Repercussions of Budget Cuts

As with any large group of people, the students and faculty of UC Irvine have a wide range of interests, with some people paying great attention to issues that are of little importance to others. One common interest across campus, however, is the increasing budget cuts and subsequent reduction in class size and quality of education.

As Scott Martindale illustrates in his Orange County Register article, “UCI Faculty: Quality of classes eroding as class sizes swell,” established faculty are being forced to work harder and longer to make up for the deficit of TAs and assistant staff members. Likewise, certain programs of the Learning and Academic Resource Center (LARC) have been cut and lecture-style classes are more prominent than seminars. Martindale noted that the humanities department in particular has been and will continue to be negatively impacted.

As a humanities major, however, I find that I personally have not yet been affected. I have heard and read that the department of my major, women’s studies, is largely under scrutiny and is in danger of being terminated completely in the future. I have found my experience thus far, however, to be extremely satisfying. I acknowledge that my professors certainly do work hard and are dedicated to their subjects and students, but I feel that I have received more individual attention in the classes intended for my degree than in my lecture-style general education classes. My women’s studies and Spanish (also in the field of humanities) classes have remained in seminar format, with 20 to 40 students in each class. The teachers are consistently available for office hours and know the names of the individual students. Perhaps the students are receiving the greater deal in this scenario, and teachers are in fact overworked and undercompensated. As a full-time paying student, however I feel that I am currently receiving an acceptable education in my chosen field.

Of course, not all students and departments are affected equally. Most of the students of UC Irvine that I know are pursuing degrees in biological sciences, a popular and difficult major. I have heard far more complaints from students struggling to succeed in this major than from students in any other field. These classes do indeed exceed a couple hundred students, and the diminishing number of available TAs is taking its toll on students who already spend long hours studying, working and researching. Their library and tutor resources have also been reduced, leaving the largest and most competitive group of any major at UCI with the most rapidly decreasing resources and tools for success.

Again, I feel that I have been lucky because there has always been someone to go to for help with writing, reading comprehension, discussion and even advice about the life of a humanities major. Whenever I have sought help, I have found it.

Perhaps the people in this particular department are simply passionate and willing to provide the best education for their students. It also makes a difference that the humanities, and women’s studies, in particular, encourage students and scholars to think for themselves and investigate the flaws and motivations of the system in authority. Perhaps humanities students are close to feeling the effects of budget cuts just as much as students in other fields. (It can be said, however, that more popular majors and those students who are suffering are in far less danger of having the validity of their entire program questioned.)

Whatever the reasons may be or the future may hold, I cannot honestly say that I have suffered or the quality of my education has decreased due to budget cuts. I can say that I have received ample opportunity to build rapport with my professors and thoroughly explore subjects that I am interested in, and, to be honest, that is far more than I expected upon entering college.

 

Karam Johal is a second-year women’s studies major. She can be reached at johalk@uci.edu.