Two years ago, conservative writer and activist David Horowitz proclaimed that our community studies department makes UC Santa Cruz the most dangerous university in the country due to its social justice agenda. Coming from a hyper-conservative like Horowitz, we’ve learned to take that as a compliment.
But the department that was considered the most dangerous is now most in danger of getting cut.
Community studies is the major that produces our social workers, community organizers, public officials, lawyers, teachers, and nonprofit coordinators — professionals that are vital in sparking social change.
To rob UCSC students of this department is to strip away an essential part of this campus’s identity. Proposing that this kind of cut is necessary to accommodate a hugely anorexic budget is intolerable. After all, this is a public university, paid for by Californian property taxes and student paychecks.
However, the personality of this campus goes far beyond finances. Curricula relevant to the community should not be treated as a commodity. Academia is not up for auction.
The community studies department houses the undergraduate program and the social documentation graduate program. Since it started in 1969, the department has maintained its focus on the dynamics of racial and class inequity and the principles of social justice.
Ours is the only public school in the state of California that offers this program. Community studies students make up one of this campus’s most progressive constituencies. Yet our administrators have taken it upon themselves to consider disenfranchising this significant group of students.
The department represents an essential element of UCSC’s independence from the shackles of science research. It is integral to maintaining a well-balanced curriculum that will contribute to the cultivation of those capable of effecting change.
Humanities and social sciences are going extinct at the University of California. Cutting programs alienates alumni of those departments and reduces the number of projected alumni to contribute financial support. This vicious cycle is inescapable and dangerous.
Pursuing a reputation as a competitive research institution is not worth compromising the integrity of the social science and humanities divisions, or the departments within them that cultivate altruistic world citizens.
The “something has to go” mantra that has become the status quo at the UC is unacceptable and apathetic. The university is supposed to serve its students and greater community. Cutting this department goes against that.
As students at a public university, we are entitled to democratic participation in university politics. Transparency and accountability are imperative to preserving the best interests of the students, and we are entitled to an administration that acts accordingly. Program funding should reflect the relevance of every department, and the students should determine that relevance.
The community studies department is essential to the existence of this campus as we know it. Students don’t choose to pursue a degree in community studies, they practice this field to make a difference. The proposed cuts, then, won’t just be getting rid of the community studies major or department, they’ll be killing a community — one we are not willing to surrender.