Petition to Defend Humanities at UCI

Michael V. Drake , Chancellor
Michael R. Gottfredson , Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Over the past decade, and especially in the last three years, the University of
California system, UCI included, has seen state support for higher education plummet and
a concomitant precipitous increase in student fees. Students in the humanities are
particularly concerned about how these cuts will further decrease the educational quality in
the school of humanities. We have seen top-ranked departments like French and German
collapsed and consolidated. Important and talented faculty who were already underpaid
have left, having received numerous offers from other universities. Departmental staff
members have been laid off, or are only given part time pay, or are shared among several
departments. Now we hear that further cuts may undermine or even eliminate the historic
and nationally recognized strengths of UCI’s school of humanities: our internationally
famous, top ranked research program in critical theory, and the many interdisciplinary
departments and programs that once made UCI the vanguard in public education.

We are concerned not just with the effects of future cuts, but also about the
administrative decision making process. As students and teachers in the humanities,
we feel that our voices, interests, and values are not being included in the current
discussion. For example, any teacher in the humanities knows how important small
class sizes are to the quality of education, and in fact many universities gloat about their
small teacher to student ratio. Departments and programs should not be punished for
teaching small classes. Instead, the university must realize that quantitative metrics
and auditing standards useful in other schools may not be appropriate for the school
of humanities. As students, we would also like to emphasize our support for language
departments, interdisciplinary programs such as ethnic studies, and the critical theory
institute and emphasis. An undergraduate education is incomplete and inadequate without
an appreciation of foreign languages and cultures, and without the ability to think critically
about issues like race and gender. These are values that the students have, and that the
administration should share.

Finally, we ask that the university consider carefully how it allocates its resources. It
is problematic, for example, that UC administrators outnumber faculty. It is problematic
that the school only spends $9000 a year to educate each undergraduate student even
while the campus invests in new buildings, technology, furniture and fixtures. We believe
education should take first priority, and that fundamentally means focusing resources
on maintaining faculty quality, graduate programs, staff and campus workers, and
undergraduate access to what is - still - a quality education.


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