About 30 students protesting understaffing in the Chinese program quietly forced their way past two campus police officers to silently protest in University President Mark Yudof’s office.
“We’re protesting the encroachment and robbery of funds from the Chinese program,” said Yu-Shih Chen, professor of Chinese literature. “(The understaffing) is a political action against the weak.”
Twenty-five students began fasting Wednesday at noon to protest the alleged understaffing. The protesters are demanding an independent Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, additional faculty members and equal resources.
About an hour after the fasting began, four of the protesters and a reporter were granted a 10-minute meeting with Yudof. In the conference, Yudof said he would meet with College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone to discuss the issue.
“In the last analysis, we have more needs than we have funds,” Yudof said.
The Chinese program has two tenured faculty — one of which is on sabbatical — and two adjunct professors. Those professors teach 21 students majoring or pre-majoring in the program.
Outside Morrill Hall, about 200 people gathered to take part in a rally to support the Chinese program. Students from the Progressive Student Organization and three University cultural centers addressed the crowd, while banging a gong and wearing T-shirts that read “Starving an Education.”
Sophomore Jessica Hodges is debating majoring in German or Chinese and said the current understaffing is a factor in her decision.
“I shouldn’t have to feel like I won’t go into Chinese because there are no resources,” she said.
Chantra OL, a sophomore in political science, said he thought it was ironic that the Chinese program remains underfunded after Yudof’s much-publicized trip to China in January with Gov. Arne Carlson.
Students said the program has been understaffed since 1994, when two tenured faculty left the department; budget constraints have prevented University administration from filling the positions.
Protestors said they fear the program will collapse before next fall if additional faculty are not brought in to relieve heavy workloads.
“We work about 30 or 40 hours a week,” said a Ben Ridgway, a teaching assistant in the Chinese program. Ridgway said TAs are paid for 20 hours per week.
“I’ve invested my entire undergraduate career here,” said Ben Baker, a senior in Chinese. “To sit here with the fear that there may be anyone to administer me in the graduate program is really scary.”
Administrators counter that 19 of the 25 programs in CLA that requested additional faculty last year were denied. Currently, the Chinese program has two tenured professors, Yu-Shih Chen and Steven Wang; Wang is on sabbatical until this fall. The department also has two temporary professors.
According to a fact sheet released by CLA Wednesday, the ratio of declared majors and pre-majors to tenured professors is 10.5 to 1; that ratio for all of CLA is 18.4 to 1.
Protesters later said those statistics might be misleading because many students from outside the program take Chinese classes. Alexei Ditter, a teaching assistant in the program, estimated between 350 and 400 students have taken classes in the department since the start of the 1997-98 academic year.
Rosenstone said the program has been treated “no differently with respect to resources for students.” He added he has made a “clear commitment to the program” by approving a third tenured professor for fall quarter.
An external review committee recently concluded the Chinese department needed two additional permanent faculty. Rosenstone approved one position, saying the recommendation for another position was a strategy to secure more professors than the department needs.