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[personal profile] ritaxis
So the police rioted on campus yesterday. People were sitting in trees and marching around with drums, so the police busted out the pepper spray and the batons. Films all over: links behind the cut, at the bottom, in case you want to scroll down and skip the neepery.

The University here is in a period of great expansion. Largely this is due to its shining-star status in the cutting-edge sciences: environmental studies, genetics, astronomy, etc. But it's also a response to the fact that if you have a growing population, and a demand to educate that population, you need more and/or bigger schools to do it. So there are two solid reasons to expand the campus, as much as it grieves me to see the forest and meadow impacted.

However. The University has been stupid about planning and about mitigating its impact on quite sensitive habitats and its impact on the community (about which more in a minute). Lots of people are quite angry at the University's stance that it has to be able to do whatever it thinks of without meaningful involvement from those the Regents consider outsiders. The City and County are especially angry because the University plans its expansions without working with them on water, traffic, housing, and other infrastructure issues. The University maintains on the housing front that UCSC provides more campus-sponsored housing, relative to the campus population, than most colleges. The obvious answer to that is: don't compare us to just any other colleges: compare us to other communities where the college accounts for a similar proportion of the population, and where the housing situation was already dire five years into the existence of the college.

It's not simple. None of it's simple. The University decided it would deal with its housing crunch, and some of its other problems, by buying buildings and by building in town. This should be a good solution, yes? Except that the University doesn't pay property tax, and most importantly, doesn't pay hotel tax (10%!!!), so the city suffers noticeably when a giant, important hotel is taken out of the pool. So it's a good thing and a bad thing. But the City didn't get to take part in the planning for that: it was presented as a fait accompli. If the City had been part of that planning, they may have been able to suggest something the University could do to help out.

Don't fail to understand that on the whole the University has been a great benefit to the town, the county, and the region in its forty-two years of existence. The town had outrageous unemployment when the University was invited to build here -- the fishing industry had more or less died when the sardines crashed, the tourist industry was flagging, agriculture is seasonal, logging was fading, and the writing was on the wall for canning and freezing. Jobs at the University are better paid than other local jobs. More of them are unionized, too. The University provides eager young student teachers, crusading young environmentalists -- we have really clean beaches and waterways! -- public servants, concerned parents, active citizens -- money! Students are not as flush as established white-collar workers, but there's a higher proportion of students with money than in the general population of very young adults. And they spend their money, which is good for the local economy.

But. The University also needs a lot of water, sewer, fire and police support (even without police riots -- just the addition of that many people, most of them in their early, impulsive years, though students are generally less impulsive than non-students -- think about it, how did they get to the University?). Especially water. And Santa Cruz County does not import water and until the mid-close future does not use desalination: the rain that falls between November and April is all there is (if you pump out groundwater as your main water supply, you will go into deficit sooner rather than later, as some Southwestern cities are learning). And the University refuses to allow the City -- whose water they use -- any authority over how much water they use. So the City's pissed because they can't control water use in this one huge, expanding sector of their service area.

Meanwhile, students come to UCSC -- if they know what they're doing, and apparently some of them lately don't because they are dismayed when they get here -- because it is situated in a redwood forest. So when the University takes out chunks of forest to expand, it pisses off the students, or at least some of them. So they sit in trees, or in the past, chain themselves to trees. And the University is never cool about it. They always bring out the cops with their tear gas and pepper spray and batons, and they always rough up the students. I don't get this. The University knows from experience that they can wait out the students and do whatever they want in the summer -- which is a much better building time than winter anyway, since it doesn't rain! So why do they always choreograph these situations where they end up roughing up the students?

I don't know about this expansion thing, myself. It seems stupid to situate a campus in the middle of a redwood forest and proclaim mightily to the world about how you have small classes and an intimate college system and then cut down the forest and expand all the classes and obliterate the narrative evaluation system. On the other hand, these sciences are expanding, they need modern facilities, and the population of University goers has to expand if the population of the State is going to expand (and that's a story in itself) and if we're going to democratize education and if we're going to bring everybody into the century of the fruitbat 21st century and have people able to do the things they'll need to do to save the world.

Of course, California's population would be contracting, not expanding, if it were not for the children of immigrants. And if California's population was not expanding, it would be increasingly composed of old creaky people who need tremendous amounts of care and who could not be producing as much in the way of wealth and services.

I promised links for the demonstration yesterday.

a dumb, short, news article

Student video of the event (here are multiple parts but you have to click around like a crazy person to get them put into order)

I'm including this link to a straight news broadcast video because even though it doesn't work for me, the couple seconds I can see and hear indicate there's something interesting there if you can get it to work right.

The local-ish paper (not locally owned, not locally printed, but its reporters work out of an office that's actually in the county, though not actually close to most of the interesting things that happen here) -- an almost decent article with only a couple of misleading features -- the headline being one of them!

Date: 2007-11-08 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cpxbrex.livejournal.com
Part of the reason why my wife chose UCSC over U of Maryland is the redwood forest, hehe (and that cutting edge scientific research, of course). She's opposed to the expansion of the school. Sure, it's true that California is getting larger, but the local community is unable to sustain expansion they're calling for. All of the people I've spoken to about the subject, up at the university, believe that the regents are primarily motivated by ego and greed. UCSC is a great school, but it'll never be breathed in the same breath as MIT unless it's the same physical size as MIT. They'll never early six figures a year unless the school gets bigger, and has more income to justify a salary increase. Stuff like that.

Date: 2007-11-12 05:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ritaxis.livejournal.com
You know what, though? UCSC is already right up there. Somebody did an "influence" study -- how many times staff and faculty and grad students from each institution were cited in peer reviewed journals, and UCSC was in the top tier (I'm afraid to quote the exact standing because I'll get it wrong).

So now, it's kind of a matter of not starving the programs, really. You have to give them new buildings and equipment, but . . . I am certain there is a more intelligent way to do it!

Date: 2007-11-12 06:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cpxbrex.livejournal.com
I absolutely agree! UCSC is one of the finest research institutions in the world, yeah. But it's not about facts, I think, but perceptions and, well, ego. And maybe money, using undergrads as a cash source.

But it could be done much better. If the increase in staff was in, say, environmental sciences and the proposed buildings were, say, going to be designed for minimal ecological footprint as part of a sylvication project . . . there'd be a lot less community objection, I feel. But the regents want to bulldoze ahead, in several senses, ignoring the needs of the community and the scholastic environment. There are ways that you could grow the school that wouldn't annoy either the community or the students, but they're going for this simple plan of just adding seats in objection to just about everyone!

Which is, I suspect, preaching to the choir. ;)

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