Deconstructing “Operational Excellence” (OE) DeCal

Physics 98/198

Spring 2012

2 Units


Elliot GoldsteinASUC Senator


Nuri ChangASUC Operational Excellence Policy Director


Faculty Sponsor:

Professor Bob Jacobsen

Physics Department

Our Class Values

The Deconstructing “OE” DeCal grew out of an effort by the Associated Students of the University of California and the Graduate Assembly to hold the administration’s plan for “Operational Excellence” accountable to students.  As such this class is not an endorsement of “Operational Excellence”, Instead it is a forum for students interested in or concerned about “OE” to understand more about this process, its context, and a resource for students enrolled to become critical, effective advocates on behalf of the student body at large.

This class is a rare opportunity to participate in a course that will have a broad impact on the future of Cal and public education in general.  As the State of California continues the trend of divestment in public higher education, institutions are making choices on how to absorb budget cuts. Currently UC Berkeley is undergoing an unprecedented organizational transformation that will have lasting affect on the operations and culture of the University. As students, by helping ourselves advocate for our vision of the campus, we believe that this course helps to fulfill the original mission of the DeCal program by creating a more democratic campus.

Who should take this course?

Anyone who is interested in learning more about “Operational Excellence,” helping students better understand “OE” and its context, and/or advocating on behalf of students to and better are strongly encouraged to join the course.   All students interested in the course are also encouraged to serve as student representatives on “OE” committees, but this is not a requirement for the course.  Students not involved as student representatives on “Operational Excellence” committees may participate in the DeCal by working on a project related to “OE” so that those who cannot or do not want to participate in committees can participate in the course.  For example, students could research the history of a specific aspect of “OE” in-depth, create resources to help inform other students on campus, compare UC Berkeley’s “OE” process to other similar projects on other campuses, or research the context surrounding “OE.”  These projects will be created by students in consultation with class facilitators.

Course Goals

1. Support students in acting as critical and effective advocates for the student body: Both students serving on implementation teams and those working on independent research projects will develop their skills as student advocates.  Student will learn to identify stakeholders, find allies on and off your committees, research information about your work, and communicate effectively with other students and the administration.  All of these skills will be learned “on the job” as students serve on “OE” committees or work on a research project of your choice.

2. Learn about the structure and history of “OE”: In order to serve as effective advocates and researchers, we will develop a greater understanding of the structure of “OE” and a bit of its history.  There is no doubt that we will generate many questions in the course of our investigation here and this is one possible jumping off point for students interested in pursuing an independent research project in the course.

3. Explore some of the larger context surrounding “OE.’” U.C. Berkeley’s administration often places “OE” in the context of the state’s recent budget crisis.  Much of its internal logic is derived from the campus’ need to save money as state funding shrinks.  We will examine this narrative in more depth and attempt to understand “OE” in the context of larger shifts in how higher education is funded, governed, and understood.  This will allow us to unpack and question the assumptions behind “OE” and imagine alternatives that the campus could have pursued.  Issues raised in these conversations may also provide a basis for class research projects. 

Weekly Classes

Students will meet as a class every other Tuesday from 5 to 7pm.  Classes will be where we learn together about “OE” through guest lectures, in class discussions and development of research projects.

In intervening weeks, the class will meet with the Student Operational Excellence Committee (SOEC), a committee for the student governments and other students who work on student concerns related to “OE.” Students in the DeCal serving on committees are expected to share updates regarding the work of their committee, and students working on independent research projects are expected to update the committee on their work.

SOEC meetings will begin with a discussion of posts to bSpace the previous week outlining the progress in their committee work or research project.  Facilitators will use these posts to identify themes and create discussion topics for the class.

Class meetings will begin with a conversation about the previous week’s assignments as an introduction to the question being explored during the class period.  Students in class will participate As the semester progresses, class time will increasingly be dedicated for students to meet with specific facilitators regarding their committee placement or research project.

Course Assignments

Critical Reflections: After each guest speaker to our class you will be responsible for writing a two page, double spaced, reflection of the topic discussed. Each reflection will be an assignment on bSpace due by 11:59pm Sunday. There will also be a mid-term in class critical reflection, and final 1000-word reflection on the DeCal and Operational Excellence in total.

Field Work: OE Student Job/Internship Placement: As a member of the class you will have an opportunity to serve on an OE Implementation Team. This is a majority of the courses Field Work element. Students serving on an OE Implementation team will create weekly reports on the work they are doing, the progress of the team, as well as general comments on student impact.

Independent Research: Students may also choose to do a research project instead of serving on an OE Implementation Team. At the approval of the facilitators projects can be surveys for the student body, research paper topics, webdesign, etc. Rubrics and expectations will be agreed upon after the proposal.

Campus-wide Teach-outs and OE Showcases: The final project for the course will be a public teach-in about “OE.”  Students in the class will be responsible for creating the format for the teach-in and presenting on their area of expertise. 


Grading Breakdown

The course will be graded on a “Pass / Not Pass” basis. In order to pass the course:

Participation: Attendance of weekly classes count – 30%

  • Students are allowed (2) two unexcused absences during the semester
  • Each absence beyond the allowed amount will drop your attend grade 10%


Critical Reflections – 20%

  • Critical Reflections will be reviewed and synthesized into an OE Student Perspectives Report.
  • Students will receive either a NP, Check, or Check + on your assignments.

Research project OR OE Implementation Team placement; Internship/Job – 30%

  • Research Projects will be graded on the final project outcome.
  • Field Work placement grades will be based on Reports and input from OE Implementation Team project leaders.

Final Teach-out Participation – 10%

  • Grading for Teach-outs will be based on attendance, team work, and effort.

Calendar w/ Assignments and Deadlines

Wk # Date Class Description & Deadlines
1 1/24 What is “Operational Excellence” and what is this DeCal all about?

  • Class Introductions
  • Crash course on Operational Excellence
  • Go over syllabus


  • Committee Member Candidates: Get in touch with committee of interest about serving

(One of the following)

  • Put together a timeline for OE using Daily Cal
  • Research the work of the committees
  • Research on the financial crisis
2 1/31 Student Operational Excellence Committee (SOEC) Meeting 


3 1/31 OE Student Job Fair: Finalize Committee Placement or Research Project 


  • Read up on your initiative’s proposals with an eye towards identifying stakeholders & student allies
  • Post response on bSpace forum
4 2/7 SOEC Meeting 


  • bSpace assignment identifying the challenges in working as a student advocate
5 2/14 How can I effectively advocate for students? 

Guest Speaker – OE Implementation Team




  • Discussion about forum posts



  • Talking to other students about your work and post responses on bSpace
  • bSpace post on committee work or research work
6 2/21 SOEC Meeting 


  • Portfolio assignment
7 2/28 Deadline: Portfolio DueClass

  • Review and discuss portfolio


  • bSpace post on committee work or research work
8 3/6 SOEC Meeting
9 3/13 How can we teach about and involve students in “OE”?Guest Speaker – OE Implementation Team

Teach-in preparation

  • Brainstorming about teach-in
  • Discuss teach-in pedagogy and democratic learning


  • Groups work on Teach-in preparation
  • bSpace post on committee work and research project


10 3/20 SOEC MeetingAssignments

  • Groups work on Teach-in prepartation (cont’d)


11 3/27 How do we teach students about “OE”? (cont’d) 

Guest Speaker – OE Implementation Team



  • Teach-in plans finalized
  • Practice teach-in with feedback from the class


  • Finalize & advertise teach-in
12 TBA Student Teach-in! 


  • Anonymous reflection on the teach-in and the class as a whole
13  – – – – – Debrief: How did the teach-in go?  What should we do next semester?

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