A year after Dean of Social Sciences Kamieniecki recommended controversial cuts to the Community Studies Department, the UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate’s Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) announced that the major has been suspended. The CEP assures current declared community studies majors that completion of their study will not be threatened. However, the future of the department is uncertain.
“We have made a contract essentially with students and we are going to fulfill that contract and make sure they can get their classes for their major,” said Allison Galloway, Vice Provost and Dean of Academic Affairs.
The department has yet to determine qualifications for whether current interested students will be admitted to the major. Students arriving on campus next fall will be advised that the major is suspended and not an option.
John Tamkun, the Chair of the CEP, said in a e-mail on April 6, that the current “fractured state of the department” threatens the functioning of the major.
Galloway said the ultimate issue is that within the department, “there is not agreement as to which are the highest priorities.”
Similarly, Matt Palm, SUA Commissioner of Academic Affairs and member of the CEP, said that the reasons for the suspension are complicated and arise from both budget reductions and conflicts in priorities within the department.
“The more the department was cut, the more of a bind the faculty was put in,” Palm said.
Galloway explained that the nature of the department contributed to its difficulties. The Community Studies department comprises both the undergraduate major and the graduate program in social documentation.
“When you have a graduate program which is labor intensive and you have a very popular major, and everybody is being constrained by the budget cuts, there are choices you have to make,” Galloway said.
Galloway stressed that the budget alone was not the motivation for the suspension, and it was the Academic Senate that ultimately stepped in.
According to Galloway, the problems jeopardizing the major can be resolved and it is possible that the CEP will un-suspend it at the end of two years.
Third-year Kresge student Alex Bice declared the community studies major last month, and will begin his six-month field study this summer at a food and justice organization in New Orleans. He had just returned from visiting his favorite spot on campus, an assignment for CMMU 163, Community Gardens and Social Change, when he expressed his cautious optimism for the department.
“They say it’s only a suspension for two years. I hope they’re serious about that,” he said.
Associate Professor Mary Beth Pudup is optimistic about the future of the program, although she spent the day dealing with student’s sadness at the news of the suspension.
“I just had three hours of office hours and never got up from my chair, it was a steady stream of students. It was like bereavement counseling,” she said.
Nevertheless, she looks at the suspension as an opportunity.
“It’s not about fighting against something,” she said, “It’s about mapping a future for something, which is more exciting.”
According to Vice Provost and Dean of Academic Affairs Galloway, ladder rank faculty are not currently at risk of losing their jobs in the department, as the core curriculum of the major will be preserved for at least two years. But the future of elective courses and lecturer positions are less certain.
“We need to look at the classes that are actually required for the major,” she said, “For classes that have traditionally been taught in community studies and are very attractive to the students, and there’s a demand, we will see if there’s a way of teaching those in another format.”
Despite some optimism, the fact remains that the community studies major, one of the most unique at UC Santa Cruz, will be unavailable to incoming students for at least two years, and possibly forever.
Matt Palm stresses that students need to take action if they want to preserve the spirit of the major.
“We need to hold everybody accountable — this campus said it would try to preserve academics, and somehow this major fell through the cracks. Why?” he said.
Palm said that despite talk of the program disappearing, now is not the time to forget about it.
“There are a lot of different ways that the importance of community studies and what it contributes to the campus can continue on. That involves putting pressure on the administration to support ways to re-envision the program,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be over.”