With California’s hard-hitting budget cuts this summer, some are proposing drastic changes for the University of California system.
Before UC President Mark Yudof met with the Board of Regents July 16, 23 department chairs from UC San Diego wrote a letter to Yudof suggesting possible methods to aid UC. The most controversial suggestion: shut down UC Merced, Santa Cruz, and Riverside.
“We suggest … you drop the pretence that all campuses are equal, and argue for selective reallocation of funds to preserve excellence, not the current disastrous blunderbuss policy of even, across the board cuts,” read the letter, acquired by the Merced-Sun Star. “Or, if that is too hard, we suggest that what ought to be done is to shut one or more of these campuses down, in whole or in part.”
Professor Andrew Scull, chair of the sociology department at UCSD, headed the letter writing. He said that he considered the UC schools in three tiers: Berkeley, LA and San Diego in the first, Davis, Irvine and Santa Barbara the second, and Santa Cruz, Riverside and Merced in the last.
“Rather than destroying the distinctiveness and excellence at Berkeley, UCLA and UCSD by hiring temporary lecturers to do most of the teaching (and contribute nothing to original research, nothing to our reputation, nothing to the engine of economic growth a first rate university represents), we propose that you urge the President and Regents to acknowledge that UCSC, UCR and UC Merced are in substantial measure teaching institutions,” according letter.
UC Merced Associated Students President Juan Carmen said the suggestion to close his university was upsetting.
“To have those select professors disregard the tremendous amount of work that many of my fellow students and I have put into our academics all while initiating some of the first clubs and organizations contributing to the student life of our campus,” Carmen said in an e-mail interview. “We are the campus of the 21st century … to stymie this growth would be the loss of a prototype for other universities to come.”
President Yudof responded with a letter to all UC chancellors July 9 explaining that although difficult times lie ahead for the UC, such a closure would not happen.
“Well meaning as such suggestions might have been … each time in the past such a suggestion has been understood to be short-sighted,” Yudof said.
All ten campuses will continue to carry out the university’s mission of instruction, research and public service, he said.
Scull, who has been at UCSD for 31 years and attended Oxford University, said that prospects look dire and preserving the excellence of research institutions should be a top priority.
“The question is under those circumstances can you sustain ten research campuses at the level of excellence you want? Our argument is that you cannot,” Scull said.
Scull said he has seen staff in his department leave due to better job offers elsewhere. He said he too received an offer overseas, and has considered taking it.
Yudof started a Commission for the Future of UC after the July regents meeting in response to the financial hardships that the UC will be facing.
“The next few months will undoubtedly be a difficult time for both the University of California as well as families across the state,” said Yudof in a press release. “However, I remain confident that by confronting our challenges squarely, and working together to tell our story, we will emerge from this crisis with a more viable, sustainable plan for remaining a world-class research and teaching institution.”
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org