Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Experimental College closed temporarily due to budget shortfall

From page A1 | January 10, 2014 | 9 Comments

Courses at the Experimental College of UC Davis have been suspended temporarily due to a budget shortfall. But a task force charged with assessing the EC’s value to students may be able to revive it and make it sustainable by fall quarter.

Although offering no promises, the Associated Students of UC Davis Senate, which oversees the budget for the EC as well as many other student services, closed EC courses in December after notifying college leaders of financial concerns in early fall.

The EC had losses of an estimated $27,000 in the 2012-13 school year and a projected loss of approximately $22,000 for 2013-14, according to the ASUCD budget. However, EC leaders have proposed adjustments to reduce the projected 2013-14 loss to about $10,000 through staff cuts. Also proposed is a change in course fee distribution, giving more to EC and less to the instructors.

Interest in the courses has been falling: Total enrollment declined to 100 last year from an average of 400 annually in the past decade.

“Never do we want to eliminate a service for students,” said ASUCD President Carly Sandstrom. “We have to make sure that we’re being good stewards of student money.”

The EC offers courses for students and non-students ranging from martial arts and yoga to music instruction — but differs from the Activities and Recreation Center with customized courses ranging from juggling, fire-walking and video DJ-ing to gardening through the UC Gardens, which are also part of the EC. The college also is the historical home of the offices of the Whole Earth Festival.

The UC Gardens portion of the EC is not affected by the course closure.

Some within the senate maintain that the Experimental College is a valuable student resource.

“Starting immediately after the suspension of the EC, I began to draft a resolution which focuses on the importance of EC to the UC Davis campus as well as the actions required to assist the EC,” said ASUCD Senator Amrit Sahota. “EC is a jewel to this campus. It provides jobs for students as well as personally tailored classes that normally would not be found in a conventional classroom.”

This resolution was set to be presented at an ASUCD Senate meeting Thursday night, where several instructors planned to speak about the value of the EC.

Sandstrom maintains that many courses were made redundant by the construction of the ARC in 2007, which has much larger and more modern facilities, and that the EC has not met expectations in recent years to improve its visibility, website and advertisement — despite offering courses not provided by the ARC.

“When the ARC opened in 2007, facilities were made available to institutionalize these courses in a more efficient way. The Experimental College has one classroom,” said Sandstrom, referring to the EC’s multipurpose workout room.

Proposed changes within the EC’s organization, marketing and fees structure would save approximately $10,000 from the budget from July through December, and potentially could lead to greater savings if calculated for the whole year, according to Rick Schubert, chairman of the EC Instructors Advisory Board and a hapkido instructor at EC for 20 years.

Schubert, who historically teaches between 55 and 65 students, saw just 31 sign up in the fall. He is a professor of philosophy at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, and a former UCD faculty member.

Schubert blames revenue declines on EC leaders not changing from print to electronic advertising soon enough, a poorly designed membership fee system, and high leadership turnover with poor communication between outgoing and incoming leaders, who historically have been undergraduates.

“One director would initiate a pilot project, and the next director would think that was established best practice, even though the practice had not been fully vetted,” Schubert said. “With lack of available mentorship, the EC director is a fairly stressful situation. The (Instructors Advisory Board) was formed in fall 2013 to provide organizational memory and support for the leadership.”

An example of poor leadership decisions, Schubert said, was a fee system punitive to nonmembers, which made prices for nonmembers exorbitant.

“The result … was that enrollment declined more severely,” he said. “Instructors were telling the leadership that this was a bad model.”

Course fees are proposed to change from a 70/30 instructor/EC ratio to 50/50, resulting in a 67 percent increase in income from fees. The EC receives most of its income from these fees.

Additionally, advertisement would move to the web from print ads.

— Reach Jason McAlister at jmcalister@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Freelancer Crystal Atamian contributed to this report.

Jason McAlister


Discussion | 9 comments

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  • David AbramsonJanuary 10, 2014 - 12:42 pm

    The EC is a valuable resource for lots of students that want classes out of the normal spectrum of what is taught, and I hope they can pull through.

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  • Tristan EJanuary 11, 2014 - 5:05 pm

    As an undergraduate student I took classes at the EC and found all of them to be excellent - better than many UCD courses in terms of instructor quality and content. I would hate to see the college come to an end.

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  • William StoutJanuary 11, 2014 - 3:43 pm

    I've found the Experimental College to be an invaluable addition to the offerings at UC Davis. Specifically, the Hapkido classes through Dr Schubert have been incredible.After talking with others taking Hapkido from other instructors, it's obvious that the degree of attention to safety, professionalism, and quality is far beyond what you'll find elsewhere. To lose this and the other classes offered would be incredibly disappointing, the Experimental College is a hidden gem of the UC Davis campus.

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  • Heather Wiese- UCD Class of 2003January 11, 2014 - 4:33 pm

    As a UCD Alum, and now UCD Staff, I fully support the EC and the wonderful experiences it has brought to the community. There are very few places that welcome both students and non-students equally with affordable pricing. I have taken many classes at the EC over the last 6 1/2 years, but by far the most influential to my life have been the marital arts, both Hapkido and Taekwondo. The community that I have found in these classes have been welcoming, informative and and at a level of instruction that I truly don't think can be found everywhere. I am beyond grateful for my teachers and my classmates, they have enriched my life more then I can express. Losing the EC would be a travesty.

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  • beth kJanuary 11, 2014 - 4:49 pm

    While I have moved clear across the other side of the country and am no longer able to utilize the services of the Experimental College, I will always cherish the Hapkido classes I did get to take. I took several years of Hapkido from Master Rick, and having taken other martial arts in the past, I can say with some experience that this has been one of the best martial arts schools I'd ever been to. It was a real draw for the EC and for Davis, and really brought a sense of community to the school (UC Davis) as a whole. I wouldn't have even really known about the EC had it not been for Hapkido. The small community of Davis depends on programs such as those brought forth by the EC. Davis is a unique city and should always strive to have a unique offering of adult classes that can bring the community together and give it a sense of pride as Hapkido does. It would be a shame if the EC should shut its doors.

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  • Sarah Bonnar, Undergraduate of 2015, Graduate 2017January 11, 2014 - 6:09 pm

    Waning student interest? I don't think that that's the case at all! I'm a UC Davis student, I've taken multiple classes through the EC and loved every one of them. It's an amazing resource, and really gave me the opportunity to be part of a stable, long-term community. I met some of my best friends, including a few faculty members, through the classes! I think that awareness is a much bigger problem than interest; if more students knew about the EC, and knew how to get involved, enrollment fill right back up. -Sarah Bonnar, Undergraduate class of 2015, Graduate 2017

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  • George BurkettJanuary 12, 2014 - 9:16 am

    Having a place where all members of the Davis community can come together and interact in a mutually supportive environment has greatly improved my life Being a long-time participant in the E.C., I have had the perspective of both a student and a community member. As a student, having a resource of well adjusted community members helped me get through a lot of personal issues. During my student days this was a very stabilizing influence. Now as a long-time Davis community member, the E.C has enabled me maintain awareness of the student perspective. My day job involves interacting with graduate students on a regular basis. My continued participation with the E.C. has allowed me to maintain a very healthy interaction with the students. It would be a real shame if this resource was lost for for the entire Davis community.

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  • Marianne Waage, class of 2001January 12, 2014 - 2:16 pm

    The variety of courses and the accessibility of them can't be easily reproduced by the classes held at the ARC, which are primarily exercise in focus. At the EC, I've taken fantastic classes on guitar, ballroom and swing, as well as Taekwondo, and often classes were taught by students themselves. Now that I have graduated, these are still available to me (and I still regularly enroll), without expensive ARC fees, and in a smaller, friendlier environment than a large gym.

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  • Erin Melcon - Undergraduate class of 2009, Graduate class of 2014.January 12, 2014 - 4:15 pm

    The Experimental College (EC) is an extraordinarily valuable resource that has sadly been underutilized by students because a lack of awareness of the EC. I discovered the EC through the print catalogs (which were unfortunately abandoned due to cost), and have been enrolled in classes since 2010. The instructors build a strong sense of community, and since anyone can take classes (you do not need to be a UCD student), students can stay for years after graduation (and many do!). This builds a sub-community that would not exist otherwise, and becomes a second home for students who are far away from their own. EC classes also give the unique opportunity for instructors, students, Davis community members, and graduate students to interact, and brings the entire community of Davis together. I can confidently say I am a more relaxed, happier, stronger person because of the EC classes I have taken. They offer a unique opportunity for personal growth, and it would be a huge loss for Davis if they were to close.

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