May 11, 2011
To: Students in the Creative Writing Department, and all UC Students, Their Families and Faculty
From: Professor Susan Straight
I’ve never written a letter to all the students in our department, or to families and faculty, but this is a critical time for us. In my 23 years of teaching at UCRiverside, I have never felt our educational future so threatened.
The cuts in our state budget will deeply affect classes not only in the Creative Writing Department, but in all departments and on all campuses, this fall. The cuts will affect your education (and my ability to teach you in the way that I know is best) and cannot be accepted.
As a state, California is funding developers, financial institutions, private and public corporations, but it is forcing deep cuts onto the premier public university system in the United States. Money is being taken away from the young people and graduate students of all ages who will keep California alive in the coming years. You, the UC students, along with your fellow students in the Cal State University system and the California Community College system, will be the scientists and researchers who invent and test new technologies for everything from computers to crops; you will become the teachers who pass on knowledge necessary for survival; you will become the doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists who will navigate complicated health care futures; and you will become the businesspeople, artists, and yes, the writers the state needs.
In contrast to recent news stories about corruption in government at many levels, what we do here on our ten campuses has been extremely positive for this state. We are truly the future of this large economy. My former students teach people all over the world; they work for magazines and publishers, write books, and work as doctors, lawyers, dentists, ad writers, geologists, entomologists, and research scientists.
But this budget will strip us of faculty, lecturers, TAs, and staff. This means we cannot offer enough classes this fall to ensure that incoming students will likely graduate in four years. (Many of you are already forced to take a fifth year because UC course offerings have been reduced.) It also means that courses which used to have 15 students, and which currently have 30 students, will have 75 students in the fall. Other courses will have 200 students. (In other departments, courses have up to 800 students and more!)
I will go so far as to call it unethical to enroll freshmen students who will not be able to enroll in classes they will need; I will also call unethical the degradation of your education if you are forced to sit in overcrowded classes and not get the individual attention you need from your professors. I love teaching here. I love my students, as many of you know, and everywhere I speak I tell audiences that my students at UCR are the finest in the nation, that you tell stories and write poems and craft essays no other writers in America can. My fellow faculty will attest that you are better than many undergraduate students at Ivy League and private colleges. I’m not flattering you. I’m being truthful. So I want you to write to your Chancellor Timothy White, and your UC President Mark Yudof, and to your state legislators, and let them know how you feel about these cuts, and your education. I want you to pass this letter on to your parents, grandparents, spouses and families, and have them write letters as well, because they are helping you pay for this education, and you deserve better.
You and your families worked hard for years so you could be here. Write your story, tell us what you did before you got here, what your parents did, and what you plan to do with your life with your degree – whatever your major, whatever your career, whether you’ve just arrived or are in graduate school or are working. If you’re in high school and plan to attend a UC, write about your plans. If you’re graduated, let us know what you do.
Professor Michael Jayme suggested this to me, when I felt despair about this budget, and he is a perfect example of our campus excellence. He was my student, many years ago, and now he dedicates most hours of his week to writing comments on your work. We cannot do that if classes are cut and if others are forced to huge enrollments, and if we lose you because of tuition out of reach for most families.
We want to hear your voices. Don’t be silent. Write to your legislators, post on Facebook, write for newspapers, write your stories.
Professor Susan Straight
UC President Mark Yudof: email@example.com
UCR Chancellor Timothy White: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Bob Dutton: email@example.com
Rep. Brian Nestande: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Jeff Miller: Assemblymember.Miller@assembly.ca.gov
Gov. Jerry Brown: email@example.com
Postscript - Below is a letter sent to faculty by The President of the University of California, Mark Yudof. I agree with him – we need to be sure your voices, and the voices of your families, are heard.
Dear Colleagues, We are at a crucial juncture for the University of California. As you know, the proposed state budget calls for a $500 million cut in university support next year — a cut that will significantly impact our academic and research mission, and our service to the people of California. And there is a real possibility that UC could see an even bigger cut in state funding if California closes the entire $26.6 billion state deficit through budget cuts. An all-cuts budget would be devastating to the university and the students and communities we serve, and put at risk our faculty’s research, a critical driver of future jobs and wealth in California. With so much at stake, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of our recent efforts to advocate for UC. First, we are telling lawmakers and the people of California that higher education cannot and should not bear an additional burden under an all-cuts budget. Education is simply too important to the future of our state to face further disinvestment. You can view a legislative presentation from Patrick Lenz, vice president of budget and capital resources, here.