By: Jackie Sosa
It was around 6 in the evening on October 5th 2009 and I was catching Chen Wang between his study lab sessions. We found a table just under one of the humanities’ department trees. Chen was once on staff for SAAS (Student Academic Advancement Services), sadly, because of budget cuts Chen lost his job. I wanted to know more about his reaction to the decision.
Q: Tell me a little bit of what SAAS is all about:
A: SAAS stands for, Student Academic Advancement Services. The program is for low income and first generation students. We provide support, counseling, and a Summer Bridge Program. So yea, we mainly do counseling and our Summer Bridge Program which is a program that has about 60-70 students in it and during the summer we help these students become comfortable with the UC life. How the overall SAAS program works is that SAAS works with financial aid to determine which students are eligible for SAAS assistants. What we do is look at the incoming students’ application and depending on if the students’ parents went to college or how much income the student has, determines if SAAS should step in and help support the student. My job there was computer tech. I was computer support; my title was the Computer Resource Specialist. I helped keep the website up-to-date with the latest information on what was going on with SAAS. I was a computer specialist for employees in the office, so if they needed help with their computer I was the guy they turned to. I also managed kept the student data, so the students who were apart of the program and all their files.
Q: How have the budget cuts affected this program?
A: Well because of the budget cuts out program has been shut down. But many people do not know that. Nothing was announced to the public about our program being shut down. Only employees where sent a general email saying “Because of the 16% budget cuts this office no longer exist and is no longer there”.
Q: Do you think your program should have been one of the lucky ones to have been saved and not cut?
A: Yes, there were, and still are many students that could use the support of SAAS. But our program should have never been affected anyways. It didn’t need to be cut because we are a feudal funded program and we are not a state issue. The school cut our program in order to fund other programs.
Q: Where do you think those funds are going to now?
A: That, I do not know. The dean who cut our program has yet to give direct answers. All they keep telling us is that they are still in the process of helping the programs that were cut. But so far nothing has been done.
Q: How has the program being cancelled affected you personally?
A: Well I’m out of a job (laughs). And they didn’t inform us about this cut until late August, so my whole school schedule was planed out for my job and now I have a big gap and in these times it’s hard to find another job.
Q: Do you know how the elimination of SAAS has affected students that you helped in the program?
A: Yea, since the program has been shut down I have run into a few former SAAS students, who by the way did not know the program was cut and I had to be the one to tell them. But they told me that one of the SAAS counselors started a Facebook page to give support to those students who need help in dealing with the cut of the program.
Q: How long were you working with the program? And do you have any strong emotions now that you have been laid off from your job?
A: 2 years. Well I really did like working there and I do feel angry that they cut the entire program. Sometimes what they do is just keep the program but then cut back on staff and hours. Not in this case.
Q: What was your first reaction when you received that email telling you that you no longer had a job?
A: I was surprised (laughs). I was shocked. At first, a few co-workers and I thought it was a joke or some form of junk mail. But then we called then school and they confirmed with us that it was real and not a mistake. And I got really angry that they cut this department.
Q: How many students are/were a part of the program and how many of them do you think is now struggling because of the program being cut out?
A: There are 3,000 SAAS students and probably about half of the students are really feeling the outcome of the program being shut down.
Q: Now do you have any last comments? Anything thing more you would like to say? A message you would like to get across?
A: I think that SAAS was a good program. The people running it had their hearts in the program, as had I. And cutting it was a huge mistake in terms both in how the administration serves the students and how efficiently and effectively the bureaucracy is run. It doesn’t save them any money and what little money they do earn in the short run is being missed used. The money was meant to help these students who are disadvantaged and now that money is being used somewhere else and I know that is wrong. And while the promises of alterative haven’t been made real this money should not be spent on something else.