By Jono Kinkade & Jose San Mateo
Police and protesters clashed at the proposed site of a new Biomedical Science Facility on the UC Santa Cruz campus several weeks ago, but all meaning was lost in the mire of pepper spray and police barricades.
One reason people have taken residence in three patches of redwood trees and created an autonomous community at the site near the physical sciences building to protest UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).
But upon closer inspection, the LRDP is just a scratch on the surface of a bigger issues that includes an underlying budget crisis, affecting both the quality of life and the quality of education for students.
*The Long Range Development Plan, and the rift between the university and its host* The LRDP is the plan for campus growth at UCSC that will span over the next 13 years. It includes potentially developing 120 acres of university land to accommodate an influx of 4,500 students, plus accompanying administration, faculty and staff, bringing the student population to 19,500.
Under the California Master Plan for Higher Education, the University of California is required to accommodate 12.5 percent of the top graduating high school students. As the state population increases, UCSC will bear the brunt of an ever-increasing student population. Many question, however, if UCSC is the best place for growth to occur, and wonder if the growth will solve statewide problems, or create even more.
Those that raise issues with the LRDP believe that the plan will entail unregulated campus expansion and create a shift toward privatization.
Aaron Dankman, a UCSC student who attended the Nov. 7 rally, wrote in the first issue of the newsletter Long Range Resistance, “The 2005-2020 LRDP serves as an unconditional authorization for expansion, yet it includes no economic analysis and no forward planning.” In a subsequent interview, Dankman also brought up eagerness on the part of UCSC administrators to move forward with the plan. The headstrong path being blazed by the administration is what Dankman said sparked the current resistance to the plan. “The administration moved forward with the campaign for expansion and left us little or no recourse” he said.
During an Academic Senate meeting just a few days after the Nov. 7 rally, Chancellor George Blumenthal addressed hundreds of faculty and administrators. He said, “I assure you that the biomedical facility will move forward. We will take whatever actions necessary.”
Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger stood up after Blumenthal and condemned the rally participants. He said, “Our obligation should be to the over 14,000 students not involved. We will deploy significant financial resources to deal with this.”
UCSC administrators were quick to condemn the LRDP rally and tree-sit. The Academic Senate, which returned mixed responses to the bold statements of UCSC’s top brass, is familiar with the controversy surrounding the plan.
Before Chancellor Blumenthal recommended the Final 2005 LRDP to the UC Board of Regents in September 2006, the Academic Senate requested that it wait until November in order to provide time to revise elements in the LRDP that were deemed insufficient.
After years of vociferous comments during the LRDP process, the Santa Cruz Faculty Association presented their issues with the LRDP in their newsletter Terms and Conditions. In the opening “Infrequently Asked Questions” section, the newsletter stated, “We believe that the academic and economic planning for growth in the current proposed LRDP, if pursued as written, is highly unlikely to result in an excellent university for students or an excellent context for faculty teaching or research.”
Other articles in the newsletter raised concerns that the increased campus population would adversely affect the quality of life. Ronnie Lipschutz, professor of politics, wrote: “If the quality of life in the area deteriorates further, we will not be able to recruit and retain the best faculty, and our students will not be able to devote their time to learning if they have to spend excessive amounts of time in paid work to cover their housing and transportation, not to mention that our own pleasure in knowing we are teaching well will suffer.”
The Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE) is a Santa Cruz community-based group that is opposed to the university increasing its student population. Last year, CLUE, along with the City and County of Santa Cruz, placed two referendums on the November 2006 ballot designed to place limitations on university expansion. John Aird, one of the founding members of CLUE, explained that Measure I required the university to pay for all impacts related to growth while Measure J would prevent the university from extending beyond the city’s boundaries. “Both passed by extraordinary margins,” he said.
Following the election, Measures I and J were thrown out of court on a technicality that was challenged by university lawyers.
The way in which the university has approached expansion has raised frustration with many involved in the process.
“On this kind of growth plan, for the UCSC administration to take the attitude it has had toward the surrounding community is, in my opinion, despicable,” said Don Stevens, co-chair of CLUE and a 1976 graduate from UCSC. “[The administration] is going to do what they want to do unless the court stops them.”
Ryan Coonerty, newly-elected mayor of Santa Cruz, said that both Measures I and J would be on the ballot next year. He said, “There’s a large concern in the community [over the LRDP] and anybody who drives up Bay Street knows that resources are scarce.”
Coonerty also explained that city officials are supportive of university growth, but that the basic issue at stake is whether the university has a responsibility to mitigate its impact on the city. “At one point we filed 14 lawsuits against the university,” he said. “We just won one that said that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was insufficient.”
In August, superior court judge Paul Burdick ruled that the university must amend the EIR on the points of water, traffic, and housing mitigations, which he considered were in violation with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In essence, the EIR did not sufficiently account for where the university would find a water supply to provide for an increased population, which would complicate the already looming water crisis in Santa Cruz County. In addition, Burdick ruled that the university did not commit to paying its “fair share” of infrastructural costs to the city, especially in maintaining and improving roads that could tolerate the influx of automobiles. Lastly, the court ruling addressed the unsolved mystery as to where students would live, as housing has become scarce and increasingly expensive.
Other points of suit in the litigation addressed the effects campus expansion would have on endangered and protected species, water and air quality, and other housing issues, to name a few. These contentions did not stand in the court ruling.
In a later court hearing in September that focused on the proposed Biomedical Science Facility, Burdwick ruled that the building could not be approved until the entire EIR was amended, and then insisted that the university, the city and county, and CLUE enter mediation. The mediation is scheduled to begin the last week of November.
Coonerty described working with the university as a “frustrating experience,” but he later said that the city is happy to have the university here and that university officials have gone out of their way to reach out.
“The city feels that the university should pay their fair share,” Coonerty said. “It’s in the university’s best interests to pay attention to the community.
Aird, who has lived in the Santa Cruz community for over 20 years, was not so kind. He said, “The university is tone deaf to the issues and impact of growth that has already occurred.”
He went on to question the planning process and the intentions of the LRDP. “There is no academic plan that drives the LRDP, it appears to be backwards,” Aird said. “[The LRDP] lacks a foundation as to what it is all about.”
The early stages of the planning process for the LRDP also raised questions about the current drafting process. The Long Range Planning Committee consisted of a consortium of administrators, faculty, community members, and students, but only a few student representatives.
Some felt that students, who had two representatives on the committee, were not fairly represented in the process.
Paul Ortiz, a professor in the community studies department, talked about the lack of legitimate student voice in the LRDP process. He said, “You hear the administration saying that you have the opportunity to give input, but what does input mean? It doesn’t necessarily mean there is influence.”
Sherwin Mendoza, a graduate student in literature and a member of the Union of Academic Student Workers, which represents campus teaching assistants, agrees.
“This is such a huge issue that you have to ask, ‘Is having just a few students really going to represent students?”
The UCSC administration, however, continues to state that students were represented in the process. A recently created website to address the “Biomedical Building Protest,” that was designed to correct “misinformation about the LRDP process, biomed project,” reads: “The process for producing an updated LRDP began in 2003, before many of today’s students enrolled at UCSC. To suggest that students were not involved in the plan’s creation is inaccurate. Students served on campus LRDP committees and produced a ‘student involvement’ paper that presented their perspectives.”
Differing perspectives on just how effective the initial planning process was sparked the decision for students to sit atop a few redwood trees, and for over 300 students to rally against the LRDP.
Dankman hoped that the rally would cause students to examine the LRDP and find out just what the university is here for and what its priorities are. “We see the LRDP as an opportunity to take on the university as a whole,” he said, “We have had to force [the university] to pay attention.”
*Planning Beyond the LRDP* The LRDP does not just affect campus growth, it also has financial ramifications for both UCSC and the UC system as a whole. During the same academic senate meeting in which the top administrators addressed the LRDP protest, Blumenthal mentioned a $10 billion budget shortfall that would strike the state next year. “We will be fortunate if the compact is funded,” Blumenthal said in reference to the Compact for Higher Education signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, UC President Robert Dynes, and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed. The Compact, which was signed in a close-door meeting, guaranteed that student fees could only increase 8 percent per year.
Many believe that top UC officials exaggerated the impact of dwindling state funding on their budget. Bob Meister, a UCSC professor of politics and a former member of both the Strategic Futures Committee and Academic Senate, began the process of exploring the negative effects of rapid campus growth in his report “Eleven Theses on Growth”. According to Meister, there is a disconnect between physical, financial, and academic planning at UCSC. The report mentions default plans for a campus to grow as fast as it can and then mitigate the ways in which that growth has already made the campus worse.
Administrators say that the LRDP is only a general plan for physical growth and does not hold impact academics. This perception may be just the thing that creates what Meister considers a disjointed planning process.
Meister cited a study by the UC Office of the President that says the average cost of educating undergraduate students was about $18,000 per full time student, while approximately half of that is paid for by the state. When broken up on a campus-by-campus basis, the study found that “average state funding per student declines with growth, and declines most sharply on the campuses that grow most rapidly.”
In an analysis of the process surrounding 1988 LRDP, Meister found that UCSC received funding from the state to hire faculty and improve academic programs. In the end, many improvements were not made to the original specifications, in part because funds were diverted to pay for campus construction.
Since plans for physical and academic expansion are unconditional and unregulated, Meister argues that campus growth would make UCSC more dependent on private funds.
Community Studies and Faculty Association member Paul Ortiz agrees.
“The danger with privatization is that we can say we will make up the lack of funding from elsewhere,” said Ortiz. “What we need to do as a public university is to go to the state and get funds.”
Mendoza points to the proposed Biomedical Science Facility as an example.
“The proposed construction of the Biomedical Science Facility is indicative of the direction the university is going in,” said Mendoza. “What the Biomedical Science Facility is supposed to do is provide an infrastructure so that private funds can be attracted to the university.”
*Into Deeper Water* Some go as far to even say that the transition to relying on private funding is actually leading the UC deeper into a financial crisis. Charles Schwartz, emeritus professor of physics at UC Berkeley, began teaching at the university in 1960, and upon retiring in 1992, began researching UC funding.
Schwartz believes that there are many facet’s that constitute the idea that the UC is being privatized, and it goes deep.
“It’s not a fundamentally new thing, this loss of the Ivory Tower,” Schwartz said.
While he says that privately-sponsored research is nothing new to the university campus, lately the process has came with more force. Private funding has been used to pay for more than the usual construction projects and research contracts.
“There is an old rule in certainly at the public Universities that money that you get in the form of a gift or endowment you never want to use that to pay your core expenses like faculty salaries,” said Schwartz.
The use of private money in such ways, Schwartz said, leads state legislators to be less forthcoming with public money, because they see alternatives in a time of crisis.
In addition to the UC’s seemingly growing thirst for private funding, Schwartz stands strongly by another claim that demonstrates the meaning of privatization—that undergraduate students pay 100 percent of their tuition.
As the university claims that undergraduate students pay about 30 percent of their student fees, Schwartz raises questions with the use of statistics in this formula.
The university says that the average cost of education is about $18,000, while undergraduates pay 30 percent of their tuition. Schwartz emphasizes the fact that this formula averages the combined expense of graduate and undergraduates students combined. Essentially, undergraduate students are subsidizing graduate studies.
This is not to mention the cost of housing, books, and health services.
Graduate student Sherwin Mendoza adds that in the era of budget shortfalls, the university is becoming more dependent on tuition.
“Revenue stream from tuition is becoming more important. The burden is being shifted to students, especially out of state and international students,” Mendoza said.
*Escaping the disaster* The larger question is whether or not privatization is inevitable at a time when higher education faces ever increasing state budget shortfalls.
Executive Vice Provost David Kliger advocates creative solutions to the decreasing state funds. In the process, Kliger says that finding private funds can lead to positive contributions to the public. He said that if public funds were abundant, “life would be wonderful in the sense that I wouldn’t have to write any research grants, but I’m not sure that it would be the best thing.”
He talked about a friend who used to live in Moscow, and had access to almost unlimited state funding during the Soviet era. While Kliger said this was an excellent situation, it did not breed competition and new technology like private funding would. Instead, “they would do the same thing over and over again.”
“Even though it’s a lot of work to have to go and adjust your funding all the time, it does force people to really be more creative and produce research that’s really more useful to society in the long run.”
Some question what is meant by entrepreneurship and creativity, and if it just an excuse to privatize.
“I believe [administrators and the UC Regents] have a choice,” Schwartz said. “The alternative choices are much more difficult.”
In looking at the larger structural situation in which the UC is entangled, both Paul Ortiz and Sherwin Mendoza point to California’s change in its funding priorities, including the increasing funding for state prisons.
“There is a crisis nationwide in higher education that we need to understand. Universities are getting much reduced funding from the state, vis-