The University of California Center at Sacramento is shutting its doors due to a lack of funding, but officials say the program could potentially resurface in a different UC setting.
In late August, the Sacramento Center received a temporary suspension of its funding and stopped accepting applications indefinitely. The Center — which provided graduate and upper-division undergraduate students with a chance to study in the politically-charged Sacramento atmosphere during the academic and summer quarters — had been operating in the state capitol for less than five years when the decision was made to postpone the program. The decision was ultimately made by acting interim UC Provost Lawrence Pitts and will take effect at the conclusion of this quarter.
According to A.G. Block, associate director of the Center, the projected 2009-10 program cost of $635,000 was simply too much, considering the drastic, system-wide budget cuts. Consequently, the 16 UC students currently enrolled may be the last to participate in the UCCS program, which was founded in winter 2004 by the UC Office of the President.
The UCCS curriculum, according to the Web site, offered participants the opportunity to observe public policy processes and develop leadership skills firsthand through a local internship that let students observe gubernatorial processes. In the past, students in the UCCS program have studied interned in positions in the governor’s office, the state Legislature and agencies that deal with state policy challenges.
“The center’s mission was two-fold. For one, it offered a rigorous, yet intimate, academic study program in public policy,” Block said. “It also helped facilitate access to the breadth and depth of UC research and expertise to policymakers throughout California State Government.”
Given the compromised financial state of the center, most of the staff have already been laid off, Block said.
“Dr. Gary Dymski, the executive director, is the only full-time faculty assigned to the Center,” Block said. “He is scheduled to return to his home campus at UC Riverside in January. Most other staff was laid off at the beginning of September.”
Because of the unique opportunity UCCS has provided for students, UC spokesperson Peter King said the administration would actively pursue alternatives to the center to make the program financially feasible. It’s possible, King said, that the Center’s political education goals may be picked up by a different UC campus or moved to a new location.
“Where you put your laptop and briefcase is less important than being up there and being exposed to the workings of the state government,” King said. “They’re exploring running, instead, out of an isolated building in downtown Sacramento. I’ve also heard rumblings of UC Davis being a logical place to start looking. I mean, they’re only 12 miles up the road.”
Since its creation, the program has catered to over 600 students, roughly 68 of whom were registered UCSB students.
Lorraine McDonnell, the UCSB faculty advisor for the UCCS program, said the discontinuation of the “hands-on” program would have markedly negative effects on state leaders and students alike.
“Unfortunately, this comes at a very inconvenient time,” McDonnell said. “At a time when the state government needs considerable assistance in addressing California’s very serious problems, there is less opportunity to take advantage of research-based perspectives.”
If the center’s venue was to be changed, King said, the program could face renovations, although the original goal of UCCS would remain the same.
“It’s just the model that’s going to be changed,” King said. “It’s never a good thing when you have to nip and tuck at a good program, but if you do it smart and fairly and keep your eyes on the mission, we might be okay.”