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San Diego State U lays off all full-time ESL instructors

San Diego State University laid off its 12 full-time ESL instructors, a program director and an assistant program director in May in response to what the institution describes as a “rapid change” in the nature of access to higher education.

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SDSU will continue to offer its ESL courses, and the American Language Institute has not closed

The university’s ESL courses will continue to run, and the American Language Institute will not close, as new part-time teachers have been recruited.

Sources with knowledge of the situation told The PIE News that teachers had little forewarning of the termination of their contracts, and many had worked at the institution for more than 20 years.

“We grieve for the loss of our careers”

Aware that there would be layoffs due to declining enrolment numbers, instructors were somewhat shocked to find they would all be losing their jobs.

“Obviously, the ESL market in the US is experiencing a considerable contraction,” a former instructor explained.

“We are not oblivious to the fact that layoffs are occurring elsewhere. In addition, we do not argue that no layoffs were necessary.”

Former teachers are reportedly unhappy about how the layoffs were handled and suggested that they were “unnecessarily callous and lacking in transparency”.

According to the institution, demand for international professional education has significantly increased, and the college is evolving to match as the landscape of that demand has changed.

“In particular, international learners are increasingly seeking just-in-time, professional, and cutting-edge programs that align with the needs of the global workforce, and English-language learning programs need to adapt to increasingly integrate with that model and modern demand,” a spokesperson for SDSU said.

“Such a change in demands contributed to a number of personnel changes within the College of Extended Studies at the end of the spring semester.”

SDSU will continue to offer its ESL courses and the American Language Institute has not closed, the spokesperson added, but former teachers fear language tuition at the university will now not meet expectations.

“As of this semester, the ALI at SDSU has no full-time instructors,” a source told The PIE.

“All the classes are now taught by part-time, hourly instructors with no benefits and at a lower rate of pay.

“Furthermore, the fact that the ALI had to hire new instructors and bring back former instructors to teach this semester offers evidence that this was just as much about completely eliminating full-time jobs with benefits as it was about declining enrolment,” they said.

As a university-based, non-profit organisation, the ALI’s instructors are required to have a master’s degree and at least two years of experience in a university-based program, former teachers have said.

“One expects a professional, appropriately educated, experienced cadre of full-time instructors to form the core of the organisation,” one teacher added.

“That cadre might need to be smaller in response to declining enrolment, but it needs to be there nonetheless to provide leadership, mentoring, institutional knowledge, and stability.”

Prior to losing their jobs, teachers wrote a letter to the dean of the College of Extended Studies, in which they argued layoffs would “lose many decades of knowledge and experience that will not be available when the [international student] numbers begin to rebound”.

In the letter, instructors offered to take short unpaid leaves during periods of low enrolment, reduce their working hours, increase administrative tasks and work on low-cost marketing ideas to increase the college’s revenues.

In response, teachers said they received a very brief email from the dean acknowledging the letter.

After instructors were laid off, they sent another letter to the president of SDSU detailing how they had been instructed to clean out desks and cubicles, following a morning meeting.

They had been locked out of their computers, emails had been shut down and key cards had been deactivated, they explained.

“We grieve for the loss of our careers, but we grieve even more for the loss of our respect for the SDSU community that we served and supported for so many years,” instructors wrote.

As of yet, former teachers have said they have heard no reply.

“All the classes are now taught by part-time, hourly instructors with no benefits and at a lower rate of pay”

According to SDSU, CES will continue to operate and its four ESL programs will merge into a single course this summer “to help students feel more closely connected to their peers and to provide greater diversity in the classroom”.

“The college will continue to have a strong international presence and focus on English language learners and adult learners in countries around the world. The American Language Institute is placing a greater emphasis on offering a broader range of programs to serve international learners,” the university stated.

CES has also created an additional position to focus on evolving international strategy.

However, for those teachers who are no longer employed at the university, the future appears bleak.

As one former instructor highlighted, “it is June, we are unemployed, and we are wondering what we will do next with our lives. It is jarring, to say the least.”

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23 Responses to San Diego State U lays off all full-time ESL instructors

  1. It’s incredibly disconcerting that these longtime instructors lost their jobs. The fact that the university brought in part-time instructors (and even hired new ones) to teach over the summer is just another example of the adjunctification of higher education. If it were just about declining enrollment they wouldn’t have needed to hire new employees to replace the ones they let go.

    • It’s just an excuse to cut costs while keeping the program barely alive so the admins can keep their jobs. They were never looking out for their teachers. That’s why teachers need to unionize.

  2. I am one of the teachers who was was laid off. If we had been treated professionally and respectfully, quite a few of us would have been willing to continue working at the ALI without health benefits because we loved our students and what we did. There are ways to handle layoffs that show you value your employees as human beings who have contributed to the success of your organization. That, unfortunately, was not how things were handled here. That says something significant about the values of upper management.

  3. The manner in which these highly educated and experienced professionals were let go is really sad; it was incredibly disrespectful. I was also laid off in the same profession from a major university, but our management and HR were transparent in the fact that they told us how many instructors would be laid off and when we would be laid off. They also gave us an entire quarter to continue to work and search for other jobs after they laid us off. There were possibly things they could have done better, and there’s no way to sugar coat being laid off, but when I compare my experience to what happened at SDSU, I feel fortunate.

  4. Slaves to the almighty dollar. Unis seem to have forgotten all about quality education and best serving the students. Terrible that these people were ushered out in such a callous way after decades of loyalty to the school. The administration should be ashamed of themselves.

  5. My God this is incredible, I studied in ALI in SDSU in 2005 and I am so grateful with all my teachers that are amazing team and it was the secret of the successful of ALI.
    Mar me so sad this new

  6. With a bit of forewarning and transparency, I really think this could have gone down in a much more palatable way. I suspect many of us would have stayed on if given the chance to stay and teach as hourly instructors. Getting rid of all of us and then scrambling to find teachers makes no sense at all. Seems as though the inmates are runny the asylum.

  7. What about the other 15 – 20+ staff and administrators that were laid off with no warning on the same day. The College of Extended Studies (CES) management team and previous administration, along with the SDSU administration needs to be put on blast for this. It’s straight up disgusting what they are getting away with.

  8. This is totally shameful. The American Language Institute was full of awesome teachers that made exchange students happy. When I was studying Japanese at SDSU a lot of my friends found a great place to work there as tutors. They made lifelong friends with people from different cultures. Why can SDSU award a $250 million contract for Mission Valley stadium but can’t retain their teachers? These are teachers that poured their heart and soul into helping students learn English for many years. SHAMEFUL!

  9. ALI was too good to be true. With just some 10 years experience in ESL programs in the US, I can say that adjunct positions were usually limited by a certain number of contact hours per semester. Not with the full-timers at ALI. There were even 9-month contract teachers at ALI, but they were axed I believe three summers ago. The budget constraints dictate everything.

  10. It’s utterly unfair to those dedicated full-time teacher! It’s ridiculous to treat education this way. There are many good ways to cut cost and to carry out austerity. But they choose the worst option. Just can’t believe it.

  11. Luckily this is in the ESL field, so there are literally hundreds to thousands of full-time jobs all over the world, and with benefits, too.

  12. I’m stupefied to learn of this development both before and now after publication of today’s article in the San Diego Union Tribune, on the front page no less, about CSU’s secret 1.5 billion dollar slush fund. I urge everybody to read it. University resources should be used for educational purposes. Educating students to communicate is a critical objective of any school, college or university. Decimating a program such as ESL by booting qualified instructors from the program is stupid.

  13. I worked at this institution several years ago, so I can personally attest that the instructors who were so abruptly let go were competent, creative, dedicated educators. The fact that they were willing to forgo pay and benefits further shows just how much of an asset these folks were to this organization.
    Now it’s not only the teachers that are suffering, but also the poor students who are shelling out a serious sum of money for a sub-par experience. Shame on you, CES.

  14. What could be more vague than “just-in-time, professional, and cutting edge English language learning programs that align with the global workforce….”

  15. Unfortunately this is our country today- the priority is always about saving money at the expense of quality, expertise and integrity. Academia no longer prioritizes competent experienced teachers, but would rather higher adjuncts who will work for little pay and no benefits. It is also unfair to the adjuncts who probably have no other options but to take these poorly paid positions. This was done in such a callous and inexcusable way with absolutely no regard for thé professionals that had devoted their lives to this institution. Shame on SDSU.

    • Hold on there. I’m an adjunct who’s been teaching for years, great evals, published top degree. I’m certainly “competent” and “experienced”.

      As for this situation: get MAD. And get even. Unionize, strike whatever it takes.

      In the USA, your job is your life. This is a form of social torture and murder. If these people are in their 40s or older, they may not work again for a long time.

      Greedy managers have discovered that our general population is made up of cowards willing to be bullied.

      This one tiny sliver of society affected. But these are people. And it’s part of a larger problem with our society. This would NEVER have happened 40 years ago, historical fact.

  16. I work in administration at a university and hear plenty about declining enrollment, bottom lines and budget cuts. Yes, layoffs are going to happen, but to let everyone go in such a cold and heartless manner and to then go and hire adjuncts so they don’t have to provide benefits? How many decades worth of hard work and knowledge did they just throw to the curb? I’m celebrating the fact that my son will not be attending this institution as he had hoped. Shameful, SDSU, just shameful.

  17. I was a student at the ALI before the layoff and also in the summer semester after the layoff, everything just went down hill. They hired quiet a number of ‘teachers’ who obviously has no expertise and no PASSION in teaching. The merging of programs was a nightmare. Students came in with different goals to reach, some came for Pre-Master, some came to get to their freshman, some came just for learning English. The merging did not serve or match the purpose of the program that the students chose. They lower the quality of their services but still keep their prices up the hill. I had never regretted paying the tuition until this summer semester.

  18. Greedy, filthy, piece-of-s**t administration from an institution that delivers lectures on “equality,” while they treat people like utter garbage. Fat, bloated, incompetent administrators with asses in the shape of their chairs and minds of clay destroy the lives of teachers while sipping wine and eating Brie. Think about it!

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