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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: English budget woes spotlight quagmire

    With the news last week that the Writing Center and the English department needed financial infusions to meet operating expenses, attention was drawn again to the plight of colleges like humanities and social and behavioral sciences that don’t generate the grant revenue enjoyed by the science and medical programs.

    While this kind of economic tension is not new – the tug-of-war between cost-efficiency and quality of education is surely as old as higher learning itself – what is striking about this crisis is what it reveals about the UA’s priorities.

    Liberal arts programs are being funded as though they were the slacker stepchildren of the university family at a time when more students than ever are being shunted to those programs after other colleges with stringent pre-major standards don’t accept the students.

    This dilemma is especially relevant given the tuition increase proposed by President Peter Likins, which would levy additional fees on students of expensive colleges, such as business, architecture and engineering, thereby funding those programs directly.

    However, the plan doesn’t hold much promise for colleges where equipment expenses are largely limited to paper, pencils and wastebaskets, as the old joke goes.

    According to Charles Tatum, dean of the College of Humanities, nearly all of the college’s budget goes toward faculty and administrative salaries.

    Whenever the Arizona Legislature allocates fewer state dollars to the UA, revenue-generating programs compensate in part by reducing expenses, but other programs must reduce administrative staff to skeleton crews and inflate class sizes to make ends meet. Where other areas on campus give up dreams of new equipment or better facilities, departments within humanities, like the English department, have had to forgo hiring much-needed faculty.

    Another difficulty lies in the fact that colleges are not funded in proportion to the number of student credit hours offered. The burgeoning ranks of students in non-revenue-generating programs means that those programs are largely on their own in accommodating enormous enrollment.

    Thus far, swelling student ranks and the leaky holes caused by consistent budget cuts have been plugged using the UA’s tried-and-true cure all: graduate students.

    Determined and energetic, droves of graduates teach lower-level courses each year in exchange for tuition help from the UA.

    Yet last week it became painfully clear that graduate students can’t be stretched much more. What’s worse is that the department has been forced to search its own couch cushions in the hopes of finding enough money to replace necessary faculty.

    It’s embarrassing that amid the UA’s attempt to market itself as the best university in Arizona, it can’t find the money for two English professors.

    Overburdening grad students in the program is not the answer. Neither is the stalemate between the College of Humanities and Provost George Davis’ office over the hiring of faculty. The department’s funding request isn’t excessive – it’s necessary.

    Administrators need to stop giving liberal arts groups on campus reason to worry about their future at the UA. Campus conspiracy theorists who allege that the UA will one day teach only 100-level English classes and jettison any other attempts at a liberal arts education are given weight when bickering over two necessary English professors becomes public.

    However, like most conspiracy theories, administrators can silence such beliefs easily and quickly by doing what is right: hiring the needed faculty.

    Hiring the faculty won’t erase the stigma of liberal arts colleges as the stepchildren on campus, but it will definitely help assuage it.

    Opinions Board

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Lori Foley, Caitlin Hall, Michael Huston, Ryan Johnson, Aaron Mackey, and Tim Runestad.

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