There's more to come -- much more. The promise of bringing the university here was that it would forever alter the landscape of the region in a fundamental way: academically, economically, culturally and more. But those expectations are a blessing and a curse, especially in tough economic times.-- Merced Sun-Star, Oct. 27, 2012
The only landscape UC Merced changed, judged by state Sen. Pro Tem John Burton a "boondoggle" and Capitol reporter Dan Walters "nothing but a land deal," was to change a great deal of nearby farmland into subdivisions -- finished and not so finished -- now full of houses upside down on their mortgages here in the great epicenter of the national foreclosure crisis ... that just keeps on going on.
For those who are impatient that change hasn't come fast enough, consider how much tougher times might have been had UC Merced not been here during the economic nightmare of the last five years.
UC Merced was the anchor tenant and prime cause of the building boom in Merced. Developers and speculators flocked to one of the state's poorest counties to sow the fields with subprime mortgages harvested by Wall Street. People went mad with speculation here and there were voices in power to slow down the frenzy because those in power were all profiting from it. UC Merced has been the cause of incalculable misery to its nearest neighbors because it destroyed any housing price stability.
For all but the wealthy few in Merced County, UC Merced has been a disaster. Although it is naive to consider that anything "public" remains in the concerns of the University of California but the propaganda, if a shred of decency remains, UC Merced should stop exploiting the environment as its site and in its grant applications, stop, and try to reflect about its place in the environment rather than the environment's place in its ambitions.
At the moment, it looks like an academic greed machine, dispatching bustling little emissaries here, there, and everywhere vacuuming the landscape for grant funds with which it can do something academic to burnish its image to escape its reputation as an overpriced, highly subsidized community college.
Built on a fraudulent, corrupt foundation, it cannot develop in any other way. Eventually, it may find a positive direction as an Indian casino/senior center.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Our View: UC Merced's first 10 years promising
When a child turns 10, it's certainly a milestone. One worthy of noting. Much changes in those first 10 years, but many more changes are to come. How all those changes manifest themselves when maturity finally arrives is anybody's guess.
It's much the same with UC Merced, which this week marked the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking with a Founder's Day celebration.
No one gave Merced much of a chance of being the home of the newest campus in the University of California system. The competition for it was fierce and opponents of a Merced campus were many. They just didn't think Merced was the right place for a UC.
But a hardworking, dedicated group of Mercedians came together to nurture the notion of landing a university. They worked tirelessly for years to convince the unsure, disprove the skeptics, wear down the competition and support those leading the charge.
Through sheer force of will and against all odds, their refusal to take no for an answer and ability to get others to embrace a vision of a bigger, brighter future for Merced -- with a UC at the center of it -- won the day.
But that was just the start. There was funding to acquire, land to purchase, permits to get approved, environmental concerns to answer (can you say "fairy shrimp?"), designs to consider and eventually buildings to build. And recruitment of students and staff to a new UC at a remote site in a part of the state many aren't familiar with wouldn't prove easy.
Yet UC Merced met all those early challenges, overcame them and thrives.
Today it's home to nearly 6,000 students and some 1,100 employees. In just 10 short years, the university has pumped $815 million into the region's economy. Its talented faculty and graduate students are launching groundbreaking research projects in solar energy, engineering and many other fields. Even the formative stages of a future medical school can be seen in its partnership with UC Davis.
There's more to come -- much more. The promise of bringing the university here was that it would forever alter the landscape of the region in a fundamental way: academically, economically, culturally and more. But those expectations are a blessing and a curse, especially in tough economic times.
People want that transformation overnight, but that can't happen. Building a university takes time and care -- these are just the formative years. For those who are impatient that change hasn't come fast enough, consider how much tougher times might have been had UC Merced not been here during the economic nightmare of the last five years.
It's important to remember that the real promise of UC Merced is in making the dream of higher education a reality for vast numbers of Central Valley kids who never even considered it, never thought it possible. Every time one of them gets a degree, the real value of a university in Merced is realized.
From that all good things will come. Those who fought to bring the university here knew that, and each graduating class filled with valley young people validates it:
Merced wasn't just the right place for a UC campus -- it was the perfect place.