By Hannah Buoye
In light of recent events, the College Eight Red Room became a venue for students and faculty to discuss the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) last Wednesday night.
A weekly occurrence, Wednesday night Tea—hosted by College Eight provost, Ravi Rajan—focused on the LRDP as a follow up to concerns that had been raised the previous week about the protest. While the discussion initially focused on specific questions about the document, it quickly grew to include the broader themes of growth and public education, the larger problem of accountability, and the frustration felt in having concerns ignored.
Dan Scripture, a long-time lecturer in the Writing Department, added a faculty perspective to the discussion: “I think we need to expand. We have room to build buildings, but I don’t think they’re doing it very well.”
Aaron Dankman, a fourth-year politics major and participant in the Nov. 7 LRDP rally, attended the discussion. He explained in a follow-up interview, “My particular issue isn’t about one project in the document, it’s about the logic that governs growth on the level of what’s useful to the world,” Dankman said. “Specifically, who is in charge of which element; the economic/financial element, the academic element and the physical infrastructure element, all depend on each other and limit [the] possibilities of the other ones.”
Kyle Simerly, a first-year politics major and a participant in the discussion, took issue with administrators. “What it comes down to is accountability,” she said. “And our representations as students and faculty, and for the administration to take seriously what we think and not minimize our opinion.”
Simerly went on to explain that he first heard of the LRDP from signs posted at bus stops that denounced corporatization. She did not take them seriously at first.
“First, all I had seen were signs at the bus stop and they made me roll my eyes, it just sounded like pathetic rhetoric,” Simerly said.
When previous discussions like this one turned to the LRDP, Simerly rethought his opinion after hearing the questions and concerns of other participants. “[Everyone] could see the benefits of the LRDP, but there were a ton of negative sides to it,” he said. “Although [the fliers] make us roll our eyes, they have some merit.”
Dankman continued, “I think there are valid reasons to support the tree sit,” he said. “But there are many reasons to oppose the LRDP…The question isn’t whether or not you join the tree sit, the question is: are you ready to take seriously what the LRDP implies and the opportunity available to you to do something about it?”
There is growing concern about the extent to which students and faculty control the educational agenda of the University of California. Students at the discussion questioned decision-making at the top and the absence of an arena for effective policy debate. Dankman took issue with the process because it “prioritizes destructive weapons technologies or poorly planned expansion process over the roots of consistent commitment to public education.”
“This isn’t just a document, it’s a fulcrum in the institution itself; it’s a major element of the broader visions of the UC as a whole and specifically for George Blumenthal’s vision of UCSC as ‘UC Silicon Valley,’” Dankman said.
The small gathering also addressed protesting and whether it is a legitimate way to engage the administration on issues. Both Simerly and Dankman pointed out that the Nov 7. rally, whether people agree or disagree with it, did raise awareness of the issue.
“Battling is the unfortunate reality,” Dankman said of the way UC approaches growth and other administrative decisions. “You’re consistently forced to take action that is strong, direct and meaningful, otherwise they will walk all over you.”
When asked whether or not the weekly College Eight discussions were helpful, Simerly voiced his support for small group discussions as way for people to ask questions and start a dialogue on issues like the LRDP.
“The LRDP is something that is polarizing,” Simerly said. “It is important that people realize there are two sides to this discussion. People often don’t know the entire deal and aren’t willing to talk about all sides of the debate. There needs to be a movement of education to get people to talk.”
Scripture also suggested that while growth and expansion are within the rhetoric of the university’s mandate, it would be beneficial if there were some form of meeting held once a month to explain what is going on.
“Students are going on rumor,” Scripture said. “There can still be disagreement, but at least they know what’s going on. If there is something worth protesting, at least it will be informed.”