Crowding strains faculty
September 12, 2008 11:14 PM
The disparity between the increasing number of students and the decreasing number of faculty at SF State is straining academic departments across campus, university faculty said.
Sheldon Axler, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, was forced to reduce the number of lecturers in his college due to budget cuts.
“This semester we have 3.8 percent less faculty than we did the previous semester,” Axler said. “While that is not a significant number, we are accommodating too many students with an insufficient number of staff.”
In some instances, overcrowding has forced students to sit on the floor or to stand, prompting the university to change the classrooms of certain courses to accommodate larger class sizes, said Joel Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
“One of the things that the BSS has done is switch smaller classes to larger classrooms so we can expand the maximum enrollment of classes and utilize all the possible desks in the room,” Kassiola said.
While there have been no major instances of SF State tenured professors being fired, many lecturers, some of whom normally teach on a semester-to-semester basis, have felt effects of the state budget cuts, said James Martel, chair of the political science department.
“There have been several instances of lecturers not being asked to return, but tenured professors have a good amount of security with their jobs,” Martel said.
Apart from larger class sizes, Martel said many tenured professors have to fill the shoes of part-time faculty members.
“A lot of tenured professors are having to teach classes that lecturers normally teach,” Martel said. “Everyone is starting to get overworked.”
“Regardless of a budget crisis, many lecturers at SF State have multiple jobs at different universities and it’s not uncommon for them to switch from one school to another,” Martel said. “Many of the lecturers that have left could presumably return next semester.”
Despite budget cuts facing California public universities, over the past six years there has not been a significant reduction of professors or lecturers at CSU schools, according to a CSU-led profile of university employees.
However, the rise in student population has outpaced current staff, stretching university faculty and resources thin, said Beverly Voloshin, chair of the English department.
“Many around campus think there are ‘fabled myths’ of professors getting laid off,” Voloshin said. “We honestly haven’t lost a lot of faculty – although that doesn’t mean that we aren’t being affected by the budget cuts.”
Because of the inconsistent availability of lecturers and the short supply of tenured professors, the English department is having a difficult time dealing with the heavy load of students, Voloshin said.
“While the English department hasn’t lost any professors due to budget cuts, we have lost classes – and that means that current classes are a lot (more full),” Voloshin said.
“Fewer [faculty] are doing more work with less resources.” Voloshin said. “After years of this, it puts a strain on a lot of people.”
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