Budget Cuts Threaten Course Availability

English Department Remains Mostly Intact, But Students Still Voice Enrollment Concerns

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Correction Appended

While the English department will be seeing smaller budget cuts than expected this semester, students remain worried about the availability of classes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in May proposed a 10 percent budget cut to the university that was predicted to hurt the English department more than most others.

Many of the classes in the department are taught by GSIs funded through the Temporary Academic Staff budget, which was among the first areas targeted for reductions, said Mitchell Breitwieser, a professor who headed the English department during the summer.

"More of our essential-to-undergraduate teaching is funded out of TAS," Breitwieser said.

However, faculty from the department reorganized the budget to gain supplemental funds and now say that class availability and teacher positions will remain relatively intact this semester, he said.

Still, 11 reading and composition classes have been cut to a total of 46 sections this semester, he said. Back in May, department officials projected that there would be 16 fewer English reading and composition classes by spring 2009.

"The dean and her staff worked extremely hard this year," Breitwieser said. "Metaphorically, they opened every drawer and found every nickel and dime to give us."

Even if the proposed budget cuts do not go through, the campus may still see a net loss of 5 percent due to the poor economy and rising costs, said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. The reductions would be campus-wide, affecting all departments, according to campus officials.

In light of the budget situation, students and faculty have rallied to prevent cuts to their departments. To date, more than 600 people have signed an online petition to restore funding to the English department.

Despite the English department's reassurance, students who had heard of impending budget cuts said it continues to be difficult to enroll in classes.

Freshman Travis DeSa said many of the required reading and composition classes were full, so he settled for French R1B.

"Beggars can't be choosers," DeSa said of his class. "I was told this was one of the negatives of this place, but I knew I just had to be on top of things."

Upperclassmen who have already declared majors also voiced concerns about getting into classes.

"They said they'd bump us up on the waitlist automatically, but they haven't yet," said Gloria Nava, a junior transfer student majoring in English. "I'm overwhelmed and can't think of anything but getting into classes."

But Breitwieser and Varsano insisted that any enrollment concerns are due to regular complications from trying to fill classes.

"It's kind of like trying to fill an airplane-empty seats are a problem," Breitwieser said.

Hiring of faculty has also suffered dramatically, he said. Only one of the three faculty applications in the English department this summer was hired, according to Breitwieser.

"In the abstract, there will be a lot less hiring this year, and whether that will affect classes in the future, I don't know," Breitwieser said.

Students said they believe the future is worrisome. Varsano added that the current solution of getting supplemental funds is far from permanent.

"This is still hanging over our head," Varsano said.


Correction: Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday's article "Budget Cuts Threaten Course Availability" introduced Paula Varsano, an associate professor in the East Asian Languages and Cultures department, without stating her full name.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Selina MacLaren at [email protected]

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