Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Freaking out

I just received a report from a committee making recommendations to the Provost of the university regarding budget cuts.

This paragraph caught my eye:

A number of areas of the Teaching Resources Center should be examined for possible reduction. These include support for faculty teaching, the Scantron service for course evaluations (eliminate with on-line evaluations), the mini-grant program and the SPEAK test (should be able to use results of new TOEFL in its place). Some consideration should be given to better coordinate (or centralize) TA orientation and training. Some units provide their own while others rely on the TRC, resulting in duplication of effort. Decisions could be informed by existing qualitative evaluation data of the various programs. The additional review could be conducted jointly by representatives of the Undergraduate Council and the Graduate Council.

First of all, "support for faculty teaching" is what we do, and encompasses all of my position, plus that of 1 and 4/7 of my colleagues. The only cost for many of our faculty support programs are salaries, so to cut those programs means cutting personnel.

Second, departmental TA training and our TA orientation are very different. Many departments don't have TA training, so the only training many TAs get is our seven hours at the very beginning of their grad school careers. In addition, we orient 700 TAs in the fall for the cost of only salaries, photocopying, and nametags. So again: Cutting TA orientation would mean cutting personnel time.

Third, I'm no fan of Scantron machines, but the return rate of online course evaluations is very, very low, and online exams don't yet have the enough security against cheating to persuade faculty to adopt them.

I'm furious and frightened. Maybe I'm overreacting upon the first reading of this report. Let's hope so.

By the way, the same report counsels the Provost not to cut athletics too deeply, as sports programs would feel the effect for many years. (Apparently the quality of teaching wouldn't suffer at all. GAH.)


ScienceWoman said...

Hugs. Here's hoping they come to their senses and get their priorities straight. But at least you've been proactively looking at other options.

The History Enthusiast said...

I am sorry to hear this news. I hope that they keep your position; training TAs is an absolute essential!

Ace said...

Hey LMB, perhaps you might6 feel a little better if you read this report which talks about the importance of the TRC:


(pages 5-6)

Leslie M-B (trillwing) said...

Thanks, Ace. The one I'm referring to is available at this link.

mburtis said...

Am I being dense--why is a student services committee commenting on the teaching resource center? I mean, in an ideal world I could see why student services would care about teaching, but, typically, aren't they more concerned with climbing walls and food services?

Leslie M-B (trillwing) said...


At UC Davis there's a good deal of blurring between undergraduate studies, of which the teaching center is a part, and student services. The teaching center is kind of the odd unit in this clustering in that our sister units serve undergrad students instead of faculty and grad students.

What Now? said...

Oh dear, I'm so sorry to hear this. Here's hoping that the school decides to honor its important teaching mission (as well as its other missions) and keep your program.

Bardiac said...

This sucks. I'm sorry.

Are they protecting athletics because they've gone into division I or something?

I wish my school would dump all intercampus athletics and focus on intermural and life-sports/activities for living. But alas, that's not going to happen here, either.

I'm sorry; I'm ashamed of my alma mater.

ArticulateDad said...

Oh my! I just... I don't know what to say. I'm just flabbergasted at how far academia moves from the ideals of... the Academy! Leslie, my friend, you'll be fine, whatever comes of this.

TutuBonnie said...

It's never easy to face loosing something about which you care passionately. I find it helps to ask, "What am I supposed to learn from this?" Forces me to look at the situation from a different perspective. Good luck to you.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

Oh no! All best thoughts for you, Leslie.