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Department Chair’s Message to History Majors

Read about how the History Department is dealing with the effects of the severe budget cuts on undergraduate courses.

Dear History Majors,

As you are no doubt aware, the University is in the midst of a potentially catastrophic budget crisis. The crisis is already having a big impact on the faculty, staff, and students. For the faculty, the budget cuts have meant significant pay reductions, big increases in class sizes, and the elimination of basic services (the department can no longer even pay for office phones). Members of our staff face lower pay and the threat of potential layoffs. And we are very aware that students must pay higher fees and scramble to find any available seat.

We wanted to let you know how the history department is responding to this crisis and clearly explain the situation we face. The University has made big cuts in what is referred to as our “soft money” budget—the funds that go to teaching assistants and temporary lecturers. Because of these cuts, the department has had to reduce the number of TAs that we have hired, which means smaller enrollments in our big survey courses such as the 2, 4, and 17 series. We also have less money to hire temporary lecturers to fill gaps in our teaching plan. To make up for the loss of these seats, the department’s permanent faculty is now teaching fewer graduate courses and more upper-division lecture courses. We hope this will help our majors, who in many cases will be given priority in enrolling and adding history courses.

Many of you will also notice that many of the department’s instructors have specified “non-classroom instruction” days for their courses. The department has implemented this policy as a way of giving the faculty a small break from some classroom instruction in light of budget cuts and larger class sizes. We don’t like the loss of instructional time, but we’ve made sure that there are alternate means of conveying essential information. We hope that the non-classroom days will also give students some flexibility to juggle busy work and school schedules, while at the same time providing more time to think about course assignments and course material.

There is no hiding the fact that it is going to be a deeply frustrating year for everybody connected to the University. It is going to be all too easy to blame individual instructors or departments for the difficult situation. We urge you to keep in mind that the root cause of the situation is the deep budget cuts passed by the state legislature. On October 14, a campus-wide teach-in will bring together student leaders, labor organizers, prominent academics, and state legislators to talk about the origins of the budget cuts, and what the campus community can do to prevent further cuts. We hope you can attend—information about the teach-in is on the department’s website (see Oct. 14 event). Now is the time to become involved and let voters and legislators know the true impact of the budget cuts.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with me at: majewski@history.ucsb.edu.

Prof. John Majewski
Chair, UCSB History Department

hm 9/22/09