Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Who's Guaranteed a Job?"

By Anjelica Zalin

Micah Martin is a teaching assistant in the Spanish department who along with another teaching assistant. Along with another teaching assistant, he is in charge of Spanish 2AB. He is employed at Fullerton College as well, which also suffered from budget cuts. He is married with two children and offers a fresh perspective on the budget crisis within the UC system.

Q: How closely have you been following the UC budget crisis in the news?

A: I’m aware of it and obviously its affected me here as a teaching assistant on Campus. I’d like to know more, but I would say fairly well.

Q: Given this current situation, how has your (Spanish) department been affected?

A: It’s been affected in primarily what I’ve witnessed, in the reduction in the teaching positions for graduate students.

Q: Has the department made any changes to adapt to the crisis?

A: Along with a reduction in teaching positions there has been a reduction in admissions so there are fewer grad students coming into the program, then there are fewer graduating and getting jobs. It limits the ability of the department to perform its function in educating future professors. Also it is limiting the number of guest lectures that we have. We have been able to get some excellent guest lecturers in the past. I don’t think we’re getting one this year. Obviously with more money we are able to attract more top professors from different universities to come to ours and teach classes. Grad students always benefit from that—getting a more diverse perspective—intellectual diversity. Also, I think we’ve had to cut back on Emeritus professors. That’s to say when a professor retires, sometimes the department can keep the professor around to teach a class, to guide and direct students and dissertations. With the budget crisis, I think the department has had to sever ties with professors that have retired, which is difficult for grad students because a lot of them are working with those professors and if they’re not around to work with, then they have to discontinue their work, change it, or work with others.

Q: How has this personally affected you?

A: On a personal level, I have not been affected by the budget crisis. When I say that, I say I haven’t been affected yet. At UCI I still have a teaching assistant position. As far as I know I’ll have one for the rest of this year. It’s introduced a little bit of uncertainty. I’m not sure if I’ll have the position the following year, which introduces a little bit of stress thinking about providing for my family. On the other hand I have also taught at Fullerton College which is also affected by the budget crisis. Through a stroke of luck, I’m actually teaching more this semester then I was last semester. I have to teach fewer days but, I teach more unit hours and so I’m getting paid more. So other professors at the community level have seen their load cut, but I’ve been given more. It’s been crazy, I don’t know how that happened, but I’m benefitting. I’m actually better off than I was before this budget crisis started to hit.

Q: Aside from the Spanish dept., is there a particular department, team, or program that has suffered from the situation that concerns you?

A: The only thing that I would say and am familiar with, are the custodial services have been affected. It seems so trivial that it’s funny even mentioning it, but we don’t have someone to come and take our trash out of our graduate offices. It seems to me if that’s something that we have to do in response to the budget crisis, than that it is a small price to pay. The graduate students now how to sign up to take out the trash and we take it from the third floor, out to the second floor and we put it in the dumpster. That’s all, that’s the only thing. Its tough for them because I know they’re having their hours cut, it’s a step that I think we have to do in hard times. It’s the equivalent of me not being able to eat out as much with my family and having to eat at home. Yes I would rather eat out, you know, but it doesn’t bother me in that it’s a practical and logical response to tough times.

Q: Does this crisis make you worry for your children’s pursuit of higher education and do you think it will be resolved by then?

A: They are young, but this current budget crisis does not, I think affect them. There’s always a concern of the future, but no. They’re one and two years old so 18 and 16 years out, there’s always the concern, what’s the financial situation going to be like.

Q: Did you receive a letter regarding furloughs on July 16, 2009 from Mark Yudoff? If so what were your reactions to it?

A: I don’t know if I received it, it was probably an email, I think I might have erased it. I, as I said before, am fairly practical when it comes to budget matters and I think that furloughs are something that administration has to take in order to deal with the budget crisis. I am not against furloughs just for the sake of being against them. I think that the private sector has no protection against furloughs and I don’t think that the public sector should have protection against getting fired in tough times.

Q: So it’s an unnecessary protection?

A: Who’s guaranteed a job? I don’t why we assume in education that you’re guaranteed a job. I see furloughs and any budget cuts, I’m not taking into account illegalities or hidden money, or whatever people are saying, but if budgetary cuts, are cuts on their face to deal with hard times, then that’s what we have to do.

Q: What were opinions of the “walkout” and did you attend it?

A: I did not attend. It might be that I’m not entirely informed on the issue but, it seems to me that people are upset that employees are being threatened with furloughs. I don’t agree with that. I think that when the times are tough we have to do things that are financially the right decision, but also socially may not be the right decision. It’s tough to lay someone off. It’s tough for the person and the person’s family. I’ll be affected. I probably won’t have a job next year “TA-ing” I’ll have to make do. I’ll have to work harder and I’ll have to be more ingenious in order to overcome that and I think its something that we have to do.

Martin then goes on to tell a brief story. He explains how during the walkout he went to a student vendor, during the rally for the walkout to purchase hummus, dressed in a suit. The student said asked if he was a teacher based on his outfit. When he responded yes, the student was shocked as to why he was not participating at the walkout and promptly made the assumption he was an economics professor. He then stated this to me.

I didn’t support it on purpose, because what are you supposed to do?

Q: Have your students been affected?

A: The only students I’ve seen affected are at Fullerton College where we usually cap enrollment at 30, and I’ve got a class of 38. So they’re packed in there and in a language class, it’s very difficult because people don’t get time with their professor like they would in a class of 20. People are scrambling like crazy for classes.

Q: Finally, do you see this budget crisis being resolved in the near future? Why?

A: It’s a natural cycle. A natural business cycle and I think that things will swing up. I’m not a huge supporter of government intervention in economics. People learn that they need to save when times are tough and a result of saving they go and spend more, so I think the economy will swing up. We’re going to have to cut programs and people and grad student admissions will go down. I think it’s probably going to be a couple more years.

No comments:

Post a Comment