Regional History Project
Robert B. Stevens: UCSC Chancellorship, 1987-1991
- Author(s): Stevens, Robert
- Jarrell, Randall
- Regional History Project, UCSC Library
- et al.
The Regional History Project conducted six interviews with UCSC Chancellor Robert B. Stevens during June and July, 1991. Stevens was appointed the campus's fifth chancellor by UC President David P. Gardner in July 1987, and served until July 1991. He was the second UCSC chancellor (following Chancellor Emeritus Robert L. Sinsheimer) recruited from a private institution.
Stevens was born in England in 1933 and first came to the United States when he was 23. He was educated at Oxford University (B.A., M.A., B.C.L., and D.C.L.) and at Yale University (L.L.M.) and became an American citizen in 1971. An English barrister, Stevens has strong research interests in legal history and education in the United States and England. He served as chairman of the Research Advisory Committee of the American Bar Foundation, has written a half dozen books on legal history and social legislation, and numerous papers on American legal scholarship and comparative Anglo-American legal history.
Prior to his appointment at UCSC he served for almost a decade as president of Haverford College from 1978 until 1987. From 1959 to 1976 he was a professor of law at Yale University. He served as provost and as professor of law and history at Tulane University from 1976 to 1978. He also taught at Oxford University, the London School of Economics, Stanford University, and the University of East Africa.
Stevens begins his narrative by describing the circumstances surrounding his appointment, and his reasons for joining a public institution. His commitment to access-- that students from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds have an opportunity to attend a UC campus-- and to the undergraduate college system which characterizes this campus, were major motives in his decision to become chancellor.
In these interviews he comments on the major policy areas which he addressed during his tenure, provides a critique of the institution as he found it, and explains the numerous changes he initiated. He describes the context for the strained nature of town-gown relations he faced upon his arrival and his efforts to establish a more harmonious relationship between the University and the city of Santa Cruz. His dilemma was to meet the obligations of the UC system in providing education for its students, while mitigating the impacts-- most notably, traffic congestion and housing-- which the growing campus student population had on the city. He describes the negotiations between city and campus officials which resulted in limiting the rate of growth and the size of the campus to 15,000 students, a precedent-setting agreement for a UC campus. He also discusses in detail the history of the Long Range Development Plan and the Report to the Committee on the Year 2005.
Stevens speaks about the steps he took to decentralize the campus administration, to reinvigorate and reorganize the workings of the college system, and to establish a comprehensive budget process. These reforms stood the campus in good stead in light of the severe budget cuts which affected UCSC and the entire UC system during the state's recession.
He discusses the many issues which engaged him during his tenure, including multiculturalism and the undergraduate curriculum, faculty teaching loads, his evaluation of the various academic disciplines and their faculties, his administrative appointments, and his efforts at fundraising and development. He also describes his relations with students, his thoughts on student activism, the development of the performing arts complex, and how his official social life was an opportunity for outreach to constituencies on the campus and in the community.
Stevens recounts how he and his staff followed the campus emergency plan during the Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989, when the campus suffered some $7 million dollars in damage, but fortunately no loss of life. When UCLA sent police and medical personnel to assist UCSC, Stevens saw that these resources were directed to the city and county of Santa Cruz in his efforts to be a good neighbor during this devastating period for the community.
He described these interviews, held several weeks before he retired from the chancellorship, as a sort of de-briefing opportunity to reflect on his tenure. Stevens was unusually candid in assessing his chancellorship, freely acknowledging what he perceived as several missteps on his part as he came to better understand the culture of UCSC as a public institution.