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BUDGET FALLOUT: Cuts large and small in Social Sciences

8.7.2009

By Claudia Morain

This is one of a series of articles on budget cuts in UC Davis' schools and colleges, including the three divisions of the College of Letters and Science.

More professors may lose their phones. Colloquia will be pared back. Undergraduate classes will be larger—and there will be fewer of them.

Cuts large and small loom throughout the 10 departments that make up the Division of Social Sciences, which is preparing for budget reductions of at least $530,000 in the year ahead.

The planned reductions come on top of $403,000 in permanent budget cuts and $267,000 in midyear cuts to the social sciences during the 2008-09 academic year. They do not take into account UC-wide salary reductions (to be accomplished by furloughs).

Cumulatively, the new round of anticipated cuts will make it harder for undergraduates to earn a degree in four years, the division warns in its latest report to the Office of Resource Management and Planning. For graduate students, the cuts will mean fewer opportunities to present their work, build professional networks and prepare for jobs.

"We're going to try to accomplish as much as we can by becoming more efficient and more clever, and by doing more development and fundraising," Dean Ron Mangun said. "Ultimately, we hope there will be action at the campus level to help relieve the pressure on divisions and colleges— the Division of Social Sciences has been producing highly ranked departments on a shoestring budget for some time. The advent of the economic crisis puts this efficient quality at special risk."

Last year, social science units avoided layoffs but lost 5.37 full-time-equivalent staff positions through attrition.

The division is bracing to lose five more staff FTEs to attrition and to lay off as many as three additional staff FTEs in the coming year, for a savings of more than $300,000. Depending on the severity of the overall cuts, reductions in lecturer funding may be unavoidable as well.

In addition, the division proposes a broad range of other cuts that will affect everything from how long a student has to wait to see an academic advisor to how easily military science students can check out the equipment they need for field exercises.

In psychology, chair Debra Long said new upper-division prerequisites have been introduced as a way to keep other upper-division classes in the 60-student range. Some of the new prerequisites will have as many as 300 students.

"Many upper-division classes already had 120 to 160 students," Long said. "Going from 120 or 160 to 300 does not significantly change the classroom experience for students. But going above 60 makes it very difficult to continue to have writing assignments. We're really trying to preserve those smaller classes."

In anthropology, management services officer Nancy McLaughlin said the department may remove faculty phones; if so, students will need to communicate with instructors via e-mail or through a voice-over-Internet service like Skype or Vonage. Philosophy and economics made the same move last year; other departments are considering it as well.

Sociology MSO Mary Dixon said her department, like others across the division, may reduce a popular colloquia series, which enables students and faculty to learn about cutting-edge research projects and interact with sociologists from other institutions.

"We're looking for everything possible in our budget to see what we can do without," Dixon said.

Other cuts will be less visible, but may have significant impacts. In a May report to the Office of Resource Management and Planning, the Division of Social Sciences warned that anticipated 2009-10 academic year reductions in IT support could result in compromised computer security and lost research data, for example. And as remaining staff assume the duties of those who leave and are not replaced, overall morale may suffer.

"We're adapting our practices to a smaller budget environment," Assistant Dean Steve Roth said. "Basically, we're being asked to drive as far— with less gas. So we need to adapt with a new hybrid."

Mangun said the future for the social sciences at UC Davis "will be what we make it—and we intend to continue to excel."

He seconded Chancellor-designate Linda Katehi's statement during a recent campus visit, in which she said that she will not ask people who are already working 110 percent to work 150 percent for less money.

"Instead, we are going to make strategic decisions that benefit everyone," Mangun said. "The social sciences are at the core of one of the greatest universities our state and nation have ever known. We won't let that fall without a fight that would make all our ancestors proud."

Proposed cuts

In a May report to the Office of Resource Management and Planning, the Division of Social Sciences proposed the following as some of the cuts for the 2009-10 academic year:

• Eliminating or reducing student assistants—$92,500

• Removing faculty phones—$12,500

• Additional cuts in operating expenses—$23,500

• Reduced staff development—$20,500

• Reductions in graduate student support—$17,500

• Reductions in guest speakers—$14,000

More UC Davis budget news.
 


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