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Saturday, October 23, 2021

ESL program escapes outsourcing but not potential reductions

Nearly a year after it was targeted for relocation, the English as a Second Language Program (ESL) might instead face the budget axe as the campus continues to face fiscal shortfalls.

George Mangun, dean of the Division of Social Sciences, said that he will recommend the retention of ESL instruction to Provost Enrique Lavernia within a week. The Budget Advisory Subcommittee on Instruction and Research had previously recommended the program be considered to move to community colleges or University Extension.

Mangun said maintaining instruction on campus would make it easier for linguistics graduate students specializing in ESL instruction to continue providing instruction. It was also felt that it would allow the division to evaluate whether the program was meeting the needs of its students.

“It seemed clear to me it was something important for us to maintain,” Mangun said. “For me it felt the least risky path for the students’ sake was to keep it closer to us and organize it to be fiscally responsible.”

Although this is good news for the ESL program, it is expected to feel the impact of campuswide budget reductions.

Undergraduate ESL sections may drop from 10 to six and graduate sections might decrease from 23 to 11 for 2010-11, according to a preliminary written plan given by the Linguistics department to the undergraduate and graduate ESL coordinators on April 26.

The number of course equivalencies, time that the coordinators use to perform tasks and the supervision of Linguistics graduate students teaching ESL might also drop from three to one.

And according to a May 5 letter sent to the coordinators from the linguistics department, ESL will no longer serve education abroad international students. Linguistics 26, a writing course for international graduate students that require additional ESL support, is also not expected to be offered next year.

On April 28, Patrick Farrell, chair of the Linguistics department, submitted the preliminary budget with corresponding reductions to Mangun, which he approved.

“Unlike for past years, the proposed schedule for ESL instruction for next year is designed only to meet essential student need in a responsible way,” Farrell said in an e-mail interview.

While both Farrell and Mangun did not specify the final budget of ESL instruction, Mangun allowed that it will operate under increased financial constraints.

ESL instructors are glad that the program will remain at Davis, but are worried that with fewer resources and smaller capacity, instruction will not meet student needs.

“One of my biggest concerns is what are we going to do with the 50 percent of the students that cannot get into sections even though they’re held for ESL,” said Janet Lane, the graduate ESL coordinator who also expects an increase in international graduate students. “How are we going to determine who we serve?”

The reduction in courses might also result in lecturer layoffs. Although no plan has been finalized, according to the data from the proposal course reductions would result in only 1.72 lecturers, with one serving fulltime and the other reduced in pay and teaching.

Currently, the five ESL lecturers still have layoff notices.

The potential layoffs, the lecturers fear, might result in a loss of skilled teachers who will be unable to assist less experienced teaching assistants.

“Our specialty is teaching ESL,” said Ellen Lange, a linguistics lecturer who has taught for 31 years. “We’re trained in second language acquisition theory. We’re the people in the trenches.”

Both administrators and lecturers agree that the number of students needing ESL will not be determined until the summer – due to testing and placement. Mangun said that like all instruction, the Linguistics department could request funding increases for critical courses based on need, and the campus would then have to respond, keeping budget constraints in mind.

He also stressed that because the state’s budgetary process has not run its full course, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently submitting his May revised budget to the legislature, the outcome is not set in stone.

“These numbers are changing and are not finalized yet,” Mangun said.

But lecturers hope that reductions might not be necessary. They see Chancellor Katehi’s recent allocation of $230,000 in discretionary funds to combat prejudice and promote diversity as a form of intervention that could help the ESL program as well.

“With such drastic cuts, 50 percent of this population will no longer be served and education abroad students will be excluded entirely,” Lange wrote in a letter to the Davis Enterprise. “Yet these students are not in a position to complain because they face the challenge of expressing themselves in another language and often prefer to remain silent.

“The group’s voice, however, needs to be made audible through instruction. Given that, couldn’t the chancellor dedicate some funds so UC Davis can continue to give this group the instruction it needs?”

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

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