By Hannah Mamont
Last Thursday, Oct. 19, staff, faculty, campus, and community speakers gathered outside the Music Recital Hall, waiting for the second public comment session held by the UC Regents to begin. Unlike the previous day’s session, no cries of protest could be heard and no picket signs were in sight.
Despite the relatively calm atmosphere of the event, people on campus were still buzzing about the previous day’s demonstration."I thought [the protest] was a little bit overboard," said Regent Odessa Johnson. "I thought it could have been handled better in terms of what they wanted. I could not understand what the issues were."
However, Fooad Khosmood, vice president of the Graduate Student Association, expressed concern over the police violence.
"It’s counterproductive to see newspaper reports and pictures of students getting beaten up, having pepper spray in their faces," Khosmood said. "I really urge the Regents to work together with Dr. Blumenthal and to come together to find a way to start a dialogue with the activist community. Things like growth, wage parity, nuclear labs-these are deep issues. They have a lot of support in this school."
Each of the 12 speakers, who ranged from city council members to business owners to graduate students signed up in advance to participate in the meeting but were limited to two minutes to address the Regents. Perspectives represented by the speakers But most speakers addressed their concerns, and in some cases excitement, over the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).
Some, like Amelia Timbers, an intern for Good Neighbor Initiative, spoke in favor of the development, saying that the contested Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is complete.
"Opposition to the EIR is sensationalism and uninformed," Timbers said. "Most of the protesters have not even read it." The Good Neighbor Initiative, established in 2004, aims to improve relations between the campus and the greater community, particularly regarding issues of transportation and off-campus housing.
But others, like City Councilman Mike Rotkin, spoke about why campus expansion wouldn’t work.
"There are not enough resources to handle the needs," Rotkin said, expressing particular concern over housing for students and faculty in the Santa Cruz community, as well as roads and public transportation used to get to campus.
Santa Cruz resident Doug Huskey emphasized the potentially negative environmental effects of growth.
"My major concern is that we preserve the beauty we’ve got here," Huskey said. "That really requires putting our differences aside and working together with the community and the university."
To the dismay of many community members, the Regents recently approved the LRDP and, along with it, the EIR, which assesses possible effects of campus growth.
Many community members who spoke were upset at the limited amount of time they were given to speak.
"It’s really frustrating, the way that it gets played." Rotkin said. "In two minutes, what can you say about housing, traffic, and authority in the university decision-making process?"
Though the myriad of issues surrounding the LRDP and other UC policies have yet to be settled, many, including Regent Odessa Johnson, remain optimistic about the Regents’ relationship with UCSC.
"This certainly doesn’t dampen our enthusiasm for Santa Cruz," Johnson said. "And we will be back."