By Natalie Orozco
Pedro Castillo, beloved provost of Oakes College, will be stepping down after six years of work at the end of this academic year.
“I just decided that six years is enough time â€¦ I am not unhappy, I’ve loved being Provost and I love Oakes College,” Castillo said.
Castillo admits that for the past six years as provost, he has pulled away from his Watsonville community. He and his wife have a house there and are ready to head back home.
“I have a number of research projects I have to finish,” Castillo said. “I have a book on Watsonville — on the recent history of the political-social changes that have happened in Watsonville in the last 20 years. So it’s not like I’m leaving Santa Cruz. After my year’s leave I will be back and teach full-time in the history department.”
But Castillo’s resignation from the Oakes provost position has already spawned comments from the Oakes community.
Gabrielle Filip-Crawford, assistant to the provost and college administrative officer of Oakes College, said, “I think [Pedro] has done a lot for the college and the University as a whole, especially in regards to programs that promote and support diversity. I hope the new provost that steps in can keep that up.”
But campus community members are speculating what this will mean for diversity programming in the future.
“[Castillo] has been instrumental in promoting college courses to students that would have otherwise not been offered; like this quarter, we are offering a course on Filipino studies,” Filip-Crawford said. “Next quarter we will offer a course on Gay/Lesbian History in the U.S. Pedro has been the one promoting and creating these courses for students.”
Many Oakes students were also saddened by the news of Castillo’s resignation. “In my experience, he was very approachable,” Samantha Perez, fourth-year Oakes student and college program coordinator assistant, said. “He was very generous with his funding and support â€¦ it’s sad to know he is stepping down.”
Maria Mata, senior academic preceptor at Merrill College, agreed. “From what I heard, he did some wonderful things,” she said. “He funded all of his students last summer attending a service-learning program in some orphanages in Latin America. No other provost funded his students on that level.”
Mata continued by saying that Castillo was a strong supporter of the Chicano/Latino graduation ceremony. He was a significant member in terms of funds and support.
“Will there be another Pedro Castillo? — Doubt it! He’s unique. He was a pioneer with todo Corazon, ” Mata said.
But some members of the campus community, including students, faculty and staff, speculate that Castillo is leaving for other reasons.
The student organization MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan) later published a position letter to the UC Santa Cruz campus that stated, “Pedro Castillo’s actions demonstrated that he abuses his power as the provost of the ‘most diverse college’ and professor of Chicana/o History by taking over a created space by students.” This was written in response to the incident in May, which involved some of their student members.
They continued by writing, “MEChA de UCSC will not stand passively by as a member of our community disrespects, physically threatens, and abuses fellow MECHistAs.”
Castillo assures that his resignation has nothing to do with that.
“My term of office was over. I am sorry that that meeting went in the direction that it did,” he said of the incident in May. “I merely wanted to engage with the students in the discussion of ethnic studies, which I am very supportive of. And it just — for a number of reasons — did not connect. It became very confrontational and I really regret that. But no, [my resignation] has nothing to do with that. I could have gone for another three years had I wanted to,” he concluded.
As for the next provost of Oakes College, the search is underway.
“We are hoping to have one appointed sometime in winter quarter,” Filip-Crawford said. “I hope that [the new provost] comes in with knowledge of our college and takes time to see how things are before any changes occur. I expect [the new provost] to come in with new ideas and take the college in new directions.”