The fliers advertising the Kliger Retirement Party on the UC Santa Cruz campus featured a captivating image of the Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) David Kliger’s head on Darth Vader’s body.
“Darth Vader was not the ultimate power in the empire, but he was the enforcer, the public face of that regime,” said Adam Hefty, a UCSC graduate student and organizer of the event. “Kliger was willing to play that kind of role for the university.”
The party for Kliger, held on Tuesday and sponsored by the UCSC Strike Committee, began at 11 a.m. in the Bay Tree Plaza and continued with a march to Kerr Hall 30 minutes later. Dozens of students attended, several of whom spoke and toasted in honor of Kliger’s decision to step down.
Two university police officers stood inside Kerr Hall to monitor the small gathering, which featured balloons, punch, and a cake that displayed the words “Good Bye Kliger” in blue frosting along with an image of the EVC’s face.
Nearby, students used markers to sign a large card for Kliger with messages of farewell.
As he glanced at the police officers several hundred feet away, Christopher Barkan, a UCSC graduate student who spoke at the event, asked, “Why is our administration oppositional to their own students?”
He went on to describe the need for a “pro-student stance” from the administration, saying, “we want an end to careerist administrators.”
In January, Chancellor George Blumenthal announced Kliger’s decision, effective June 30, to step down from the position of EVC.
On Tuesday, his letter to the campus community stated, “[Kliger] has provided truly exceptional service to the campus as Campus Provost/EVC for nearly five years, as Dean for 15 years, and before that as both Divisional Senate Chair and Department Chair. I will miss his candor, his wisdom, and his tireless dedication to UC Santa Cruz.”
On Tuesday, Assistant Chancellor Ashish Sahni sent out an e-mail to the UCSC community regarding the four applicants being considered for the position and their upcoming meetings with Blumenthal.
Candidates Alison Galloway, William Ladusaw, and Stephen Thorsett are all UCSC faculty members, while the fourth candidate, Tyler Stovall, is from UC Berkeley.
Tom Pazo, a third-year sociology major, recently wrote a letter to Blumenthal on this topic, proposing that the EVC position be suspended in favor of allocating the designated salary toward the education of UC students.
“This problem is with the position itself,” Pazo said. “It doesn’t need to be there, and it leeches hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Pazo will meet with Assistant Chancellor Ashish Sahni this week to discuss his proposal.
“The EVC is a figurehead with abstract responsibilities,” Pazo explained. “His only tangible responsibility is the budget … [However,] all of [the vice chancellors] as a committee can write the budget.”
Prior to the celebration, event organizer Hefty described Kliger’s involvement in various issues that provoked discontent among the UCSC community.
“There are two aspects of this,” Hefty explained. “One is that Dave Kliger has taken a very forward role in criminalizing the atmosphere around protests on campus. [Another is] in terms of being the public face for lots of the cuts over the past year.”
Hefty also cited e-mails Kliger wrote to the UCSC community in recent months as additional examples of what he believes reflect poor choices made by Kliger as EVC.
“[Kliger] is the author of a number of e-mails that have gone out to the whole campus, which we really feel have played a role in fighting the campus code of community rather than encouraging any dialogue,” he said.
Katie Woolsey, a UCSC graduate student and literature major who spoke at the event Tuesday, compared these e-mails to romantic poetry in her satirical toast to the EVC.
She described the e-mails as being full of “hyperbolic, overblown, exaggerated and violent imagery,” making Kliger “the great romantic poet of our time.” An example she cited was the e-mail in response to the March 4 protests, which described “protesters carrying clubs and knives.”
The students attending the Kliger Retirement Party agreed that one of the primary issues UCSC faces is the privileging of university administration in the allocation of funds.
“The university can and will run itself with minimal administrative support,” said Pazo. “Pay raises [for the administration] are unsustainable. You’re not going to have the money to maintain the salary and will have to take it from students.”
Graduate student Christopher Barkan expressed the same sentiment in his speech.
“This is not sustainable. They know it’s not sustainable, and they’re failing to confront it,” he said.
Barkan’s speech culminated in a toast and much applause as he raised his cup of punch and declared, “To the end of Kliger — may he enjoy his retirement.”