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Davis, California

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ethnic and gender studies to undergo administrative consolidation

After 13 years as the women and gender studies program coordinator, Shuanna Ludwig will need to find a new job.

Jessie Owens, dean of the division of humanities, arts and culture studies (HArCS) in the College of Letters and Science, cut Ludwig’s position as a part of the reorganization of the HArCS programs, which are housed in Hart Hall.

African American and African studies, American studies, Asian American studies, cultural studies graduate group, Native American studies and women and gender studies will have one central operating unit. However, staff from American studies and women and gender studies will not be included in this central unit.

“There will be no institutional memory as to the day-to-day administrative functions of these programs and how they are run,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig and Carole Markese, assistant program coordinator for women and gender studies, both received lay-off notices. American Studies Program Coordinator Kay Clare Allen volunteered to retire and a fourth position in the main office was vacated in December and never filled, Ludwig said.

So far, HArCS had an overall reduction of 16 percent in staffing and operating expenses. With a necessary budget cut of $1.63 million from HArCS, administrators will have to continue to reduce the faculty in HArCS by $2.8 million – roughly 27.5 faculty positions.

“We have to find ways of providing services to faculty and students with fewer staff,” said Owens in an e-mail interview. “Division-wide reductions were unavoidable and were done as equitably as possible, based on workload.”

Administrators reorganized the Hart Interdisciplinary Unit into teams to provide student and financial services. Instead of a program coordinator to do things like create course schedules, hire teaching assistants and lecturers for one program, there will be an individual doing one thing for many programs. No changes will be made to the student affairs officers in any of the units.

“I think with the additional load they are putting on people, you’re going to have burnout,” Ludwig said. “People are asked to do more with less.”

Administrative consolidations like this are occurring all over campus, Owens said.

“The university has no choice but to run more efficiently to protect resources for students and faculty,” she said.

However, Ludwig does not think the transition will be smooth come fall quarter.

“It’s going to be more hectic than it’s ever been in the past,” she said. “You’re going to have people doing jobs that they’ve never done before and working with issues that are going to be complex, to say the least.”

Owens said some staff will continue working with the same program or will have the opportunity to learn new responsibilities. Administrators will provide training sessions for all the staff.

Ludwig acknowledged that everyone involved would do the best they can, given the circumstances.

“The staff remaining is very capable and are coming into this with a positive attitude, knowing that it is going to be a tough transition,” she said.

Academically, students may not feel a large difference in the reorganization. The same classes will be offered and all the degrees are remaining.

However, students will not have an individual program office to come into and the programs will not have their own separate identities, Ludwig said.

Approximately 150 students, faculty and staff met on Wednesday outside of Hart Hall to discuss the changes and protest.

Protestors read aloud a list of demands, including that UC Davis must publicly reaffirm ethnic and gender studies programs and departments and that administrators must hire 10 full-time faculty members for each individual program.

Protestors also wanted the diversity requirement altered to require histories of underrepresented and marginalized communities, institutional funding for cultural days and for Chancellor Linda Katehi to issue a denouncement of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 and House Bill 2281.

“The administration cannot homogenize all of our separate communities,” said Sebastian Atilano Zuniga, a senior psychology major, at the protest.

What is happening in Arizona could happen here in California too, Zuniga said. Professor of Chicana/o Studies Malaquias Montoya echoed these sentiments.

“There is a climate of hate all over the US,” Montoya said. “This is a time where we need ethnic studies more than ever and they are taking it away.”

Protestors also read aloud a letter to Owens, asking to discuss their demands and warning of further action if demands are not met.

Owens maintained that UC Davis has a long and proud commitment to ethnic studies.

The UC Davis Native American studies program became the nation’s first Department of Native American studies in 1993, and later became the second to offer a Ph.D. in Native American studies. More recently, Chicana/o studies and Asian American studies were raised to department status last year.

While there is little money for new faculty, Owens is filling two positions in HArCs in the upcoming year and both will be in the ethnic studies departments of Chicana/o studies and Asian American studies.

JANELLE BITKER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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