Budget Continues to Present Problems
The $500 million California budget cuts will have hard-hitting effects on the entire state, but more specifically, the University of California will suffer greatly; from enrollment cuts to eliminating campus departments, the UC will have to reel itself back significantly
UC Irvine developmental & cell biography professor Diane O’Dowd has been performing research along these lines that find a much more detrimental loss to the greater public education system.
O’Dowd not only studies how the nerve cells in our brain communicate, but also has been doing research on methods of improving the quality of teaching for the past seven years.
O’Dowd expressed the fact that there is very little support for faculty who are interested in improving their teaching, not by any lack of resources, but because of a lack in development with the administrative aspect of large classes.
“Simply teaching 450 students in the classroom and dealing with administrative problems — that inevitably 10 percent of students have — means you’re dealing with 45 students on a daily basis,” O’Dowd said.
“We are cutting the people who literally teach the courses. Three TAs to a 500-person class is too much of a workload and students aren’t getting the kind of intensive training in critical thinking as we need,” Student Regent Jesse Cheng said.
In addition to impacted classes, O’Dowd further explained that dealing with administrative problems takes away from the development, assessment, and the implementation of new, effective learning techniques.
“When the budget cuts come in, there is going to be increases in teaching responsibility and no change or decrease in administrative support for running these large classes,” O’Dowd said.
Wendy Guzman-Rangel, a third-year criminology, law and society major, expressed concerns over the effects the budget cuts would have on the UCI campus, particularly since last year’s tuition increases coincided with resources on campus being cut, reduced library hours and furlough days.
“I can only imagine what this budget cut will do to UCI, does that mean the library won’t be open on the weekends?” Guzman-Rangel said.
Elaine Won, a second-year English and political science double major, has had many resources that students should have access to but are no longer available due to the lack of funding.
“For example, the upcoming Student Outreach and Academic Retention Center (SOAR) won’t have a budget anymore and high school retention is really important, but we can’t get the budget with the cuts.”
In a recent chronicle.com article titled “Scientists Fault Universities as Favoring Research Over Teaching,” by Paul Basken, the assertion is made that universities are furiously scrambling for federal funding to cover research costs and in turn, are failing to focus their attention on the students themselves.
Amidst the upcoming cuts, O’Dowd says the balancing act of quality research as well as quality teaching becomes difficult because part of the problem comes from the enormous pressure to get large extramural grants to support research.
Furthermore, O’Dowd expresses that although the system in evaluating tenure is changing, there is still a long way to go in terms of valuing contribution in teaching appropriately.
“I firmly believe that research is required for promotion at a research university but I also believe that excellence in teaching should be required as well,” O’Dowd said. “If you don’t have ongoing research grants then you can’t do what you need to do as faculty which is generation of new knowledge.”
Cheng concluded by saying that since there is simply no money, the workload of professors grows exponentially and the quality of education becomes more valuable.
Maxine Wally contributed to this article.