Lack of suitable professors leaves one department spread thin

Damian Lopez, Digital Managing Editor

In the last few semesters, the psychology program at CSU Bakersfield grew in enrollment but struggled to find additional faculty to keep up with growth. Psychology courses were filled by the time enrollment was available to students, possibly setting back graduation. 


Ericka Valencia, a junior psychology student, said “I don’t know if it was because I signed up later on or not, but social psychology was all that was available. I did hear it was tough to get into classes.” With the help of her advisor, she enrolled into social psychology during spring 2020 after transferring over from Taft College.  


General solutions to a deficiency of courses is to add more seats or add more courses but doing that is more complicated than asking an instructor to add extra students or to pick up and extra section or two. 


“There are seemingly easy ways to remedy the problem that in reality because of the contract and because of the collective bargaining agreement just aren’t possible. I think there’s good reason for that. I think it speaks to the quality of the education and also the idea that we want our professors to be engaged in research and service and doing other things to teach students.” said Kyle Susa, the new chair of the psychology department at CSUB. 


According to information from the Institute Research, Planning, and Assessment, the student per section ratio in the psychology program is about 34 students per section, although according to Susa the ratio is closer to 40 students per section.  


Susa and Valencia both said they would ideally like section sizes to range closer to 25 students per section as to maintain student engagement. With courses already past the ideal ratio, the next solution is to add faculty so more classes are available. 


In an email Bruce Hartsell, Interim Associate Vice President of Faculty Affairs, wrote CSUB hired thirty-three new faculty members for fall 2020. Twenty-four of those faculty will be replacing positions that were recently vacated, while nine of those new faculty members are new additions 


New additions to the university include full-time faculty in English, Economics, Management and Marketing, Public Policy and Administration, Kinesiology, Child and Family Studies, Teacher Education, Sociology, Physics/Engineering and Computer Science/Electrical Engineering. CSUB hired Soeun Park, a tenure track psychology professor to replace a vacancy but without new additions, the psychology department is left in the same position as it was before.  


Psychology was CSUB’s most enrolled program in spring 2020 with a total course enrollment of over 3,000 students, growing about 175% in the last five years. Despite showing growth and need for additional faculty, the psychology program has not been able to find lecturers and tenure track professors to match the growth in enrollment. 


“The reality is there’s not a lot of people in Bakersfield who have degrees in psychology that are looking for extra employment. Especially when it comes to experimental psychology classes that we teach like biopsychology, sensation and perception cognitive psychology, social psychology. Usually when someone has that advanced of a degree within psychology they’re here for a reason and that’s because they have a job working with that degree,” Susa said. 


Not only does the undergraduate program in psychology have high enrollment, but according to Susa, so does the graduate program in counseling psychology. The graduate program alone makes use of two full time tenure track faculty leaving less tenure track faculty for undergraduate courses. 


The emphasis on hiring tenure track faculty is that although tenure track faculty teach four classes compared to lecturers’ five, tenure track faculty will mostly likely stay at the university for longer periods of time and contribute to research and other programs.