UCSC leadership shares bold vision for campus’s future with Regents

Chancellor Cynthia Larive on Thursday presented the University of California Regents with a bold vision for UC Santa Cruz’s future — leading at the intersection of innovation and social justice — and detailed how the campus’ strengths, challenges, opportunities, and planning processes are advancing this vision. 

The presentation focused on the campus’s four major goals:

  • advancing student success by improving retention and graduation rates and by closing equity gaps; 
  • elevating UC Santa Cruz’s research profile and increasing the impact of research; 
  • fostering an inclusive campus climate that embraces and values equity, diversity and inclusion; and 
  • improving the efficiency, effectiveness, resilience, and sustainability of operations. 

“At UC Santa Cruz we embrace our challenges and opportunities as we work together to achieve our goals,” Larive said. “Over the next decade we will chart a path for affordable access, equity and research impact that embraces our values of sustainability and social justice.”

Chancellor Larive delivered a 15-minute presentation on the campus, a high-level summary of a detailed 40-page report that was shared with Regents weeks in advance. 

Regents were overwhelmingly positive in their remarks.

Regent John A. Pérez noted that the campus holds the distinction of being one of only two members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) designated both as an Hispanic Serving Institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution. Some institutions look at those designations simply as headcounts, he said, but it’s apparent after reading the report and seeing the presentation that UCSC “takes the S” in those phrases seriously and looks to truly serve its students through an “equity lens.”

The campus report detailed how UCSC is advancing student success by focusing on closing equity gaps and going beyond traditional metrics like passing rates in gateway courses. 

Pérez was among the Regents who were complimentary of the campus goal to further diversify the faculty. The campus is working to increase the percentage of faculty who are under-represented minorities (Hispanic/Latinx, Indigenous, or Black) from 17 percent to 25 percent over the next decade and achieve gender parity. 

“There are improved outcomes for students when we see that kind of (improved) representation,” he said. “Thank you for being bold in setting a goal and timelines that we can judge ourselves against. That is a significant increase in a measurable period of time.”

Chancellor Larive said she believes UCSC can realistically achieve that number if trends that the campus has seen continue. The percentage of faculty from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education increased from 12.6 percent to 17 percent over the past decade, she noted, with focused efforts leading to strong gains over the past two to three years. A recently announced campus initiative to hire 100 new faculty over the next 10 years, coupled with an anticipated 200 to 250 additional faculty hires to replace departures due to retirement and separations, give UCSC the unparalleled opportunity to diversify its faculty, Larive added. It is the most significant faculty hiring effort the campus has pursued since its founding nearly 60 years ago.

While the faculty-hiring initiative was detailed in the report as the greatest opportunity for the campus, housing — both the strong need for it and the difficulty campus has had in its attempts to build more of it — was singled out as the biggest challenge. 

Santa Cruz is one of the least affordable housing markets in the country, but more than just being expensive, there is limited housing for purchase or for rent, Larive told the Regents. Rental vacancies have ranged between 1-2 percent since 2013. The loss of nearly 1,000 homes in the county to the 2020 CZU wildfires, along with the increased location flexibility for Silicon Valley workers, has exacerbated the problem.

The campus strategy to address this challenge has been to align campus housing with future growth. UCSC’s 2021 Long Range Development Plan, approved by Regents in September, plans to provide housing for 100 percent of in-person enrollment above the 19,500 specified by the last campus LRDP, approved in 2005. The Kresge College renewal project now underway is an example of the campus strategy to meet that goal by planning, building and delivering student housing projects on an ongoing basis. The project, currently in construction, will deliver new classrooms, student-support spaces, and undergraduate student beds. As the campus prepares to launch the second phase of the project, planners are pursuing design options that could ultimately add 500 additional beds to the project. 

Campus has also sought to add housing through Student Housing West, which was proposed more than four years ago. It is designed to provide about 3,000 beds for current students as well as a new child-care center, operated by the campus, to serve the children of both students and employees. The project cleared a major legal hurdle last month with an appellate court ruling in favor of the university. One pending lawsuit, however, is still holding up the project. 

System leaders took notice of the campus efforts to address the problem. Regent Richard Leib, who assumed the role of chair of the Board of Regents earlier this month, complimented Larive for what he called “being bold,” facing difficult challenges such as housing and trying to come up with real solutions.

Pérez wanted to know what it is that the campus truly needs from Regents “to help you get to where you’re trying to get.” Larive again pointed to the housing crisis. “That will come, I think, in the form of additional flexibility in financing. It is a situation where we can fill those beds, those buildings will pay for themselves in time, but working with the Office of the President, we’re going to need flexibility to borrow the money to build that housing.”

Regents have requested a Strategic Campus Overview from each of the 10 UC campuses. UCSC is the third campus to give a report, following San Francisco and Davis. The presentations aim to give the Regents a thorough understanding of each campus, providing valuable context when campus leaders appear before them with capital projects or programmatic plans.

“I’m very pleased that our goals were well-received,” Larive said. “UC Santa Cruz is a remarkable place. Our students, staff and faculty are pushing boundaries in countless fields, yet we are united by a common purpose —  to create lasting positive change in the world. My hope is that the Regents will see our greater vision when we bring future projects and plans to them.”