By Valerie Luu

Rarely is a discussion about long-term planning at UC Santa Cruz so positive.

In fact, talk of the university’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), which calls for new buildings and increased enrollment, is typically laden with the words “protest” and “controversy.”

But on Thursday, Jan. 10, a different dialogue took place. Nearly 70 UCSC students, faculty, administrators, and community members came together for University Café, an event to discuss the future of UCSC.

Co-sponsored by Porter and Kresge colleges, the event held at Kresge Town Hall used the conversational structure and guiding principles of World Café, a dialogue process that encourages discussion between people with diverse perspectives that will eventually lead the group to a collective conclusion.

“The LRDP is a very polarizing issue, and because of the high feelings around the LRDP, it is not a proper issue for café process,” said Laurie McCann, UCSC campus Ombuds since 2002 and University Café co-facilitator. “Our awareness of people’s concern [for the] LRDP was in part the motivation for this event, but we wanted people to go beyond the issue to focus on more broad hopes and aspirations for the future of the campus.”

For that evening, Kresge Town Hall was transformed into an intimate café setting with tables adorned with red-checkered tablecloth, white doodling paper, markers, and sprigs of rosemary from the Kresge Garden Co-op. Participants were encouraged to “play, doodle, and draw” while “contributing their thinking and experience” and “listening to understand.”

Christian Schwarz, a second-year environmental studies major, participated in the event out of concern for the eventual environmental impact of the LRDP. “It was a really happy place in comparison to the negative and paranoid atmosphere of previous discussions about the future of the campus,” Schwarz said.

Surrounded by portraits of movers and shakers such as Angela Davis, Ralph Nader, and Sarah Schulman, the participants were asked to discuss the elements of effective dialogue, the unique features of the UCSC campus, and the changes they hope to see at UCSC by 2015. At the end of each topic, participants were asked to move to a different table to talk with a new group of people.

Michael McCawley, director of admissions at UCSC, was one of the administrators that came to listen to the group’s varyious opinions. “I appreciated the open and honest sharing that occurred at each of the tables I was a part of,” McCawley said. “Some of what I have heard I have certainly heard before, but the envisioning of the campus of the future was quite interesting. … I realized that many at our table would like to see a very different type of campus from what we have today.”

After exchanging their ideas, thoughts, and opinions, the participants reconvened as a collective to discuss the hopes they heard and have for the future of UCSC. With the help of Susan Kelly, a graphic recorder, people’s ideas were artistically illustrated to demonstrate some common goals and values such as sustainability, equal education, and more unity between UCSC students, faculty, administration, and the Santa Cruz community.

Dave Shaw, a Porter graduate and University Café co-facilitator, was pleased with the turnout

“The most resounding thing at the end of the night was the poster that was artfully done and represented many diverse perspectives. It is a beautiful vision of the campus, and involves all the things that people really value,” Shaw said. “The things that we value and hold onto dearly are moving from a phase of survival to a new phase of ‘thrival,’ through dialogue. The conversation is an action.”

World Cafés on various topics are held weekly, Monday at Kresge Student
Lounge. Contact Dave Shaw at for times and additional