Elans to face aftermath of budget cuts, faculty reacts

Photo Illustration by Lindsey Maeda

By Veronica Hurtado and Edgar Lopez

Fall semester has not started, yet faculty and students can expect a leaner class schedule, a lack of supplies, and a possible reduction in student services and in student-worker positions if budget cuts are worse than anticipated.

“The budget situation is very fluid,” East Los Angeles College President Tyree Wieder said. She also said that ELAC’s expenditures are not in sync with their allocation budget. The numbers had changed over the last week.

Although there are still budget uncertainties for the 2012-2013 year because the college has not finished assessing the impact of the Governor’s ballot initiative, Wieder presented the best and worst-case scenarios for ELAC during a budget review meeting. At best, the school would cut 1,720 hours or 573 classes. At worst, it would lose 2,460 hours or 820 classes.

She also said ELAC’s allocation for 2012-2013 is $76 million with expenditures of $84 million under a worst-case scenario. To make up for the difference, ELAC would have to dip into its reserves of which only $2 million of $11 million will be released by the Los Angeles Community College District.

To prioritize spending, two tiers were developed. The school will work toward spending funds on tier one over tier two. Tier one lists expenditures on regular faculty and staff, benefits, classroom supplies and classes to meet full-time equivalency students. Tier two listed books and library materials, non-instructional supplies, needed staff replacement, student workers and refilling the reserves.

Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development Renee Martinez said, “Unfortunately (ELAC), like many other colleges in the state, will not know the results  of the November election to assist us for the plans for  winter and spring classes. Therefore, we have to make two plans – one with existing budget cuts and possible additional cuts.

Three weeks ago, ELAC departments submitted their final section offerings for the fall semester after receiving the Enrollment Management Committee’s proposed reduction hours.

The EMC is a composed of a selected group of faculty and administrators who recommend how the college should cut sections to meet student demand and budget constraints.

The EMC developed a rubric that gave departments points if they met student success criteria.  Those with less points would have the greater cuts.

Some of the criteria in that rubric was the number of degrees, certificates, special skills they offer, the number of requirements each class fulfills and if they are cohort programs.

Patrick Houser, chair of administration of justice and member of the EMC said, “There were several measures that were used, but student demand was a big issue. The necessity of those programs to complete a degree,  or transfer or get a certificate and other measures, is based on student success.”

As a result of that criteria, most academic departments were cut less than most of the career technology education departments.

While departments understood the necessity of cuts and the reasons behind cutting unevenly, departments with less cuts thought the cuts were fair and were glad not to be further cut. Others in the same or lower level of cuts, recognized the committee’s efforts, challenges and faults.

So far, the school faces a total six-percent reduction of hours for the fall semester, but that cut varies by department from 1 to 22 percent.

It didn’t matter where in the spectrum of the cuts a department fell, they all said that cuts to courses are not good for the campus and most importantly, not good for students or those who work here.

For example, departments like Administration of Justice, English, Math, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, and Social Science underwent lower reduction percentages. Their reduction varies within a 1 to 7 percent range.

Departments such as architecture, speech, theatre arts and broadcasting, foreign language, Chicano studies, life science, photography, counseling, journalism, philosophy, and arts were the highest reduced. Their reduction percentage ranges within an 8 to 22 percent cut, creating discontent among faculty over the EMC’s process to determine the cuts.

Jose Ramirez, chair for the engineering and electronics departments said that it is good the school has an EMC because now the school will see where they are succeeding and areas they need to “beef up.”

“EMC is forcing the (college)to look at what programs they have, what classes are they offering, whether their students are transferring, and what is retention,” Ramirez said.

Walter Kangas, chair for the automotive department, and Faramarz Larizadeh, chair of the business department, said that they thought the cuts are fair and that everyone had to share the pain of them. They also acknowledged that under the circumstances the EMC was in, they did a good job.

Alan Tan Khuu, department chair for chemistry, also said  the EMC had a fair, open process where faculty was invited to attend to discuss concerns.

However, those with the highest percentage cuts thought that the EMC’s rubric failed to consider the departments with students who are not seeking to transfer to a four-year university.

Alison Davis, Chair of Life Sciences department said that in the case of her department, the rubric did not account for the fact that her students may not transfer out to a four-year university, but they transfer out to specialized schools like nursing.

Michael Hamner, Chair of the Architecture Department also said the same for his students.  “So the highest standard in the EMC rubric is degrees, and we don’t convey that we do but not that many because our focus is to transfer students which we have a huge and growing track record to the universities who offer degrees in Architecture are USC, Woodbury, and Cal-Poly Pomona,” he said.

The current cuts the architecture department faces puts in jeopardy the articulation agreements the department has with architecture schools, such as University of Southern California, Woodbury University and the Southern California School of Architecture.

Although President Tyree Weider said during a budget meeting that the EMC was tasked with deciding what classes help transfer out students, Ramirez said, in a separate meeting, that the rubric does not reflect the complexity or unique attributes of career-technical departments, such as engineering and electronics.

“I want to include, in the rubric, complexity in a degree or I want to put how many students get a job with their degree, but they (EMC) do not want to do that,” Ramirez said. “We know that some of the apples are already predetermined because everyone knows students need math and English.”

Robert Aaron Lyle, Chairperson of the Photography Department said, “I feel that it is just natural that there are competing interests. I would really encourage people who are in the position to vote to be thoughtful about our students and our students’ needs and to think outside of the box from the discipline they work in.

“If someone rates higher in the EMC’s rubric than us because they placed more students higher then they should, I’m not happy about it, but I understand and I agree with this. Yet, it is disturbing that we are cutting the programs that do not offer math or English because it’s essentially turning away students who are not interested in those fields,” Lyle said.

“Also, students are coming here with a degree and they are coming to learn a professional skill to help them in a job market and I don’t feel it is for us to say that their education is of less value,” Lyle said.

Some departments are losing more hours than others, but furthermore, some departments are cutting introductory-level courses at the main campus and South Gate campus, while some are cutting higher-level courses.

Foreign Language, Automotive Technology, and Life Sciences are cutting introductory courses, while Journalism and Philosophy are reducing section offerings in the South Gate campus and departments like Photography and Arts are considering not just cutting introductory courses but also advance courses.

Lyle said the department will be cutting at least one advanced class and one introductory level class. There is a third and fourth section to cut, but the department has some interesting, challenging and painful decisions to make in that selection.

Lyle and other department chairs are having a hard time deciding how to best serve students, those who use introduction courses to meet University of California or California State University transfer requirements and those who need advanced classes to get ahead in their career.

Both students are important, Lyle said.

Houser, who’s department was cut one percent, said, “whether the cut is one class or anything, it causes a negative effect on the students who wanted to take that class. It’s one less class that means that there is one less opportunity for a student that is interested in my discipline to be able to take a class. Even the lost of one class is a significant to the students who want to take that class. It means 40-45 students who will not have access to the class.”

Consuelo Rey Castro, Chairperson Social Science Department said that the cuts in her department represent general education required classes students need to graduate and transfer. “Fewer required GE courses available means greater competition amongst students for remaining classes.”

Furthermore, the reduction in hours which translates to a cut in sections is making some departments cut their part-time adjunct faculty.

Ramirez said, “We will be losing two part-time adjunct faculty.”

Although departments as Automotive Technology and Arts are not losing staff because of the cuts, they are losing staff, due to retirement, so they will also not hire staff.

Linda Kallan, Chairperson of the Arts Department, said that given the district’s hiring freeze, she cannot replace the existing position in her department.

At Student Services, the same thing is happening.

“I am not rehiring people that are retiring or that have left for better jobs,” Oscar Valeriano, Vice President of Student Services, said.

Yet, part-time adjuncts that do stay with the departments may have hard time finding assignments in the school to qualify for health benefits.

“In the past, the English Department’s 75 adjunct part-time faculty could get a full load, which is two assignments to qualify for health benefits. Now, half of them get a full load,” James Kenny, Chairperson for the English Department, said.

The Fall cuts have also meant that some departments are not getting enough money for department supplies.

Houser said that not having enough money for supplies affects how well faculty can do their jobs as well as they can.

“For the Philosophy Department, it has meant that the supply budget now can barely cover white-board pens and we’ve actually resorted to reusable cotton hand rags to erase our boards,” Michael Sigman, chairperson of the department, said.

Furthermore, departments that need to budget their department money to supply for course materials are also under the red line.

Jean Stapleton, Journalism Chairperson said, that the budget for printing Campus News for the fall is $10,000. If more money is cut, there is not going to be enough for a newspaper in the Fall.

For this story, the Learning, Writing, and Math Centers were contacted for comment, but only the Learning Center was able to comment before publication time.

Given the uncertainty of the budget cuts, there are three scenarios the Learning Center can operate on, Maria Elena Yepes, Director of the Learning Center, said.

“We have been asked to submit three proposed operating budgets, given the uncertainty of the budget,” Yepes said.

She also said that the first scenario is to run under the same budget and offer the same hours of service as this school year. If the budget is reduced, a second scenario would be to reduce service hours in the evening by an hour and reduce Saturday services. Worst comes to worst, I would only keep the lab open and hire lab assistants only, Yepes said.

Although Yepes did not mention cuts to student worker jobs, Valeriano did.

If the cuts are drastic, it would mean that before cutting the hours or positions of classified personnel, the first jobs to go are student worker jobs because the school has employees with union contracts that get priority, Valeriano said.

Valeriano said, that when looking at the budget cuts for Fall under a worst-case scenario, at Student Services, there are going to be cuts for counseling, athletics, and matriculation.

“If students can’t get an appointment now (to see a counselor) then its only going to get worst because now we are cutting hourly assignments, we look at personal development, which helps a student how to understand basic skills for surviving college cuts in those,” Valeriano said.

For Valeriano  its devastating that students need to get assessed yet can’t enroll in class, he said.

Daniel Ornelas, Counseling Department chairperson, said that the department decided to make the 13 percent cut in hours recommended by the EMC. It translates into a cut of 2 classes at the South Gate Campus and the main campus in addition to the 4 classes from community outreach sites, which provide counseling services to high schools and adult education programs.

“That’s almost 100 students who won’t be able to enroll in personal development classes. It’s going to impact. We’re going to see it,” Ornelas said.

He said these classes are needed because it serves as a counseling appointment for near 55 students. Most counselors have around 55 students per class. He pointed out that it helps because there’s only 15 counselors for near 27,000 students.

Ornelas said the class teaches “survival” tactics in college. It helps students manage time, learn about general education classes and create a warm welcoming to the college environment.

He also said that ELAC serves the most personal development courses in the LACCD.

Julie Benavides, the offsite coordinator for personal development courses, said they are cutting all personal development classes for neighboring communities. They offered 4 classes in Fall 2011. In Spring 2013, it went down to 3. In Fall 2012, there will be 0.

Provel Medical Magnet High School, Garfield High School and SouthEast High School were some of the schools that would benefit from this program.

She said that the program gets students a head start. It prepares them for college.

As far as cuts in Athletics, Valeriano said that the EMC is asking them to cut significantly than now. They are going to have to fundraise to buy uniforms, basic supplies that the school was able to help them with before.
For more information on the Athletics department’s cuts, see the sports page.

Martinez said more faculty and staff need to participate on committee meetings, regardless if they are members or not.

“Discussion on what is happening on campus and the needs of students for disciplines is important,” Martinez said.

“For students, I would encourage them to think about what their priorities are in coming here, and to clearly express them to their teachers and to representatives of ASU, counselors and EMC members, because you work your butts off to come here. You have a lot of other priorities yet somehow you are making it to school… and the people that are making the decisions should know why you come,” Lyle said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *