Chancellor announces two new programs to support graduate students

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Chancellor Cynthia Larive

Chancellor Cynthia Larive

In September, I shared with our community my vision for UC Santa Cruz and the four goals that would help us define success. The first two — solidifying our status as a research leader and promoting student success — go to the heart of ensuring our educational and research excellence, and are issues that I would like to address today.

Key to achieving these goals is strengthening and diversifying our graduate programs. Though graduate students in doctoral and masters of fine arts programs are supported through fellowships, research and teaching assistantships, the cost of housing in Santa Cruz County remains a financial burden for many. The ability of UC Santa Cruz to address this need is hampered because our campus ranks at the bottom of the UC system relative to the number of graduate housing units. We simply have nowhere near the number of units we need to support our graduate students.

If we are to continue to pioneer and transform research through the application of diverse perspectives, we must demonstrate our commitment by ensuring that we can attract and support the best qualified and most innovative graduate students. To that end, I am pleased to announce two new programs:

  • First, beginning in fall 2020, we will offer new and continuing doctoral students support packages for five years (two years for MFA students). These packages will have a minimum level of support equivalent to that of a 50 percent teaching assistantship.
  • Second, until more graduate-level student housing becomes available, we are instituting an annual housing supplement of $2,500 for doctoral and MFA students offered through the Graduate Division.

These two new programs further enhance the overall financial package our doctoral and MFA students receive to assist them in their academic progress and pursuit of an advanced degree.

Also, integral to our commitment to educational excellence is our obligation to our undergraduate students, which requires that we do everything possible to ensure their success. We know that a degree from UC Santa Cruz has the potential to change the trajectory of lives. Unfortunately, recent actions by some graduate students to withhold or delete grades only hurts the very students who depend on us.

When students do not have grades, it can profoundly impact financial aid, as well as the ability of some students to enroll in needed classes, apply for graduation, or even declare a major. It also can impact requirements of student athletes, student veterans, and those under academic review. Withholding grades also makes it more difficult for us to work together on tangible steps that we can take to help address the core, underlying issue — our lack of affordable housing.

UC Santa Cruz has a proud history of activism, and the university is committed to ensuring that all people may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, and assembly. And while I commend our students for drawing attention to a very real problem, I am extremely disappointed that some graduate students chose to do so in a way that was unsanctioned by their union and is harmful to our undergraduate students, many of whom are struggling themselves. As this grade strike continues, I am deeply concerned about the impact on undergraduates. Therefore, graduate students who do not submit grades by Feb. 2, 2020, will receive a written disciplinary warning in accordance with the UC/UAW contract. Students alleged to have deleted grades will receive a student conduct summons.

A lack of affordable housing is not a problem unique to Santa Cruz. It is endemic to California. I sympathize with students who are impacted by the lack of affordable housing locally, as well as the generally high cost of living here. I believe the introduction of these two new programs demonstrates a commitment to our graduate students and will make a significant and tangible impact on their lives.

There is no doubt that more work needs to be done and I’m looking forward to collaborating on new ways of addressing ongoing problems. UC Santa Cruz is on a great trajectory and I’m confident that by working together we will be able to continue to achieve educational and research excellence.