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Don't Come to UC-Irvine in literature!! -- funding cut


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As a current PhD student of Comparative Literature at UC-Irvine, I find it my duty to warn you NOT to enroll in a University of California campus in the HUMANITIES. Our French program was cut, and the other supporting programs in literature are on their way out as well. This is, as you may well know, due to the horrible situation of the California budgetary economy. Even though UCI Comparative Literature will be ever so happy if you enroll in our program, they will not tell you what a bad idea that would be -- the program has gone through a serious, serious decline in quality and a near fallout in funding.

Thank you, and I hope you choose wisely.

-Blop

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As a current PhD student of Comparative Literature at UC-Irvine, I find it my duty to warn you NOT to enroll in a University of California campus in the HUMANITIES. Our French program was cut, and the other supporting programs in literature are on their way out as well. This is, as you may well know, due to the horrible situation of the California budgetary economy. Even though UCI Comparative Literature will be ever so happy if you enroll in our program, they will not tell you what a bad idea that would be -- the program has gone through a serious, serious decline in quality and a near fallout in funding.

Thank you, and I hope you choose wisely.

-Blop

Although I didn't apply to UC - Irvine, I find this post quite unsettling. blink.gif But I definitely appreciate you looking out for us grad-school hopefuls, Blop!

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I'm not in French or CompLit, so I can't comment on the situations there... but I think it is ridiculous to advise people not to come to UCI for any of the humanities programs. I'm going to confine my comments to the English program, since that is what I'm sure about, but I have to say that a program where you can take a translation workshop with Ngugi wa Thiong'o seems pretty desirable, from my admittedly uninformed perspective.

The English department is in the process of hiring a new professor, not usually a sign of imminent decay or funding fallout. The classes and general environment are intellectually rigorous. Scanning my inbox from the last two weeks, I have multiple emails about dissertation fellowships, travel grants, famous guest lecturers, student-led conferences, and a new journal launch. The people on the job market this year are getting offers. TAs teach a very manageable load. Basically, there are a lot of good financial reasons to come here, without even getting into the many fabulous professors.

Anyways, I've had a really great experience here, so I wanted to balance the alarming post with a different perspective. I'm not on a budget committee, I'm not sure how budget cuts could affect the department in the coming years, but I don't see anything that alarms me so far.

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I'd add to the above criticism by pointing out that the language of the originating post suggests that ALL University of California campuses should be avoided, in ALL of the humanities. I'd be pretty pissed right now if I were professionally attached to ANY of those state schools.

Moreover, the idea that someone would enroll in a PhD program without knowing as much as possible about its funding situation is (I hope) preposterous.

Edited by Rhet Man
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See my other posts. If the quality of UCI undergrads is any indication, UCI is not a good place to go for English studies. I don't know; maybe it's different for PhD students. But I know community college students who are brighter than UCI English undergrads.

And to the poster talking about the wonders of UCI English . . . fellowships, travel grants, world-famous guest lecturers . . . These are things any graduate program should offer. I agree that they indicate a finanically healthy program . . . but nothing more.

The UCs and Cal States are in a mess at the moment, and it's sure to get worse. My Cal State MA was de-funded at the beginning of year two. Bye, bye tuition-waiver, hello stipend reduction.

Why else would I (and many like me) be moving away from this beautiful weather to pursue graduate studies elsewhere? If the OP is legit, he/she is to be lauded for some honesty.

Edited by RockDenali
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I met a girl from UCI this weekend at a campus visit and she was wonderful and clearly very bright. In any case, I would not generalize about an entire student population.

Of course the UC schools are facing a crisis right now, but not all of them are being hit equally and the quality of a program is not entirely dependent on finances. The OP and others who have chimed in surely have experiences that should be considered, but theirs are simply drops in the ocean of other viewpoints regarding UCI and the other UC campuses.

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Would you call it an insult when a doctor's prognosis is for a terminal illness? I'm not trying to insult anyone. I am a student at this school, and my friends go here. I've taken a class with Ngugi, received the acceptance letter from J. Hillis Miller (who, by the way, was living in Maine since the day I arrived here). I wish I could be the cheerleader many seem to want me to be. But it would be quite shocking to any Californian to note the pure ignorance of some responses regarding the funding crisis in California. Yes, I did say throughout *California*, not just at Irvine, although in my seasoned opinion, Irvine is among the worst hit. And it will only get worse, as every budgetary prognosis shows. My cohort all got dissertation fellowships. Those dwindled year by year until now half the students do not even get guaranteed funding. And if you think faculty and students are 100% authentic during "recruitment weekend", then you probably ought not to be studying rhetoric in the first place.

It would have been inconceivable in the past to have a Comparative Literature department without a French and Italian Department. Without a film department? What about without a German department? Ours could easily be on the way out, as it no longer offers courses taught in German. The health of Comparative Literature depends upon its links to other supporting departments. Those links have been unhinged here, I am sad to say.

As for students, you cannot compare grad and undergrads, and it would be very far from my intentions to insult either of them. But I will say that those students attracted by our program are no longer those interested in European Studies. Of course, post-colonial studies is quite big here, but again, that's hard to believe considering that way no longer have anyone seriously studying francophone literature in Africa or elsewhere (UCLA is a better pick for post-colonial studies, in my opinion). Indeed, a west coast university in the humanities is not like an east coast university. There certainly isn't an elitism on the west coast, but neither is there much knowledge of European history or literature. Fact is, UCI still thinks it can bask in the glory of the legacy of deconstruction. I believe it was once at the forefront 20 years ago. Now it's tired, ailing and on its deathbed.

If you think I'm spending my time to tell you this because I have some advantage to gain, that would be curious. I could only benefit from you ENROLLING here. After all, my alma mater's reputation is on the line. But I'm tired of seeing each incoming class disappointed by false promises. Feel free to criticize my posts all you like. I won't try to offer any riposte. Have it your way, and all the best in your admissions results and decisions!

Blop

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And to the poster talking about the wonders of UCI English . . . fellowships, travel grants, world-famous guest lecturers . . . These are things any graduate program should offer. I agree that they indicate a finanically healthy program . . . but nothing more.

Thus why I added the part about the incredible professors, who are the main reason I came here... also, if you think every graduate program has the qualities I mentioned, especially the good placement rates and decent teaching loads, you are unfortunately mistaken. And yes, I brought up the grants, lectures, journal, etc specifically to point to the English department's financial health, since that was the OP's main criticism of all the UCI humanities programs. I don't really need to defend the quality of the professors and their research, since anyone can look at the department website and make their own decisions.

Anyways, I wasn't trying to laud the wonders of UCI so much as provide some balance to the original poster's opinions. I have experience with several of the top English departments, either as an undergraduate, graduate, or through friends. In my opinion, UCI English is a great program, and it's obvious that other schools hold it in high regard. I think proclaiming its doom is premature, though obviously any incoming student should be aware of crisis in California. I won't argue about CompLit - it's a different department with its own budget.

That said, though I haven't had the same experience as Blop at UCI, I do really think it's good to have current grads come on the site with honest opinions of their programs. I could tell when I went to visit days that students were all on their best behavior rather than honestly answering my questions.

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Would you call it an insult when a doctor's prognosis is for a terminal illness? I'm not trying to insult anyone. I am a student at this school, and my friends go here.

I have no dog in this fight, but I thought I'd point out that Awin was pretty clearly reacting to RockDenali's point about "community college students who are brighter than UCI English undergrads", not to your comments.

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It is fine (and perhaps admirable) for you to post this warning for the benefit of prospectives who might consider UCI's Comp Lit program unaware of the depth and seriousness of the issues you described, but to use your individual experience in one program at one school as an indicator of the worthiness of the humanities in the entire UC system as you do in your first post is shortsighted and egocentric. As mentioned before in this thread, every school and every department is dealing with the financial situation in its own way, and I can guarantee you that although it does, by your account, sound as if Irvine's Comp Lit program is suffering tremendously, that is most certainly not the case in a lot of other programs at other UCs, many of which are as strong (or nearly as strong) as they have ever been (of course, this would also vary by subfield). Of course, most students (certainly all well-informed ones) are aware that the UC's humanities programs often cannot offer funding on par with other comparable institutions, but many find that it is worth the sacrifice--and you'll find that other Comp Lit programs at UC schools have quite a secure amount of funding and have made their best students generous offers by any standard, not just in comparison to other UC schools. Additionally, your assertion that west coast schools have little knowledge of European history and literature is not only unfounded but also quite insulting to the many fine scholars at those institutions, especially those who are choosing to accept or remain in less lucrative positions out of love of the UC system and/or a commitment to public education. Your opinion and your warning may be quite valid, and if I had been considering Irvine I would definitely be taking a second look, but as it is, your post comes off as a bitter and presumptuous potshot against the UCs motivated by your own personal dissatisfaction in a program that can hardly be considered the sole or even a primary representative of the state of the humanities/Comp Lit in the UC system.

Edited by chaussettes
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Indeed, a west coast university in the humanities is not like an east coast university. There certainly isn't an elitism on the west coast, but neither is there much knowledge of European history or literature.

It sucks that it sounds like you're having a bad experience at UCI (and the loss of European language departments is really frightening), but come on, you just can't make this kind of generalization about "West Coast Universities" without raising hackles!

My undergraduate degree is from a UC (in Comp Lit), and the most brilliant professors I have ever encountered (and was lucky enough to take classes from) were professors of European history and literature.

Edited by noxrosa
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What an odd and unnecessary insult to community college students and UCI students.

Awin,

This is not to the point of this forum (sorry everybody), but I see you were accepted into Baylor. Will you be attending? There's a 95% chance I'll be going there, and would like to hear the statuses of other incomers.

You can comment here, or if there's some other way to communicate through this site, feel free.

And to all: I would put only trace amounts of stock in the note that began this thread. There are many different experiences that people bring into these forums, all of which are worth considering. But don't let one comment dissuade you. Best of luck to all of you.

Edited by Everyman
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As a UCI alumnus, I also want to add some balance to Blop's comments, which set an unfortunate tone, and betray (to mind mind) a personal disposition that's a poor match for the public mission of a public school. I loved UCI as an undergrad, and know a number of impressive scholars who had their undergraduate literary education at UCI. I also know a lot of undergrads who showed up with little exposure to the premises of literary research, and acquired them, in varying degrees, during the course of their education. UC as a whole is definitely facing a tough time, as are many places. Funding is bleak. I know of few major schools that don't have absent eminences grises like Miller---this is, and almost always has been, standard practice, and the benefits of the relationship are, I think, obvious enough. The faculty who are there all the time are a stellar bunch. This is a tough time across the board, and I think indicting any particular institution in this way tends to come from either a personal and not universal set of circumstances, or from a lack of context about what's taking place in academia at large. I hope nobody is ignoring the funding issues Blop mentions; I hope nobody is giving Blop's perspective too much weight.

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I have no dog in this fight, but I thought I'd point out that Awin was pretty clearly reacting to RockDenali's point about "community college students who are brighter than UCI English undergrads", not to your comments.

Yes, thank you. I don't think there is any reason to base your estimation of any person's intelligence on where they did or did not go to school, or even if they did at all.

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Nearly all graduate programs in the U.S. have been hard hit by the economic crash. 1 trillion dollars headed overseas to fight wars on multiple fronts does not a good economy make. But am I mistaken in my understanding that funded is determined upon acceptance? In my case, I was offered a certain amount of funding with my acceptance, and I can either take it or leave it. Thus, if the graduate program at UCI does not offer funding, then you don't have to accept their offer. You can always go somewhere else. Many of my friends are taking offers at lower-ranked schools simply because they offer funding. I think it's terrible that funding is being cut, and I wish the U.S. in general had a "more books, less bombs" philosophy, but I also am a product of the UC system (I did my BA at UC Davis and my MA at UCSD), and I had excellent experiences in both places. I also believe one's experience in grad school has a lot to do with attitude and perception. You can make the most of it, or hate every minute. It's the graduate Choose Your Own Adventure book.

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See my other posts. If the quality of UCI undergrads is any indication, UCI is not a good place to go for English studies. I don't know; maybe it's different for PhD students. But I know community college students who are brighter than UCI English undergrads.

And to the poster talking about the wonders of UCI English . . . fellowships, travel grants, world-famous guest lecturers . . . These are things any graduate program should offer. I agree that they indicate a finanically healthy program . . . but nothing more.

The UCs and Cal States are in a mess at the moment, and it's sure to get worse. My Cal State MA was de-funded at the beginning of year two. Bye, bye tuition-waiver, hello stipend reduction.

Why else would I (and many like me) be moving away from this beautiful weather to pursue graduate studies elsewhere? If the OP is legit, he/she is to be lauded for some honesty.

True, perhaps not all the English undergrads at UCI are geniuses, but neither are all the English undergrads at any other given university. That's a really harsh generalization you're making, and as the bearer of an English undergrad degree from UCI, I find it particularly unjust and uncalled for. The PhD English program at UCI is nationally recognized as one of the top programs in the country, especially for Literary Theory & Criticism. In fact it's ranked number one for Lit Crit, far above Yale and Harvard, by US News and World Reports, should that mean anything to you (and I don't blame you if it doesn't): http://grad-schools....ticism-rankings.

The graduate program's quality inevitably trickles down to the undergrad program. I can testify to that by the quality of my TA's and my close interaction with the top English professors at UCI, who always taught undergrad classes in addition to graduate seminars. My classes were small, personable and engaging, conducted in more of a seminar fashion than in the style of a typical lecture, which is rare for large universities. I was fortunate to have close relationships with my professors through not only classes, but independent studies, advising, my Honors thesis and so on. I felt absolutely privileged and truthfully, surprised, to meet such incredible researchers and writers at UCI as an undergrad. Just to mention a few names, Richard Kroll, Victoria Silver, Andrzej Warminski, Richard Godden, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Michael Clark... absolutely brilliant (check out of their publications if you don't believe me). In the Humanities Honors program I met students who I am 100% sure could compete with English students at Harvard, or as you say, community college students. I would never doubt the intellectual capabilities of a student who chose community college for whatever personal reason, the way you're dismissing the whole of the English undergrad population at UCI because what, you encountered a few not so “bright” ones? Many Humanities Honors students at UCI had exceptional high school records and turned down other prestigious universities to attend UCI because of scholarships, funding, location and other personal reasons.

That being said, I do remember having classes with the occasional sorority girl who chose English as a major because it seemed "easier than like, Biology," and who would occasionally quip, "Yeah... that's like, ironic, right?" in class when she wasn't immersed in Facebook chat on her laptop. Did I resent such students for wasting my time and the professor's time? Yes. But did I from that point on assume ALL sorority girls were carbon copies of each other? No. (I like to think my education has taught me, oh you know... perspective... the conception of relativity, exceptions and outliers...)But on the exact opposite end of the spectrum, in my English classes I also encountered students who had seemingly memorized the whole of the English canon, students who read Alexander Pope for a laugh and could recite obscure references from who-knows-where without a moment’s hesitation... you know, the kind of students who enjoy making esoteric Latin jokes among themselves and chuckling in self-satisfaction when nobody else gets it...

Anyways, the point is: I don't think it's appropriate nor very “bright” to make such broad and unjustified generalizations about any university. The inherent diversity of an undergrad population (i.e. there are brilliant and not so brilliant students anywhere you go... acceptance into a top-notch university doesn't automatically = having a top-notch brain; see: UCLA student Alexandra Wallace) has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of the professors there and the kind of education you will receive. Don't discourage hopeful undergrads and grads from applying to what was and IS an excellent literature program (to these hopefuls: please disregard un-researched opinions about the English program at UCI like the one made by RockDenali). Acceptance to a school is largely relative, and so are our choices about which university to attend. Before writing off UCI as an option for economic reasons, if you find that the school is a fit for you and you’re attracted to certain professors and their research, then certainly apply. Fellowships and TAships, while they may have gone down in number just as they have at every UC, are still distributed each year.

Edited by paperpencil
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Just joining the chorus here, and I also wanted to add that, even if it's true that UCI students are a clueless bunch (and I doubt that they are), a university's undergrad population is almost never an indication of the quality of its graduate program.

The first lesson you learn when applying to schools is not to be swayed by a university's undergraduate reputation (or lack of one). Rutgers and Indiana are, like UC-Irvine, large state schools charged with educating qualified in-state residents. Their undergraduate populations include students with a wide range of abilities and interests. However, their PhD programs in English are among the top in the nation. I would never turn down Rutgers simply because I heard a rumor that the undergrads weren't that bright or something. That's insane.

Additionally, there are plenty of schools that are top-ranked for their undergrad programs, but not so well-known for their English or Comp lit PhD programs. (I won't name any for fear of starting more drama.)

And sorry you're not having a good season, RockDenali. But seriously, quit looking for opportunities to insult graduates of certain schools, specialists of certain areas, and admits of certain Ivy League programs. It's getting old, and it's not cute.

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As a Fellow UCI English undergraduate degree-holder whose life and work continues to be influenced by several of the professors you mentioned above, I applaud everything you say here. I wrote an irritated post a few days ago and (thankfully for all) deleted it. I feel obligated to add, however, that as well as the usual cast of beloved Irvine English professors I am tempted to babble on about, I have to put in a quick word of appreciation for my undergraduate classmates. I only wish it were decorous to name my many classmates who are currently thriving in or weighing multiple offers from "top 20" English PhD programs. What I can say is that I would not be in graduate school today were it not for the intellectual community I found thriving among Irvine undergraduates bridging a variety of Humanities disciplines.

Before I transferred to UCI, I was myself a community college student. And I continue to appreciate the friendships I formed with bright students and inspiring teachers in that environment as well.

Also, hurrah for Humanities Honors! :)

True, perhaps not all the English undergrads at UCI are geniuses, but neither are all the English undergrads at any other given university. That's a really harsh generalization you're making, and as the bearer of an English undergrad degree from UCI, I find it particularly unjust and uncalled for. The PhD English program at UCI is nationally recognized as one of the top programs in the country, especially for Literary Theory & Criticism. In fact it's ranked number one for Lit Crit, far above Yale and Harvard, by US News and World Reports, should that mean anything to you (and I don't blame you if it doesn't): http://grad-schools....ticism-rankings.

The graduate program's quality inevitably trickles down to the undergrad program. I can testify to that by the quality of my TA's and my close interaction with the top English professors at UCI, who always taught undergrad classes in addition to graduate seminars. My classes were small, personable and engaging, conducted in more of a seminar fashion than in the style of a typical lecture, which is rare for large universities. I was fortunate to have close relationships with my professors through not only classes, but independent studies, advising, my Honors thesis and so on. I felt absolutely privileged and truthfully, surprised, to meet such incredible researchers and writers at UCI as an undergrad. Just to mention a few names, Richard Kroll, Victoria Silver, Andrzej Warminski, Richard Godden, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Michael Clark... absolutely brilliant (check out of their publications if you don't believe me). In the Humanities Honors program I met students who I am 100% sure could compete with English students at Harvard, or as you say, community college students. I would never doubt the intellectual capabilities of a student who chose community college for whatever personal reason, the way you're dismissing the whole of the English undergrad population at UCI because what, you encountered a few not so “bright” ones? Many Humanities Honors students at UCI had exceptional high school records and turned down other prestigious universities to attend UCI because of scholarships, funding, location and other personal reasons.

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I'm also a comp lit student at UCI. I visited six schools before deciding on this program, and UCI was the only program to offer a contract with 5 years of guaranteed funding. No other university outside of California would even come close. Many PhD students who have been here for a long time complain that money isn't floating around in the air as it seems to have been before. And while I certainly agree with the saddening loss of national language departments, I cannot say that the funding for UCI comp lit students is in bad shape. As long as you're offered a contact, you have little reason to worry about funding. Just my experience...

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  • 1 year later...
  • 8 months later...

I see that this topic is a little dated, and like the poster above, would like to ask the same question... I'm interested in applying to UCI's Comp Lit PhD program, as it seems a very good fit for my particular interests. Although a comment like that of the OP won't in and of itself dissuade me from applying, it would be nice to know from an inside source what some of the feelings are of the program.

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