By Jessica Parral

Community studies professor and labor rights advocate Paul Ortiz will leave UC Santa Cruz next year to begin teaching at the University of Florida (UF), ending a six-year stay marked by vocal support of labor rights, campus diversity, student activism, and affordable faculty housing.

“I received a job offer to direct an oral history program at UF,” Ortiz said. “I just had to consider the cost of living; it’s definitely more expensive here in Santa Cruz.”

Ortiz received his BA from Evergreen State College and went on to earn a Ph.D. in history from Duke University. He began teaching at UCSC in 2001—after leaving a post at Duke—and helped co-found the Center for Labor Studies with history professor Dana Frank in 2006.

The revelation of his departure saddened many in the labor community, to whom Ortiz has consistently been a source of support.

“As a community, we’re losing someone who’s a leader in social justice,” said Alison Sirny-Guevara, an organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299. “The university needs to do more to retain professors of color and professors who are committed to social justice.”

Sirny-Guevara sent out an e-mail to AFSCME members Oct. 12 announcing the news and urging students to pressure the university to retain Ortiz.

“We need to let the Chancellor know what a terrible stain this is on his record,” the e-mail read. “Please call or e-mail Chancellor Blumenthal today to let him know how mad we are about this and that he should take every step humanly possible to keep Paul Ortiz at UC Santa Cruz.”

Ortiz said UCSC made a counter-offer in an effort to retain him, but it did not match the offer from UF.

“UF’s oral history program has a really amazing collection and a very strong focus in ethnic and Jewish studies,” Ortiz said. “But I obviously have a lot of ties here in Santa Cruz, so it was a very difficult decision.”

One of the many students decrying the loss is third-year David Partida, a student organizer and MEChA committee member, whom Ortiz sponsored for an AFSCME internship.

“He inspired a lot of us to keep organizing,” Partida said. “It’s not gonna kill the movement, but it’s gonna hurt us.

“UC Santa Cruz is really messing up with retention of professors of color,” he added.

According to UCSC spokesperson Jim Burns, “When faculty leave, especially faculty of color, it’s a real loss,” he told the Santa Cruz Sentinel last week.

Ortiz felt that his departure would not be detrimental to the school or the movements he supports.

“I don’t think it’ll have an impact,” Ortiz said. “There’s so much energy among the students here, and I think that’s going to continue.”