Interview with Chancellor Designate Khosla

    Guardian: Can you tell me a little bit about your main goals for UCSD during your tenure? 

    Pradeep Khosla: I think my main goal would be, well, several goals. Partly to sustain the momentum that Marye Anne Fox and her chancellorship has created. And partly to increase that momentum and take us into directions that we haven’t explored as directly, perhaps. 

    G: Do you have any more concrete goals, for instance, any plans for administrative changes during your time at UCSD? 

    PK: I think it would be too premature for me to walk in, in two hours, and tell you how I think about life and the situation. If you look at this place, it has achieved a lot in the last 50 years. And it has achieved that partly because of the entrepreneurial nature of the faculty, partly because of strong leadership and partly because of both. So, going forward, it would be important for us to define what is a good enabling environment that allows a student to succeed the way he or she wants to, that allows a faculty to achieve what they want and for the staff to have good careers. But given all the difficulties we are facing right now, in terms of budgets and whole lot of other issues, we have to define what is a sustainable-enabling environment. And if we can define it and achieve it, this system would be a self-perpetuating system that would, over time, would keep feeding into itself and its successes. And we would become a greater and greater university every day.

    G: What do you think are UCSD’s biggest issues?

    PK: I could outline many, but I would say budgetary issues. I’m not talking about campus budgetary issues, I’m talking about the UC and the state budget and its impact on the quality of education. I think that issues related to programs for students, what are the right types of programs for students, what are the right levels of programs for students, what is the right investment for this, I think would be an issue. 

    I think other issues that I alluded to in my brief address upstairs where the three parts of the campus can find their way to be seamlessly integrated, the three parts being Scripps, General Campus and the Medical School. I think if you take a good look at the future, health care and human wellness are going to dominate this country and society as a whole. And we have such a powerful presence in general campus and medical school that we need to find a way to innovate them. 

    G: The UC Regents discussed a potential 6 percent increase in tuition for the coming 2012-13 school year during their last meeting. How are you planning on addressing rapidly increasing student tuition? 

    PK: I wish there was a magic bullet I had, a silver bullet where I could say, “Forget it, UC San Diego is not going to do [tuition increases].” Secondly, I think the way to fix this is over time, to raise more money for student scholarships, for undergraduate scholarships. But that is a process that can take one, two, three decades, to get to a point where everybody can go to school for free, it’s nearly impossible. For example, the richest university in the country with the largest endowment, Harvard, still cannot afford to pay 100 percent tuition for everybody, even though technically they can, but given their other expenses, they cannot afford to do that. 

    Students just have to accept the fact that there is some level of payment required of them. The question is, what is the right level and what is affordable? And this campus, and I don’t know if I’m mistaken, I think more than 55 percent of students on this campus receive some sort of financial aid — and significant financial aid. And so I’m trying to figure out how you, as a writer and an editor of this newspaper asking this question, are you addressing the 45 percent or the 55 percent, who receive a significant amount of financial aid.

    G: In response to that, there have been a number of student-based coalitions on campus, including the Public Education Coalition, who have been fighting for the past year against rising tuition. I think the main issue is the problem of priorities, which actually leads me to my next question.  There is a potential $50 million cut in state funding in the coming 2012-13 school year. What would you say are your priorities for budget cuts? For example, a number of libraries on campus, including IR/PS and CLICS were shut down this year. 

    PK: I can tell you that if we shortchange the quality of education to our students, that we are shortchanging the very purpose as to why this university exists. Now, in this context, we are trying to looking at what a high-quality education means, what are the various components that have to be maintained and strengthened, and what are the components that are fine to have, but if they walked away, the impact would not be as much on the quality of education. I really want to focus on the quality of education, the quality of experience for undergraduate and graduate students. 

    G: Former Chancellor Marye Anne Fox created a number of administrative diversity positions in response to the Compton Cookout. How are you going to address the issue of diversity and overall campus climate?  Do you have plans for increasing the enrollment of under-represented groups? 

    PK: I clearly have a goal of increasing enrollment, but I have to work with my senior staff, the faculty and students, because I’m sure there are many good ideas floating around that I am unaware of. We need to create an understanding about the right way to achieve this goal. 

    G: How do you plan on working with the Associated Students in the future? 

    PK: Last evening, at dinner, I sat next to student named Raquel, and I told her that I am going to count on her to get me connected with the students, because there has to be a way for me to talk to students directly, without anybody being able to filter your access to me and my access to you. I think we just have to work with each other to make sure that there is enough access and enough conversation going on. And it was not just the Associated Students. There was something else, the SAAC [Student Affirmative Action Committee], and I was told that they feel they don’t have enough voice or representation in the chancellor’s office. And to me, every student counts exactly the same, and I want every student to have some form, some voice in the chancellor’s office.

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