Students, alumni and faculty all confronted UC Santa Cruz administrators and a Capstone Development representative with a multitude of concerns with the Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP) and Student Housing West (SHW) at the Stevenson Event Center Monday evening.
Of particular concern was the announcement of development of the new Family Student Housing (FSH) facility in East Meadow, as well as the announcement that UCSC chose Bright Horizons, a for-profit child education company, to operate the early education center at FSH.
The announcements came at a presentation by associate vice chancellor (AVC) of Colleges, Housing and Educational Services (CHES) Sue Mathews, AVC of Physical Planning, Development and Operations Traci Ferdolage and Capstone Development Partners senior vice president and development manager Chad Izmirian.
Many in attendance expressed opposition to the newly proposed plan, both on practical and philosophical levels, including local farm owner and UCSC alumnus Paul Schoellhamer.
“Putting Family Student Housing in the meadow is kicking a hornet’s nest. It is going to generate enormous opposition now that it has become known,” Schoellhamer said. “You talked about being consistent with our local values. One of them is ‘Don’t build in the meadow.’ You were asked about Thomas Church, I can paraphrase Thomas Church for you. ‘Don’t build in the meadow.’ This has been our watchword for 50 years.”
Schoellhamer’s remarks, directed at Izmirian, were met with applause by many in the audience. While Izmirian said that Capstone’s team read the original 1963 LRDP, which outlines architect Thomas Church’s vision for the campus, he was not able to name any of Church’s principles.
Mathews also said that Capstone Development hired Arizona-based Sundt Construction to be the general contractor for SHW. Sundt is a non-unionized construction company known for the construction of about 100 miles of fencing along the U.S.–Mexican border. It was also involved in the construction of Japanese internment camps. Sundt is vying to win the contract to construct President Donald Trump’s infamous border wall plans.
The decision to move FSH resulted from the shrinking of original construction space available for SHW due to its potential impact to the habitat of the California red-legged frog, AVC for Physical Planning, Development and Operations Traci Ferdolage said. The frog is a threatened species protected by federal law, which necessitated adjustments to the plan.
The change of plans acknowledged the resultant need to provide housing for FSH residents while SHW is under construction.
“The primary location volume at which we were building this project would require Family Student Housing to be demolished and rebuilt,” Ferdolage said. “The idea was to try to provide an alternative that caused as little disruption to Family Student residents as possible throughout the duration of construction.”
Campus community members were also concerned by the announcement that Bright Horizons would be the operator for early education services. Mathews said Bright Horizons was not chosen through any kind of request for proposal process, which involves an in-depth review of several competing proposals from multiple firms.
Instead, Bright Horizons will be the operator pursuant to a three-phase agreement between the company and the campus that was made in 2015 to address shortfalls in early education services. Currently there are only six early educators on campus, less than half of the 13 teachers the early education program needs to meet demands.
Su-hua Wang, associate professor of psychology and member of the Committee on Faculty Welfare, said the committee was surprised to hear of Bright Horizons’ involvement with Family Student Housing, as the committee was not involved in the agreement with Bright Horizons. It had, however, sent several reports of concerns regarding Bright Horizons as a potential provider of early education services.
The announcement of Bright Horizons as the operator of early education services drew expressions of dismay from some audience members, including history of art and visual culture associate professor Kyle Parry who said contracting with Bright Horizons was “a huge mistake.”
“Peer-reviewed social science research shows that for-profit centers like Bright Horizons notoriously fail on inclusivity, diversity and quality,” Parry said. “These kinds of centers suffer from dramatic teacher turnover rates from very low teacher morale. […] This company operates over 2,000 centers, has to make a profit off those centers and therefore will not respect local governance issues and the specificity of our needs.”
Bright Horizons will partner with Capstone Development and Walker Macy, the architecture firm hired by Capstone for the project, to design the early education facilities, Mathews said.
Construction of Student Housing West is slated to begin in September 2018, and the final environmental impact report will be released on March 26. Public comment will be open for 45 days after the report’s publication.