Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lynn Mally, Director of Humanities Out There; "It’s going to take some optimistic young professors to get this system back on its feet."

Lynn Mally is a Professor of Russian Studies and director of the H.O.T. (Humanities Out There) program, which is in jeopardy of being cut from funding next year. As of yet, she has been informed that there is enough support for this scholastic year, but as for next year it may be cut due to the recent UC budget cuts initiatives. Similarly, I chose to take a different angle and approach to this interview, seeing as how reporters from the school newspapers and students had asked her the same questions. I took the angle that there is a “brain drain,” effect happening. And ultimately she relayed to me that it damaged her spirits.

Q: We are sometimes called “The Ivy League of the West Coast.” And sometimes, people within the system do not realize this, but it is sort of fact. How do you think (the budget cuts) this is going to affect our status as such an acclaimed University system?

A: This is definitely true we do have some of the best and brightest in their fields coming to teach in our system, specifically in our system (Irvine). For example in our History department we have a Professor named Ken Pomeranz who is world famous for his research in Chinese history, he sort of invented this whole method of thinking. I myself and one other professor teach Russian Studies. And I am about to retire, not because of the budget cuts but it was planned anyway, but the other professor is older, and I fought for this program’s future just the way I fought for H.O.T. And both of these programs’ futures are uncertain in the upcoming years.

Q: We are known fairly well for being a school of engineering and science, a lot of pre-med and biology undergrads is a popular major. But we also have this amazing humanities department. How do you think these cuts will affect the quality of these programs, will there be a type of ‘brain drain’ if they are compromised?

A: Well I can tell you already we haven’t been able to compete with other Universities for high-ranking professors. Just the other day I heard about one of our major contributing history professors was offered a job at University of Penn. with a research tenure and other accommodations that we just can’t match anymore. We won’t be able to compete even with private colleges in our state because we will probably be the last in the university system as a whole to climb out of this deficit because we are not funded the way private universities are. Private universities receive a lot more money from their alumni and market themselves differently then we do and they don’t rely on public funding as much. This means that these universities will be able to engage in hiring high caliber professors and other resources again more quickly than the state systems. For example we had a history professor here who was at the top of their field and he was offered an opportunity to go teach at another private university for higher, pay, unlimited research resources, and other handsome features. And the university (UCI) was not able to offer a counter offer, so that is an example of how we are loosing out in quality of professors, and may continue to get worse (in light of the budget cuts) in the future. Let me give you another example Mr. Pomeranz, is an invaluable asset to the history department and if he was offered another position an another university we would not be able to give a counter offer.

One thing the University of California does, and does really well is that it allows time for the professors to research their fields and keep them up to date on what they are teaching so that they are giving their students the most relevant information. And I worry that that component of the university system may be in threatened, and if that happens people (professors ad students) really are going to leave, because that’s not what they signed up for.

Q: What would be the adverse affects of having the H.O.T program eliminated? Why is it unique?

A: What makes the HOT program unique is that it is curriculum-based program that exposes UCI students to the community and lets them try their hand at teaching. This outreach program goes out into the communities at a level that gives grad students and undergrads an opportunity to have hands on experience at the teaching level to motivate and get these kids excited about college. To have program like this go out would adversely affect the state twice: once by damaging student who I’ve seen come out of the program that are excited about teaching and are quality teachers and (second) the lack of there presence not creating a gateway for students to want to come to our school and maybe not even college.

Q: I know you said earlier that you were retiring next year, so I sense that you feel a little removed from the situation at hand. How does this affect you personally? If you feel that is does?

A: You know I have been planning for a retirement for a while and nothing really had influence on that, it just proved good timing. But this whole ordeal has broken my spirits. I am a product of this system and the system I came out of that I help build is changing. Instead of now celebrating my retirement I am not. It’s going to take some optimistic young professors to get this system back up and I don’t think I have those qualities to do that anymore. The problem is that the system is changing and we are not sure what the end product of that is going to be but it is going to be an uphill battle, and I feel like there maybe some more suffering within the system before its all finished. It’s going to be the same UC system its going to be a different.

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