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

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

“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

“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

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.

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