Dear Chancellor Larive and Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Kietzer:
As President of the United Academics of the University of Oregon, I am writing in solidarity with the Graduate Student Association at UC Santa Cruz. United Academics is a wall-to-wall faculty union with 1700 members, some of whom were once graduate students at UC Santa Cruz.
As a comparable public research university on the West Coast, we understand the pressures of running a university in an expensive location. However, we also recognize that below-living wages are detrimental to the academy and society, and moreover exaggerate systemic inequities in educational attainment.
Does UC Santa Cruz really want a system by which only the well-heeled and privileged can afford to attend graduate school there? Is such a financial arrangement in the best interest of your institution? Is it in the best interest of the State of California?
I have no doubt that UC Santa Cruz, like the University of Oregon, has cashed in on its location in order to attract world-class scholars at wages less than they otherwise may have if they were in a less convivial environment. However, recent decades have turned these lovely places to live into expensive places to live (with the cost of living in Santa Cruz far outstripping that of Eugene). That is the financial reality for your university, and you need to recognize that reality and provide wages and benefits for graduate students that allow them the world-class educational experience UC Santa Cruz offers, without closing access to those who may not have resources to attend otherwise.
The question in front of you is not a question of the bottom line of the University. It is a moral choice, with humanity, equity and fairness on one side, and on the other, privileged administrators holding back a relatively small amount of money from the very community of scholars your university is meant to serve.
We urge UC Santa Cruz to do the right thing and provide your graduate students with a wage that allows them to support themselves and their families.
As it says on the landing page for the administration of UC Santa Cruz, “A common thread throughout Larive’s career has been her commitment to student success, inclusion and equity.” Hopefully this is not administrative boilerplating, and you can prove your commitment to these ideals and do the right thing for UC Santa Cruz grads.