Humanities Out There Struggling With Funds

This fall, the Humanities Out There (H.O.T.) teaching and community outreach program suffered yet another budget cut, shrinking to 25 percent of its program size in two years since 2008.
H.O.T. functions as the School of Humanities’ primary community outreach program, pairing graduate student TAs with teams of undergraduate tutors to visit and teach literature and history in classrooms throughout Orange County public schools. H.O.T. funding goes to TA-ships, hiring graduate students to create lesson plans, coordinating with school teachers and preparing undergraduates for classroom visits. Undergraduates participate in the program for units, taking the class as pass/no pass.
H.O.T. funding goes to TA-ships to hire graduate students, currently running on $40,000 a year for two quarters per two TAs. The salaries are TA work-study funds, and are comparable to graduate TA-ships in UCI undergraduate classes.
Program materials and the part-time staff are paid for by the school from a separate fund. Last year, the program hired six TAs and eight the year before that.
Originally founded by English professor Julia Lupton, the 12-year-old program has shrunk drastically since its glory days of being able to hire 20 TAs a quarter.
“It’s almost too little to be worth it already,” Lynn Mally, director of H.O.T., said.
This year, H.O.T. hired only two graduate students: one in comparative literature and one in history.
The reason behind the decrease in funding is not a result of a lack of interest, Mally noted. Typically H.O.T. has two recruitment events, along with tabling on Ring Road to attract undergraduate tutors. This year, however, the undergraduate slots are almost full after only one recruitment event.
Mally expressed some sadness and frustration in regards to how the administration publicizes H.O.T. as a display of community outreach, yet doesn’t give it sufficient funding.
“It’s kind of false advertising, to be so proud of the program; I hear campus tours in the humanities talk about it, yet it’s so small now.”
Mally noted that the program has received positive responses from the Orange County schools during its 12-year run and credits much of its success to the highly skilled graduate students it employs.
Mally says that the teaching opportunities through H.O.T. are unique for graduate students and offers them career exposure in K-12 education.
A lack of general funding causes an element of competition among graduate students to secure TA positions, and some departments have the funding to support all their graduates, while others do not.
Erin Walsh, former graduate TA for H.O.T., lamented its dim funding prospects.
“Participating in H.O.T. has been a crucial part of the intellectual and social development of so many UCI undergrads — some of whom are inspired to pursue careers in education and outreach.  It would be a shame to deny future UCI students the opportunity to participate in this unique program.”
Walsh worked as a H.O.T. TA for three quarters in 2008 and 2009, leading sections in world and U.S. literature before she graduated with her doctorate in English this September. “It was the best teaching experience of my graduate career,” Walsh claims.
Doctorate candidate Lindsay Holowach expressed similar sentiments, saying “I think all of the graduate student researchers will tell you this: the best part about H.O.T. for us as teachers is working so closely with really dedicated undergraduates. Our tutors were by and large exceptional students, good people and they constantly impressed me.”
Although H.O.T.’s funding continues for the 2010-2011 school year, plans for future funding remain unknown.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Mally said. “I suppose it could go up to last year’s funding, I suppose that’s a possibility.”
Although the program may never regain its peak numbers, the administration seems reluctant to cancel the program entirely.