Sunday, October 20

Humanities lecturers await departmental decisions after receiving layoff notices last June

Maxwell Henderson

Four upper-division and honors humanities lecturers may be laid off next year as the division copes with budget constraints and moves toward increasing core class offerings.

Notices were originally sent to six lecturers within the departments of English, sociology and women’s studies last June, said Julie Sina, chief of staff for the College of Letters and Science. The notices must be sent to lecturers at least one year in advance but can be revoked depending on the needs of the department.

“Lecturers are most vulnerable in these times,” said Ali Behdad, English professor and chair of the English department.

Citing budgetary restrictions, Behdad said about eight lecturer positions have been cut by his department in the past three years.

Two sociology lecturers will be able to return next year because the notices were revoked. But it is still unclear if the remaining decisions from other departments will be reversed, Sina said.

As a result, the upper-division and honors collegium courses taught by these lecturers will no longer be offered next year.

One of the recipients of a layoff notice is Larry Grobel, who has lectured at UCLA for 10 years. Grobel has taught upper-division classes for the English department along with small-sized honors collegium seminars.

“I have had grandparents call me and tell me their grandchild is going to college now and that they are telling them to go to UCLA so they can study from my classes,” said Grobel. “I said, “˜Don’t send them here if that’s the reason, because I don’t think I will be here next year.’”

He is awaiting final decision from the English department, with hopes that his layoff notice will be rescinded.

While Grobel said there is a high demand for his courses among students, Behdad said the department’s priority is to staff core classes in the English department.

The reality of the ongoing budget crisis does not give the English department the opportunity to offer Grobel’s seminars because they are not part of the core curriculum, Behdad said.

Third-year English student Kelly Rosenfeld has taken three of Grobel’s classes: “Autobiography and Memoir,” “Art of the Interview” and “Articles to Film.”

All of these courses, in addition to Grobel’s “Literature of Journalism” class, will not be offered next year.

Rosenfeld was among several UCLA students and alumni who wrote to administrators voicing concern over the decision.

“We wrote letters because it was upsetting to see that the administration said they didn’t know where these classes would fit,” she said. “(The classes) have a real-world application, and there should be a definite place for them in the curriculum.”

She also said that the “Art of the Interview” course was helpful for students looking into jobs or graduate schools because it gave them hands-on experience interviewing others and being interviewed.

As the humanities division looks to cut classes in response to budgetary woes, life sciences and UCLA writing programs are doing the opposite: hiring new teaching staff.

“Because of the large influx of students we are expecting next year, we cannot afford to lay off lecturers,” said Victoria Sork, dean of life sciences.

She added that though the division will not be hiring new lecturers for next year, they are promoting part-time lecturers to full-time status and will hire more teaching assistants to meet the needs of incoming students.

UCLA Writing Programs also plans to hire about five additional lecturers and increase the positions offered for teaching assistants, said Bruce Beiderwell, director of UCLA Writing Programs.

He also said there is a need for English as a Second Language, developmental writing and composition teachers.

None of these are discipline-specific, he said.

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