English Department May Cut 16 R&C Courses by Next Spring

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The state's budget crisis will likely force UC Berkeley's English department to cut some of its reading and composition courses, a graduation requirement for many undergraduates.

By spring 2009 there will be 16 fewer English reading and composition courses offered if the cuts are approved, reflecting a reduction of approximately 272 seats for undergraduates, said Marcial Gonzalez, an assistant professor and the department's reading and composition chair.

The department's proposed budget includes a 10 percent cut to the Temporary Academic Staff budget, used to finance graduate student instructor and assistant lecturer positions.

In total, the department expects to receive $80,000 dollars less than last year, Gonzalez said. He said the problem created by the shortfall is compounded by the rising costs of instructor salaries.

Janet Broughton, dean of arts and humanities for the College of Letters and Science, said in an e-mail that she made conservative allocations to departments to prepare them for the worst-case budget scenario.

"If I commit too much, I have no way to cover the shortfall," she said. "So all departments in arts and humanities are wrestling with shortfalls in their preliminary TAS funding."

Reading and composition classes are required for all undergraduates except those who have tested out of the courses or taken them elsewhere.

Gonzalez said the cuts may prevent some students from graduating on time, especially since enrollment for the classes can be competitive.

"For seniors to not be able to get into a (reading and composition) section, that would be devastating, that student would have to hold off on finishing his or her degree," he said.

Gonzalez said the cuts would also be a loss to the graduate students who teach the courses.

"Sixteen graduate students will not receive funding, which is a serious problem because graduate students rely on teaching to be able to support themselves to be able to finish their degree," Gonzalez said.

The state legislature is slated to vote on the proposed budget in June, and Gonzalez said there is no reason to believe any changes will be made from its present version.

UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said the campus was given freedom in deciding which areas to cut.

"There's been no systemwide decision on where exactly to make those cuts," he said.

Gonzalez said the cuts may also reduce seats available in other English courses that have discussion sections led by GSIs.

GSI Katherine Anderson, who has taught five semesters of English reading and composition courses, said the instructors are coming together to fight the cuts.

"We're interested in mobilizing, we understand this is a systemwide issue," she said. "It makes no sense to cut these courses, and it will make it even more challenging to get a place in them than it already is."


Contact Amy Brooks at [email protected]

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