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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Layoffs expected for UC Davis ESL lecturers

In mid-September, all continuing English as a Second Language (ESL) lecturers were given layoffs for 2010-2011.

The layoff announcements come as the campus is seeking to resolve its budgetary woes. In a July report, the Budget Advisory Subcommittee on Instruction and Research recommended that savings could be found by restructuring the ESL program.

The Budget Advisory Subcommittee did not respond to requests for comment.

The subcommittee has proposed moving courses for undergraduates to community colleges and integrating the graduate courses with the University Extension or Summer Sessions.

The report estimates the campus would save $475,000 in salary and benefits costs of ESL instructors and indirect costs of $275,000. This cost saving proposal is among 11 sent by the Subcommittee to Enrique Lavernia, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor and the Budget Advisory Committee.

The subcommittee said that the recent budget reductions in Instruction and Research have made the effort of further reducing that unit’s budget a “daunting task.”

The affected lecturers fear that their layoff may precede the proposal’s implementation. They also feel that it would be detrimental for the ESL program, which currently serves 350 graduate and over 300 undergraduate students a year.

Lecturers worry that the particular needs of students would not be met if the program is moved to the community college or University Extension. They argue that moving the program could mean losing the experience and the academic writing emphasis that characterizes the program.

“We are writing specialists here and that’s our focus,” said Janet Lane, lecturer and coordinator for the ESL Graduate Program. “That’s why we’re able to effectively help our students improve their writing for university-level work”

A diminished program could also harm UC Davis’ ability to recruit scholars from abroad. Many of the foreign students who come to UCD for research purposes already know how to speak English, but utilize the ESL program for writing purposes. These students may opt to research and publish their findings in their home countries because they can’t receive writing instruction here, said Angela Foin, an ESL lecturer.

“English is the language of research,” Foin said.

For the ESL lecturers, they hope that the program will only be reduced and not permanently reshaped. Once the budget recovers, they argue, services could increase.

“The quality of teaching would stay the same, so when the money comes back you can just add more” said Ellen Lange, an ESL lecturer.

These developments reflect a trend of hardship for lecturers across the UC system. According to the California Federation of Teachers, 67 continuing lecturers in UCLA’s College of Letters and Sciences have been given layoff notices for August 2010.

Alan Karras, a UC Berkeley lecturer and Vice President for Grievances of University Counsel-American Federation of Teachers, has worked on the issue around the UC. He has observed trends of the non-reappointment of lecturers in their first six years of employment.

Karras believes that cutting lecturers will result in fewer classes because of the higher number of classes they teach in comparison to academic senate faculty.

“I don’t think the university is prepared to say to people who have been around for twenty years, of whom there is a large number, ‘We’re going to do away with this number of courses and we have no plan to replace them’,” Karras said.

The UC administration has seen reductions as necessary for both addressing the financial circumstances of the system and preserving the academic integrity of the university.

In July, Russell S. Gould, UC Board of Regents Chairman, created a commission that would balance the quality of the university while finding solutions to the budget crisis.

“We need to act now to ensure that, through the state’s budget crisis and long-term pattern of disinvestment, we don’t sacrifice one shred of quality of this university system,” Gold said.

LESLIE TSAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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