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March 11, 2002

Academic Senate hears about budget, OKs grad student boost, committee on colleges

By Louise Donahue

Faculty members received an update on the outlook for state funding and the long-range planning process from John Simpson, campus provost and executive vice chancellor, in a meeting of UCSC's Academic Senate last week.

Campus Provost John Simpson has provided initial public feedback to the plans submitted by academic and support divisions.
Governor Gray Davis's support--and the fact that the governor has veto power--are good news for the University of California, said Simpson. However, the university itself is ''very vulnerable,'' he added, pointing out that UC's budget is not defined by statute, but comes from the roughly 15 percent of the overall state budget that is discretionary. ''It's going to be a long and difficult and politically charged process,'' Simpson said, predicting that the state budget may not be completed until July.

Given the likely condition of the economy over the next several years, the best the university can expect is a flat budget, Simpson said, reminding the senate that the state hiring freeze--with some flexibility--remains in effect. ''I continue to urge caution,'' he emphasized.

Despite these uncertainties, Simpson said he is eager to press ahead with the campuswide long-term planning process he initiated, so that the campus will be ready when conditions improve.

In envisioning the campus in 2010, Simpson said it is critical that UCSC celebrate what is unique about the institution. ''We should not be in the business of copying other universities.''

Among other items on the senate's agenda were consideration of plans to increase graduate student enrollment and review of a plan to establish a committee to study the college system.

After discussion, the Academic Senate gave overwhelming approval to a resolution that ''UCSC commit itself to growth in graduate and professional programs, both existing and new, with the goal of attaining a student population containing at least 15 percent graduate students.''

The resolution further urged ''that the UCSC Senate and administration jointly develop a plan aimed both at establishing this student population and guiding the annual targets.''

In proposing the resolution, the Committee on Planning and Budget noted that UCSC's current student population has the lowest percentage of graduate students among UC campuses.

''Such an increase will enhance our stature as a major research university and make it easier to attract absolutely first-class faculty,'' the committee wrote.

In outlining the resolution proposing a committee on the colleges, Shelly Errington, professor of anthropology, said the committee is designed to be ''a think tank,'' rather than to take on a policy role. The approved resolution, jointly proposed by the Committee on Planning and Budget and the Committee on Committees, called on the panel to ''explore the range of models for the colleges.''

Possibilities outlined by the Committee on Planning and Budget included:

  • Remove all curricular content from the colleges; keep them solely as Student Affairs units;

  • Keep our current, one-size-fits-all, core-course model;

  • Have all the colleges forge tight links with divisions;

  • Have the colleges develop much more focused curricula and allow them to set general education requirements;

  • Move to an eclectic system, where different colleges have very different types of academic organization.

''Senate engagement is absolutely crucial at this time,'' said George Brown, vice provost for academic affairs, noting issues such as future student housing to accommodate campus growth.

In other discussion, UC's use of admissions tests was the subject of a report from a systemwide committee, the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS). The committee has issued a discussion paper on the subject.

Karen McNally, professor emerita of Earth sciences and the UCSC representative on BOARS, said the committee wants to move toward achievement tests (the SAT II is one example) rather than aptitude tests (SAT 1), but not abandon admissions tests altogether, as some have suggested.

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