Budget Cuts Force Math, Science Chairs to Reduce GSIs, Classes

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The math department and several science departments at UC Berkeley are cutting classes and sections this fall, as part of a larger effort to accommodate budget cuts that have left many departments stretched for resources.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a 10 percent budget cut to the university earlier this year, which would take $30 million to $40 million from UC Berkeley's budget. Campus officials said that the proposal has resulted in a roughly 5 percent cut to science departments, including molecular and cell biology, physics and chemistry, and a roughly 3 percent cut to the math department.

G. Steven Martin, chair of the molecular and cell biology department, said his department had to cancel two fall survey courses.

"It may affect the time for graduation if (students) have to wait a year for the course to be reinstated," Martin said.

Additionally, Martin said his department has had to reduce funding for faculty recruitment and retention. Whereas it would normally be interviewing 150 candidates, this year it is only interviewing 25, he said.

The proposed cuts have also affected the English department, which cut 11 reading and composition classes, and the East Asian Languages and Cultures department, which was projected to cut up to half of its language courses.

Graduate student instructors in science and math departments are being hit particularly hard by the cuts, as most departments have elected to reduce the Temporary Academic Staff budget, which funds GSIs.

Alan Weinstein, chair of the mathematics department, said his department is struggling to support the same number of GSIs as in previous years.

"When we admit graduate students to the Ph.D. program, we promise full support through the fifth year," he said. "We've been able to match that pledge by reducing the number of GSIs, reducing the number of hours that GSIs are paid to work and making up the difference in fellowship reserves. But this is not sustainable."

Frances Hellman, chair of the physics department, said that GSI funding was cut as a last resort.

"We felt like we had gone absolutely as far as we could go in terms of our permanent staff," she said.

Hellman noted that the size of physics sections has already been stretched beyond classroom capacity, to 22 students from 18, affecting around 100 students total. As a result, department officials have focused on cutting sections altogether, she said.

The mathematics department is also reducing the length of Mathematics 1A and 1B sections to two hours per week from three hours, Weinstein said.

"We will eventually be in a position to turn away students," he said. "We've made every attempt not to, but it's not clear how long we will be able to do that."


Contact Anna Widdowson at [email protected]

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