The Division of Humanities and Fine Arts will be clustering its departmental support staff by July 1 in hopes of easing the pressure of this year’s $800,000 permanent budget cut.

Administrators say they expect relatively few layoffs during the reorganization of the division, which includes over 20 departments such as English, History and Music. In the new system, support staff will be reconfigured into building-based clusters in HSSB, South Hall, Phelps Hall and the Arts building. According to Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts David Marshall, saving the instructional budget from more harm drove the decision to cluster the humanities’ staff.

“Faced with a new cut of at least $800,000, a strong consensus emerged that as much as possible we should avoid further reductions in our instructional budget.” Marshall said in an e-mail. “Diminishing departmental support budgets and relatively small numbers of staff in most of our departments made it very difficult to contemplate further reductions in staff in any individual department, large or small. The best alternative was to reconfigure staff support into building-based clusters.”

Marshall said the division’s permanent budget has been reduced by $1,342,301 since 2006. In total, 85 percent of those cuts — $1,072,076 — came from the division’s instructional funds, which pays for lecturers and graduate student instructors. The remaining 15 percent — $270,225 — was pulled from staff and support funds.

Marshall — noting that this is not a merger of departments — said students will still have access to major-specific academic support.

“Majors and graduate programs, in particular, will have specific academic advisors, just as they do now,” Marshall said. “I do not expect that students will see significant changes. They might go to different offices, but they still will interact with advisors and staff in the same manner.”

Marshall added that while this is a new staffing model for UCSB, other universities have comparable systems. He said administrators decided to institute the reconfiguration of the HFA staff after months of research and preparation.

“Our plans from the outset have been designed with … the aim of minimizing layoffs through attrition and retirements,” Marshall said. “We left unfilled some positions vacated by the early retirement program in the fall in order to reduce the number of positions that would have to be eliminated.”

The new bureaucratic setup calls for each building-based unit, or Administrative Support Center, to maintain an administrative support center director, who will work with an academic services manager and a student services manager, in addition to other auxiliary positions. Academic Services staff will incorporate academic personnel, financial services, departmental administrative support and academic clerical support. Student Services staff will include academic advisors for undergraduate and graduate students.

An HFA staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the upcoming reconfiguration is an ill-considered move.

“This is something so totally new, who knows if it will work or not,” the staff member said. “I don’t think it was necessary, they could have cut the budget somewhere else.”

Marshall, however, said administrators think the new model is the best plan for the division.

“We concluded that [clustering] … would allow us to reduce staff FTE [full-time equivalencies] and support budgets while providing a more equitable division of resources, greater efficiency and a higher level of service through more specialized expertise,” he said. “After several months of study, discussion and consultation, we are moving ahead with this plan.”