Those who frequent campus have likely seen booklets and posters presenting a large, red upturned thumb against a yellow background. These advertisements are plastered across community bulletin boards and are accompanied by big blue letters reading, “GIVE,” and upside-down, “DON’T GIVE IN.”
The purpose of these booklets and posters is to advertise UC Santa Cruz’s $300 million fundraising campaign, which launched on Oct. 18. In a recent student media press conference, Chancellor George Blumenthal explained the nature of the funds being raised.
“As it’s true at every university,” Chancellor Blumenthal said, “something like 97 or 98 percent of every dollar we get in terms of donation is specified by the donor.”
Some of the $146 million already raised has been set aside for a wide variety of projects on campus. Five million dollars will help rebuild the historic barn near the base of campus into a home for sustainability studies. Another $5 million will support students and faculty at Stevenson College and the history department, and $3 million will go toward rebuilding the marine mammal research pools and expanding classrooms on the Coastal Campus.
While many of these donations will go to areas in great need of improvement, they will inevitably leave many important units and areas of campus underfunded as usual. This fundraiser presents a great opportunity for alumni and friends of the university to improve the campus as they see fit, but it leaves the students paying an unprecedented tuition rate of $11,220 per year with little to no influence on where funding is placed.
We at City on a Hill Press think those paying to attend UCSC, as well as the staff and faculty contributing to it, should have more input in how funds are used to improve our university experience. Those accumulating tens of thousands of dollars of debt to be here should not have to rely solely on the whim of donors or the referenda system to improve campus.
All of the campus fees students pay every year add up to about $1,205 — not including the $972 Student Services Fee and the waivable $1,857 for the Undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan.
The referenda system offers the ability to approve or deny additional fees, but any approved referenda come out of students’ pockets. It is problematic that this system, while increasing student agency, passes the financial burden onto students any time the university fails or refuses to fund crucial programs or improvements to the campus.
Funding for programs contributing to the academic success and wellness of all students such as Educational Opportunity Programs, the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports, Learning Support Services and other resources, are falling by the wayside. These program increase retention, promote wellness and provide academic support, and as such, are not only in the interest of students, but the university as a whole.
The administration tells us, “don’t give in,” but so far they haven’t given any indication the programs and projects with the greatest need for funding will receive increased attention as a result of this fundraiser. The additional financial help will certainly benefit the university, but traditional funding, such as students’ combined tuition and support from the state, should address what the donors neglect.