Daniel H. McFadden: the Chancellor Mark Christensen Era at UC Santa Cruz, 1974-1976


58  pages

Interviewed by Randall Jarrell (in 1980)

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UC Santa Cruz’s second chancellor, Mark N. Christensen, served the campus from July 1974 to January 1976. Christensen arrived at UCSC during a tumultuous point in the campus’s history. Founding Chancellor Dean McHenry had brought to fruition his singular vision for UC Santa Cruz as an innovative institution of higher education which emphasized undergraduate teaching centered in residential colleges, each with a specific intellectual theme and architectural design. McHenry oversaw the planning and building of UCSC from 1961 until his retirement in June 1974. In the early years, UCSC drew high caliber students and earned a reputation as a prestigious and unique university. But by the mid-1970s, enrollments were falling. Internally, the campus was fracturing along fault lines between the colleges and the boards of studies (now called departments), as UCSC experienced the political and economic pressures of trying to establish a decentralized, innovative campus within the traditional University of California.

Christensen’s tenure as chancellor rather tragically ended in controversy after only eighteen months. Although most of the faculty liked Christensen as a person, they lost confidence in his ability to govern the campus. The Regional History Project never conducted an oral history with Mark Christensen, and he passed away in 2003. But in 1980, former director Randall Jarrell interviewed Christensen’s special assistant, Daniel McFadden, about the Christensen era. McFadden’s oral history is a perceptive and balanced reflection on the political climate of UCSC in 1976, just as what McFadden characterizes as a “Bicentennial Rebellion” was taking place.

The Regional History Project published this transcript in 2012, nearly forty years after the interview was recorded (on May 20, 1976), because McFadden was only able to turn his attention to editing and approving the transcript after his retirement. Dan McFadden holds a BA and MA in intellectual history and a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Pittsburgh. Before coming to UCSC, McFadden served as assistant chancellor for public affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. After leaving UCSC, McFadden held a variety of administrative positions, including deputy city manager for the city of San Jose, California.