By Rachel Stern
As the next wave of college applications starts to roll in, administrators at UC Santa Cruz look to a future where the university will have to provide higher education to a larger student body. Many question if the wooded campus will be stretched beyond the trees to the point where it crowds the town-dominating the housing market, transportation and water usage-and lose its shine as the quality of learning for which UCSC has long been praised slowly declines.Under UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) for the year 2020, the campus could add 4,500 students, 360 faculty, and 980 staff members. The population of graduate students on campus would increase from nine to fifteen percent.
While the LRDP projects potential growth, according to Elizabeth Irwin, associate vice chancellor at UCSC, those numbers are not set in stone, and only represent a ceiling figure.
And, administrators like Irwin stress that UCSC’s academic plan is the heart of the LRDP.
Although administrators, including Irwin, urge that academic advancement is at the heart of the growth plan, many-like Professor of Sociology Craig Reinarman-feel the campus expansion would actually weaken undergraduate academics.
"All of us would like to grow our programs and provide high quality education," Reinarman said. "But growth compromises what we can offer and has serious consequences for the character of the university."
However, administrators cite new opportunities which are only possible on a large campus, due to evidence that growth will be beneficial for undergraduate education. According to Irwin, the LRDP will allow expansion of interdisciplinary curriculum, undergraduate research opportunities, and give students closer contact with graduate students.
Reinarman remains skeptical that growth will be beneficial to undergraduate education because he believes that the adverse effects of past expansion have not yet been dealt with.
"The university hasn’t adequately dealt with its last spur of growth," Reinarman said, pointing out that poor student-faculty ratios, a lack of housing, and overcrowded classrooms are remnants of the 1988 LRDP.
Yoel Kirshner, a fourth-year environmental studies major, thinks that the 2020 LRDP will have numerous negative consequences for students.
"Classes are already too big," said Kirshner, who advocated against expansion as a member of the LRDP Strategic Student Involvement Committee in Fall 2005.
Despite the concerns of many students, administrators are under pressure from the UC Board of Regents to expand the campus to serve the needs of a growing demographic of college-ready students.
Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal is excited about the potential for new programs under the LRDP, and has specified that the university will develop six new interdisciplinary areas ranging from human and health studies to transnationalism and globalization.
In fall 2003, a board of faculty members, called the Strategic Futures Committee (SFC), was assembled to review academic plans in light of new growth.
Brent Haddad, an associate professor of Environmental Studies who serves on the SFC, sees the LRDP as an opportunity to offer more students the chance to study at the university.
"The world would be a better place if more people had bachelor’s degrees from UC Santa Cruz," Haddad said.
While the SFC initially stated that an enrollment of 25,000 would place all programs in the top 25 percent of public research institutions, the group recently recommended that the campus growth, which has risen by an average annual rate of four percent over the past 15 years, should slow down.
On top of educational concerns, many worry about how expansion will affect the campus’ environment.
The LRDP would expand building space on campus by 3.18 million square feet, and include a residential college aimed to house about 1,500 students as well as an athletic facility located 15 acres north of the current campus. Sixty-five percent of the construction is proposed to take place in already plotted areas, while the rest would materialize in the undeveloped northern portion of campus.
Matt Waxman, who was the official student representative on the 2005-2020 LRDP Student Involvement Committee (LRDP-SIC), feels that the LRDP need not receive as much scorn as it has.
"I think it’s actually very good planning framework," said Waxman, a Film and Digital Media major who graduated last spring. "It’s not something that people should be fighting, but rather seeing how it’s beneficial to the community."
Waxman encouraged students to get involved with the process of the LRDP, citing the examples of his own committee and the Student Environmental Center’s Sustainable Development Committee, of which he was also a member.
"There’s still opportunities to build bridges and make good," said Waxman.
According to Irwin, the 2020 LRDP increases the amount of open space area on campus to 1,095 acres, compared to the 857 acres that were set aside in the 1988 plan. Under these conditions, 54 percent of the total campus acreage is planned to be devoted to open space.
To alleviate educational and housing conflicts, the LRDP states that housing and classrooms should occupy one-third of the new space.
Maggie Fusari, the director of the UCSC Campus Natural Reserves, worries about the adverse effects this expansion will have on the environment.
"I am concerned because there’s very well-meaning people involved [in the planning process]," Fusari said, "but it’s very difficult to impose good green and environmental planning."
In addition to the numerous concerns over the plan on campus, many, including Reinarman, worry that expansion on the hill will bleed into the city.
"I’m worried that [UCSC] will go way beyond being interesting and enriching to the community to dominating it," Reinarman said.
The UC Regents approved the expansion plan unanimously during a Regents meeting Sept. 21, and one Regent even questioned why the campus shouldn’t expand even further, according to County Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt. Community members have been disappointed by what they view as the Regents’ lack of consideration for community concerns.
Many residents are worried that the university will not help the city financially to deal with the burden placed on the local infrastructure, and want the UC Regents to bear all costs arising from university expansion.
Most city residents don’t outright oppose expansion, but rather are concerned that the university will not deal with the harmful effects of its growth.
According to Santa Cruz Mayor Cynthia Matthews, concerned city residents focus on issues of housing, transportation and water use. The LRDP does aim to house 50 percent of all students on campus. However, as enrollment rises, student pressure on the housing market downtown would increase. And, many residents worry that the already gridlocked intersections surrounding campus will become impassable and overuse of already low water supplies would leave the entire city at risk in serious droughts.
Matthews looks at housing and traffic concerns and concludes that the city just can’t hold any more people.
"We’re a pretty small community and we don’t have room to expand," Matthews said.
Alumni and city residents who share Matthews’ concern have formed the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion (CLUE) out of worry that the UCSC campus-and its surrounding city-would not be able to handle such an extreme increase in size.
While many, like CLUE co-founder Don Stevens, are not opposed to expansion outright, they have doubts that the university will be able to offset the costs to the city of its growth.
"I wouldn’t oppose it if they could take care of the impacts," Stevens said. "But that’s a tall order."
Many infuriated residents, including the members of CLUE, are fighting against the LRDP because they fear unmitigated adverse effects on the population. There is currently a lawsuit being filed against the university which claims that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which accompanied the LRDP is incomplete.
Many people believe that that the environmental issues of growth are not the sole reason for concern, but rather a legal tactic to prevent campus expansion until all the other issues are addressed.
Residents are also fighting expansion with the ballot. On Nov. 7, Santa Cruz residents will vote on two measures, I and J, which stipulate that UCSC cannot expand unless it reduces the effects of its growth.
Measure I would require the city council to oppose any increase in UCSC’s student enrollment until the University is able to mitigate the full costs of past and future growth impacts.
Measure J would require the approval of Santa Cruz residents for new water and sewer services outside of Santa Cruz County. The majority of new growth at UCSC is projected to lie outside the city’s boundary lines.
Mardi Wormhoudt, the Santa Cruz County supervisor who drafted Measure I, believes that "all informed people agree that if the University is going to grow this large, it’s got to pay its way."
"There are some people who believe that the proposed amount of growth is not sustainable for the campus and community without irrevocably harming the campus," Wormhoudt said.
The campaign to stop expansion is not only supported by city residents. Third-year politics major Samantha Folb, is working with the "Yes on I and J" campaign because she feels that any campus expansion will further compromise the quality of her education, noting that "a lot of the classes don’t have discussion [sections] anymore."
Many issues are on hand when considering the LRDP and the decision whether to expand or not will likely come from a combination of the upcoming election and pending or future court cases.
It seems that the only thing about the LRDP that is totally clear is that nothing is clear at all.