New academic year, new possibilities

To: UC Santa Cruz community

From: Chancellor George Blumenthal

To students, staff, and faculty new to campus, welcome! We are thrilled to have you. You’ll soon discover that UC Santa Cruz is an extraordinary place, offering you the opportunity to pursue your interests — academic, professional, and personal — and to discover new ones.  

To those who are returning, welcome back! No matter where you are in your UC Santa Cruz journey, start the academic year off right: Get involved, introduce yourself to someone new, or just do what Slugs do — blaze a new trail in whatever area you choose!

The 2018-19 academic year promises to be an exciting one.

We are part-way through what we have dubbed our Year of Alumni, a celebration of some of our most notable graduates — Slugs out in the world making a difference. They are testimony to the culture of innovation, exploration, and creative expression that thrives on our campus. Our Founders Celebration in October will feature three prominent alumni journalists in conversation about the media and what it’s like working in today’s charged political climate.

We are nearing implementation of our new Strategic Academic Plan, one we believe will give us a higher profile on the international stage, highlighting our cutting-edge scholarship and interdisciplinary collaborations, and providing a visionary model for public higher education.

Our still-in-the-works Long Range Development Plan, meanwhile, will help define our university’s physical future. A campus committee made up of planners, faculty, staff, and students, with input from a panel of community members, will continue their work throughout the year. The end result will be a blueprint, valid until the year 2040, for how the campus might grow.

We’re preparing to broadly share our plans for a renewal of Kresge, one of our 10 residential colleges. It’s exciting to plan the physical revitalization of one of campus’s most dynamic, iconic institutions. Its reinvigoration sets it up to prosper for its next 50 years.

We also continue to pursue Student Housing West, a project I believe is crucial to supporting student success. It will give us more than 3,000 new on-campus beds, which will pull upper-division students who struggle to find safe and affordable housing in the community back to campus, helping them while also easing pressure on the greater housing market. The project will also allow us to ease overcrowding in existing dorms and to expand our child-care options for students, staff, and faculty with young children.

This academic year also sees the arrival of more than 35 new faculty members across all five academic divisions. This tremendous infusion of new energy, ideas, and expertise helps keep our campus vibrant.

It’s important to acknowledge that this year begins, like last, in uncertain political times, and freedom of speech continues to be a hot topic on campuses nationwide. When does speech cross over to something more hateful? Should we intervene? I believe 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 free exchange of ideas is integral to a university. I urge all to help make UC Santa Cruz an inclusive and welcoming marketplace of ideas, where all are treated respectfully.

Sexual violence and other forms of sexual harassment on college campuses also, unfortunately, remain in the headlines. I would like to reiterate UC Santa Cruz’s strong commitment to eliminating sexual violence and harassment here. I am hopeful that our efforts are succeeding, but recognize there is much left to do.

Finally, we are lucky to live, work, and play in such a beautiful setting. Forty-six years after I began here, I remain in awe of the sweeping vistas that suddenly open to view as I move around campus. But I also understand that college is a big change for many people. It can be stressful. So, if you need assistance or support in any way, reach out and ask for it. Our Slug Support program is top-notch, as is our Division of Student Success, and the staff at each of our residential colleges are incredible resources. Know that campus is filled with people eager to help you succeed.

Best of luck to all during this 2018-19 academic year. Fiat Slug!