UCI Professor's Budget-Cut Dispatch Splits Audience

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Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, a history professor at UC Irvine, has written a thoughtful piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education titled, "U. of California Cuts: A Faculty Member's Dispatch From the Front Lines." In the piece, Wasserstrom bemoans how the state budget crisis could negatively effect the highly regarded University of California education system. The author of the upcoming book China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press) cites examples of how the UC system may not have been able to recruit or retain top flight faculty members from his own specialty--modern Chinese history--had cuts come earlier.

But if Wasserstrom was expecting widespread support for his position, he's batting about .500 based on comments left to the online version of the story. About half reacted with words such as, "This commentary is right on target" or "Terrific practical explanation of what is happening in California."

An equal number labeled the piece "self-serving."


"What national interest is harmed whether the professor is at a UC school or at Princeton or another school," wrote one reader. "All the UC poaching of other schools' people has done is increase costs for many schools to retain the faculty they helped develop and supported for many years as they built their name and CV. Time for the worm to turn and maybe some who were stolen away with the promises of more money and lighter teaching loads will return to the schools that helped make them. Seems like karma to me."

"In these days of financial distress perhaps we need to look at overlap and how many students are being served," writes another. "Does the UC really need that many China scholars? Perhaps regionalized schools with specialties would serve the nation better than having each university duplicate what every other university does."

Some readers who otherwise agreed with Wasserstrom maintained that the financial pain must be spread out evenly among the UC, Cal State and community college systems.

There was also a share of others who found the "self-serving" label troubling, saying the author ultimately addressed what must be at the center of this funding debate: how to best serve students.
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