Down and Out, but for the Better?

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    Illustration by Christine Hipp

    After years of painstaking cuts to numerous departments on campus, the university has perhaps finally listened to what students have been chanting, and has “chop from the top.”

    At the beginning of August, Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway announced that the administration would be implementing a plan to would reorganize divisional leadership, and in effect eliminate the position of vice chancellor of student affairs. Felicia McGinty had held the position since 2007.

    In an email dispersed to the campus community on Aug. 4, Galloway delineated the reasoning for the decision — in part to increase efficiency of the administrative process — and addressed the difficulties that comes with such a decision.

    “Chancellor Blumenthal and I sincerely appreciate the service that Vice Chancellor Felicia McGinty has provided the campus since 2007,” Galloway said in the email. “During multiple years of challenging budget cuts, Felicia contributed an abundance of energy and ideas to our senior administrative team — and we are very grateful for her many contributions.”

    It is a bittersweet decision that reflects the tragedy of the time we live in, when we are backed into a place of celebrating something that is, in actuality, a tragedy: causing someone to be jobless.

    And further, as is the case with any and all budget decisions of this magnitude, there is, was, and always will be an irreparable drawbacks — in this case, one being that McGinty was one of the few administrators of color.

    But this inescapably unfortunate situation will no longer have the roughly $200,000 a year expense of McGinty’s salary. A figure that, when put into the context of art department funding, which received a $635,700 cut for 2011–2012, is actually a significant number.

    “In an era of diminished resources, these changes — in tandem with the Enrollment Management realignment — will streamline the delivery of services to students,” Galloway said in the email.

    And to be frank, in these tough times the tangibility that comes with professors, teaching assistants and smaller class sizes is infinitely more valuable (even if only in the mind) than some cerebral and ambiguous administrative position.

    Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. While it could be a minute drop in the bucket in terms of the $1.5 billion deficit that the UC is currently — quite impossibly — grappling with, the administration’s decision in and of itself bodes well.

    This decision to save $200,000 in this particular way reflects one or both of two possibilities. One is that the administrative body now respects what the students have been demanding — even if we may have been off the mark and, contrary to our belief, every position in administration is infinitely valuable. The other possibility is that the administrative positions really are, to a certain extent, disposable.

    Either outcome signifies a positive thing for us, and as such we should take this decision for what it is — an abrupt change in what has been a consistent tide of Chinese water torture against anything non-administrative — and appreciate that the administration may finally be listening to us. Or if they are not, at least they are owning and admitting that they may not be the most valuable aspect of a student’s education.

    McGinty was a big person on this campus, and this was a big decision. It is hopefully a sign of decisions to come, and regardless of sentiments being negative or positive on the matter, it deserves pause.