UCSD looks to future as anniversary nears

As it turns the corner on its golden anniversary, UCSD is looking back proudly on its past while it struggles with rising costs and shrinking state support that are clouding its future.

Marye Anne Fox, UCSD’s seventh chancellor who is now in her sixth year, discussed the school’s accomplishments during the past 50 years — and the challenges of the present — when The Oceanids university support group met Dec. 3 at the UCSD Faculty Club.

Fox also talked about what makes UCSD distinctive in the 10-school UC system.

“We’re the only school that has both a medical school and a marine science complex, and the only one with an undergraduate program that has smaller colleges (six) within the larger university context,” she said.

The chancellor promoted the university’s 50th anniversary celebration, which will kick off in fall 2010.

“Next year we’ll be celebrating 50 years of achievement in higher education and academic research,” said Fox, noting Nov. 18, 1960, as the university’s founding date. “We will have numerous celebrations and three signature events culminating in June with a (2010) campus graduation ceremony.”

One highlight of the yearlong, half-centennial celebration is a “green” open house on April 16 showcasing UCSD’s multifaceted, campuswide energy-sustainability program.

Asked what were UCSD’s biggest milestones during its first 50 years, Fox replied: “The choice of undergraduate colleges offering different educational opportunities, and investing in the Preuss School, a major commitment to diversity.”

Preuss was created on UCSD’s La Jolla campus in 1999 as a charter middle and high school dedicated to providing a college prep education for low-income students from families lacking college backgrounds.

UCSD made its mark in cutting-edge scientific research right from the beginning.

Fox said: “Founder Roger Revelle was the first to describe global warming and the Keeling father and son contributed the Keeling curve, a plot of carbon dioxide over time. If you go to the National Academy of Scientists in Washington you’ll see Einstein’s equation, Darwin’s finches and the Keeling Curve: That’s the level of science we’re talking about.”

Fox however did not gloss over the fact that the financial problems of the present are obscuring its future. Noting UCSD has endured an additional 20 percent cut from the 8 percent of the university’s budget which comes from the state, Fox noted that has had disastrous consequences.

“We’ve had to impose furloughs on our faculty and staff of 4 to 10 percent,” she said. “We’ve had to stop hiring faculty this year. The Regents have increased student fees by 35 percent for next fall. Our faculty-to-student ratio is now 40-to-1, more than twice what it was when the university started.”

The chancellor said plenty can be done to help resolve UCSD’s fiscal woes.

“You can pay tuition for a student for a year or for a day,” she said. “You can participate in the Chancellor’s 5K Run/Walk, which has raised almost $2 million over the years. You can get involved with the Town and Gown lunch organization. There are all sorts of ways in which you can help.”