City on a Hill Press is dedicated to informing students about the spring campus elections and as a part of this effort, we are profiling the candidates for the Student Union Assembly officer positions. Voting started Wednesday, May 13th and continues through this Wednesday, May 20th. Vote online at http://www.elections.ucsc.edu.
Third-year history major Matt Palm is running unopposed for SUA Commissioner of Academic Affairs, a position that represents the student body in the Academic Senate, which sets academic standards such as the generate education requirements.
The San Diego native has worked with various groups and campaigns, such as the Students for Trans-inclusive Healthcare, an effort by graduate and undergraduate students which gained student health insurance coverage for transgender medical needs. He is currently running on the Progressive Students slate.
CHP: What projects have you done as the SUA Commissioner of Academic Affairs?
A lot of the students are not being taught their perspectives and experiences at the institutional level. I held an event where I had people who were writing the [general education] requirements sit down with students of various student orgs. and colleges to tell the committee what they wanted the ethnicity and race requirement to be so that it was reflective of what students want.
The biggest point that came out of the meeting was when someone said, “I sit in a lot of classes about racism and society. The courses should also include histories of people of color resisting oppression and building movements of empowerment and have those stories and narratives included in the description of the requirement.”
In the fall I put on a teach-in on how to do a student-initiated class. I also held a dialogue between faculty and students on issues of classroom environment issues, so that students could feel safe enough to speak in their class and not feeling excluded because of their identity and ways for students and faculty can address those problems.
CHP: What kind of services do you offer students? What can students come to you for?
If there’s students who want to have a hand in crafting new academic policies, there’s a lot of committees like the Committee on Educational Policy where you can actually impact admissions and financial aid policies.
We are always looking for student representatives. If there’s something students want to see happen—the students that put on the Campus Earth Summit asked me to co-facilitate a dialogue within the campus earth sustainability curriculum and out of that came desire to more sustainability courses.
CHP: What are ways that students can be involved in the budget and academic planning process?
There are literally just dozens of committees and we cannot get enough people to sit on them and commit them on showing up. If we could pay people, we could pay people for showing up. There’s not enough money that was allocated to pay those people.
I want to create an Academic Senate fellowship where people serve on one or two Academic Senate committees and do something with the information that’s given—put on at town hall meeting or a policy change. I literally thought this up two weeks ago, that’s one of the things I want to do to fix the academic committees.
CHP: What projects are you working on?
Some students want a sustainability minor, some want to major in sustainability. I’ve talked with some professors who want to help them. Some feel really stalled—it’s very difficult to propose a new major or program during the budget cuts and that times that we’ve in.
I’m trying to organize around that, the reason being that this campus has signed on to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and a couple other sustainability commitments. They require us to commit to having each student that leaves UCSC learns about sustainability. The funny thing is, that’s an academic requirement and the only people are legally allowed to make academic policies is the faculty and the Academic Senate.
CHP: What is your main project right now?
I want to work on all the fellow officers to create transparency of the campus budget—how it’s being used, where it’s going, how it’s being spent—an itemized budget of the campus, where student fee dollars are going, how much are going to each department and people’s salaries.
It needs to be completely out there because students are paying more to get less. They have a right to know what they’re paying for, especially with $13 million cuts to the campus this year.
There’s a planning website that I encourage students to look at—planning.ucsc.edu. The real goal is for students a say in the process every step of the way, for us to be included.
CHP: What issues are you most concerned about?
The long term viability of academic programs at UCSC such as community studies, american studies, feminist studies—just to name a few. Small departments, or departments that don’t have a whole lot of faculty are asked to make a cut and it gets to a point where there’s so few faculty to keep the major going.
I’m really concerned and afraid that if and when there’s future cuts at UCSC, those cuts will come down to the campuses and the campuses will do the best they can to weather them and in the process departments may be merged and disbanded.
For me, its really, really important to tie in the threats to academic now with the state senate and the governor. It’s their budget that’s been forcing the cuts on us. The budget of the UC is why the students are fighting to save Mike Rotkin. The word is if the May 19 special elections fail, the state will enter a fiscal crisis and there’s going to be a round of cuts that’s going to be even worse.
I’m afraid of the issues that I want to do will be set aside because I’ll have to work with students to save their departments. I don’t mean to paint a doomsday picture, but unless the economy turns around and the funds don’t go around, this is only the second wave of cuts.
CHP: How have you addressed the issue of budget cuts?
I’ve been working with the Coalition to Save Community Studies, working with them to write letters to elected officials. I’ve been to a lot of their meetings with Social Sciences Dean Sheldon Kamieniecki. I will commit my resources to help educate people about what’s happening. I helped linked up their people to go to meet the Regents and meet [UC President] Mark Yudof.
I want to be someone who takes care of the bureaucratic stuff so they can go speak out and go meet with the administration or Academic Senate committee. I really want people to use me as a resource.
CHP: What’s your stance on increased wages for SUA officers?
I see myself not as an elected officer, but as an employee of the student body. For example, the SUA this year voted to pay officers minimum wage, an increase in our pay. I stepped out of the room because I could’ve voted to pay myself more, but I felt that it was wrong to vote on my own pay. It passed with a two-thirds vote. Right now if you take the pay of that I get, I think it’s 5.70 an hour, because I’m supposed to work 35 hours a week and I do.
CHP: What are some things you think would improve within SUA?
Making it run more smoothly, making the bylaws pass. As an organization, they need to push for more of a developed internal structure.
A lot of the representatives just show up to the two-hour meetings and that’s all they do. A lot of them don’t get involved in our campaigns. On our end, we get so involved in our campaigns, we don’t report back to the representatives.
Everybody could do more, to be honest. It’s not that we don’t do a lot of good work, we’ve done a lot of good work, we’ve advocated so much—we registered over 4,000 voters, we’ve done a lot, but we still need to work on improving on communication within SUA.
Elections Guide: Spring 2009 [City on a Hill Press]
UC Santa Cruz Student Union Assembly [SUA]