Following a 6-week Academic Worker Strike, the University of California Threatens Major Enrollment Cuts to Doctorate Programs

Following a 6-week Academic Worker Strike, the University of California Threatens Major Enrollment Cuts to Doctorate Programs
Image by Nicholas Regli for The UCSD Guardian

The United Auto Workers 2865 disclosed on Jan. 26 that the University of California will reportedly advise academic departments to reduce enrollment for doctorate programs by up to 33% for the 2023-2024 academic year. UAW 2865 also reported that academic departments are allegedly planning to eliminate TA discussion sections, increase the number of students enrolled in discussion sections, and reduce the size of research groups. 

UAW 2865 revealed this information through a letter addressed to UC President Michael Drake. According to UAW 2865 President Rafael Jaime, the union first heard about these plans from several different departments such as the physics departments at UCLA and UC San Diego. 

“We sent out a survey to ask about similar issues on our own campuses,” Jaime explained in a phone call with The UCSD Guardian. “After one survey, 89 departments across the state told us about plans to cut enrollment and plans to reduce TA-ships available by 30%.”

The decision comes after 48,000 UC academic workers went on strike for six weeks in Fall Quarter, and it was made to help pay for the raises listed in the new contracts academic workers arranged with the University of California. Jaime explained that the impact this decision could have on UC schools extends beyond TAs. With fewer TAs, this could result in more students per section or fewer TA sections, which may diminish the quality of education. 

“Instead of funding things that will support the students, the UC is reducing TA sections, cutting enrollment, and reducing TA-ships,” Jaime said. “Those are not ways of funding us.” 

When asked about the motivation of the UC, Jaime said that this is an attempt to intimidate workers.

“They’re blatantly trying to disrespect the contract,” Jaime said. “This goes against the agreement with the union and the compact the UC holds with the Governor of California.”

According to Jaime, UAW 2865 plans to take action in late February. Although there is nothing definite yet, Jaime assured that the union would continue to push the University of California to respect the contract. Until then, Jaime asked that undergraduate students and professors do their part in speaking up. 

“The most important thing students can do is speak up and push their message through student government,” Jaime explained. 

A Powerpoint supposedly shared with UCSD physics faculty details a plan to reduce TA positions within the UCSD physics department as well as graduate student researcher  positions. A slide titled, “Likely reduction in GSR & TA support” states that a 26% increase in salary could lead to reducing GSR positions from 91 to 72, and a 55% increase in salary could lead to 72 TA positions being reduced to 46 positions. The presentation also suggests that the reason for this reduction in support and offered positions is due to limited federal grant support. 

In another slide titled, “Silver lining(s),” the presentation notes that this reduction would have several positive effects. This includes but is not limited to helping the UC schools become more competitive against other doctorate  programs and that it “sets higher performance expectations for GSR’s and TA’s.” The slide concludes that this will also make a “smaller, but higher-quality, elite Ph.D. program.” 

Notably, the supposed decision comes after the University of California signed a compact with the Governor of California Gavin Newsom to increase graduate enrollment by 2,500 in the next four years. Adopted in May 2022, the agreement states that every November from 2022-2023 to the 2026-2027 fiscal and academic years, the University of California will submit a report to the Newsom administration and California Legislature. 

“Each annual report will include summary updates on strategic collaborations with intersegmental partners, including how the partnerships contributed to advancing the performance outcomes, structural or process changes achieved and needed, and projected annual priority focus areas for collaboration,” the compact states. 

In exchange for the University of California upholding the agreed-upon goal of increasing admission, the Governor increased state funding for the University of California by millions of dollars per year. The compact states that there will be fund base increases of 5% per year. The percent base increase for the 2022-2023 year should equal $200,542,000. 

Associate Director of Media Relations for the UC Office of the President  Ryan King rebutted the claim, stating that the UCOP has not instructed campuses to reduce student enrollment in the upcoming budget year.

“Given that the contract is in the final budgeting and initial implementation phase across our system, it would be premature to speculate on any impacts on enrollment,” King explained in an email to The Guardian. “As is the case when new labor contracts are negotiated, especially those involving new bargaining units (this is the first contract for our GSR unit), there is an expected period of implementation where issues are brought to our attention and appropriate processes and procedures are put in place. We will continue our conversations with each location to understand where there are needs and how best UCOP can support the implementation of this vital contract.”

The Guardian also reached out to several professors, including those in the physics department, but all declined to speak or did not respond. 

The UCSD Guardian will continue to update this story as it progresses. For more information on the strike and its aftermath, read the article series published on The UCSD Guardian website

Art by Nicholas Regli for The UCSD Guardian.

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  • L

    LISA ROSE BREZINAFeb 28, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    If students/parents of students do not stand out and vocally oppose these planned changes…they will occur. Complacency promotes /facilitates oppression

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    Johnny RiedelFeb 15, 2023 at 5:53 am

    It’s concerning to see the University of California threaten major enrollment cuts to doctorate programs after a six-week academic worker strike. Such actions have a significant impact on the education and research field, and it’s unfortunate that the university is willing to sacrifice the future of its students and the quality of education. It’s crucial to stand with the academic workers and fight for fair working conditions and fair pay. However, it’s also essential to consider alternative solutions to the enrollment cuts. In the meantime, students can turn to reliable academic writing services like this https://edusson.com/apa-paper-writing-service APA format research papers for sale to assist them in their studies.

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