City on a Hill Press (CHP): This year marks the 34th year since the inception of TWANAS press collective, or the Third World And Native American Student press collective, which originally served to represent the student movement to bring a third world and Native American studies program to UCSC. The university is finally seeing an emergence of race and ethnic studies program this academic year, so our question is, why did it take so long to implement this program despite more than a quarter century of student advocacy?
Chancellor George Blumenthal: The campus early on made the decision, for better or for worse, that we would put in place an American studies program which would serve the role of what ethnic studies has been on other campuses and in addition, simultaneously, we put in place a Latin American and Latino studies program that is doing extremely well and now even has a Ph.D. program associated with it within the social sciences division. But some decisions were made many years ago about the way we would structure the understanding of ethnic issues within our curriculum. What changed? I think two things changed. I think there was a growing movement on campus to see a separate academic entity dealing with ethnic issues, and I think that was the origin of critical race and ethnic studies initiatives. But I also think the American studies program essentially disappearing was also a motivation. Once that disappeared, it really opened the opportunity to move forward aggressively with critical race and ethnic studies.
CHP: In terms of the recent fundraiser, how much of the fundraising is going to be left up to the administration’s discretion and what are some of the plans for that? Will we potentially be seeing some of the money going to smaller groups and student-run organizations, such as Engaging Education or Destination Higher Education?
Chancellor Blumenthal: With regard to who is the beneficiary of all this fundraising, we’ve put forward a plan, which you’re referring to, but the reality is, as it’s true at every university, something like 97 or 98 percent of every dollar we get in terms of donation is specified by the donor. If the donor wants it to go into scholarships, or [new construction], or an endowed chair, only about 2 or 3 percent of the money we get is non-specified. That’s the money we would have discretion over. We’re talking about a very tiny sliver of the pie that is used as discretionary money. I actually control the discretionary money, unless it’s specified someone else should control it. Typically, I use it to support specified programs which I think are a priority or which otherwise might not be able to get funding. Or, I’ve even used it as matching funds. I’ve sometimes picked out a program and said, as I did with scholarships one year, I would commit a $100,000 of gift money as matching money for anyone who wanted to contribute additional money. I matched it one to one, as a way of increasing the amount of scholarship money we get. That’s what we do with that tiny little sliver. But for the vast majority of the money, it goes to where the donors want it to go.
CHP: The students of the UC rely more and more on public assistance to be able to pay for their education. What could we expect for the UC in terms of tuition and fee hikes this year? Is the outlook any better?
Chancellor Blumenthal: A lot of it is crystal ball, but I will tell you the governor has asked for there not to be an increase this year. It is my belief — this is not a promise — that there will be no tuition hike this July. That is my assessment. Having said that, I always believe that it is unlikely there will be a tuition holiday much longer and I would much prefer to see if we are to have tuition hikes, they will be small, predictable and constant.
CHP: In light of the recent string of fires on campus, the removal of guards from kiosks at campus entrances and the attempted kidnapping at Merrill College, how safe do you feel students are here on campus, and what are some steps being taken to ensure overall campus safety?
Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway: The rash of fires sort of brings us back to the smoking ban, because I don’t necessarily want people running into the bushes and smoking. That is a concern for us. We’re going to have to watch that, and that’s going to be a problem throughout the county, because everything is extremely dry. I’m hoping we get some heavy rains very, very soon. Other than that, as far as we can tell, there’s been no uptick in anything since the kiosks guards went off. Generally, I think we’re doing well, but there are probably always going to be isolated incidents, and we just hope they are isolated. We’re doing a thorough investigation of everything. When anything like this happens we take them very, very seriously.
Chancellor Blumenthal: I would just like to add, in terms of crimes against people, we are the safest campus in the system, so we’re still doing ok.
CHP: With many dorm rooms being turned into triples, many parts of campus being closed down for living spaces and students having a harder time getting into the classes they need due to overcrowding, how does UCSC plan to reconcile this growth of the student body with the lack of resources to educate and house?
Chancellor Blumenthal: The student body has not been growing for the last couple of years, just to be clear. We’ve really been trying to keep it constant. We failed a little bit because we never know how many students are going to accept us, but I’d say over the last two or three years our efforts have been to keep the enrollment pretty constant. It has gone up and down a little bit, but when it rises, we let it fall. Right now, our enrollment is pretty constant. It may go up in the future, assuming that there’s a budget from the state to support enrollment growth.
CHP: At the beginning of this meeting, you spoke about having high hopes for UC president Janet Napolitano. Could you elaborate on what some of these hopes or expectations might be for her appointment?
Chancellor Blumenthal: First, as an experienced political leader, I have hopes that she will find new ways, or different ways, to reach out to political leaders, particularly in Sacramento, maybe also in Washington, D.C., to change the nature of the discussion we’ve had about funding higher education. Crassly, I would say get a better deal. I think in the long run that would certainly be one of my major hopes for her presidency. Secondly, and I kind of alluded to this earlier, I also hope she will rethink some of the prevailing assumptions we make in higher education. We don’t do everything wrong by any means, but there may be things that we haven’t really thought about, or even wouldn’t think to think about because we’re so imbued in the culture of the university, whereas someone coming in from the outside may have a different perspective. Yes, she’s inexperienced in higher education, but it also has a potential plus in that she can really think about things without the bias of having been living within higher education for many years. Also, she’s a very articulate woman, and something I think we lack in this country is articulate spokespersons at the national level of higher education. Traditionally, meaning more than 10 years ago, either the president of Harvard or the president of UC has been a major spokesperson for higher education in the country, and I could easily see her play that role.