It is heart-wrenching to watch financial shortcomings hack away at many of the most remarkable and unique aspects of this university. In addition to the instructors who have long incited the student body to stay active and innovative, many programs are now on the chopping block. Lay-offs, cut classes and, for some, unpayable fees bode badly for the future of UC Santa Cruz.
However, beneath this gloom there lies an uplifting reality. Art, activism, freedom of expression, environmental stewardship and intellectual query — the cornerstones of this and other institutes of higher learning — are here to stay. These things stem from the minds of students, and are not stamped with a monetary value nor confined to a budget plan.
It is the students who continue to gravitate to this place, who make it a haven for intellectualism and progressivism. It is the collection of young, ripe minds that, since the founding of this university in 1965, transform Santa Cruz into a globally recognized sanctuary for personal and societal growth and change.
Among the endangered programs and facilities at our campus are the Arboretum, which hosts over 300 plant families from around the world; the internationally renowned Shakespeare Santa Cruz festival; and the Community Studies program, which provides volunteers to countless not-for-profit organizations.
And many other programs sit in trepidation of impending financial demise.
While this school will never be the same if these programs disappear, we trust in the resourcefulness and determination of the student body to keep the spirit of a liberal university alive and thriving, continuing to be a beacon for the curious, conscientious and courageous.
Prior to the construction of the university, the City of Santa Cruz was a rather conservative area. As outlined in the book “The Leftmost City,” co-authored by UCSC faculty members Richard Gendron and Bill Domhoff, progressive politics flooded this city in the 1970s as the university grew in prominence. Along with the rise of this progressivism, the number of nonprofit and other charitable organizations in Santa Cruz also rose drastically in those years.
The students at UCSC are part of a spirit of acceptance and creative thought that has become synonymous with “Santa Cruz.” They’re willing to march into pepper spray to save the redwoods, donate more than 20 hours a week to hand out clean needles and even spontaneously dance around a bonfire under the full moon on occasion.
It is not fiscal security that keeps social advocacy groups, humanitarians and progressive thinkers alive and well in Santa Cruz. It is the young minds and bodies willing to shake things up out there.
There may not always be money in the University of California, but there will always be young men and women stepping onto its campuses, pondering how to make the world a better place for all.
Budget cuts are not optional at this point, but regardless, it is possible and necessary for a continued sense of duty to activism and creativity to outlive the declining economy. It is in this way that, when financial tides eventually surge upward again, future generations can revamp and restore the university’s extraordinary programs. We just have to keep their legacies alive in the meantime.