Dave Quick’s “Singing the Cal State Blues” (October 25-21) rightly summarizes deep problems for college students in all segments of California’s public institutions of higher education: crippling tuition hikes, fewer classes (meaning difficulty making realistic progress toward graduation), and possible “obstructionists” in the legislature and governor’s office. But there’s an additional problem that Quick’s conversation with his friend may not have revealed. As a UCLA teacher for 30 years, I can supplement the friend’s catalogue of his daughter’s miseries at Cal State—here is a sampling of current threats and done-deal cuts at the University of California.
Government appropriations are not solely responsible for the threats to California’s undergraduates. Surely in these painful economic times for households across the state, cuts in essential services are to be expected. But in responding to the shortfall, administrators at the UC proclaim that a desperate economy and state legislators are responsible for all cuts and cutbacks—failing to admit that their own faulty academic priorities, not lack of funds, are damaging UC undergraduates. As Quick reminds us, “It is all about vision.”
UC President Mark G. Yudof has publicly acknowledged the problems, saying that “it will be hard to look students in the eye next year: larger classes, longer lines, and less faculty to teach the undergraduates.” Apparently, he aims to force the legislature to appropriate more funds for public higher education. “We have taken across-the-board reductions as far as they can go,” UCLA Vice Chancellor Steve Olsen of Finance, Budget and Capital Programs told UCLA Today, “and in some cases too far.” But the new policies represent a radical—and unnecessary—diminishment of the UC’s service to its students and to California’s citizens. Indeed, university leadership is failing students and families, requiring citizens to understand both educational and fiscal problems.
Problem: Narrower range of courses and less stringent graduation requirements
Cuts prevail in physiological sciences, social sciences, and applied sciences.
Foreign language courses, instructors, and entire programs are trimmed or cut. (UCLA has sent lay-off notices to all foreign language lecturers and threatens an end to foreign language requirements.)
Intermediate and advanced writing requirements have already been discontinued at some UCs. UCLA administrators are considering wiping out the nationally famous UCLA Writing Programs, making an undergraduate degree both less useful and less prestigious.
Some UC fine arts programs have been eliminated. At UC Santa Barbara, theory classes are cut even for students majoring in music.
Many lecturers have been pink-slipped, including all lecturers in UC Berkeley’s teacher training program and School of Engineering, UC Irvine lecturers in the sciences and social sciences, and lecturers across the UCLA campus, including almost all lecturers in the College of Letters and Science. Lecturers are faculty who are not members of the Faculty Senate (tenurable faculty), but almost all have earned the highest degrees in their fields, such as the Ph.D. (Truth in advertising: I’m one of them.) Lecturers teach up to nine times as many courses as Senate faculty and 14 times as many students. Their principal responsibility is undergraduate instruction—they currently teach about 40 percent of undergraduate courses at the UC.
Problem: Less individual attention to undergraduate students
Classes and discussion sections have already become larger, for instance, 25 percent larger in many courses targeted to first-year students.
Lay-offs (in sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, arts) mean fewer instructors for students to consult.
UCLA’s central composition tutoring center has been eliminated.
Student research will be more difficult because of fewer open library hours, reduction in librarians’ work hours, and continued reductions in library purchases of books, journal subscriptions, and subscriptions to on-line databases.
Fewer elective courses will be available or allowed, compromising the possibilities of a liberal education.
Need: Stepped-up knowledge and on-going vigiliance
Cuts from the annual budget represent only 3% of the total operating budget for two years.
The UC administration does not engage in revenue-sharing across campuses and the curriculum.
Private endowments not earmarked are by law fungeable; the UC Annual Accountability Report lays out a 45 percent allocation of endowment funds to undergraduate instruction and student financial support.
All Californians, even if they don’t remember the Pat Brown-era heady days of California’s leadership in U.S. education, need to be realistic about current pressures on public higher education. Perhaps Mirror readers will want to use these on-line resources to learn more and to express their opinions. A visit to Cal State and UC web sites will also show addresses of administrators at each campus.