(Ed note: The University of California Santa Cruz has long distinguished itself by its field studies programs, which gives students experience in the nonprofit sector and connections that often lead to full-time jobs. Now the Administration is seeking to abolish the program, and is terminating field studies coordinator, Mike Rotkin. Here are the details, and we urge all readers to use the contact addresses below to express your support for this essential program.)

On May 13, Social Sciences Dean Sheldon Kamieniecki issued his final decision on the future of the Community Studies program at UCSC. In his plan, the Department’s Manager, Assistant Field Coordinator, and faculty support staff will be laid off on July 1, 2009. The Director of the Field Program position will be reduced from full-time to half-time on the same date and on July 1, 2010 (the following year), the Director of Field Study position will be entirely eliminated. The Dean does suggest that, perhaps, the Community Studies Department could use “soft money” earned by the program through summer instruction could be used to augment the salaries of the field study staff for a year before they are entirely eliminated. In the Dean’s plan, on July 1st, the Department would be moved administratively under the supervision of the Sociology Department, thus becoming the only academic department at UCSC without its own manager.

While claiming that these changes are merely intended to achieve administrative efficiency, there is no question that they will result in the rapid demise of the Community Studies undergraduate program at UCSC. Because the curriculum of the program is organized around a full-time, six-month field study required for every student in the major, the idea of operating the program without field studies staff is ludicrous. Without a department manager, it is clear that the program, which has been under-funded with respect to faculty for some time now, would be in no position to claim resources like faculty, teaching assistants, and other instructors in the future.

Also on May 13, the UCSC Academic Senate Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) issued a decision to the Dean requiring him to reverse his decision to lay off field study staff in Community Studies because “CEP believes that the proposed ‘change of administrative home’ for Community Studies is tantamount to disestablishing the department. The Committee further believes that the decision to terminate the Field Studies Director and Coordinator positions is effectively a decision to eliminate the major.” The CEP goes on to assert that, without following an extensive process of consultation with the Academic Senate, the Dean does not have the authority to disestablish an academic program. It remains unclear how this Academic Senate committee will be able to enforce its decision against a campus administrator.

It is likely that students who have already declared the Community Studies major will be able to graduate from this program; however, despite assurances from the administration that other UCSC and Cabrillo College students who have expressed an intention to declare a Community Studies major will be able to graduate from the program, how could this work without field study staff?

Our ongoing reaction has been shock and dismay. Our interdisciplinary faculty are stalwart members of the campus with proud and award winning records of scholarship, creative production and teaching. Our undergraduate students’ academic performance consistently receives campus and non-campus accolades including Deans’ and Chancellor’s awards, the Strauss Scholarship and the prestigious Steck award. Community Studies alumni have taken their places in every sector of society and cultivated a special niche for themselves as innovators in the non-profit sector — often in programmatic areas traceable to their full time field studies. Our relatively new Master of Arts degree program in Social Documentation already boasts an impressive roster of current and former students who have won places at the Sundance Film Festival and on national broadcast media. We were shocked, finally, because our mission of engaging students in critical analysis and community based research today enjoys unparalleled academic relevance and legitimacy.

In addition, the Community Studies program provides well-prepared interns for community programs in Santa Cruz County as well as throughout California and elsewhere around the world. Many environmental, social service, arts and educational programs in the City of Santa Cruz and beyond depend upon our interns to provide their services.

Currently, many UCSC students and their parents, faculty at UCSC and at other institutions of higher learning, alumni, UCSC donors, social program directors, and State legislators have been sending letters and asking for meetings with key campus administrators in order to protest the decision to de facto terminate Community Studies. Several student groups at UCSC have also been involved in demonstrations in support of Community Studies – often in conjunction with other related issues such as the defense of Latino and Latin American Studies, support for recruitment and retention services for students of color, etc. Currently, a new group, Students of Color at UCSC, are engaged in a hunger strike in support of their demands.

If you would like to join them in expressing concerns about what is happening to Community Studies, please feel free to write or email the following campus administrators in order to express your concerns:


George Blumenthal
Chancellor, UC Santa Cruz
200 Clark Kerr Hall
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Email: chancellor@ucsc.edu

David S. Kliger
Campus Provost and
Executive Vice Chancellor
200 Clark Kerr Hall
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Email: cpevc@ucsc.edu

CC: Community Studies Department
Oakes Faculty Services
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Email: cmmu@ucsc.edu

Sheldon Kamieniecki
Dean of Social Sciences
Social Sciences Division
460 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Email: sk1@ucsc.edu