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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Editorial: Freshman seminars

The Undergraduate Studies office recently asked freshman seminar instructors if they would be willing to forgo or reduce their stipends.

Twenty-five instructors agreed to this arrangement for this quarter or next quarter. The amount saved from these individuals adds up to a sizable enough chunk to make a dent in the program’s annual budget but comes at the expense of the few who are willing to take the cut.

Instructors currently receive $1,500 for one-unit seminars and $2,000 for two-unit seminars. The stipends go directly to the instructors’ research accounts.

There are far more seminars offered each quarter than the 25 instructors who agreed to forgo or reduce their stipends. According to the Teaching Resource Center website, 95 courses are offered this quarter. Some instructors, however, teach multiple seminars.

Unless more instructors step up to the plate, the US office will have to come up with an alternative solution. The TRC said it will eliminate the seminars as a last resort, but they need other options in the meantime.

Those who accepted the cuts make it possible for others to get paid – for the same work. The cuts should be uniform and across the board. Otherwise, there will be an uneven dynamic among the instructors. Maybe these professors are willing to take one for the team, but this is not a fair solution.

It may be possible for all stipends to take a reduction, but instructors are already paid very little to teach these seminars. The TRC and US office need to examine what the next step would be. Otherwise, it could mean the complete elimination of the seminars.

Asking professors to volunteer is a strategy that has been used in the past. The TRC said it was gauging whether or not more people would be open to this idea. This method, however, is not the correct answer and presents a broken resolution. The freshman seminar program needs better, fairer ways to manage its budget and future cuts.

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