Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Reflecting on UCSC's LRDP as the start of a process for creating the future

An opinion-editorial about the UCSC 2005 LRDP and graduation that I wrote for the Santa Cruz Sentinel that wasn't published. An earlier version of this essay is included in a forthcoming book about the 2005 LRDP process by fellow alum and photographer, Lucas Barth (for details contact lucas_barth at hotmail dot com):

As a student at UC Santa Cruz, I was involved in the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) process, and participated in the design of the planning framework for UC Santa Cruz’s future. Throughout the 2005 LRDP process, my fellow student representatives and I learned that many diverse perspectives on the campus and city exist. We learned how valuable it is for the entire community to be listen to each other, stay involved in the planning process, understand what the 2005 LRDP is, and have a sense of where things are going.

The 2005 LRDP planning framework points the campus in a direction using a collaboratively produced land-use map, principles, and recommendations for how potential growth can relate to the existing campus and city contexts.

As a departure point, the path we take from the 2005 LRDP has not already been defined by the 2005 LRDP itself (or the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)) but will literally be created by participation in what happens after the long-range development planning process: implementation.

Being a graduating senior I’m thinking about the future again. Understanding the value of the 2005 LRDP process has taught me a lot. My fellow seniors and I are moving on. And yet, as our time here is ending, UC Santa Cruz is also a beginning.

And in regard to the 2005 LRDP, there is much planning still to do. Like college commencement, the 2005 LRDP and EIR should just be the beginning.

The UC Santa Cruz community must not jump into projects, but first insist on planning them, and be part of the implementation of the 2005 LRDP. Get involved in the process of growth and change, and be there to engage others! As my peers and I discovered while giving input into the 2005 LRDP Committee: we have a rare and awesome opportunity to guide the course of the future.

How will campus community be involved in historic academic planning to guide enrollment numbers and academic access? How will we be involved in the projects attached to the 2005 LRDP EIR (they’ll be the first to be implemented)? How will we be involved in future area planning looking closely at how new projects will relate to their contexts? How will we find ways to tie our academic work and volunteering to collaboration between the campus and community? How will faculty collaborate with their students, and inspire them to be active campus stewards and civic participants (and thus mitigation measures in themselves, making the campus and city a better place)? How will we foster community, help develop the living and breathing places of UC Santa Cruz, shape lives departing into the future of the world?

In consideration of the proposed increase of 6,000 students, there is real concern the growth will affect the quality of student life. How will UC Santa Cruz treat its students? This is a question about the nature of UC Santa Cruz as a place, and whether or not it will be a place kindling of the values and experiential opportunities sacred and relevant to the campus and its context.

The college system at UC Santa Cruz has been a very important part of my campus experience. I believe the colleges are important to the quality of student life and are meaningful places on our city on a hill. In years to come, new students will live where I once did at Porter College.

Throughout the 2005-2020 LRDP planning process the value of the college system was repeatedly discussed. The 2005 LRDP Committee and those who provided comments during the process explored the future of the college system. 6,000 more students will change the scale of relations; it will change the campus, the community, how people interact with the campus and each other, and potentially also the college system. Yet it is important to remember, change is not a question of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but a question of ‘how’.

UC Santa Cruz is greatly shaped by the college system; with it the campus feels smaller and more intimate. Each college creates an important sense of close-knit community. Personally, I believe the college system is a vital part of UC Santa Cruz and respects the need for supportive community woven into the campus’ built-natural interweave. I’m going to miss the college community, the smell of the redwoods, the winding paths, the light in the trees, the views, the air, the people! So, how will growing the student population affect the campus and the college system?

Some potential changes (of which participation in the implementation process of campus planning can shape): colleges size may grow, college programming may change and administration may be centralized; or to accommodate the growth, new colleges will be added or alternative housing models will be used to meet diverse preferences. More students might gain access to a University education with expanding resources, and students can see and meet more fellow students when walking across campus. Or, the change in numbers will lead to new ideas on the role of the colleges in the academic experience and restructure programming and housing costs, and as a result more students may prefer to live on campus (or conversely, off-campus). These are all potential futures…

The question of how student life and the college system will be affected by campus growth interconnects all elements of the 2005 LRDP, and requires much more discussion. The 2005 LRDP respects the importance of the college system, and as a planning framework, will be used in coming years to guide interpretations of the college system and its future. The future of the college system—and thus the nature of student life and its quality—will depend on how the 2005 LRDP is implemented.

As the community now waits to see the EIR revised, we should consider the 2005 LRDP’s flexibility as allowing us to embark on a journey to define our collective future. We must examine the campus’ transition and planning processes and get inside of them. We must ask ourselves, in any scenario, how will the campus and city function as a place? Akin to the question of impacts to student life and the college system, we need to ask: How will we participate in the implementation process making this place, this university?

My fellow seniors and I are now contemplating the world beyond UC Santa Cruz, where we might go, and what that future might look like. We need to take the risk and opportunity to shape the future. The 2005 LRDP as a departure point can help the campus do the same; it is about long-range planning. It is now up to the campus community to use it as a guide, and participate in the practice of making places for the future with respect to the past.

(Matt Waxman, a graduating senior from Porter College, served as Primary Contact Student Union Assembly Representative to the 2005-2020 Long Range Development Plan Committee.)