Chancellor Khosla: UCSD is not a “STEM” School

Chancellor Pradeep Khosla at the dedication of the Halicioglu Data Institute on March 2, 2018. (Rishi Deka / The Triton)

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla visited and took questions from the Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD) Council on February 28.

For a little bit over 30 minutes, Khosla answered questions about the plastic water bottle ban, academic department budgets, UC divestment from Israel, the Undocumented Student Center, Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH), and tuition.

Associate Vice President of Environmental Justice Sabira Parajuli asked Khosla why it seems like campus administration and departments ignored the plastic water bottle resolution passed in 2016. Khosla responded by saying that a resolution is not legally enforceable and that student leaders should work with multiple constituencies to make it happen because a resolution would be sufficient.

“We have one of the most aware student bodies about doing what is right,” Khosla said.

Marshall College Senator Tianna de la Paz asked what the Chancellor is doing to fund non-STEM departments. Khosla said that he recently zeroed out deficits incurred by arts departments, and that UCSD will soon have a new social science and arts and humanities building at the Sixth College Living and Learning complex. Khosla said he wants the world to know that UCSD has more top 10 departments in Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities than it does in STEM fields.

“I don’t know why Cal [UC Berkeley] gets more Arts and Humanities majors; I have no idea,” Khosla said.  “To say we are a STEM-oriented school, that’s a mistake.”

Campus Wide Senator Miguel Angel Tapia asked about divestment from Israeli and Palestinian student support. Khosla echoed what he said in a 2013 statement by saying that the UC Regents set investment policies, not individual campuses. Yet the Chancellor has taken stances on a variety of positions before, including fossil fuel divestment and arguing against a student’s position on Woody Allen. Last year, Chancellor Khosla released a statement where he clearly made his stance in support of divestment from fossil fuels.

“I am doing everything for Palestinian students that I’m doing for any other student. Any student that has any issues…we have multiple centers including the Cross Cultural Center,” said Chancellor Khosla. “We cannot have centers for every small, defined ethnic group.”

Campus Wide Senator Itsi Sanchez Rea asked the Chancellor whether there will be funding to sustain the Undocumented Student Center after the phasing out of funds allocated by the UC Office of the President in 2020. Khosla said he is committed to maintaining the funding for the Undocumented Student Center and if more funds are needed, it will be figured out.

“My view is if they [undocumented students] are on this campus, they’re my students, our students, too. And we need to be responsible.”

ASUCSD Vice President of External Affairs Refilwe Gqajela questioned Khosla about his recent comments about a recent student petitioner challenging the teaching of the Theatre Department’s “The Films of Woody Allen” course.

“I would have told her to move on and get out of my classroom,” said Chancellor Khosla to The San Diego Union-Tribune. “I get to teach in my class.”

Khosla said his comments were taken out of context and that he made them as an academic and professor. He said that as a professor he has the right to teach what he wants, especially when it is approved by the Academic Senate.

“The reporter did not find it convenient to put too many words, right?” said Khosla. “What is written out there is what I said, but it is not the only thing I said.”

Campus Wide Senator Aseel Ali asked the Chancellor about the HDH budget deficit and asked why HDH is a private for-profit company, which it is not.

“I’m sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about. We all have debt. The campus has debt,” said Chancellor Khosla. “When we built the Jacob’s Medical Center, that’s a billion dollar debt I took on. When we build the Sixth College infrastructure, that’s a $600 million debt.”

The Chancellor also cautioned against taking news at face value and to ensure the facts given are correct. Senator Ali said that the information was given to her from HDH representatives explaining to her why market prices increased.

Sixth College Senator Caroline Siegel-Singh asked Chancellor Khosla about the advocacy his office is doing to ensure tuition does not increase. He said that he will make his office respond to emails from the ASUCSD External Affairs office to coordinate state advocacy, and that he heard that state legislators have been receptive to students advocating for state funding increases in Sacramento.

The meeting closed with the Chancellor saying that it is “kind of” illegal to record without consent, after noticing that the meeting was being streamed to Facebook live by Senator Siegel-Singh, to which The Triton’s News Editor Gabriel Scheider exclaimed, “No, it’s not.”

All ASUCSD meetings are open to the public and the Chancellor was speaking in a public forum.

Mo Elew is an Assistant News Editor at The Triton.