resides in the dividing relationship

between undergraduate students, faculty, and administrators. Moreover, they also provided input

on how to improve the network channel between these three parties. As I analyzed CUAB and

its social circle more in-depth, I discovered that I am studying an intricate system, in which

multiple sources manage academic and campus affairs. The shared goal, inclusivity of all

opinions and identities, becomes increasingly difficult to exercise due to the multiplication of

departments and specialists; furthermore, Waugh asserts that the levels of conflict also tend to

escalate as both sides [faculty and students] become more frustrated in their

interactions [with academic administration] (2003, p. 92). The line of direct communication

remains a blur

Genres of Communication:

According to the five interviews, CUAB maintains communication with its members and

the Administration through emails, Facebook-messaging, and in-person meetings (once a month)

at Mrak Hall. Gary Sandy, a Project Manager for the Office of the Chancellor, stated that the

Administration has relied on the Student Assistants to the Chancellor (SACs) to provide ongoing

communications and guidance. The SACs are encouraged to provide frank feedback to the

administration on undergraduate needs and issues. The SACs also provide outreach to

undergraduates by holding listening sessions, appearing at social and educational events and

by acting as representatives of the administration (2017); this statement contradicts the words

of a current SAC, Alexandra Camil San Pablo, who is uncertain how to connect with undergraduate

students on campus. He asserted that having many platforms is necessary in order for students to

be aware of on-campus projects (2017). Furthermore, a former student member of CUAB, Natalia

Custodio, supplemented this concern by sharing there was no formal communication of what we

were up to that went to the students; due to the outcomes of Katehis administration, some in-

person meetings with members of ASCUD were held (2017). These student responses indicate

there is no fixed method of communication between CUAB and undergraduate students; there is a

discrepancy between the relationship that an administrator believes to exist and a student struggles

to form. Ideas will never lead to actions, and actions will never form compatibility between CUAB

and undergraduate students; the Board will merely fail to execute its purpose.

Although CUAB and the Administration share a desire for openness, candor, respect, and

transparency (Sandy, 2017), a former student member, Nicholas Zhu, stressed the lack of

communication between administrators, undergraduate students, AND faculty when discussing

academic challenges and inefficiency of on-campus resources; he believes the ineffectiveness is

a result of three parties not communicating or understanding each others needs (2017). Project

Manager Gary Sandy, on the other hand, deems the increasing pace of technological innovation

and its use by students an ongoing challenge; furthermore, he asserts that efficient and effective

message delivery will always be an issue with such a large student body (2017). In order to

improve the network channel between students and the Administration, more direct forums

between the Chancellor and members of the administration should be scheduled; an example of

such forum includes the current Student Leadership Development seminars, which focus on

individual issues, such as the Long Range Development Plan, the budget, diversity, etc. (Sandy,

2017). In addition, through the Academic Senate or the Academic Federation, faculty inform the

Administration of learning trends and issues that are prominent in classroom settings (Sandy, 2017).

To fulfill the universitys core missions of research and teaching, a collaborative form of student

AND faculty involvement is necessary; both parties advocate for increased program support and

resources from the state government.

Although the administration relies on a variety of methods to provide outreach to

undergraduates including extensive use of social media, student leadership networks, and more

conventional means such as press releases and e-mails (Sandy, 2017), students struggle to

understand the structure of the university and how it operates; thus, student participation in

discussions about educational policy and practice should be encouraged, not avoided. The

language of higher education is increasingly punctuated with references to cost and revenue centers,

customer-driven programs, and other terminology more common to the business (Waugh, 2003,

p. 92). Once CUAB and the undergraduate population learn administrative language, they will

propose ideas, concerns, and questions to the purpose behind policies, how and where expenditures

are made, and how pressing issues are addressed. Being the sole authoritative figures of their

education, they will directly convey their opinions to their on- and off-campus community: peers,

faculty, administrators, and policymakers; furthermore, these opinions, concerning the

development of goals and learning methods at a university, will not be merely stated, but also

be heard and considered by their intellectual community.

Final Thoughts:

Given the diversity of Americas universities, there is no ideal, one-size-fits-all

governance structure (Gerber, 2007, p. 5). Scholastic abilities, academic interests, social

backgrounds will continue to evolve, as will the changing roles of university presidents; however,

if students variable experiences and perspectives are overlooked, a university will never

authentically represent the diversity of intellectual minds that it possesses. Students, who are the

firsthand observers of the educational process, contribute to the learning experiences that are

formed in and outside of a classroom through their input (Henderson, 1968, p. 74); their input

varies and is essential in all aspects of a university from the effectiveness of a professors course

curriculum to the decision-making process of financial budgets. Moreover, faculty-student

collaboration can reinforce pedagogy knowledge and can enhance learning experiences within

classrooms. Due to a recent change in leadership, CUAB did not have administrative support to

exercise its purpose, such as initiating actions for improvement of undergraduate life. Although

direct communication with the Administration was available through Student Assistants to the

Chancellor (SACs), administrators did not grasp a holistic understanding of students academic

and personal adversities; this aroused frustration, creating doubt in CUABs ability to lead UC

Davis to higher grounds. As described by my interviewees, to make informed decisions within and

beyond the realm of academia requires collaborative efforts not only between CUAB and the

Administration, but also undergraduate students; if students are constantly referred to individuals

who do not understand academic enterprise, the perception gap between all three parties will

continue to enlarge. This perception gap is a result of the systematical development of higher

education governance, which has prolonged indirect communication in the 20th century to the 21st

century; now, in the Home of Aggies.



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