From the Chancellor

Spirit of 'defiant optimism' must drive us

Here at UC Santa Cruz, we excel at working cooperatively toward shared goals, particularly goals that focus on social responsibility, environmental stewardship, and the common good. We are united by a spirit of “defiant optimism,” as UCSC Foundation Trustee Brandon Allgood put it recently.

For students, that spirit is evident in our commitment to hands-on learning. Nothing complements the challenging academic experience we offer in the classroom like the opportunity to “learn by doing.” We value student participation in research, internships, lab and field-study placements, creative endeavors, and independent as well as team projects.

These real-life experiences add depth and value to the education we offer students, whether they are preparing for a career or graduate study. On campus and off, in the local community and on the far side of the globe, learning in the real world is an integral part of the experience that transforms bright high school students into Banana Slugs—engaged and purposeful, prepared and determined to contribute to the greater good.

Today, the world needs Banana Slugs more than ever. One of the greatest challenges we face in this country hinges on our societal commitment to public higher education. The University of California is not alone in facing dire funding challenges as a result of severe cuts in state funding. Across the country, the budgets of public universities are being strained as states back away from their commitments to higher education. The federal government, too, is reviewing its role as a key provider of student support and research funding.

This threat to our national brain trust is emerging at precisely the same moment that countries in Asia and elsewhere are investing heavily in higher education. They know what we seem to have forgotten: Education is the path to personal fulfillment, upward mobility, and national prosperity.

I believe we are at a crossroads. At UC Santa Cruz, we’ve lost nearly $60 million in state funding in just five years. These cuts threaten the educational values we know make a difference in the lives of students. This fall, voters in California will have an opportunity to weigh in on these issues.

It’s too early to know which proposals will qualify for the ballot, but one thing is clear: Without substantial new revenue for the state, the potential “trigger cuts” in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget will result in an additional $13 million cut to our budget. As unthinkable as that scenario would be, it remains a likely outcome unless advocates of public higher education turn out on Election Day.

We’re relying on our defiant optimism to retain what is special at UC Santa Cruz. I hope you will stay informed and join our campus- and UC-sponsored advocacy efforts. A great first step is to register as a UCSC advocate. To learn more, please visit

Thank you, and go Banana Slugs!