Q&A with George Blumenthal and Marlene Tromp

Photo by Alonso Hernandez.

City on a Hill Press: In the Strategic Academic Plan, there is talk of certain programs receiving more funding than others. How is UCSC planning on meeting the demands of less popular programs such as philosophy?

Tromp: To invest in certain areas doesn’t mean that we’re going to start cutting resources in other areas in order to make those investments. We’re going to look at the resources we have, and how to invest them strategically. Because you can’t [have] a meaningful, comprehensive university education if you start paring away programs. Every student needs access to philosophy, whether you’re studying engineering, or biology, or social sciences or humanities or arts. […] To be a comprehensive university that offers a university education, and not be a tech school, we need to offer the full range of the curriculum. It doesn’t mean defunding areas in order to fund, it means using our resources strategically whenever we grow our resources to make sure we’re growing in areas that are appropriate for us.

CHP: Students and unionized workers gathered in front of the Cowell and Stevenson dining hall Feb. 1 to picket for a fair labor contract with UC administration. Demands included wages consistent with the high cost of local living and retirement benefits. How did these negotiations go and is the UC administration planning on meeting these demands?

Blumenthal: First of all, I want to make clear that all of these negotiations that you’re referring to are systemwide negotiations, so they don’t take place in our office, they take place in the Office of the President. Yes, we can have input into it, but we don’t have more input than any other campus does. So, yes, labor negotiations are going on, the issues are fundamentally wages and retirement benefits. It’s complicated. UC is trying very hard to meet the wage needs of workers in their local communities. The offers the UC has put on the table are meant to be consistent with prevailing wages in the area where our workers live. If there were a union representative here, they might say that’s not the case. Everyone has their perspective on it, that’s why it’s a negotiation.

Tromp: I would pull back and look at the broader context a little bit. In a conversation with some students who were talking about tuition increases the other day. […] I was talking about how concerned I am that nationally right now […] states have pulled back on funding higher education. […] And how [tuition hikes have] largely been about the increasing costs of delivering education, and the spread of that lack of investment has impacted the spread of all the populations that work at universities. The staff, the students, the faculty, and I think that part of what we see nationally is that it used to be a lot easier for universities. It’s often not about generosity at all. It’s about what we’ve got in the bottom line of our budget to even be able to give. It can be very challenging, because what can sometimes happen is an increase in wages can result in a reduction of the workforce in order to cover the increase in the wages, and puts a bigger burden on the people that are left. When there’s not an investment from the states, it’s really hurt a lot of different populations.