Illustration by Kenneth Srivijittakar.
Illustration by Kenneth Srivijittakar.

“The Daily Show” has launched UC Santa Cruz into the public eye. On November 11, Jon Stewart lampooned the McHenry Library’s announcement that they are looking for a Grateful Dead archivist to help organize their massive collection of memorabilia from the acid rock band.

Part of the reason Stewart found the announcement so humorous is the same reason we find it so troubling. The library plans to offer $68,000 for the position. That’s right. $68,000 a year to have various posters, t-shirts, set lists and other items organized into a comprehensive and properly archived collection.

Much of the funding for the Grateful Dead archive comes from private sources, but the University has put the archive at far too high of a priority. On Sept. 29, UCSC’s Public Information Office celebrated a $615,000 grant to the collection. Meanwhile, the McHenry librarians are concerned about a cumulative 28 percent budget reduction that began in fall 2008 and will continue into June 2011.

The administration encourages people to donate and help the Grateful Dead archive grow. We want to see that level of support for other programs, departments, classes and lecturers that are routinely threatened to be placed on the chopping block. This is not the time to be adding a new salaried position for archiving when many faculty members are seeing their salaries dwindle under a difficult furlough plan.

The $68,000 archiving salary is not our main concern, however. Our main concern is what it represents: the misdirection of a school that does not prioritize the needs of its students. It is about the the construction on the McHenry Library that began in 2007 and chugs along even as the library takes away more hours. When it comes down to it, students would rather have a library that’s open than one that is “state of the art.”

The University needs to make a greater effort to prioritize the needs of its students. Rather than trying to “wow” the world with an extensive collection of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia, we need to encourage donors to better support the things that make college intellectually stimulating, enriching, worthwhile and affordable.

If the rapid deterioration of the University continues, the student body will turn into the walking un-Grateful Dead, only able to admire the enthralls of a library from outside locked doors.

But at least we will have a well-organized rock band archive.