“Well, it looks like things are going to shit at the university,” a student said to a friend as he filed out of yesterday’s UC Commission on the Future Campus Forum. It was a sentiment shared by many present at the event, the first of a series of meetings scheduled for each of the 10 UC campuses.
The event was held at Campbell Hall from 2 to 4:30 p.m. yesterday, and featured brief presentations from the co-chairs of each of the commission’s five working groups on what they will report to the UC Regents at the conclusion of the forum series. In the open comment session that followed, speeches from audience members painted a stark picture of the distrust that faculty, students and staff have for their UC executives.
A woman who identified herself as a teaching assistant from the Chemistry Dept. spoke up at the forum, lamenting her dissatisfaction with the UC and her doubts about the commission.
“It sounds like this hearing is supposed to be a show, and not a meaningful conversation with the UC,” she said. “If you had asked me a year ago what I had thought about the UC, I would have been praising it… Now, you don’t want to know what I have to say.”
Chancellor Henry T. Yang opened the event, explaining that little empirical data was available from the working groups for yesterday’s forum, as the UC Office of the President had notified UCSB that it would be hosting yesterday’s event just a week prior.
Each of the gathered commissioners made a brief two to three minute statement on the planned focus of their working groups, followed by brief statements from five previously selected UCSB speakers representing Associated Students, the Graduate Student Association, Staff Assembly, the Alumni Association and the faculty.
According to the UC Commission on the Future Web site, UC President Mark G. Yudof and UC Board of Regents Chairman created the commission in July to “develop a vision for the future of the state’s public research university.” The commission will present their recommendations to the Board of Regents in March of 2010.
However, amongst other concerns, participants at yesterday’s forum emphasized fears that the Commission — which professes on its mission statement a goal to employ new operational strategies at the UC — may be steering the university away from the Master Plan it has followed, in its many versions, for decades.
UCSB economics professor Henning Bohn said this apprehension that the Commission has nefarious goals is a common sentiment.
“Probably the most important point for you to understand from the outset is that faculty view this forum with suspicion,” Bohn said. “There are widespread sources of concern about the commission because of suspicion that UC leaders are trying to privatize [the university].”
Claudio Fogu, an associate professor of Italian studies at UCSB who identified himself as a member of the “Saving UCSB” coalition, brought students from his class with him to the event, where he warned commissioners of a university in turmoil.
“What we have here is a crisis that is much larger than a fiscal crisis,” he said. “It’s a crisis of confidence… there is a lot of anger too.”