Illustration by Justin Martinez.
Illustration by Justin Martinez.

Alicia Sebastian works to organize and mobilize a pool of roughly 50 volunteers for the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), a local nonprofit. Through its volunteers, SCAP provides support to community members with HIV and AIDS, distributes clean needles to drug users, and performs outreach to educate underrepresented areas of Santa Cruz and surrounding regions. 

Sebastian is a UC Santa Cruz alumna who majored in community studies and now works as the volunteer and staff support manager at SCAP. She stressed the importance of the social sciences program to the greater Santa Cruz community. SCAP runs on roughly eight staff members and its volunteers. Sixty percent of the organization’s volunteers are from UCSC’s field study program, headed by community studies lecturer Mike Rotkin.

Large-scale budget cuts now loom over UCSC’s Division of Social Sciences like a dark cloud of uncertainty. As it stands now, the division faces $1.3 million in cuts as the entire university confronts a $13 million state funding cut, adding to the $6 million in cuts left over from last year.

“When it comes time to cut the budget, people always cut services, clubs, anything that isn’t the bare bones,” Sebastian said. “They cut the social sciences. When you do that, you cut what makes the UC different. You’re cutting away what makes this community different.”

The budget cuts to the social sciences are the largest core budget reduction campuswide, and will affect every program within the division.

“Cutting all of the hands-on opportunities, cutting the social sciences this way, is sending a message to incoming students [of the social sciences] that says ‘There’s no future for you here,’” Sebastian said. “The community is not going to be receptive of these decisions, and it is not going to be quiet.”

Sebastian has even received calls from other community organizations in Santa Cruz and beyond offering support for the social sciences programs at UCSC, which provide volunteers for organizations well beyond the city limits.

“Planned Parenthood called me yesterday asking what they could do,” Sebastian said. “I didn’t even call to tell them about it. The support for these programs speaks for itself.” 


There’s Something Happening Here

Deans and vice chancellors learned that their divisions would be facing major budget reductions in December. 

Sheldon Kamieniecki, dean of social sciences at UCSC, informed his division on April 1 of the large-scale budget cuts set for the 2009-2010 school year. Since then, information about how the cuts will affect departments — and the faculty and staff that support them — has been scarce. 

Kamieniecki declined several requests for a phone or e-mail interview from City on a Hill Press.

Campus spokesperson Jim Burns also declined a phone interview with CHP. However, via e-mail he said that few details about implementing the budget cuts are now known, but as divisional budget plans emerge, these should become clearer. 

However, UCSC has not had to take some of the more immediate actions that the state has taken.

“State of California employees have been subject to furlough days in recent months as one means of saving the state money,” Burns said. “The 10-campus UC system has not implemented similar furlough measures.”

However, Burns said UC President Mark Yudof told the Board of Regents in March to implement furloughs and other salary reductions if they become necessary due to the state funding situation.

On March 4, campus provost David Kliger informed all deans and heads of departments of their budget-reduction targets. These cuts include $8.5 million in cuts delegated across the administrative divisions of UC Santa Cruz, and $4.5 million in cuts to academic divisions.

The social sciences are not “taking the lion’s share of the campus’s budget cut,” Burns said.

Burns said that the academic-division budget cuts range from $450,000 in the Division of Arts to $1.3 million in the Division of Social Sciences. The Division of Engineering’s $600,000 in cuts, Humanities’ $1 million, and Physical and Biological Sciences’ $1.15 million fall in between. 


What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear

The Coalition to Save Community Studies (CSCS) formed when news of possible fatal cuts to the community studies (CMMU) program spread. Since then, CSCS has organized two walk-outs/speak-outs and a teach-out in protest. Speakers demanded the administration take from the top before considering cuts in academic divisions, and to practice transparency in all proceedings.

A group of student organizers from CSCS met with Kamieniecki last Tuesday and viewed the tentative plan for the execution of the budget cuts, which is online at the “Coalition to Save Community Studies” Facebook group.

Andrea San Miguel, an organizer of CSCS and a fifth-year transfer student majoring in community studies, attended the meeting with the dean. 

“It took quite a bit of persistence on my part to get to meet with [Kamieniecki],” San Miguel said. “We got a hold of his official proposal about how to save money, and we got to ask him direct questions about it.” 

San Miguel couldn’t reveal many details about the meeting due to confidentiality, but he did come away from the meeting with the impression that Kamieniecki does not have the authority to avoid these budget cuts.

“They might not be offering up a lot of transparency, but these things are public documents so we are looking into it,” San Miguel said. 

In the projected plan, Kamieniecki tentatively proposed making the field study program an optional part of the community studies major. 

However, San Miguel said the field study program is vital to the academic side of the community studies major. 

“Field study is far from just volunteer work. It ties directly into the program,” San Miguel said. “Cuts to staff are cuts to the major, because staff support the field study and the same quality of education is not possible in community studies without it.” 

CMMU lecturer Rotkin said that firing teachers is the dean’s way of destroying the community studies program.

“We are not a traditional program,” Rotkin said. “The dean does not have a lot of sympathy for experimental education and civic engagement.”

As of May 1, Rotkin received two pink slips notifying him that, after running the field study program for 40 years, his position will be phased out over the course of the next two years.

Guillermo Delgado and Susanne Jonas, lecturers in the Latin American and Latino studies (LALS) department, both received pink slips last week. The first walk-out/speak-out on April 22 was organized largely due to their impending terminations. 

Delgado has taught at UCSC for 20 years and Jonas, 23 years.

“I recommend the administration to rethink priorities regarding undergraduate education,” Delgado said. “At the end, it’s always the student quality that counts. If you mass-ify education and raise tuition, that doesn’t sound good. They are paying more for less.”

Jonas said the current generation of college students is capable of social movement and change for the better, despite setbacks. 

“The main reward we get is to pass along education about social justice in America and empower students here,” Jonas said. “That’s why I came here.” 


A Bird Without Wings

On any UC campus, decisions to add or eliminate undergraduate majors or academic programs are proposed by faculty or deans within those divisions. They require the campus provost’s full consultation with the campus’s Academic Senate. 

“To date, the provost has received no proposals to cut academic programs related to these budget cuts,” campus spokesperson Burns said.

The deadline for vice chancellors and deans to inform campus provost David Kliger about how they plan to implement budget cuts is May 15. 

Campus spokesperson Burns said the budget cuts are likely to affect all areas of campus.

“[Kamieniecki] has not made final decisions about how he will implement $1.3 million in cuts,” Burns said. “While he is not contemplating across-the-board cuts — neither are other academic deans or administrative vice chancellors — it would be fair to say that $1.3 million in cuts within his division will impact every single program. To be clear, the cuts in every academic and administrative division on campus are large and they will be impactful. The size of the budget shortfall makes that unavoidable.”

Adam Butler is a student volunteer at SCAP as well as an organizer of CSCS. An American studies major, Butler volunteers through the field study program run by Rotkin. 

Butler said Rotkin and the field study program have been invaluable to his education. 

“It’s pretty shocking that things that will affect the end product of the education process are what’s being cut, instead of the tens of thousands of dollars being paid to the greater administration,” Butler said. “The end product — me, right here — my hands-on learning is what’s in danger of being cut.” 

Butler, who will graduate at the end of the quarter, said the administration has shown a lack of transparency with regard to the budget. 

“If the faculty hadn’t leaked information about community studies, no one would know it was in jeopardy,” Bulter said in reference to an e-mail sent out on April 2 that revealed Kamieniecki had told CMMU staff their department would face major staff cuts. “Saying ‘We’re just going to cut lecturers’ is like saying [about the program] ‘It’s still a bird — we’ve just cut off its wings.’”

Butler said he does not see the upper levels of the University of California doing all they can to cut costs on administrative levels rather than aspects directly linked to education. 

Sebastian, of SCAP, said the social sciences at UCSC and the social services in the community are directly linked, and advised the administration to implement budget cuts in ways that will not take teachers or field study away from the student experience. 

“At a time when there is a need for social services and a need for change, and a need for our role in it, the university wants to cut those programs,” Sebastian said. “And that’s the wrong message to be sending. [The people making the cuts] are not looking at the impact it’s really having on the community or the message it’s sending to students and to the world. There is a need for these programs.”