Photo by Josephine Joliff

During Student Media’s quarterly Q&A session with UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal and Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp, City on a Hill Press asked questions ranging from student housing to the UC’s balance of scientific research and indigenous rights on Hawai’i’s Big Island. 

Huawei, the federal government and the UC

On Jan. 28, the Department of Justice charged Chinese technological company Huawei with theft of trade secrets and working to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran. Huawei is the second largest smartphone maker in the world, overtaking Apple. It provides technological services and funding to universities. To comply with federal government and UCOP guidelines UC campuses like UC Berkeley and UC Irvine are reviewing their relationship with the company. 

City on a Hill Press: Are there any connections between UCSC and Huawei that would be affected by the recent government investigations?

EVC Tromp: We have faculty who have historic grants from Huawei, so in the past, they’ve gotten grants from Huawei. […] The vice chancellor of the Office of Research and the deans are working together to determine how we can comply with the policy and the guidelines that the Office of the President has recommended so that we can appropriately move forward without engaging funds that will compromise the government. […] We haven’t taken in any new money and we’re working to make sure we’re compliant on all fronts with Huawei.

Strategic Academic Plan

Spearheaded by EVC Marlene Tromp, the Strategic Academic Plan aims to focus the academic goals of the campus. Since its inception to the most recent town hall, students, faculty and staff have shared concerns about the plan’s inclusion of student voices. 

EVC Tromp is seeking feedback on the plan’s new proposal until March 1.

CHP: Do you think the responsibility should be on the administration or on the students to try to improve student participation with the SAP? 

EVC Tromp: The reason we went and tabled in the Quarry […] is because we wanted to figure out what we needed to do. But we really need the students to tell us what the best way is to connect with them. So we’re willing to do the work, but we just need to understand from them what the strategies are that will work. We found a lot of things that didn’t work very well. In fact, we had a couple of town halls last year that were just for students, and not very many people came. […] We need to figure out what the other strategies are. 

Scientific research and indigenous rights in Hawai’i 

After years of controversy, the Supreme Court of Hawai’i approved the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea volcano, a site which is sacred to native Hawaiian culture and religion. Students, staff and faculty know Chancellor Blumenthal as a lifelong academic with a background specializing in astrophysics and astronomy. CHP asked him to share his thoughts on the $50 million of UC funding allocated to the development of the telescope.

CHP:In the case of the Big Island of Hawai’i, do you share other activists’ concerns of such scientific research infringing on the culture of Native Hawaiian people? 

Chancellor Blumenthal: I would remind you that the Thirty Meter Telescope, if built there, will be the 10th or 11th telescope built on the top of Mauna Kea, it will not be breaking new ground. […] I recognize that there are groups within Hawai’i who do regard the mountain as being sacred. On the other hand, I also think that there’s something sacred about the pursuit of knowledge and so I would weigh the pursuit of knowledge more highly than the cultural issues that some Hawai’ians have raised. […] There’s a huge education component to this that will be very beneficial to the state and to the native populations. But I also understand, coming from Santa Cruz, I understand controversy. Not everyone is going to be on the same page and I recognize that. 

Student Housing West

Student Housing West (SHW) is a UCSC initiative to provide additional housing for students on two sites on campus. The project would provide a child care center and relocated housing for student families. 

CHP: The SHW project is projected to add 3,000 beds on campus. Is the UCSC administration planning on increasing enrollment as a result of finishing the project in 2023?

Chancellor Blumenthal: [SHW] is intended only to house our current students. If we didn’t grow this campus by another student, if there were no additional enrollments until the end of time, we still would need [SHW] right now. […] If we continue to grow enrollment beyond our current numbers, particularly if we were to grow to anything like what’s envisioned in the next long-range development plan, we would need to construct a considerably greater amount of housing on campus.