Everywhere you turn there are the telltale signs of a fiscal drought. At UC Santa Cruz, employees, programs and organizations fight for survival from the cuts that have nearly sucked budgets dry.
The Arboretum, one of UCSC’s notable hands-on educational models, is one of the latest to become endangered, falling subject to the UC’s budget cuts.
After a buildup of debt that amounted to $1.8 million, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Alison Galloway decided to cut the portion of the University’s funding that goes towards the Arboretum. By cutting the Arboretum’s funding, the University will save $130,000. Now, the Arboretum is running on 14 percent less than their original budget of $970,000.
According to Galloway, it was the limits of the budget that prompted the University to stop its funding of the Arboretum.
“They were trying to build a fairly bigger research program. Unfortunately, research doesn’t get fully funded and [the Arboretum] ended up running into deficit,” Galloway explained. “We were having to cut anything we could. It’s the worst I’ve seen in the UC since I first started working here in 1990.”
In addition to the funding cut, five out of twelve of the Arboretum’s paid staff have suffered layoffs, including the Arboretum’s executive director, Dan Harder, and its development director, Steven McCabe.
“It’s incredibly hard to lose staff,” said Arboretum manager Brett Hall. “I want to try to bring them back. But it’s going to take some real money.”
The Arboretum is a hidden expanse of exotic flora unlike anywhere else on the UCSC campus. The entrance itself boasts an impressive desert landscape with trails winding in and out of sight. Oakes is just visible from inside — and is also a mere half-mile from the base of campus.
The Arboretum functions as a hands-on teaching lab and a working ranch, and is an on-campus resource for students in different fields such as ecology, art and environmental studies. Host to rare and exquisite plants from Australia, New Zealand andSouth Africa, as well as plants native to California, it draws students and community members alike.
Hall is a busy man, residing right in the heart of the arboretum. He says “Hi” to everyone in passing and is constantly moving around, working while he talks. He occasionally excuses himself to sign a grower’s contract, engage in preparations for plant sales or tend to plants. Even after-hours, Hall is still on the job.
When asked if he’s worried about what’s going to happen to the Arboretum, his tone immediately changes to one of determination and certainty.
“The Arboretum is not going to fail,” Hall said. “We just need to be loved and supported.”
In its response to dealing with the cuts and layoffs, the Arboretum is diligently trying to recover, branching out to the community with plant sales, grants and grower’s agreements, as well as gifts from the federal government and nonprofit organizations.
“Increasing our visibility is important to us,” said Tom Sauceda, curator of the New Zealand collection and member of the Arboretum staff. “Plants are vitally important for life. Sometimes they’re just overlooked.”
Sauceda urges students who care about the Arboretum to write to the chancellor and vice-provost about how much it means to them. He also said that there are many volunteer opportunities available to any interested students.
Money wasn’t mentioned by either Hall or Sauceda. They seem to ask for nothing more than appreciation and a little recognition.
“Movement has to be based on genuine connection at first,” Hall explained. “[Students] can make their voices heard if they care about the natural world. They can come visit during the different seasons.”
Plant sales are held by the Arboretum semiannually and throughout the year at Norrie’s gift shop, located at the entrance of the Arboretum, in order to raise funds. The most recent sale at the Arboretum took place on Oct. 3.
“There was a good steady stream [of buyers] and it was a very meaningful fundraiser for us,” Hall said.
This isn’t the first time the Arboretum has experienced cuts. In 1994, the University underwent a series of drastic budget cuts, which resulted in reduced funding for the Arboretum. Four years later, the Arboretum’s funds were restored by the chancellor due to an improvement in the economy and visible support for the Arboretum.
“We’re survivors,” Hall said. “We’re going to thrive.”
Vice-Provost Galloway hopes that the Arboretum will be able to reverse some cuts in the future and at least partially recover some of the jobs that were lost.
“We’re trying to get some people back depending on whether the [public’s] support for the Arboretum stays,” Galloway said. “There is sufficient funding if we can maintain the curators. They know and have worked in these gardens for years.”
Regardless of the cuts to the Arboretum, Hall views them with a certain level of understanding for the UC’s difficult decision-making position.
“We’re all looking for a very healthy future, a healthy relationship with the university,” Hall said. “I have to kill snails. Is it something I like to do? No. But I have to do it.”