Welcome to the start of a new school year

To: UC Santa Cruz community

From: Chancellor George Blumenthal

Classes have only just started, and already much is happening on campus. Just this week we’ve kicked off an initiative celebrating students, faculty and staff who are among the first in their families to attend college, UC Santa Cruz was again named one of the greenest schools in the country, and we stepped forward on an exciting new student-housing project that will bring thousands of new beds to campus. Now that’s an opening week!

To students new to campus, welcome. You made a smart choice. This university is an extraordinary place to pursue your interests—and to discover new ones. Our students and faculty have diverse backgrounds and interests. Our setting is stunning—surrounded by redwoods and touched by the ocean—and recreational opportunities abound.

Please know that we are dedicated to your success. College life is a big change for many people, so if you need assistance or support, reach out and ask for it. Our Slug Support program is top-notch, as is our Division of Student Success. Faculty and staff here are eager to help you succeed.

To returning students and faculty, welcome back. The big news to share is that this summer we wrapped up the Campaign for UC Santa Cruz, our first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. It went incredibly well, so much so that we closed the campaign six months early, raising more than $335 million! I cannot overstate the positive impact it is having, and will have, on our campus: the rebuilt Hay Barn, renovation of the Quarry Amphitheater, new academic programs and scholarships for students, research and teaching support for faculty, and new cultural programs and archives.  

Please celebrate with us Oct. 19 at the newly reopened quarry. The Dean of Students is having a special kickoff concert for students there on Oct. 14!

I'm delighted to begin the year with a new, crucially important campus leader in place: Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp joined us in June. She has a track record of working with students, faculty, staff, and is unwavering in support of diversity, educational access, and academic excellence. We also have a new Social Sciences dean, Katharyne Mitchell, as well as more than 30 new faculty members across all five academic divisions, a tremendous infusion of new energy, ideas, and expertise.

That housing project I mentioned earlier is in its early stages, but it’s something I am thrilled about. Student Housing West, an innovative public-private partnership, will allow us to build 3,000 new beds on the westside of campus. We’re aiming to have the first ones online in 2020. This will attract more students to campus housing. That will be good for the rental market and for the entire Santa Cruz community.  

Our First Generation Initiative, meanwhile, is in full swing. With more than 42 percent of our undergraduates among the first generation in their families to seek a four-year college or university degree, we’ve proudly launched a program that seeks to support, connect, and highlight first-generation undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty, professional staff, and alumni. I’ll be wearing my First-Gen Grad T-shirt, as will CP/EVC Tromp! We’re both proud members of that club.

In closing, I must acknowledge the political winds that have been swirling this summer, creating a campus climate very different than when students left for the summer just a few months ago. President Trump has essentially ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, imperiling the futures of hundreds of thousands of undocumented students across our nation, including hundreds here on our campus who are pursuing the dream of a college education without fear of deportation. Federal officials also have taken aim at Title IX rules that govern sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus. And freedom of speech is now at the fore of the national debate after the horrible incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, and after the reinvigorated activism involving the national anthem at NFL games.

I want undocumented students at UC Santa Cruz to know this: You do not stand alone. We are proud of your efforts and recognize your contributions to campus and to society. You are what makes America great, and we will do all in our power to help you and to protect your rights.

CP/EVC Tromp and I also would like to reiterate UC Santa Cruz’s strong commitment to ending sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence on our campus. Our commitment will not waver despite the troubling decision by the U.S. Secretary of Education to unwind six years of federal enforcement effort aimed at strengthening sexual violence protections on college campuses.

Finally, freedom of speech is a fundamental right in America. It allows us to express opinions, no matter how unpopular, and to criticize other views. This freedom is uniquely important to a university, as it brings about a free interchange of ideas integral to teaching, research, and public service. I urge all in our campus community to look at the university as a marketplace of ideas. We grow intellectually by listening to other opinions, sometimes liking them, sometimes rejecting them. But always hearing them. That must unfailingly be part of the equation for us to fulfill our educational mission. The best way to counteract offensive speech is with more speech. Never has this been more important.

Fiat Slug!