Letter from Provost Ochoa

Dear Oakes Community,

I write during a very unusual Spring Break, when most of you have left the college to be with your loved ones and we are all under shelter-in-place orders. We may not see each other for a while, until the coronavirus crisis passes.  I want to start by acknowledging what a difficult and unprecedented time this is—we are all being marked by this historical moment. By now you, like me, have probably received more information about getting through this crisis than is possible to absorb.

I am reaching out to offer connection, and to let you know that though the staff who can are working from home and faculty are retooling for online course offerings, we are here for you—an email, Zoom meeting, phone call, or Gchat away. Please reach out to us if you are experiencing challenges. As your Provost, I am committed to using our College resources to help solve problems that are coming up for you and connecting you to University resources that may feel far away while we are sheltering in place.

In this moment of physical distancing, we need more than ever to practice social engagement, to take care of ourselves and each other, and to get creative and resourceful about the work we are here to do at UCSC and in our communities.

When I think about this work, I always remember the words of Black lesbian feminist poet and thinker Audre Lorde, who in her famous essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” (1984) gave us a template for having courage as we face forces that silence us. “Work,” in Lorde’s vision is not about what we do for a living, but about what we are here in the world to do. For Lorde, that work was poetry and essays that stay with us still.

This is an important time to ask ourselves, “What is my work, what am I called to do?” The answer to this question will be different for each of us, and can change as we live our lives. In moments of crisis and frustration, when I feel like I can't make progress toward my goals, I stop and ask myself, “What is the work I am here to do?” After that, I find the best way I can to do that work wherever I am. Usually, that means reaching out—to communities, mentors, other people who share my goals and vision.

Maybe for you this means you now can read all the novels you have been wanting to read, or work on that song that’s been in your head. Or maybe you need to review that chemistry or calculus class that was so challenging and see if things make more sense now. Maybe you have an idea for how to visualize data, or do outreach to your community to support people staying home, or design masks and respirators. Your work will call to you. Listen for it now.

This is no substitute for the classes you are waiting to take, or for being able to go out and be in community, but for now, this is what we have. Our experience of this crisis is complicated by the ongoing labor dispute that affected Fall grades and classrooms in Winter quarter, and has yet to be resolved. But rather than feel helpless in front of all of these problems, remember to go back to the basics: What is your work? What are you here to do? What little thing can you do from where you are now?

Problems and complications are affecting a lot of us. This is the time to reach out—let us know what you’re struggling with, and we will work with you to find solutions. Please email me at oaksprov@ucsc.edu, or our advising team at oakesadv@ucsc.edu. Send questions about housing to oakeshousing@ucsc.edu, and questions about student life to oakesprograms@ucsc.edu.

Take care of yourselves, my Oakes folks. We’ll get through this together.


Prof. Marcia Ochoa
Interim Provost
Oakes College