Eight committee members, 24 students, 188 empty seats. Despite the effort to gather outside input for the chancellor search committee by conducting a town hall, students felt the attempt fell short.
The Chancellor Search Committee held a town hall on Dec. 3 at the Stevenson Event Center. There were three sessions, each allotted one hour followed by an hour-long break. At 10 a.m., staff voiced their concerns, followed by faculty at noon and students at 2 p.m.
“[The town hall] was scheduled at a really inconvenient time for many students,” said third-year student and town hall attendee Jonathan Coelho. “A lot of students who wanted to be here couldn’t be here, and that just goes to show [the UC Santa Cruz administration’s] lack of commitment in hearing student concerns and their voices.”
Eight of the 17 Chancellor Search Committee members were present at the town hall. However, UC President and committee chair Janet Napolitano was not in attendance. After a brief overview of the hiring process, students brought forward demands addressing issues with UC systemwide policies and programs.
Students voiced their frustrations over Napolitano’s absence. They reminded the committee that Napolitano avoided hearing student concerns on Nov. 16, when about 100 UCSC students entered the Colleges Nine and Ten Dining Hall doorway to confront her as she commenced the first Chancellor Search Committee meeting. Police escorted her out and she did not hear any student demands.
Students also felt low attendance at the town hall was due to police presence, acknowledging many students may be nervous to attend after the conflict at the Nov. 16 event. There was an officer on each side of the event center entrance.
“As an undocumented student, I had no idea there was going to be police here,” said a student speaker at the town hall. “I feel extremely concerned not only for myself, but other people.”
Students also criticized the lack of effort put into making students, staff and faculty aware of the town hall. The event was planned in late October, but administration did not give notice until Nov. 21.
“Why is this happening so late in the process? Students are disappointed with the lack of transparency in this process,” said third-year student and Black Student Union (BSU) Vice President Colby Riley at the town hall. “I know you guys have the money to get the word out, why was there minimal effort?”
Faculty in attendance also felt there was minimal effort to get members outside of the committee involved in the process. UCSC politics professor Elizabeth Beaumont expressed her concern over the imbalance in seats on the committee. She felt the majority of seats went to the regents and UC system stakeholders.
“There could have been effort to create somewhat more balance in the membership between those who are primarily committed to the UCSC campus itself,” Beaumont said in an email, “and those whose primary commitment is really to the larger UC system.”
The majority of attendees seemed to agree on ideals they want in the new chancellor. They want an active listener skilled in communication, who is committed to diversity with prior experience in driving change. They also wanted to ensure the next chancellor will tackle the issues of privatization within the university, as well as the safety of undocumented students.
“Every single day I think about transferring and that should say something,” said fourth-year student and BSU President Shania Anderson. “The chancellor for next year and the years to come needs to actually give a damn about students.”
Jenn Santos, a fourth-year student who attended the town hall, suggested students have direct contact with the potential candidates. She wanted to eliminate the middleman so students could get to know and directly question candidates.
UC Vice President Dwaine Duckett dismissed the idea, as the process is already underway and candidates were promised anonymity. However, undergraduate representative Ayo Banjo proposed an alternative.
“We can take down a list of questions in the winter quarter town hall and I can personally bring them up to potential chancellors so we can address the most important questions [of] the students,” Banjo said to the attendees.
He also agreed to send the candidates’ answers to students in a timely manner.
As the clock ticked, students continued to point out flaws, asserting one hour was not enough for the committee to hear and understand the student voice. Despite the committee’s efforts to allow online comments, students said the ability to do so in person carried more influence.
“Seeing our emotions and reactions hold far more value than black and white words on a screen,” BSU President Shania Anderson said.
Students continued to express passion for the issue at hand, causing the student session to go almost 15 minutes over the allotted time.