Students voice their concerns that funding may get cut for Ethnic and Gender Studies programs in the College of Liberal Arts.
In the middle of UT’s plans to cut down expenses, the College of Liberal Arts’ gender and ethinc studies programs may be in jeopardy of losing funds and seeing a reduction in the number of classes and influence on the UT campus.
A variety of students met Tuesday evening in the Multicultural Information Center to discuss potential budget cuts in the College of Liberal Arts for the 2011-2012 school year. These cuts, if put into action, would disproportionately affect departments and centers of ethnic and gender studies throughout the college.
The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, MEChA, organization led the meeting that drew the attention of students representing a variety of majors, colleges and student groups.
“We have a lot more questions than we have answers,” Diana Gomez, student member of MEChA said. “We wanted to have representation from as many departments and as many areas of campus to hear everyone's opinion so that we could all share and all reach a decision together.”
Talk of potential budget cuts began after an email from the dean of the College of Liberal Arts was leaked to the public through email. The document lists all the departments and centers for ethnic and gender studies within the College of Liberal Arts, and shows a proposal from the Academic Planning and Advisory Committee for their 2011-2012 budget cuts. Though the information in the chart has not been confirmed, it shows significant budget cuts for all the departments except for the Center for European Studies, which would allegedly see an increase.
“We see this as an attack on the ethnic studies and other working-class people’s programs,” Rachael Die, Latin American Studies grad student, said. “It demonstrates a lack of democratic control in the University.”
Die stressed the importance of ethnic studies and their influence on our generation’s culture and history.
“They are about reclaiming out histories in our own words. They are about rejecting standardized, watered-down histories and understanding [ethnic histories] for ourselves.”
If the information is valid, the proposed cuts would have a variety of consequences for faculty and students. In affected departments, fewer classed would be available to students. Ethnic and gender studies faculty members would be in danger of losing their jobs, and as the student to teacher ratio increased, classes would become larger and less engaging. Also, departments seeing a reduction in funds would have to cut back on hosting events, attending conferences, inviting visiting professors or scholars and conducting research.
Students at the meeting, the majority of whom were strongly against the budget cuts, proposed two avenues of approaching the issue: working with student government to talk to the administration and protesting visibly on campus.
Two student government representatives at the meeting introduced the idea of forming a College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee to tackle this issue and similar ones in the future. They passed out applications for the committee and encouraged students to get involved.
The other proposed solution called for student awareness of the potential cuts through visible events and movements. Several student organizations, like Texas State Employees Union and ¡ella pelea! are hosting pickets and events to push for student involvement.
Students at the meeting encouraged everyone to pursue both routes, hoping to send the administration a message from every angle. They also discussed emailing faculty, suggesting other possible budget cuts in the College of Liberal Arts and encouraging fellow students to enroll in ethnic studies classes to show a visible interest.
The gathered students plan to host another meeting on a larger scale in the near future to rally more students and organize their protest against the proposed budget cuts. The meeting is tentatively planned for Monday, November 20 at 4:00 p.m. in the UTC, and they will spread the word through a variety of organizations and networks on campus.
“We can’t wait until the end of the semester to do something,” Gomez said. “We would like to think of a short-term and a long-term plan about what we want to do, when we want to act, if we want to act, and how we want to go about doing that.”