Q&A with Chancellor Blumenthal and EVC Alison Galloway

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Chancellor George Blumenthal speaks at a press conference with student news outlets on Jan. 13. He answered questions regarding topics including campus expansion, the Highway 6 Group, and the safety of the school’s LGBTQ+ community. Photo by Calyse Tobias.
Chancellor George Blumenthal speaks at a press conference with student news outlets on Jan. 13. Photo by Calyse Tobias.

Conducted by Georgia Johnson and Allison Hollender

Chancellor George Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway sat down with Student Media organizations last week to answer questions ranging from housing to divestment to Title IX. Check out City on a Hill Press, Fish Rap Live!, KZSC and Banana Slug News for coverage of our discussion with the university’s top two administrators.

City on a Hill Press: “Given the state’s ‘Yes Means Yes’ law and negative student response to UC Santa Cruz’s ‘Consent Is Sexy’ campaign, do you think the campaign is an appropriate way to address widespread issues of sexual assault on university campuses across the nation?”

Blumenthal: “The fundamental issue is not how we do a campaign or how we do marketing to make sure everyone on campus understands the issue. What’s important is that we do something to make sure there’s communication with students and others on campus who know the ground rules. There should have always been the importance of active consent, but whatever the history is, right now that is what the rules of the campus are  and it’s important to respect that and adhere to those constraints. If you have objections to the ‘Consent Is Sexy’ campaign, or any student does, that’s fine. They should let us know. We certainly don’t want to offend students. On the other hand, I think the goal of that was to get people’s attention to the issue, and I suspect, for better or for worse, whether you like it or not, it has garnered attention.”

CHP: “What’s your response to student criticism of the campus civility email following SUA’s divestment appeal, specifically including Student Justice for Palestine calling for your resignation?”

Blumenthal: “I did send out an email at the time of the SUA vote, and I’m sorry if it wrongly implied what the vote was about. The vote was one of divestment, it was not the divesting vote per say, but the implication was there. One of the criticisms of that email, was that it picked out one group and talked about that one group rather than the broader issue of tolerance on campus. That’s a fair criticism. There are many groups on campus that face issues of tolerance, issues of being accepted, and it certainly was not my intention to pick out one group. It was my intention to use that as an example of a broader set of issues.

That email may have had an effect that was unintended on my part, but I’m quite sincere in saying that we do have some issues on campus, some serious issues that affect any number of groups. All of them are serious and all of them need to be addressed, and we are addressing some of them. For example, we are now trying to beef up our process for reporting hate-bias events on campus to make sure that such reports don’t just get out, put out of sight somewhere or be noted, but that the right ones go to the police department and that others may go into a process where we can reach out to communities and make sure they see a response or that there is word that there could be a community response to some of the incidents that are getting reported.”

Galloway: “Having a central place where people can report hate-bias incidents is important. We have not had a unified approach to that, so people are reporting in many different places and then wondering why central administration wasn’t responding, and very often we didn’t get information on that. This gets us a much more clear communication pathway of what the issues are.”

CHP: “In the same email, you referenced the Black Lives Matter movement at the University of Missouri. Why not reference the black students who were protesting institutional racism here at UCSC just the day before?”

Blumenthal: “That in a sense is a question of ‘why did you two months ago write what you wrote, instead of this example, instead of that.’ I can’t really go back and give you a sensible answer to that because it was a while ago. We were trying to find some [examples], we gave some examples. I was out of town at the time that message got written. I was at the regents meeting, listening to the regents ranting about what was going on at the Santa Cruz campus.  I wasn’t even on campus for that particular event, so I can’t really answer specifically. I don’t remember anymore why we took one event to emphasize over the other.”

CHP: “What are your thoughts on the ‘Highway Six’ plans to take legal action against UCSC for unfair judicial processes? Looking back, do you think the campus judicial process for those students was fair?”

Blumenthal: “Yes, I do think it was fair. I have no doubt about that. I am confident in that statement. Those students have constitutional rights, including the constitutional right to bring legal action if they think they have been treated unfairly, and I am quite comfortable thinking this will play out through the courts if they choose to do it. Let them go for it.”

CHP: “Given that UCSC is experiencing a housing shortage on campus, how do you plan to accommodate the additional students? What is UCSC doing to combat impaction and the housing crisis?”

Galloway: “This is keeping many of us up late at night. We are literally looking at all possibilities. So can we bring in additional temporary structures? Can we bring in something that will allow for additional beds to be put in? This is not a situation where we can simply say students can move off campus, because there isn’t a lot of housing in the community. The community also has it’s impact and the cost of housing off campus is high. We are trying a number of different ways of trying to get housing available.

The other thing that we see when we have housing that is congested, there’s no place for students to go for relief. There’s no place to get out and away, to have some quiet time, to have some space, to have some place where you can choose whether you want to be with music or you can choose not to be. We are looking at what we can do, for example the Science and Engineering Library, just to provide some additional space for people, and also looking at the hours available and whether those need to be expanded as well. But at the moment we don’t have the playbook, we’re getting the numbers out of the office of the president to tell us what we should expect in terms of the new students coming in and from that we have to look at what we are going to do with housing.”

CHP: “To follow up, could you explain what you mean by having students stay at the Science and Engineering Library?”

Galloway: “The Science and Engineering Library has a lot of space, but it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of furniture in the space. There’s often not a place to sit. We are looking at getting some more furniture, so that people can go someplace. What we found is both McHenry and Science and Engineering Libraries are heavily used. As there are more and more students in the dorms, the libraries are more heavily a place of refuge.”

CHP: “Are there any updates with the Title IX investigation and when can we expect results from the investigation?”

Galloway: “We have filed various sections of Title IX and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Those have been filed, and we haven’t heard anything back from them as to what their expected findings will be. It is still an open investigation by OCR, but we filed everything we needed to.”

Blumenthal: “We filed. This is not the speediest process in the world.”

Galloway: “And they are dealing with many, many, many universities and I think that quite frankly they are getting a little overwhelmed by the scale of the product and solutions.”

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