Chancellor provides progress report at Partners in Community event

Chancellor Blumenthal addresses the audience at the Partners in Community event.
Attendees mingled outside the Music Recital Hall after the Partners in Community presentation. (Photos by Terry Way)

UC Santa Cruz achieved a number of significant milestones during the last academic year and is poised to continue that progress in the coming year, Chancellor George Blumenthal reported at the second annual Partners in Community event, held last week at the Music Recital Hall.

Attended by approximately 250 people, the event is designed to provide members of UCSC's 14 Friends groups and other invited members of the Santa Cruz community with an opportunity to hear Chancellor Blumenthal review highlights from the prior year and preview the year ahead. Audience members also get a chance to ask questions of Blumenthal and other members of the campus's Leadership Team.

Blumenthal began his remarks last Thursday by discussing the "landmark agreement" between UCSC, the City and County of Santa Cruz, and citizens groups--reached after many months of mediated discussions about the campus's Long Range Development Plan.

The agreement ends litigation related to the LRDP, enabling the campus to advance its academic plan and develop facilities that meet the educational needs of students and the state. The settlement agreement includes mutually enforceable measures to address traffic impacts, conserve water, and provide housing for new


The campus had already taken steps toward reducing traffic and water use, said Blumenthal. "Car trips are down to the same level they were in 1998, even though the campus has grown 50 percent since then," Blumenthal said.

The campus has also cut its water use by 40 percent since the 1980s, he said, "and we're going to do better."

The past year was filled with academic and research achievements, Blumenthal said, citing the following as examples:

  • Faculty achieved national distinction. For example, Claire Max,

    professor of astronomy and astrophysics, was elected to the National

    Academy of Sciences; seismologist Thorne Lay was elected to the American

    Academy of Arts & Sciences.

  • Researchers have made major strides in their fields. For example, a

    microchip developed by engineer Wentai Liu is helping restore vision to

    the blind, and UCSC scientists were involved in the startup of a massive

    new atom smasher in Europe this summer. "These examples remind us how

    research makes a real difference for humanity and the quality of life on

    our planet," said Blumenthal.

  • The SAT scores and the grade point averages of incoming freshmen

    continue to rise, and the campus is becoming more selective. The student

    body is also increasingly diverse.

  • Private support for the campus topped $31.5 million (see related story). "This is a serious and important achievement for this campus at a time when we

    really need it," Blumenthal said. Contracts and grants to the campus

    totaled $131 million (see related story).

  • In construction news, the chancellor noted that McHenry Library is under renovation, the Digital Arts New Media building is progressing, and the California Coastal Commission approved plans last academic year to expand Long Marine Lab.

Blumenthal went on to briefly discuss partnerships in Silicon Valley, various environmental initiatives, the conclusion of a successful Shakespeare Santa Cruz season, and the loss in the state Legislature of Assemblyman John Laird, an alum and UC Santa Cruz ally who is being termed out of office at the end of the year.

Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty, who is also a lecturer on campus, addressed the audience after Blumenthal, calling the settlement agreement on the LRDP "an opportunity to revitalize and revamp the relationship between the city and the university."

Audience members then asked questions of the chancellor, querying him on topics such as how UCSC supports local businesses and how the campus can improve access for visitors.

At a reception afterward, Richard Zscheile of Aptos, a member of the Lifelong Learners group, described the event as positive, adding that it's helpful to receive updates on what's happening on campus and what the plans are. "A lot of people in town don't know what's going on up here," he added.

For research professor and Santa Cruz resident Frank "Bud" Bridges, a member of the Emeriti Group, the chancellor's report "laid out some of the plans very well and kept us in touch."

Professor of Chemistry Todd Wipke, of Santa Cruz, was especially pleased to see Shakespeare Santa Cruz get some attention, calling the theater group a "gem that attracts a lot of people to campus and is underutilized."