We face extinction.
The ‘we’ I speak of can be any number of groups since UC Santa Cruz students (and really, just about everyone else) are now at the center of a constantly changing cultural, political and financial landscape.
But our university, our community, our microcosm of the real world that awaits our uneasy arrival, is facing extinction.
And when extinction becomes a possibility, the masses turn.
In a July 2009 letter presented at a meeting of the Board of Regents of the University of California and written in light of the statewide budget cuts to public education, 23 UC San Diego professors supported, signed and suggested to the regents the closing of UC Riverside, UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz.
It’s a shocking thought that a group of educated, informed professors would think that this 2,000-acre campus, home to alternative curriculum and important research, should become an educational ghost town.
“It’s simply not the case that all campus entities are of equal value to our goals,” a letter written by the suggesting professors reads. “We propose that you urge the President and the Regents to acknowledge that UCSC, UCR and UC Merced are insubstantial measure teaching institutions…whose funding levels and budgets should be reorganized to match that reality.”
Harsh words for harsh times, perhaps.
Of California’s $52 billion education budget, a staggering $4.2 billion has been cut from the UCs specifically, all in addition to the $12 billion already cut from the public school budget as a whole. It’s a large blow to a state that is ranked number 47 in national per-pupil spending. And with student fees going up during a time when the average income is going down, the scrounging for whatever monetary scraps are left has resulted in an “every man for himself” state of desperation throughout the echelons of the UC system.
But in the midst of education’s fiscal drought, UCSD’s words border on anguished, last-ditch rambling, reminding us that during troubled times, even chummy educational facilities like the UCs can resort to the “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business” credo.
And in that regard, their words might be marginally understandable.
We may have certainly reached a systemic point where reassessment of funding is a dire necessity. And, going further, we may have even reached a point where our state can no longer fund a 10-university public school system. But now, more than ever, is a time for our public education system to avoid the single-minded, individualistic mentality that leaves a select few on top and the rest on the chopping block.
Regardless of the difficulties we are facing and will undoubtedly continue to face, we’re all in this together, and now is a time to gather and bite the hand that feeds us in unison and focus on the rudimentary reasons our world-renowned public university system ended up in such dire financial straits in the first place.
For UCSD to make a case for closing down our campus – or any campus for that matter – is a suggestion that should never even had made it to the early stages of consideration. UCSC is home to the top astrophysics and linguistics graduate programs in the nation, a globally revered economics program, and, oh yeah, we also helped out with a little diddy called the Human Genome Project.
UCSC has more than proven itself as a valuable educational institution, both in and out of the UC system. Not only is this campus academically diverse and powerful, it includes an enviably tight-knit community of thoughtful, insightful and unique students and faculty.
But defending our campus isn’t the point; what matters now is defending every campus, even those that try to devalue our name. UCSD’s words are insulting but they are indeed a response borne of fear and desperation, and in times of crisis, even those who deem us unworthy deserve our support more than ever.
As we near the beginning of a new school year, we need to lay the infrastructure for all campus’ in the UC system to be able to depend on one another as impending budget cuts continue to hit home. In the face of cuts, the most inappropriate and unhelpful thing the UC campuses could do is get into a bureaucratic game of battleship, desperately trying to stay afloat while sinking our fellow institutions.
The fate of our university, and the nine others that compose our academic family, may depend on the state of American education as a whole during this time of social and economic shifts. But for now, we need to focus our attention, power and support on each other before we too go the way of the dinosaur.