Cecilia Shin began her journey with UC Santa Cruz SCUBA in 1994 as an undergraduate. She continued with the program as a graduate student and became the program director in 2002. Eighteen years later, she will be permanently laid off on Dec. 15.

“There is something to be said about having 20 plus years of institutional knowledge,” Shin said. “If you do away with that it would take a long time to rebuild. And if there’s inconsistency in leadership of such a high risk sport, it would just be detrimental.” 

Cecilia Shin overlooks pool sessions. Photo taken by Eric Wahl.

Shin is not the only recreational and P.E. staff member facing permanent layoffs. Recreational supervisors Cindy Pierce and Danielle Lewis will also be permanently laid off on Dec. 15. Shin, Pierce and Lewis all received their temporary layoff notices four months prior from UCSC Director of Athletics Sue Harriman. 

Dance instructor Vicki Bergland and martial arts instructor Yoshi Shibata received temporary layoff notices a month after Shin, Pierce, and Lewis. 

“It’s just heartbreaking,” Bergland said. “It’s happening in a time under the umbrella of COVID and the students aren’t around to voice their opinion. There’s been no transparency, it came as a shock. And I feel like if it was happening when the students were around there would have been an outcry to save those classes.”

The layoffs come in the wake of restructuring in the athletics departments, which has been in the works over the past year and half. P.E. and recreational restructuring will redesign the way in which UCSC offers these classes. 

According to Harriman, SCUBA, dance, martial arts and other recreational programs will not be cut and will continue to be offered in the coming academic year. However, instructors may still face layoffs.

When asked specifically if instructors would still be laid off even if classes and programs are not cut, Harriman said in an email, “In order to achieve [restructuring] goals, yes, there will be some adjustments to the operating model and instructor appointment process.”

Harriman also said laid off employees will have the option to apply for open job positions in the future. 

As part of the restructuring of the athletics department, job positions will shift to by-agreement appointments (BYA). BYA terms differ between instructors based on the number of classes and duration between quarters. For example, a P.E. instructor could be hired for only two classes in a single quarter and may not receive full benefits, or they could be hired for a longer term appointment and receive full benefits. 

The UCSC redeployment program allows university staff to apply to be redeployed to other jobs throughout the UC. The program only applies to those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 restrictions. Because the layoffs of the five recreational and P.E. staff were related to restructuring and not COVID-19, they do not qualify for redeployment. 

“UC Santa Cruz is working hard to avoid permanent layoffs connected to COVID-19,” Hernandez Jason said in an email. “Campus leaders have created a redeployment program that provides employees with the ability to temporarily be reassigned so that they can avoid a temporary and/or permanent layoff. Employees impacted by restructuring or other non-COVID changes are not eligible for the program.”  

According to both Hernandez-Jason and Harriman, even with permanent staff layoffs, students will continue to pay fees associated with P.E. and recreation through Measures 32 and 64. Students pay a total of $12.50 per quarter in fees toward instruction and salaries. 

P.E. Impacts on Students

Cecilia Shin, Vicki Bergland, and Yoshi Shibata have been employees at UCSC for 18, 17, and 21 years, respectively. With almost six decades of experience at UCSC between them, they have touched the lives of thousands of students.

Photo courtesy of Yoshi Shibata.

Shibata started teaching aikido at UCSC in 1999 and says martial arts has been a major part of his life for about forty years. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of aikido at UCSC and students of Shibata hope to see their instructor back in the dojo soon. 

“I cannot emphasize enough how special a person and instructor Yoshi Sensei is,”  said UCSC 2020 alum Maria Borges in an email. “He is so kind and supportive to his students and he really helps us all feel joy inside of ourselves. UCSC would not be the same without him.”

Aikido students and UCSC alumni Borges and Chris Wong began a petition on Dec. 9 to save Shibata’s job and the aikido program.  At time of press, the petition gained a little over 600 signatures. Shibata said he was touched by the efforts of his students and is grateful to them, but emphasizes that he is more concerned for them than for himself.

“Because [aikido] is what I spent all my life studying, [the layoff] is definitely changing my life,” Shibata said. “But more [than] thinking about my own life. I’m really thinking [about] my students’ life. So I will deal with it if the school said ‘no more classes,’ but I still feel sorry, really sorry for students.”

In the 50 years since its founding, the SCUBA program at UCSC has certified over 10,000 students, paving the way for students to enter marine and scientific fields, Shin said. 

Not only has SCUBA served as a community building experience for its members, but it also created job and internship opportunities for thousands of students in its 50 years. 

“I would describe my time at the University as worthwhile and formative as a whole, despite not having a proper graduation or final quarter,” said UCSC 2020 alum Thomas Kirzawinski in an email to Sue Harriman. “This is due, in large part, to my participation in the Scuba Program and the wonderful community of student athletes it has helped foster.” 

Spring 2018 Ballet annual performance. Photo Courtesy of Vicki Bergland.

Dance instructor Vicki Bergland estimates she teaches between 200 and 300 students in any given year. With levels of ballet classes ranging from beginning to advanced, she emphasized that even after one quarter with her, you will walk out with at least two things: amazing posture and a willingness to try new things. 

“I think [the layoffs are] going to be harmful for [students],” Bergland said. “With the amount of students I’ve been interacting with over the years, it is a recurring theme of how much dance has changed their lives and how it makes them feel less stressed. It’s a sense of community for them.”