By Zev Vernon-Lapow
The UC Regents haven’t visited UC Santa Cruz since 2002, and after next week’s scheduled tour of the campus, they may not look forward to coming back for another four years.
The likelihood that the Regents will be met with hostility appears high, as several groups have voiced criticism of the board for a variety of reasons over the past two years.
The labor unions at UCSC are expected to protest over worker’s rights during the Regents’ visit, while city officials and residents will likely voice displeasure with the Regents’ unanimous approval of the UCSC Long Range Development Plan. Student groups may also protest.
According to City Councilman and UCSC Lecturer Mike Rotkin, the Regents were practically driven off campus by protestors in past visits.
The Regents, who visit an average of three UC campuses per year, plan to tour the campus Oct. 18 and 19. During their visit they will tour new facilities on campus and learn about some of the unique programs at UCSC, such as the new computer game design program.
The Regents will hold two public comment periods, as required by law, during their visit. However some, including Rotkin, believe that this is just a formality.
"I think it’s unfortunate that they’re not going to take more time to talk to residents," Rotkin said.
Rotkin believes that 40 minutes of public conversation, spread over two days is not enough to cover all the concerns of the community that have built up over the last five years.
But the Regents will stick to the allotted time, according to the Regents Director of Special Projects Trey Davis.
"Twenty or thirty minutes is pretty standard [for public input]," Davis said. "Obviously you could spend six hours, if you had the time."
The chief purpose of the Regents’ visit is to tour the university’s campus and hear from the campus community, according to Davis.
"This is a chance to see how programs and the new buildings work at UCSC. It is a chance to talk face to face with students, faculty and staff," Davis said.
The visit was scheduled last winter, according to Associate Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Irwin. Most people, Rotkin included, learned of the meeting through word-of-mouth.
Despite the possibility of protest, Irwin did not seem concerned about students voicing their opinions.
"At all campuses there are some expressions of concern," Irwin said. "The Regents are a public body that make decisions that not all people are happy with."
Davis expected some amount of criticism during the Regents’ visit.
"The Regents are interested in students making their views known," Davis said.
Acknowledging the potential for protest, Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal is not opposed to demonstrations, provided no one is harmed.
"I actually don’t have a problem with people expressing their views as long as it is consistent with safety," Blumenthal said. Though 2006 has proven a tumultuous year at UCSC, with the loss of a chancellor, Davis said this visit is not in relation to any particular event.
"There is no particular reason for them to come to Santa Cruz in October 2006," Davis said. "It’s just in the rotation."