Our beloved campus on a hill in the woods opened in 1965 as “the most significant educational experiment in the history of the University of California.” Clark Kerr said the aim of UC Santa Cruz was to be bold, providing a unique model of education that allows students to engage and connect to their professors on a personal level. We have fallen far from that original mission.
In the last fifty years, our class sizes have grown, our academic buildings have degraded, tuition has skyrocketed, and the quality of our education has weakened. This is not the sole fault of the UC System; the State of California is equally guilty of neglecting students by not providing adequate funding to public higher education. The students of this campus are suffering because of it.
The Office of the President is now pursuing an irresponsible plan to move forward with increasing enrollment at UCSC. This will have a detrimental effect on the quality of education. If our goal as a university is to provide a quality education, we are already failing. Increasing enrollment will make reaching that goal completely unattainable.
On Tuesday, February 9th, the Student Union Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling for the Chancellor, the Executive Vice Chancellor, and the Office of Admissions to challenge the UC enrollment plan for our campus. We, the students, recognize that the enrollment plan cannot move forward at this time without having a severe impact on our academic learning environment.
Vice Chancellor of Business and Administrative Services Sarah Latham and Associate Vice Chancellor of Colleges, Housing and Educational Services Sue Matthews must condemn this enrollment plan because our transportation, dining, and housing services are stretched too thin already. On-campus housing is unaffordable and exceeding capacity. Rooms that were meant to be doubles have been converted to triples and spaces that were designed to be lounges have been transformed to quads. There are also talks of bringing temporary mobile homes to campus, which is laughable for a public university to even consider as an acceptable solution to a lack of student housing. The plan to increase bed spaces decreases quality, comfort, and student study space.
Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget Margaret Delaney should actively oppose this plan. The UC enrollment agreement made between Janet Napolitano and Governor Jerry Brown does not grant enough state funding per each additional student we enroll. This is unacceptable for UC Santa Cruz, which is already an underfunded university. We are operating at a structural deficit and do not have the financial resources to make up for the gap in funding that the state is not providing.
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Richard Hughey and the academic Deans must vocalize the complete infeasibility of admitting additional students without first building more academic infrastructure. The current plan of shortening classroom blocks and shifting to an earlier schedule to squeeze in more lectures clearly hurts student academics. We are losing important class time with professors and asking students to take their classes at inopportune times.
Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Alma Sifuentes and Interim Vice Provost for Student Success Jaye Padgett need to demand a plan for expanding student services before we admit additional students. Overcrowding has an obvious effect on retention rates and student engagement at the university.
We, as a university, are failing the students. The campus bus service has exceeded capacity, the Wellness Center is overcrowded, Counseling and Psychological Services cannot keep up with growing demand, and the library is out of space to accommodate the needs of studious students.
I understand that leaders of the university may be reluctant to say the quality of education has dropped at UC Santa Cruz. However, we are out of options. The effects of over enrolling are going to drop retention rates. The agreement with the state was to make graduating in three years more possible; students cannot be expected to graduate in three years if classes are impacted even more. Graduating at all will be challenging as students begin to drop out just because we lack access to housing and other essential student services.
As leaders of the university, the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor are responsible for articulating and implementing the campus vision for education. We demand they tell UC President Janet Napolitano that we cannot take more students at this time.
Do not be mistaken, the UC system has an obligation as a public higher education institution to serve as many students possible. However, quality needs to be a priority. Increasing enrollment when we are not prepared to offer a quality education is foolish. Potential students have a right to know what to expect when enrolling here. The degrading quality of education at UC Santa Cruz will be made public if the administration continues this irresponsible plan. This will effectively deflect the incoming class and reduce enrollment simply by discouraging potential students from seeking an education here.
We do not do this out of malice or ill intent, but simply out of desperation for our situation and concern for future students. It is not possible to maintain quality while demanding more from the campuses that are already congested. If California is demanding we enroll more students, the State needs to invest in higher education to develop more University of California campuses.
The students support Chancellor Blumenthal in telling UC President Janet Napolitano that accepting more students is not an option at this time. We hope campus administration will embrace the opportunity to embark together in this effort. However, if Chancellor Blumenthal chooses to comply and continue with the increased enrollment plan, we demand his resignation on the grounds of not providing this campus with the educational quality that students deserve.
I would like to leave you with this quote from Chancellor George Blumenthal, “We were founded knowing that challenging the status quo wasn’t part of the problem: It was the solution.” Now more than ever is the time to challenge the institution. Be bold.