Sunday, February 20, 2011

UCLA Cotsen Institute hald archaeology field schools due to funding cuts

The UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology recently closed its archaeology undergraduate research field schools because of financial pressures. Over the past few months, budget cuts and insurance risks have led to a deficit in funding for the programme, which once thrived with more than 200 students enrolled and 20 sites worldwide.

The Cotsen Institute may, however, offer three field schools this summer for volunteers, but not for academic credit. Institute Director Charles Stanish is also currently looking to re-establish the field schools next year through the summer sessions programme, instead of through the UCLA International Education Office’s travel study programme.

Shortly after Governor Jerry Brown announced his plan to cut $500 million from the University of California system this January, the university announced that it would be keeping $150,000 of the money that it owed to the institute, Stanish said.

State funding for the institute peaked at $450,000 in 2006, and has been steadily declining ever since, said Gregory Areshian, assistant director. Last year, the institute received around $200,000 from the state, leading to the lay-off of several staff members, including the director of international research, who helped organize the field schools.

New risk management policies enacted by the UCLA International Education Office required the institute to hire another part-time staff member to oversee insurance issues, adding to the programme’s $200,000 deficit. Now, more than $400 from each student’s tuition fee must go to pay for the UCLA International Education Office administrative costs.

Hadyn Dick, executive director of the UCLA International Education Office, declined to comment and would not provide a breakdown of where tuition fees go within the programme.

The only way the institute could raise sufficient funds to continue would be to increase tuition to more than $5,000 per student, Stanish said. But the institute has rejected this option. “We could raise tuition, but as a public university, that would defeat our mission. The university is an engine of social mobility,” Stanish said. “We don’t want to turn around and become an elitist programme that excludes low-income students.”

By next year, the Cotsen Institute hopes to re-establish the summer field programme under a new structure, Stanish said. This would keep tuition under the $5,000 cap and allow students to again receive college credit for the programme. The programme will maintain its academic quality, but it will lack the “intellectual luxuries” offered in the previous format, Stanish said. Under the old system, the institute charged an administrative fee that paid for high-tech research equipment, world-renowned guest lecturers, gourmet chefs and weekend cultural immersion trips. Under the new system, the institute is only permitted to charge a “lab fee,” used solely to fund fees for direct instruction, not research expenses, lecturers or trips.

This summer, students who wish to participate would have to pay for all travel fees, except insurance costs. Stanish said the programmes will most likely take place in China, Panama and Peru if they are approved.

Amber Marie Madrid, a fourth-year anthropology student and vice president for the UCLA Biological Anthropology Society, has talked to many disappointed students who have approached her with concerns about the programme’s closing. “At a research university like UCLA, you expect to have plenty of research opportunities, so to see this programme affected by budget cuts is upsetting, to say the least,” said Madrid.

Out-of-state student Lexy Hartford said the calibre of the field programme contributed to her decision to attend UCLA. “Now I feel like I’m paying a lot of money to attend a school that doesn’t offer me the opportunities it once promised,” said Hartford, a second-year anthropology student.

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