Proposal to Close the U.C. Merced Campus

July 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Students and staff at U.C. Merced are defending the university from a proposal saying it should shut down to ease a system-wide budget shortfall.A group of professors from U.C. San Diego says U.C. Merced may need to be sacrificed to preserve the quality of the rest of the U.C. System. But officials here say that's not a realistic idea.

Students at U.C. Merced were surprised and insulted by a proposal recommending their school be shut down.

Viet Ta said, "In all honesty, we've done a lot in the last four years, like got Michelle Obama, we're on the national stage right now."

"We need every campus we can get, and a proposal to close a campus is ridiculous," said Leily Kiani.

A letter to the U.C. Office of the president written by U.C. San Diego Professor Andrew Scull and signed by 22 other department chairs there says at least one campus may need to close in order to prevent more pay cuts from devastating the U.C. System. U.C. Riverside and U.C. Santa Cruz are also mentioned as possible options. Professor Scull tells Action News extreme steps are the only way to keep the best educators from leaving California.

"If we don't do this, we will end up with a bunch of mediocre U.C.'s instead of great U.C.'s," said Professor Scull.

U.C. Merced spokeswoman Patti Waid Istas says the letter was just one of thousands offering proposals for dealing with an 800 million dollar budget shortfall. And she says the university is not worried about its future as a result.

Patti Waid Istas said, "It's not something that we are taking seriously, and I know at the U.C. Office of the President they are not taking this suggestion seriously at all."

In fact, the U.C. President sent a letter to chancellors throughout the system insuring them that the closure of any campus will not be under consideration. That prompted one U.C. Merced student to write a letter of her own to thank President Mark Yudoff.

"I think President Yudoff understands that Riverside, Merced and Santa Cruz provide education to really important regions and to really important demographic of students," said Kiani.

The U.C. Board of Regents is expected to recommend a pay cut plan next week.

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