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Tight budget brings layoffs to political science lecturers

By Shane Nelson

Jan. 15, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Students equally affected as some classes may no longer
be offered

Being an excellent employee isn’t enough to secure a job
these days amid shrinking state coffers and budget shortfalls.

The political science department issued pink slips last quarter
to its three lecturers. Set to leave in June, they will be taking
some of the courses they teach with them, said department chairman
Mike Lofchie. Additional office staff layoffs are possible in the
near future, he added.

Just like other departments, who are receiving less state
funding this academic year, the department must share the
university’s burden by decreasing its $95,000 operating
budget to $44,000 ““ a 54 percent cut.

The layoffs are to reduce internal costs as much as possible to
accommodate the shortfall this year, but also to prepare for
additional cuts anticipated later this year and next, Lofchie
said.

Thus far, the political science department reduced its budget by
the required amount in its supplies, telephone and mail accounts,
Lofchie said. But those will probably go in the red, he added,
because they have already been spending money based on previous
amounts for six months. When that happens, the department will have
to “scramble to find other funds,” reducing its
spending in other College of Letters & Science-funded accounts,
including those for staff’s and lecturers’
salaries.

Though laying off the three lecturers mitigates shrinking budget
constraints, the decision has dire consequences for students
interested in taking some upper division courses in the next few
years.

Unless the department can enlist some of its full-time faculty
to teach the courses currently taught by lecturers Rob Hennig,
Jalil Roshandel and Daniel Garst, the classes ““ involving
jurisprudence, civil liberties and the Supreme Court ““ are
unlikely to be listed in the schedule of classes for a while.

Due to a stipulation in the lecturers’ union contract, the
department can’t hire any temporary lecturers to teach the
classes ““ it could be interpreted as a way to circumvent
the lecturer’s contract, said University Council of the
American Federation of Teachers Executive Director Sean Brooke.

“A budget crisis is a budget crisis. Everybody is hurting:
students who can’t get classes they want, lecturers who are
excellent,” Lofchie said.

For Hennig, the only public law scholar in the department, the
layoff comes at a particularly inopportune time. June marks the end
of his sixth year at UCLA, the line in the sand where the
university must offer the temporary staffer a more secure
three-year contract, provided his “eye of the needle
review” is deemed excellent, and there is a continued need
for his specialty.

Though hundreds of students continue to fill his public law
courses to capacity each quarter, Hennig will never know the
results of his six-year evaluation.

He isn’t going to get one, Lofchie said, adding that the
current budget situation precludes the need for a review,
regardless of the results.

Hennig, who is planning to transition from a career in academia
to a new one in the private sector practicing law, said he’s
disappointed with the outcome.

It’s “odd (the department) has made all these hires,
but none of them are in public law,” he said, speaking of the
12 recently-hired tenure-track professors during the last few
years.

But faculty hires don’t financially impact the department
directly, Lofchie said. While lecturer’s salaries come out of
one of the department’s “flexible” accounts,
faculty salaries come out of a separate account not affected by
state cuts.

The department’s “flexible money” has to be
used where it’s needed most, said Lofchie, who added it
wanted to maintain its current number of teaching assistants
““ five more than the College allocated them.

Lecturers are not the only people concerned about the future of
their careers at UCLA.

Nancy Huynh, a part-time graduate student affairs officer
responsible for a number of duties in what Lofchie called the
“busiest office in the department,” said Lofchie told
her in a December 2002 meeting that though he wanted to keep her,
it was unlikely the department would be able to after February.

“When I was sitting in the meeting, I was sort of in shock
“¦ there is a proven need for our positions. It doesn’t
make sense why they can’t keep us on. The reality is I am not
making that much money. I am at the lower end of my pay scale and
work part-time ““ it won’t make that much of a dent in
the budget,” Huynh said.

Huynh said she and her full-time counterpart, Glenda Jones
““ who together make up the graduate student advising and
support staff ““ have been working nights and weekends the
last few months to keep up with all the work involved in processing
graduate student applications that were due Dec. 15, 2002.

Opening and organizing thousands of pieces of mail associated
with the 410 graduate student applications this year ““ an
80-person jump over last year’s numbers ““ by a Jan. 6
deadline is demanding, Huynh said.

“They said they would have (student) help for us, but
because the students have their own job descriptions, they
weren’t able to help as much as promised “¦ everything
was self-contained,” Huynh said.

“I feel terrible, this is devastating,” Jones said
when asked how she felt about Huynh’s possible layoff.

Based on past experience last month, Jones and Huynh are
doubtful the extra student help promised to alleviate some of
Jones’ burden after Huynh leaves will be enough.

Nothing about Huynh’s possible layoff has anything to do
with her contribution to the department, Lofchie said, adding that
“she’s terrific.”

The department’s Executive Committee plans to meet Friday
to discuss alternatives to further staff layoffs, Lofchie said.

He added, “we are in a dreadfully difficult time “¦ I
don’t think anyone is getting their first choice right
now.”

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