[vimeo width=”680″ height=”383″]http://www.vimeo.com/4072543[/vimeo]
View Part Two online at http://www.vimeo.com/4073923.
On Tuesday, April 7, almost a week after the news of possible fatal cuts to the community studies department spread throughout the UC Santa Cruz community, an emergency meeting was held in Oakes College to determine how to save the 40-year-old program.
The Coalition to Save Community Studies (CSCS), a Facebook group with over 1,700 members, issued a call to action to concerned members of the UCSC community and beyond, asking them to attend the meeting and brainstorm plans of action against the proposed funding cuts.
“The intent of the meeting was to get out information to as many people as possible, and that includes what work has already been done and what work is going to be done to fight [the proposed cuts],” said fourth-year Adam Butler, an American studies major who helped organize the meeting and is a founding member of CSCS.
“The other function was to get more students in the efforts to fight this,” Butler continued. “We want to be as inclusive as possible. The more people that know about this, the more people we have fighting for this.”
Organizers are keeping future plans close to their chests, but some hope to work with the administration in coming up with a solution that accommodates all parties.
“We as a department — as evidenced today with hundreds of students, faculty and parents and organizations that are here — we’re interested in working with the administration to weather the economic crisis,” community studies lecturer Sean Burns said after the meeting.
“But what’s non-negotiable is the long-term fate of the department,” he continued. “It’s too vital to the community and the country.”
At an April 1 community studies (CMMU) departmental meeting, Dean of Social Sciences Sheldon Kamieniecki told assembled faculty members their department might face major cuts beginning July 1. The Division of Social Sciences must absorb $1.3 million in cuts as the entire university confronts a $13 million state funding cut, adding to the $6 million in cuts left over from last year.
While Kamieniecki didn’t mention any particulars, according to CMMU professor David Brundage — who was present at the April 1 meeting — the dean did say that the proposed cuts will likely take the form of eliminating non-tenured CMMU staff members.
“That would mean things like the business department, the critical undergraduate adviser and the field studies coordinators [would disappear],” Brundage said.
He went on to say that while, technically, the department could still function even without non-tenured staff, such changes would be detrimental nonetheless.
“We do not feel this is realistic,” Brundage said. “If you cut the staff, you cut the major. It’ll be dead in a year.”
Butler corroborated Brundage’s assessment.
“No administrative staff, no department,” he said. “There’s no major without our non-tenured lecturers and administrative staff.”
CMMU students, faculty and concerned non-majors responded to the news of possible cuts immediately. An initial planning meeting was held on April 3 after Dean Kamieniecki’s words leaked to several students via e-mail, and the Tuesday meeting was planned shortly after the news broke.
Bettina Aptheker, a professor of feminist studies and history, spoke to the solemn-faced crowd Tuesday, and afterward expressed her fears and reasons for attending the meeting.
“This is setting a precedent,” Aptheker said. “It’s not even about the community studies department.”
Aptheker spoke about the faculty concern over this issue, which leaves many professors and staff members wondering, “What’s next?”
“Even people in the sciences are worried,” she said.
Krystal Petrea just received an acceptance letter from UCSC, and wants to major in CMMU. She attended the meeting to find out what the CSCS plans to do next.
Petrea stalled her plans to transfer to UCSC after learning that the department she’s planned on joining for three years faces apparently irreparable struggles.
“I was going to transfer to UCSC as a community studies major in the fall,” Petrea said. “[I] heard they killed the field study program effective immediately, so that pretty much killed it for me. I’m going to Berkeley.”
Petrea vented her frustration at the administration and chastised the shortsightedness of cutting the department’s funding and effectively shutting it down.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “It’s all politics, basically. It’s an excuse to basically marginalize community studies because it’s not generating wealth.”
Dean Kamieniecki issued a statement late Tuesday to clarify the circulation of what he calls misinformation and rumors.
“Our plans do include eliminating administrative support positions in community studies,” the statement said. “Administrative support for this academic program will continue, and will be provided by one or more of our social science departments. Students enrolled in the community studies major — including 2009 frosh who declare that major — are unaffected. They will continue to have a full range of academic support.”
It went on to say that “contrary to rumors, there has been no decision, or even a formal proposal, to discontinue the community studies major.”
Brundage and other members of the CMMU staff say they are fully aware of the belt-tightening necessary for the school to stay afloat in these harrowing economic times. However, he would like to see a more even distribution of funds to all departments and fields of study.
“Yes, there are dreadful budget cuts ahead,” Brundage said. “[But] there’s no inevitable academic cutting. We feel they should be shared.”
As of now, the future of the CMMU department and the CSCS are unclear. But the fight will continue, as evidenced by the post-meeting planning session that took place at Kresge and lasted until 10 p.m. Tuesday. The resolve of those fighting is unwavering.
“I feel very hopeful,” Butler said. “It shows me how important this major is to the community at large. There’s people on the Facebook group at other universities that support us. There’s people from other departments, telling us how important this major is.”