Photo by Sal Ingram.

UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal and executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway sat down with student media organizations on Feb. 6 to discuss issues facing the university.


CHP: The UC system accepted the highest number of students who didn’t meet the UC requirements this year — was that decision made for monetary reasons?

Blumenthal: By policy, UC is supposed to accept from among the top 12.5 percent of high school graduates in California. And by policy, non-resident students’ minimum requirements have to be at least the average of what California requirements are. The regents have, for a long time, agreed to set aside six percent of slots for students who might not meet the entrance requirements of the university. Historically I think we’ve accepted something like two to three percent of our entering class as not meeting the standard UC requirements. Oftentimes on this campus it’s if somebody hasn’t taken a particular test. On some campuses the reason for that is they want to accept athletes, so they recruit some football player who doesn’t meet the entrance requirements and they fall under that 6 percent. Sometimes it’s because of another special skill — a potential student who is a super-duper violin player and is really achieving a lot in that, but who doesn’t meet the normal requirements for admissions, that would be another example. I do think the campuses have the right to do this, up to 6 percent, and traditionally most of the campuses have not exercised that right. So why has that number gone up? My only speculation is some campuses have decided to do that more than they have in the past.


CHP: Why are the regents necessary?

B: Once you set up a university system, there has to be somebody or some group in charge. The regents serve that role as the people who bear the responsibility, financially and managerially, for the University of California system. I think if you look at any university or university system in the country, they all have something like a board of regents. Our board of regents has another unique aspect to it, namely constitutional autonomy — the regents can make decisions with regard to the university without the kind of legislative oversight that some other systems, for example the CSU system, have. And we can have a discussion about whether that’s the best possible model, but whatever you do there is going to have to be somebody in charge taking responsibility.


Photo by Sal Ingram.

CHP: Monica Lozano, one of the regents, sits on the board of Bank of America, which has been a massive provider of student loans — do you think that is a conflict of interest?

B: As a public university, I think we have to be more sensitive to potential conflicts of interests than any other organization in the country. On the other hand, the specific example of Monica Lozano and the Bank of America, I’m not particularly concerned [about] for a couple of reasons. One, Bank of America no longer does student loans —student loans are now federalized, so it’s not an issue anymore. Secondly, Monica actually has been an opponent of raising student tuition, so if she’s got the conflict of interest she did a very poor job of pushing it. I actually think she is very supportive of students and student financial concerns. Looking at potential conflicts of interest is important, but … the regents span a huge range, from people who are billionaires, who have amounts of money that you and I couldn’t even imagine, to people like Odessa Johnson, who is a retired schoolteacher.


CHP: With regard to the [upcoming] March 1 Day of Action, in terms of student interest, do you think that boycotting classes is an effective strategy for mobilizing students?

B: I think it’s not as effective as it could be, because if the only issue is closing down the campus, then the debate becomes closing down campus — the rights of students who want to close down the campus versus the students who [don’t], and then it becomes a student versus student issue … I think a much more helpful thing would be if we could use a day like that to actually have meaningful debate and discussions about the future of the university and the future of public higher education.


Photo by Sal Ingram.

CHP: How do you think students could initiate meaningful debate or open lines of communication with regents or chancellors to instigate the change they are hoping for?

Galloway: I think a lot about this. We were hoping to have the budget forum before March 1 so at least we could be on the same page in terms of what we’re looking at. I think you’ll find most of the administration is equally distressed by the budget cuts and tuition increases — it’s not an avenue we would like to be pursuing. But on the other hand, we’re faced with a situation where we have to provide a level of education which we feel at least that we can support, that it’s UC quality. And I’m looking forward — if those tax measures don’t go through, that’s a $200 million cut to the campus. We have mandatory cost increases as well, and we could be looking at more budget cuts, and I don’t know where I’m going to take that.

B: And to put it in perspective, if you look over the last four years [at] all of the budget cuts we’ve taken from the state and add to that the mandatory cost increases, things like union contracts, if you add those together and ask how much of that has been made up for by tuition increases, the answer is less than half. So in terms of the cuts that we’ve taken, we’ve taken some of them with tuition increases, but the majority has been real-live cuts — people losing jobs, classes not offered. That’s the situation we find ourselves facing.


Twanas: You said you were preparing based on what you know of March 1. What is expected of students, and how are we sure to feel the support of administration, not only on that day but also at regents meetings overall, that sometimes end up closing their doors?

G: March 1, we have heard [everything] from major demonstrations to a hard strike in closing the campus. So we are monitoring those to see what kinds of reaction and what the scale of that is going to be, and what kinds of preparations we need to make … And there are students who are paying a lot of money and want classes to continue and I have to take that part into consideration at the same time … It’s a difficult road to navigate. The demonstration advisory group has been meeting and helped us come out with a list of principles about how we’re going to manage that, and also looking at the student judicial procedures around protests, and we’re also looking at the processes we take in preparation for major protests.

B: I would just emphasize there isn’t unanimity on campus when someone decides to close the campus, and it is our responsibility to keep the campus and classes available for students who are paying a lot of money for it … our goal is to minimalize conflict and certainly minimalize any potential for violent conflict, either with police or among individual stakeholders on campus – safety has got to be our primary concern.


CHP: What is your prediction for the future of public higher education?

B: We need to think about this as a country, I think. When you look at other countries, one of the most striking things is that most countries support public higher education through their national budgets and national governments, rather than entities like states. We are now living in a time when some countries are making huge, huge investments in higher education. China is spending a lot of money on higher education. When I was in Beijing a year and a half ago talking to presidents of Chinese universities, I was struck that when they talked about some of the programs they wanted to put in place. I said, “That’s expensive.” Their reaction was, “Money isn’t the issue for us.” And I was thinking, “Gee, wouldn’t that be great if I could ever say money isn’t the issue for us?”… In California we have this long tradition of the Master Plan for higher education being a great success for the last 50 years. We should be proud of the fact that in California the Master Plan has worked so well, and I believe the economy grew dramatically as a result of that. But we’ve let the Master Plan go by the wayside by not funding education adequately … We have not kept up the commitment with the Master Plan, and the Master Plan said higher education should be free. Well, for those of you whose parents write $13,000 checks, I can assure you it is not free.