Fewer classes, fewer teachers, fewer TAs. While paying the highest tuition in the history of the University of California, students are beginning to notice the dwindling resources on campus.
Throughout the UC system, cuts from the state are being implemented. Over the past two years, upwards of $50 million has been subtracted from UC Santa Cruz’s budget, according to UCSC administration .
“[The cuts] have a tremendous impact on UCSC, especially in the humanities and social sciences,” said Karen Bassi, literature department chair.
The biggest impacts Bassi noted were fewer courses, loss of TAships and lower salaries for staff and faculty.
“Last year, the literature department offered 123 courses, while this year we offer 101,” she said.
Bassi also explained that the loss of graduate student TAs who can lead sections has an effect on the quality of teaching for undergrads and graduate students. Due to the recent furloughs, staff are forced to work less and often expected to maintain the same workload. Faculty often work 80 hours a week, with a cut in pay but no cut in time.
For the social sciences, the two biggest impacts are reduction of faculty and decreased funding for TAs, said Kyle Eischen, assistant dean of academic planning and research for the Division of Social Sciences.
“Overall, social sciences does about 40 percent of the teaching for undergraduates and about 30 percent for the graduate students,” Eischen said.
The Division of Social Sciences — which includes the psychology, economics, anthropology, sociology, politics, Latin American studies, community studies, education, legal studies, and environmental studies departments — has been hit hard by the budget crisis.
According to an administrative report published in July of 2009, the social science division is facing an approximate $1.5 million dollar cut.
“We have the most popular majors on campus, yet the cuts that were made have not been proportional to our popularity,” Eischen said.
Eischen went on to say that the reduction in funding for TAs negatively affects undergraduates and graduate students. Many graduate students support themselves by TAing.
“The quality of education for undergraduates suffers, with a less personalized education,” he said.
In particular, the psychology major — the largest major on campus, with about 1,700 enrolled students— is experiencing cuts in faculty.
According to Avril Thorne, psychology department chair, the department should have 34 full-time faculty members, but has only 25 due to the hiring freeze and the failure to replace retiring faculty. Fewer faculty means larger class sizes, which are already struggling to accommodate the increasing numbers of incoming UCSC students.
Fourth-year psychology major Olivia Leung, who works as a peer adviser in the psychology department, commented that the funding shortage has caused students to experience duress.
“The budget cuts have caused students to feel unnecessary stress and anxiety about getting into classes, as there are fewer classes available,” Leung said. “People come into the psychology department where I work as a peer adviser and stress over not getting into classes, wondering what alternatives are available for them, and how they will be able to graduate on time if they can’t take a certain class.”
Second-year psychology major Jenette Debarge is ready to take extreme measures to ensure her quality education.
“It’s to the point where I’m ready to withdraw from UCSC until I can get into a class in my major,” Debarge said. “I’m not going to give the UC my money for GEs that I don’t need.”
Even with the changing environment of the UC, psychology chair Thorne said that getting a high-quality education is still possible, if more difficult.
“I advise students to plan their courses carefully and have back-up courses to take if they can’t get into the ones they need,” Thorne said. “Also, students should be aware of the peer advising available. It is important to be nimble and flexible. You need to be a quick dancer to figure out what classes will make do for what you want to learn.”
Social sciences assistant dean Eischen agrees that despite the loss of teachers and the increasing class size, it is possible to experience a high-quality UC education with increased creativity.
“Students need to know what they want and go after it,” Eischen said. “It is still possible to get a great education here; we have fabulous faculty.”
Fourth-year Sarah Fishleder is doing just that. After returning from a study abroad program in India, Fishleder noticed that most of the classes she wanted to take in the theater arts department had been cut.
“‘Asian Drama and Dance’ and ‘Global Impacts of Dance,’ ‘Chicano Power Theater,’ ‘Black Theater USA,’ all courses I really wanted to take, are not being offered this year,” she said. “It’s indefinite; we don’t know when or if they’ll be offered again.”
Fishleder has taken things into her own hands, electing to create her own major in order to accommodate the unpredictability of the course catalogue.
Her proposed major, “Multiculturalism and the Arts Education,” is going through the approval process and is currently being reviewed for acceptance.
In addition to flexibility, Eischen said that students need to become more politically active.
“Students need to be more political, targeted specifically on making education a priority for people in California,” he said. “We all need to be more political and more active.”
Thorne agreed with Eischen by saying that the action needs to be taken on a state level.
“Parents call me complaining that their kids can’t get into any classes, and I tell them to call their legislators,” she said.
Literature chair Bassi also emphasized political action in this pressing time for UC students, and suggested finding strength in unity.
“We need to work together collaboratively, bringing different factions together for the greater common good,” Bassi said. “I advise students to talk to their professors, tell them how they feel, and find ways of letting Californians know what is at stake here. Students can go up to Sacramento, write op-eds, and make the voters of California more aware of what they are losing as a result of the budget crisis.”