What will the University of California system look like 10 years from now? What will its size be? How can the UC ensure that it is within reach of Californians of all backgrounds? And how will it continue to attract world-renowned faculty?
Amid the UC’s economic turmoil, Board of Regents Chairman Russell Gould created the Commission on the Future to answer these questions. The commission will rely on its 24 voting members, which include regents, academic senate members, faculty, student representatives and administrators, to “develop a vision for the future of the University that will reaffirm our role in sustaining California’s economy and cultural life.”
While Gould and UC President Mark Yudof serve as co-chairs of the commission, other members include UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, various community members, alumni, the chief officer of the California Labor Federation and the president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce.
Victor Sanchez, a fourth-year Oakes student and president of the UC Student Association, is the only student — aside from two student regents — to serve on the commission. Sanchez explained why redefining the UC’s identity is problematic.
“My personal goal is to see how we can get back to the Master Plan [of 1960],” Sanchez said. “I think their goal is to redefine the future of the UC — and I think those are two different things and they are conflicting … There’s a need to not necessarily scrap away what we have been promised.”
The California Master Plan (CMP) is an agreement promising to uphold state resources for higher education based on student population growth. Since the early 1990s the CMP has been disregarded, as the state has continually divested higher education funding despite student population growth. The UC is now being forced to find new ways to cover costs of these lost state funds.
Blumenthal, who serves as co-chair of the working group on the size and shape of UC, also spoke of returning to the promise of the Master Plan of 1960, but recognizes that resources are limited.
Blumenthal explained that the new funding model will have a combination of five or six different types of resources. He also said the role of the commission is to identify ways to be more efficient and interdisciplinary — ways the University may not have considered in more advantageous times.
“Two principles we should never let go of are accessibility and quality,” Blumenthal said.
According to Gould, the commission is a way to gather ideas and input from a wide range of sources before determining the best path forward for the University. It hopes to preserve attributes such as the ability to graduate in four years, state of the art classrooms and labs, low faculty-to-student ratios, ample financial aid, access for all students, competitive faculty salaries and public service outreach.
The commission has five different working groups, addressing size and shape, education and curriculum, access and affordability, funding and research strategies. One member of each working group is currently on a listening tour traveling to all UC campuses to get input from faculty, staff and students.
On Oct. 29, the listening tour held a forum at UCSC. According to the UCSC Web site, the forum was open to “UCSC staff and faculty only.” However, UC spokesman Steve Montiel said the meeting was “open to all and that, as I understand it, the web posting was in error.”
Montiel, who attended the event, was puzzled by the lack of students present; at the two previous forums at UC Merced and UC Santa Barbara, students had times arranged for input and inquiries.
Sanchez expressed doubts about the relevance of the commission if students aren’t involved.
“They have this commission to redefine the future of the University [but] in the end, not even half the people on this campus knew what was happening,” Sanchez said. “They can go ahead and say, ‘We went to this campus. We hosted a public meeting.’ Okay. Well how many students showed up? That’s a different question. How hard did they actually, really try?”
According to Sanchez, the best ways for students to convey their opinions to the commission is by attending their forums and meetings, which are usually public.
Blumenthal, who was pleased with the event, said he is interested in making student comments heard, commenting that “the fact that we didn’t reach out to students before the forum is our fault.”
Blumenthal also emphasized that students should leave comments on the commission’s website at http://ucfuture.universityofcalifornia.edu.
“The more ideas that are out there, the more good ideas are out there … I hope there are a lot of student comments,” Blumenthal said.
The next meeting of the UC Commission on the Future will be on Nov. 12 at the Oakland Marriott from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.