Departments within UCSB’s Humanities and Fine Arts division recently merged to form multi-disciplinary administrative centers.
Staff from various sectors in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, South Hall and Phelps Hall consolidated into a central area in each of the three buildings. The change has not affected faculty offices, but several staff facilities have been forced to relocate. Even though some staff members are struggling to adjust, Philosophy Dept. Chair Matthew Hanser said the merger was a superior alternative to staff layoffs.
“We’re still working out the kinks out of the system, but it seems to be working so far,” Hanser said. “As far as layoffs, our department hasn’t seen any. We were lucky in that many of our former staff recently retired and it made the consolidation a lot easier since their jobs were just given to current support staff.”
Undergraduate History Program Adviser Mike Tucker said the merger was inevitable considering the university’s current financial predicament.
“I’m sad about the loss of office culture,” Tucker said. “Before we were in with the faculty and now they kind of have to fend for themselves. It’s definitely a learning process, but most students won’t notice too much of a difference besides having a different adviser for certain departments.”
South Hall’s English as a second language, English, linguistics, philosophy and writing departments merged their support staff into the Humanities South Administrative Support Center, which consists of two rooms for academic and student services. Department advisers have their own offices.
While the East Asian studies, history, classics and religious studies departments each previously had their own staff offices, the departments’ employees now work in one common area in HSSB.
Although the adjustment is manageable, History Dept. Chair John Majewski said the moves could have been avoided with better financial foresight.
“We’re working hard to minimize any problems,” Majewski said. “It’s sad that the budget problems have forced this, but when there is a series of bad choices, this is what happens.”
Fortunately, English Dept. Financial & Budget Coordinator Raphaella Nau said the merger has reaped some unexpected benefits.
Nau said the HSASC now provides a atmosphere more conducive to collaboration with other departments.
“This merger was really the best way to save money at this point,” Nau said. “Everyone being together here makes it easier for us and for the students because they only have one place to come for assistance.”
According to Tucker, the consolidation has allowed staff to prioritize advising over the clerical work they were responsible for before the move.
“Before the merger, advisers had to be our own receptionists, answering phones and directing students to the proper office when they came with questions we couldn’t answer,” Tucker said. “Now we get to focus more on advising and that is definitely a benefit for the students.”