Hundreds of students and faculty are protesting the possible closure of the Textiles and Clothing (TXC) Department, recommended by the Academic Prioritization Committee (APC).
And for good reason, too – the news is one of the first harsh, tangible reminders of the budget cuts. The TXC major is the only one of its kind within the UC system. It allows students the opportunity to work in the fields of fashion, clothing, production, retail, merchandising, marketing, design and business.
However, only 105 undergraduate students study TXC, making it one of the university’s smallest majors. This is one reason why the department is under consideration for closure, said Neal Van Alfen, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Faculty members such as those quoted in the pertaining Aggie article are right to say that bigger isn’t always better in terms of department size. Yet for university administrators faced with such existing and impending cuts, the bigger a department’s income, the better it will help the university stay afloat during the next several years of cuts.
For example, TXC faculty members bring in approximately $500,000 per year in research grants. This is a relatively small number compared to other departments. During the 2007-2008 school year, UC Davis acquired $586.1 million in research funding, according to the UCD website. TXC, then, accounts for approximately .09 percent of the university’s research income.
Other departments under consideration for cut also have small incomes. The nematology department, which the APC also recommended for closure, brings in approximately twice the revenue of the TXC department. Still, this makes up .18 percent of the university’s research income, which may explain why the department is also on the chopping block.
There appears to be a trend in these considerations – that being the less money a department makes, the less likely it will hold up through the budget cut storm. In doing so, administrators essentially put a face value on departments based mostly on size and income.
However, the ugly truth is that the university cannot remain the same no matter whose pay is reduced or which positions are eliminated. The university truly has no other option unless the state drastically rearranges its priorities and voters express interest in such an arrangement.
Administrators have even mentioned a more severe restructuring of the university given the projected debt in California of $20 billion. That said, UC students and faculty should expect further cuts like the one made to the TXC department.
Although reducing funds for the TXC department is an unfortunate means to an end, eventually disabling the program altogether would do more harm than good to the overall economy of California by hindering potential careers. The department could use all resources possible now to establish an internship program that will immerse students in the textiles and clothing industry.
For example, cotton grows in three main areas of California; one of those areas is the Sacramento Valley. Cotton is also one of the main focuses of the TXC major. The university should use its close proximity to the cotton industry as incentive for maintaining some of the skills practiced in the textiles and clothing department.
Though this would not fill the gap that eliminating the TXC department would create, it would at least leave options for the students affected by this closure.