Raising their voices, students and faculty members gathered outside Kerr Hall to protest cuts to the language program. Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.
Raising their voices, students and faculty members gathered outside Kerr Hall to protest cuts to the language program. Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.

Chancellor George Blumenthal received a lot of valentines this year, but not all were from admirers.

Students and faculty gathered outside Blumenthal’s office at Kerr Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 17. They delivered handmade cards, which both professed their love for UC Santa Cruz language programs and urged the administration not to cut from the languages’ budget.

Several faculty members, including Spanish lecturer María Morris, marched with their classes across campus to the chancellor’s office, where the group of about 50 chanted — in various languages — messages of support for the language programs.

“In the history of this campus, they always hit us,” Morris said. “This is for the administration to know that students support the languages.”

The idea to make valentines urging the administration to stop layoffs and course reductions came out of a general assembly meeting. The students and staff involved hoped to draw attention in a peaceful manner to language studies’ important place in a university education.

Third-year Amu Sidhu said that the cuts would damage any attempt the school might make to be seen as culturally diverse.

“It’s an attack on diversity, cutting off access to other cultures,” Sidhu said.

While students donned heart-shaped stickers identifying the languages they study, lecturers and organizers led chants and spoke about the importance of defending the languages.

Graduate student Sarah Smith addressed the effects the potential cuts may have on teaching assistants. One of the proposed options for accommodating the cuts to the language program and other divisions is to have more classes taught by graduate students.

Smith is affiliated with the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, which represents university teaching assistants. She spoke on behalf of the group, condemning this proposal.

“We are outraged at any suggestions that we are qualified to teach languages that teachers who have been here for decades … are more qualified to teach,” Smith said. “The treatment of professors and lecturers [by the administration] is horrific.”

Participants rallied in response to proposals of cuts to language programs, a measure that was suggested in response to larger UC budget cuts. In addition to hiring grad students to teach in the program, proposals include everything from reducing the number of classes offered to switching French, Portuguese and Spanish to five-quarter sequences.

French lecturer Angela Elsey said the potential cuts would add more problems to the already struggling program.

“Now there are even more students, and they already can’t get into the [language] classes they want,” Elsey said. “The workload for teachers has gone up as well.”

However, administrators in the Division of Humanities stress that cuts to the language program are still hypothetical.

UCSC’s Dean of Humanities Georges Van Den Abbeele says a task force, which convened last fall, continues to assess the potential damages of proposed solutions to the budget cuts.

“We have made no decisions on any of the options proposed and are still actively consulting with campus people and units, including the Academic Senate, and seeking constructive input on how to negotiate reductions that may adversely impact all of our departments and programs, not just languages,” Van Den Abbeele said in an e-mail to UCSC spokesperson Jim Burns, which Burns released to City on a Hill Press.

Though no solution has been officially decided upon, some of the students enrolled in threatened courses see potential cuts as limitations to their education.

“College is supposed to be opening doors,” third-year Anab Mohammed said. “Each day they’re cutting something and closing another door.”