Illustration by Joe Lai.
Illustration by Joe Lai.

Prospective students and their families will be flooding UC Santa Cruz spring quarter looking to get the facts about our campus.

Tour guides will brag about the 2 million volumes contained in our campus libraries, the helpfulness of librarians, and the innovative interlibrary loan system that helps make the UC one of the world’s preeminent public research universities. However, prospective students may be surprised to realize that, just as the walls of the renovated McHenry Library are being raised from the ground, the doors to the vast knowledge databases of UCSC are being closed. Those who arrive next year to find the library understaffed and locked on weekends will start to see the UC’s claim of excellence for what it is slowly becoming: a joke.

Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) Dave Kliger’s budget cuts for next year will reduce the libraries’ budget by 1.9 percent, or about $180,000. Library funding has been reduced by 18 percent since 2008, resulting in the library opening later, closing earlier, being closed on Saturdays, and reducing staff and resources. Kliger’s decision is disappointing not only because of the already dismal availability of the library resources, but because it disregarded the recommendation of the Academic Senate and clear efforts from students throughout the year to protect the library.

In light of the state’s continuing fiscal downturn, the administration this year anticipated cuts of about $8.2 million to UCSC’s core budget.

Kliger consulted with a range of campus officers, and the Academic Senate’s Committee on Planning and Budget (CPB), which is made up of faculty and some student representatives, in his budget distribution.

The Academic Senate and EVC agreed on cuts in many departments, but their differences show that the administration fails to understand needs of members of the university — the faculty, staff and students.

The Academic Senate’s recommendations for cuts saved the same amount as Kliger’s plan, and recommended cuts in every region of institutional and academic support — except the library. Kliger instead chose to cut the library budget while maintaining more funding for University Relations, the Chancellor’s Office and the Campus Provost/EVC’s Office.

The Senate recommended an 11 percent cut for University Relations — which handles alumni relations and donations — but Kliger cut it by only 1.1 percent, the lowest percentage cut of any area.

Kliger said that efforts to obtain private funding for the university should be preserved at a time when public support is unreliable.

In a perfect world, private funding would be a priority, but not when those efforts come at the price of a basic educational institution of the university.

Both the senate and the administration wanted to maintain funding for research, but what’s the point of having volumes and volumes of information if students can’t access it?

By all appearences the EVC made an effort by consulting with the faculty on this round of cuts, but in the end, he ignored their voice on a key issue. The Academic Senate is made up of professors who interact with students on a daily basis — they hear of students’ attempts to fit in studying on top of a job, or difficulty attaining classes while paying more than ever for a UC education.

UCSC students have spoken out in various ways — a library study-in during the fall, and now a new measure that will be on the ballot in May to have students front the bill for increased library hours. If that measure passes it is estimated to generate about $311,000, but when when the new cut is subtracted, that only leaves about $130,000 in new revenue for the library next year. If the measure doesn’t pass, hours and staff will likely be reduced further next year.

Kliger may have the best interests of the university at heart, but in such dire times, he should listen to students and faculty when they make such a clear statement about the preservation of a certain resource.

The irony is almost palpable when we see construction crews building the physical structure of McHenry Library, while its budgetary foundation erodes year by year. Private donors who do give money to UCSC years from now may be surprised at what the definition of a research university has become: one that values accessibility of knowledge less and less.