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Long-form investigative articles covering people, events and issues that affect the student body. If you have an idea for us to cover, contact us at [email protected]

O.A.S.I.S. Survives Funding Drought

O.A.S.I.S., which tutors students in subjects such as math, science and English as a second language, had its funding cut by $46,000 in 2006. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian)

Despite a drastically reduced budget, the Office of Academic
Support and Instructional Services survived threats of closure last year,
continuing to deliver a number of academic support services such as the Summer
Bridge Program for freshmen, English as a second language workshops and the
highly popular math and science tutoring program to the student body.

Due to budget cuts to the Student Affairs Office ordered by
former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson, O.A.S.I.S. faced a
$146,000 loss in funding in 2004-05, as well as a permanent reduction of
$46,000 the following year. However, research by a task force on the
Coordination of Undergraduate Academic Support Services, charged with
investigating academic student support services such as O.A.S.I.S., indicated a
clear sentiment from academic departments and colleges that O.A.S.I.S. programs
were vital to student success.

Thereafter, further cuts to O.A.S.I.S. were no longer
discussed.

So far, O.A.S.I.S. has managed to operate smoothly, relative
to its new budget parameters. According to Rabia Paracha, former A.S. vice
president of academic affairs and undergraduate representative to UGASS, the
math and science tutoring program has been so popular that it has had to turn
students away.

However, O.A.S.I.S. is restricted to being a basic tutoring
program that cannot fully respond to the needs of a growing student body,
Paracha said. For example, O.A.S.I.S. offers writing tutorials for students in
ESL or Subject A, but does not have the resources to implement a more
comprehensive program to serve native English speakers who need help in college
writing courses.

Patrick Velasquez, director of O.A.S.I.S., said that academic
support should be based on a culture of excellence, and that it would be
disastrous for O.A.S.I.S. to become a program relegated to remedial help only.

The budget downsizing has also affected resource options for
upper division math, chemistry and services for transfer students.

However, Velasquez said O.A.S.I.S. has suffered the most
from students’ perceptions that its services had been impaired by the budget
cuts more than they actually were.

The image of O.A.S.I.S. as an abandoned and underfunded program
seriously hurt its ability to recruit tutors when in reality, most of
O.A.S.I.S.’ previous services are still being offered, with the exception of
the study skills program, Velasquez said.

Paracha said that possible solutions to alleviate the effects
of the cutbacks are still being evaluated. Specifically, there have been
suggestions to move O.A.S.I.S., currently a program under the Student Affairs
Office, to the division of Academic Affairs, where there appears to be a
greater willingness to put more time and resources into the program.

In addition, regular meetings with the vice chairs for
undergraduate affairs and O.A.S.I.S. staff
are necessary in order to keep the administration informed of academic
support services, she said. The administration can in turn coordinate
communication between O.A.S.I.S., academic departments and colleges to ensure
that overlaps in services between these three branches can be integrated to
reduce overall costs.

There has been considerable debate on whether UCSD should
gear academic support services toward incoming freshmen who require additional
assistance and encouragement in their first year, or spread services throughout
the rest of the student body to promote a higher academic bar. In a discussion
with Paracha, Watson was very adamant about structuring O.A.S.I.S. to fit the
needs of underclassmen — not senior students.

However, Watson dealt a crippling blow to the office’s
Community for Learning and Academic Success program, which provides counseling,
networking and tutoring workshops to freshmen, when he cut $100,000 two years
ago.

“The temporary funds to run CLAS were eliminated because
former Vice Chancellor Watson lost interest in serving a broad degree of new
freshmen who would benefit from services that facilitate their transition to
UCSD,” Velasquez said in an e-mail.

Paracha, on the other hand, said that academic support
should be spread out evenly among all UCSD students.

“As students, some days are good and others are bad and
there is no telling whether our bad days will come earlier on in our education
or whether we will encounter obstacles later on in our years at UCSD,” Paracha said. “For this reason, all academic
support services should be geared toward all students.”

John Muir College sophomore Jeremy Lee, who uses O.A.S.I.S.
as a study tool for his chemistry courses, said that the office is a valuable
resource for students enrolled in historically difficult math and science
classes.

“It kind of cements some of the things you hear in lecture,
and it goes a little bit faster than lecture, too, so you don’t get lost,” he
said.

However, Lee said that long wait lists are problematic for
the large number of students who need help in particular courses, but that
offsetting the cuts in funding would likely allevite that problem.

“More funding could maybe allow them to hire more people and
get people off the huge wait lists,” he said.

An Officer for the Students

The new police chief David Rose discusses his experiences with law enforcement as a student at UCSD and his plans for improving campus safety.  Newly appointed UCSD Police Chief David Rose has something on his...

The Man Behind the Books

Brian Schottlaender discusses his role as the University Librarian and changes he hopes to bring about in the campus library system.   Winner of the Melvil Dewey Medal in 2010, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian Brian...

Changing Gears

Too little time, too little money. Problems many college students have become all too familiar with. After class, studying, internships and a variety of other facets that are part of the juggling feat of...

The Editor's Soapbox: Don't be so impressed by my Rubik's Cube

I recently learned from a friend while on a trip to Washington, D.C. exactly how to solve a Rubik's Cube, regardless of state. It takes the understanding of a few simple concepts, in two dimensions, of how pieces move around the cube, and memorizing a fairly intuitive sequence of about 32.

The ridiculous thing is that I don't understand the cube whatsoever. If someone were to hand me a cube, and ask me to place it in some arbitrary configuration, the only result I could produce would be the canonical one. What this illustrates is the fact that what I've basically done is memorize the solution of someone who actually comprehends the problem at hand, and conceptualized it to the point where someone like me only has to think in two dimensions instead of four.

I've learned the solution for all outward appearences, but in reality, I understand very little of how the inner workings of the thing actually work. Even worse, I've created no solutions -- there's no thought involved anymore when I solve the thing. It's all recitation.

The Rubik's Cube is a great analogy, then, for my academics at this university thus far (and probably for a long time to come).

Taking computer science and physics courses means a lot of solving Rubik's Cubes: We learn neat little equations or programming techniques that represent the natural world in our math and engineering classes, see examples of how they work, follow them and get passing grades in our classes. It's one big game of ""monkey see, monkey do."" While some physics problem can look huge and ugly, rare is the problem that has a non-intiutive answer that is at once simple, elegant and creative.

Most of the time, due to the realities of the way students must learn the material, we are forced through canonical methods over and over again, much like my practice with the Rubik's Cube (I can do it under 4 minutes now, by the way). And this is fine and perfectly good -- when we engineers graduate and go out into the ""real world,"" engineering majors (and doctors, for you biology majors out there) get paid ridiculous amounts of money to follow canonical solutions (though they may differ greatly in context) to a tee.

What I cannot stand, however, is when an engineering or biology or economics major will mistake the higher starting salary of their discipline's graduates for increased levels of presitge and intelligence. I'm tired of hearing theater, English and political science majors ooh in amazement and say, ""wow, that's a hard major"" when I say what I do at this university, because our society (and for that matter our own university) equivocates wealth in profession with true objective worth.

The truth is, as much as snide engineering or science majors will tell you otherwise, what we do is no more difficult than the hours an English or political science major must invest in a paper, or a theater major must invest in a production.

I personally hold the arts, humanities and social sciences as a whole in much higher esteem than the recitated science at the undergraduate level (more on higher academics later). Why? It's because these majors are forced to produce creative, nonintuitive output on a continual basis for excellence.

In a lower-division mathematics course, if you can recite something at 70 percent accuracy you'll be near the top of your class. I find this absurd. The only reason people perceive ""the sciences"" as any more difficult in our modern society is that there are a great many people whose talents do not fall within the realms of the engineering or biology major. These people have chosen these majors for socioeconomic reasons of ""prestige"" and money.

My engineering classes are chock full of people who barely grasp and recite the material. Motivations and intents are very difficult to get a grasp on: Ask any aspiring doctor if it's the money and prestige motivating him and you're likely to get some answer about a great concern for the well-being of others -- but what if we paid our doctors $30,000 per year and our teachers $120,000?

The truth is that no matter how much people profess what their actual intents are, socioeconomic concerns will motivate a drive for a choice of profession and major (though I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that; it's how economics works intrinsically). I'm willing to bet that if computer science turns into an unromantic prospect (say, an average graduate garners $24,000), that the glut of people in my math, CSE and ECE courses who barely recite material and then go off to complain to their English and political science friends about the complexity of the material at hand would disappear.

The saddest thing about this, however, is not that we devalue perfectly valid and, in truth, beautiful subjects such as rhetoric and history. No, the sad thing is that in pursuit of greed, people complain and recite the material, but they never understand it, much less realize that it is as beautiful in its complexity as poetry or any classical work.

Now, don't get me wrong about sciences and engineering: I have a great amount of respect for my professors and those graduate and undergraduate students in my major who are driven to constantly take what they learn, turn it over in their heads and unravel the puzzles that make up the intrinsic laws of nature and man-made puzzles like digital logic. At its core, the laws of relativity are as incomprehensibly beautiful as the poems of W. B. Yeats. It's annoying and sad to watch many people wonder whether they can get through this material in four years so they can start going out to pursue careers and make money -- and deride their peers around them whose talents and interests fall in areas less rewarded by our society's economic structure.

I wish my friends and peers who chose majors of creative output and analysis derided as ""one-way tracks to teaching careers"" would hold their heads high because lowly engineering majors struggle to comprehend the beauty in the material they've chosen for socioeconomic reasons. I wish the engineering majors around me would stop worrying about their grades, try to stand in awe of the genius that created the equations they must use to solve their problems and try as best they can to understand their derivations themselves. Then again, I also wish I actually understood how a Rubik's Cube works.

iRide to UCSD

A Potpourri of Fire News

The Air Pollution Control District has issued a
Precautionary Smoke Advisory for the San Diego
Air Basin,
which encompasses San Diego
County
.

Small microscopic ash can enter the lungs through breathing
in unhealthy air conditions. If you are
in an area with visible smoke, or if you see ash falling or feel uncomfortable,
then avoid outdoor exercise and activity.
Persons with respiratory or heart disease should reduce activity even
further and remain indoors if possible.

A “Wildfire Smoke and Your Health” fact sheet is available
at www.sdapcd.org.


San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis today
provided important consumer advice and assistance to residents dealing with the
county’s on-going wildfires. The DA’s Office offered information on everything
from insurance adjusters to charity scams, trying to keep residents of San Diego County from being re-victimized.

“Unfortunately, some individuals use this time of crisis to
take advantage of others,” said DA Dumanis. “We want people to know the
consumer rights and legal protections that are in place as they begin to
rebuild their lives.”

The District Attorney’s Office is warning residents to be aware
of ... read more.


10-24-07 7:30 p.m. CAL FIRE provided the following updates
on fires.

Harris Fire

75,000 acres

10% contained

Full containment expected on the 28th and full control on
Nov. 4th.

1,341 firefighters assigned and 7 injuries to firefighters.

Cost to date to fight the fires is $3,400,000.

155 homes destroyed

250 homes damaged

2 commercial properties and 17 outbuildings destroyed.

The returning onshore flow has moved the fire to the northeast
threatening structures along Highway 94 from Jamul to the east, Lyons Valley
to the north. The regional communications equipment on Lyons Peak
was damaged by fire, cutting off power and destroying the back-up generator.
Crews installed a portable repeater to support fire communications. The fire
progressed north in the Barrett
Lake
area, consuming old,
heavy fuels.

Witch Fire

196,240 acres

20% contained

No estimated containment or control, but little fire spread.

2,331 firefighters assigned to this fire

Cost to date to fight the fires is $5 million

Fire progression has slowed to the west, southwest, and
northwest due to improvement in weather and resources assigned to the fire.
Conditions in these areas have improved to the point of evaluating the return
of some residents. Winds in the fire area are still variable with coastal
influence returning to valleys. Warm, dry and unstable conditions still exist
at the higher elevations and the eastern areas of the fire. The Poomacha Fire
continues to burn close to the north flank of the Witch Incident, they have NOT
joined.

Rice Fire

9,000 acres

20% contained

Full containment expected on the 28th, with full control
expected November 5th

1,095 firefighters assigned

Cost to date to fight the fires is $1,283,133

Poomacha Fire

35,000 acres

10 percent contained

719 firefighters assigned.

12 injuries to firefighters.

Expansion of incident in a north easterly direction due to
wind shifts. Fire increased in size due to extreme fire behavior, lack of
resources and wind shifts. Perimeter control has been initiated and structure
protection is still in place. Evacuation centers continue to be staffed and
occupied.

Cost to date to fight the fires is $750,000.

A Clever Cube of Conservation

Two UCSD students share the story of how they created the EcoQube, an artistic desktop aquarium that uses plants to purify and recycle water UCSD junior Eric Suen and senior Kevin Liang call their creation...

Kickstarting a Noiseless Revolution

UCSD alumnus discusses the lessons of founding a successful start-up technology company. Ear plugs, while not obviously an important technology, are actually crucial to the college experience. Think of all those times you needed to...

The Many Faces of Eating Disorders

A look at the harmful eating habits of college students.