One of the intangibles that the current budget cuts threaten to destroy is the sense of community and common mission that has helped to make UCSB a great center of teaching and research. In the History Dept. this loss will be felt most deeply among graduate students and staff.
By next fall, our graduate program will have shrunk to the point that we’ll have trouble filling our seminars. What we stand to lose is not just the opportunity to train the next generation of history professors, but also an unusually collaborative approach to graduate education, one that has helped our department attract some of the best graduate students in the country. Graduate seminars in UCSB’s History Dept. emphasize not only what professors can pass on to their students but also what the students can teach each other. As the number of students decline, that approach, and the graduate community it has fostered, is at risk of disappearing.
Along similar lines, a radical cost-cutting reorganization of our division has the potential to destroy essential ties of trust, friendship and community within our departments. Next July, all of the staff of the Humanities and Fine Arts Division will be “clustered” not by department, but by areas of specialization (graduate program advisors, undergraduate advisors, financial administrators, etc.). None of us quite knows how these changes will play out, but there is no question that relationships between faculty and staff and between students and staff will change significantly. Some staff members have already chosen early retirement in order to avoid this monumental reconfiguration; others live in dread that they will be laid off. Because of these planned changes, the atmosphere in the halls of HSSB is heavy with anxiety and a sense of impending loss.