Wednesday, April 8, 2009

UC Santa Cruz-Was it Something I Said?

Cross-posted by Gary Fouse

UC Santa Cruz mascot (a banana slug)

"....and also to you, Fousesquawk!"

Below is an article that appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel yesterday concerning the planned elimination of UC Santa Cruz's Community Studies department due to budget considerations.

Santa Cruz Sentinel
April 7, 2009

Budget ax to fall on UCSC's popular and controversial Community Studies department


SANTA CRUZ -- The Community Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz, a popular program that to many is a symbol of the university itself, faces the fate that the many conservative pundits who mock it have long sought.

In the wake of the ongoing recession, university officials have proposed cutting the department's undergraduate administrative staff, thus eliminating it from campus as of July 1. The news was delivered Wednesday by Sheldon Kamieniecki, dean of social sciences, to department staff.

While conservative commentators like Gary Fouse and David Horowitz have called the Community Studies Department "the outline of a political agenda," local nonprofits said they will be devastated by the closure; each year hundreds of students volunteer locally as part of the department's curriculum.

At the Santa Cruz Boys and Girls Club, for example, director Alex Fey said almost all of his UCSC volunteers come through the Community Studies Department, and he receives as many as six in one year. Fey said he considers the students to be role models for younger kids whom he hopes will attend college, too.

"The Community Studies Department is perhaps the biggest resource in terms of student engagement in the community," said Fey, who moved to Santa Cruz in 2007 to lead the club. "I thought UCSC was a science-based school, and then I found out about Community Studies and thought, This is wonderful.'"

The Community Studies Department was founded in 1969 on the then-fledgling UC Santa Cruz campus. It promotes itself as an "interdisciplinary major that integrates scholarship and community engagement. ... Across radically changing political landscapes, the department has maintained a focus on identifying, analyzing and helping to construct sites for social change and cultural transformation." About 135 students will graduate from the department this spring.

Forty years after it was founded, the department's graduates can be found on the staffs of many local nonprofits like the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, Community Action Board and Barrios Unidos. Its volunteers can be found inside the doors of many more worldwide, as students work part time with local groups and serve six-month "field studies" that involve volunteering full time at nonprofits of their choice anywhere on the globe. The department has inspired similar programs at University of Maryland and University of Massachusetts.

"We don't have a football team, we don't have a business school, we don't have civil engineering. What we have are huge numbers of interns that serve social programs in this community," said Mike Rotkin, the department's field studies coordinator and a Santa Cruz councilman. "The university wants to cut the one thing that actually provides a service to the citizens of Santa Cruz."

The department has come under fire in recent years as conservative pundits point to classes like "Whiteness, Racism and Anti-Racism," "Experiments in Community: Utopia and Communalism in Post-War California" and "Wal-Mart Nation" as examples that students are being "indoctrinated" into their professors' liberal agendas. Horowitz has called UCSC "the most radical university in the United States" and pointed to it and the Community Studies Department in the introduction to his latest book, "One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America's Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy."

UCSC staff said the proposed cuts to the Community Studies Department are not the result of political persuasion, but are necessary as they try to slice $13 million from the university budget.

"The scale of our cuts has left me with no easy choices," Kamieniecki said, noting that the Community Studies cuts total about 15 percent of Social Sciences' assigned budget reduction of $1.3 million.

He added: "On UC campuses, decisions to add or eliminate undergraduate majors are made by faculty within those divisions and in full consultation with the campus's Academic Senate. Such decisions cannot deny currently enrolled students who have declared that major, current students who have proposed declaring that major, or incoming students who have declared that major with the opportunity to earn a degree in that discipline."

Kamieniecki said it was "premature" to discuss the details of what other cuts might be made and where.

Sophomore Elena Rossman, 20, said students would not let go of the department without a fight.

"This major trains community activists and organizers," Rossman said. "So they're kind-of messing with the wrong people."

She's not the only one upset. A Facebook group, "Coalition to Save Community Studies," had nearly 1,400 members by Monday evening.

A meeting tonight at Oakes College on campus is expected to draw hundreds, as is a Q&A event with Chancellor George Blumenthal at 6 p.m. Thursday in the College 9/10 Recreation Lounge.

Say hello to the Bad Guy.

Apparently, the Sentinel somehow found my March 16 posting (UC Santa Cruz-America's Wackiest University?), which pointed out some of the ridiculous programs taught within the Community Studies and History of Consciousness departments. David Horowitz has also pointed out the fact that these departments are little more than indoctrination centers for the "community activists" and "revolutionaries of tomorrow".

I seriously doubt that anything that David Horowitz or I said or wrote was a significant factor in UCSC's decision. If a credible institution is going to have to make cuts, what does one cut first-Spanish/German and French-or Community Studies? Science, biology, history or History of Consciousness? This should be a no-brainer, and hopefully, the next one to go will be Angela Davis' History of Consciousness Department, which does nothing but occupy valuable real estate.

Of course, the left-wing faculty and students as well as Ms Bookwalter (who wrote the above sob story) will not be happy with the decision. But look on the bright side; hopefully, now students will graduate from UCSC with some real knowledge to go with that diploma-knowledge that will serve them in the real world.


  1. Well, Gary. Congratulations on being mentioned in the same sentence as David Horowitz.

    It's difficult to understand how people reconcile being a great volunteer, without being prepared to take care of your own needs and the needs of your family - and then everyone else.

    It's like Michelle Obama (kinda-sorta) telling women to stay in the health care industry and the..., was it the "giving" or "caring" fields? I'm not sure, but something like that.

    Your last point is well taken - perhaps these kids will graduate with some knowledge that will serve them in the real world - and let's hope they will serve their own families first, keep them off the streets, in school and produce productive Americans.

  2. Maggie,

    A commenter on Grizzly Groundswell, where I also posted this article, hit the nail on the head. It's like young people who want to volunteer their time to help the community are going to go away because this silly department is dropped?

  3. Here's an amazing side-bar. For the last 40 years the Liberal colleges and universities have been training social "revolutionaries". And now, it's the social/economic conservative that is staging the revolutionary demostrations in the form of Tea parties.

    Maybe the social revolution has a chance of swinging back the other way? One can hope. Especially if the current financial meltdown causes other liberal institutions to shut down the soft science of political indoctrination and re-education.

  4. Community activism doesn't need to be taught on a college campus. I don't believe that Lenin, Castro or Chavez ever studied it in college (or went for that matter).

    Well done Gary. Well done!

  5. Good work Gary Fouse and David Horowitz! Chalk one up for our side.