UC Berkeley adds 750 additional students with no concrete plans to increase academic infrastructure

Rachael Garner/Senior Staff

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Despite absorbing 750 additional in-state students this fall, campus administrators have no concrete plans to expand teaching faculty or campus infrastructure, including health resources, custodial services and dining halls.

“We’re stretched to the max already,” said campus senior lecturer Ani Adhikari. “I’m worried about stretching resources even thinner.”

The campus instead aims to funnel more students into smaller, off-campus learning programs, such as the newly expanded Fall Program for Freshmen in San Francisco and the Global Edge program. The programs, taken together, can accommodate more than 350 freshmen next year, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

The enrollment increase is part of a budget agreement between the state and the University of California last year to admit an additional 10,000 in-state students to the UC system in the next three years in exchange for $25 million in state funds.

“We have the responsibility to accommodate as many students as we can within the limits of our resources,” said Carol Christ, director of the campus Center for Studies in Higher Education. “Thinking of ways to increase capacity without degrading the quality of undergraduate education is critical.”

Each of the university’s nine undergraduate campuses will play a role in the increase: 750 additional students are expected next academic year at UCLA, with about 1,100 at UC Davis, 650 at UC Irvine, 450 at UC Merced, 300 at UC Santa Cruz, 750 at UC San Diego and 997 at Riverside.

Several other UC campuses — including Los Angeles, Davis, Santa Cruz, Merced, Riverside and Irvine — plan to increase infrastructure such as on-campus housing capacity as well as teaching faculty and support staff in response to their respective enrollment increases.

UCLA plans to undertake major classroom and student facility renovations and expand its mental health services and residence hall offerings for more than 2,000 additional students. The school also plans to hire additional faculty as well as additional teaching assistants, lecturers and advisers in response to the increase, according to Ricardo Vazquez, a spokesperson for UCLA.

Overburdened classrooms

Five years ago, teaching in a 100-person classroom, Adhikari knew her students’ names and which students were struggling. Now she teaches a class of almost 400 students, and the experience has changed.

“I can’t hear their thoughts because there are too many of them. That’s hard,” she said.

Because the campus has no clear plans to expand the number of faculty, popular and often overbooked introductory courses may have to offer extra sections in response to the enrollment increase, according to Ben Hermalin, a campus economics professor and chair of the UC Berkeley Academic Senate. He added, however, that conversations between administrators, deans and department chairs are ongoing.

With more students on campus, there will be larger classes and fewer faculty to go around, Christ said.

Several professors who teach large courses on campus — including Adhikari, campus adjunct professor of economics Martha Olney and assistant teaching professor of electrical engineering and computer science Joshua Hug — expect that increasing enrollment will put additional pressure on teaching and support staff.

“Everybody who teaches here, who works here, tries to provide the very best that they can for students,” Christ said. “But it’s a question ultimately of resources, and the more that you press … the more you run the risk of degrading the quality of education.”

More students to clean up after

Students who visit the Tang Center complain about long wait times, a lack of follow-up visits and a lack of physical space.

The Tang Center is already overwhelmed by students, said University Health Services spokesperson Kim LaPean.

An increase of 750 students will not make a significant impact on the already-overburdened campus health services, she said, adding that services will not be bolstered specifically in response to the increase.

Given that the enrollment increase represents a 2 percent growth of the campus’s population, campus administrators do not expect custodial or grounds staff’s work to change significantly, according to campus Real Estate Division officials.

According to Adam Ratliff, spokesperson for the campus’s Division of Student Affairs, the campus is working on projects to expand housing options to accommodate additional students, but he also recognized that “those projects won’t address immediate needs.”

Aside from the planned Stiles Hall development — which, once completed, will provide housing for approximately 770 students — the campus has not announced other plans to expand its housing capacity or physical infrastructure in response to this increase.

A lack of funding

Henry Brady, dean of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, said the campus cannot afford the enrollment increase.

“The University of California, as a whole, is adding the number of students equal to the number of students at Stanford right now,” Brady said. “What other university system in the world can do that and do that at a quality that was comparable to Stanford?”

Last month, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced that UC Berkeley had a substantial and growing budget deficit that could jeopardize its long-term stability, adding that campus revenues must be increased while expenses are cut in order to maintain the campus’s excellence as a teaching and research institution.

“It’s not a question of should — it’s a question of what’s possible,” Brady said. “We’ve been asked by the state to take on extra students without anything near the required amount of money to be accommodating those extra students.”

Contact Adam Iscoe and Chantelle Lee at [email protected].