In 2009, UC Davis’ College of Biological Sciences (CBS) dealt with its share of the recent cuts, having planned out $490,000 worth of reductions by August. Since then, the required cuts have been raised to roughly $770,000 for the College. It anticipates making over one million dollars in cuts.
“Cuts have been across the board, and everything is impacted,” said Ken Burtis, Dean of the CBS. “The $490,000 represents the first round of cuts, and there have been more since then, and that means less money for everything we do.”
One less-invasive strategy that the college is using to cope with the cuts is by leaving staff positions vacant instead of rehiring when faculty retire or leave the university. Two hundred and twenty thousand dollars of the $490,000 target was saved between the five departments within the college in this way. Positions such as the Manager of Undergraduate Advising in the dean’s office, MSO of plant biology, Student Advising Assistant of molecular and cellular biology, various staff in the Accounting and Events offices, and receptionists for other departments have also all been left vacant to accommodate budget cuts. Doing so, however, leaves the vacant positions’ job duties up to the remaining staff to take on, resulting in increased workload.
No members of the tenure track staff have been laid off. In spite of this, there have been many other layoffs. Though furlough agreements save the CBS money and tenured staff their jobs, some staff such as those non-tenured lecturers of the non-academic senate union known as Unit 18 have elected not to participate in the furloughs. Since the college cannot save money by cutting the number of days that these lecturers teach, they do so via layoffs.
“The quickest, most obvious impact [of these layoffs] on students is the net reduction of people teaching classes,” Burtis said. “In the long run, this can possibly lead to increased time to completion for students, as well as fewer course opportunities.”
The shortage of staff forces the college to cancel and combine sections, making for increased class sizes. The limited number of sections per class then makes scheduling classes less flexible and more difficult. In addition to this, non-essential classes may be cancelled and the smallest classes in the college may only be held once every two years.
Dr. Diana G. Myles, professor of molecular and cellular biology and Associate Dean to CBS is confident that they will be doing their best to preserve the expensive but invaluable laboratory classes that are in highest demand, though many of the lab offerings will be restricted to those students that need them to fulfill their major.
“We are striving to be efficient and conservative in spending,” Myles said. “We have to be careful with a lot of the special [projects] we want to do [since] there’s not a lot of flexibility left in the budget.”
The special projects that Myles refers to are the extramural research projects on which the CBS and UC Davis prides themselves. Research project teams at UCD gain their financial support by presenting their proposals and winning over research grants paired with matching university funds. A tighter budget makes for fewer resources available for use on these proposals and a lesser chance of gaining financial support.
“We want to increase efficiency and cut costs, but it’s getting to that point [in the budget] where that’s no longer possible,” Burtis said. “Any cuts we are making are harmful – when the state makes choices that are not helping education, we have to choose the least harmful.”
– Arnold Lau