GSA Chair’s Message to Chancellor Search Advisory Committee

Presented by GSA Chair Katrina Brock
to the UC President’s Chancellor Search Advisory Committee
on September 27th, 2016

“UC Davis is a diverse community comprised of individuals having many perspectives and identities. We come from a multitude of backgrounds and experiences, with distinct needs and goals.”

That is the opening of the UC Davis principles of community.

Graduate students serve many roles at this institution. We are a students. We are educators. We are workers. We are scholars. We are invested in the success of UC Davis because our livelihood depends on it both now and for the rest of our lives as we carry our degree with us. The next chancellor has the opportunity to raise the stature of UC Davis or to bring it down in scandal and disgrace.

In a chancellor, we need someone who will support and empower our diverse community, someone who is a champion of interdisciplinary research and education, and someone who embraces transparency and community engagement.

Our principles of community state that “UC Davis reflects and is committed to serving the needs of a global society comprising all people and a multiplicity of identities.” Our next chancellor needs to understand and embody that statement. They need to understand that diversity is not just about race, but all identities as outlined in our principles of community.

Our next chancellor needs to understand that a commitment to diversity is not just about bumping up the percentage of URMs admitted to the incoming class. A commitment to diversity involves recruitment and active retention of diverse students and employees at every level: undergraduates through administration. Our next chancellor should be actively engaged with diverse communities, and be willing to dismantle the structures that keep underrepresented identities underrepresented. Our next chancellor should have a track record of supporting and empowering diverse communities.

Our next chancellor should also be a champion of interdisciplinary research. One of the strengths of UC Davis is its interdisciplinary scholarship and especially its interdisciplinary graduate groups, which study everything from biophysics to cultural studies. The graduate group system allows faculty and graduate students to interact across campus, forming collaborations that tackle many aspects of complex problems. This system gives UC Davis a competitive advantage in the 21st century over institutions where researchers are trapped in departmental silos. Unfortunately, despite producing top tier research and education, these programs are sustained by handshake deals with prospective students and overworked faculty who teach interdisciplinary courses on top of their normal teaching and research loads.

Our next chancellor needs to be committed to sustaining interdisciplinary research at UC Davis. They need to recognize that UC Davis is not just a world class public university committed to providing Californians with an affordable quality education. Our next chancellor needs to recognize that UC Davis is also a hub of interdisciplinary research that produces technology, ideas, and highly skilled workers that contribute to California’s economy. Our next chancellor needs to understand that for research at UC Davis to thrive, UC Davis needs to attract and retain a highly sought after, diverse, group of graduate students by adequately funding graduate programs.
Our next chancellor should also have a track record of transparency and community engagement. We want someone who will see themselves as a member of our community, and actively engages with their constituents. As students, we want to know where tuition dollars are going and through what channels.
As voters and taxpayers of California, we deserve this information. As members of the UC Davis community in all our roles, we want to know how our institution is being governed and have input into important decisions. We need a chancellor who is unafraid of having the light of day shined on their administration. Our next chancellor should embrace transparency.

To be honest, the process of selecting a chancellor itself is lacking in transparency. Our community is very aware of the Regents Policy 7102 that governs this process, and that the UC has also retained an outside firm to seek out candidates. However, it is unclear to the public how this firm, the Regents, and you, the search advisory committee will interact. It is also unclear to the public what bylaws govern the actions of your committee. Students want transparency, not from just from chancellor who is eventually chosen, but from you in this selection process. We understand the need for confidentiality of the identities of specific applicants, but not the need to shroud this entire process in secrecy.

Right now the students of this community are disenfranchised in this process. Our student representatives will do their best to gather the experiences and views of the thousands of students whose lives will be impacted by your decisions in the coming months. The Graduate Student Association and Associated Students of UC Davis are committed to support them in this effort, but frankly, we have no assurance that our input will be taken seriously. As graduate students, we devote our lives to intensely studying, researching, and developing nuanced views in our area of expertise. We are concerned that no matter how much effort and thought we collectively put into determining what UC Davis needs in its next Chancellor, our views will be filtered through a few individuals and could ultimately be dismissed behind closed doors. My constituents and I want to be enfranchised. Not just given the opportunity to speak, not just a token student at the table, but we want decisions as students, as workers, as California voters and taxpayers to have real weight.
Graduate students need a chancellor who supports and empowers our diverse community, a chancellor who champions interdisciplinary research and education, and a chancellor who embraces transparency, but I urge you not to take my word for it. I urge you to actively engage with our community through open forums and through dialogue. I urge you to give our community decision making power in the selection of the individual who will be entrusted with sustaining our institution over the coming decades.