UC Students, Faculty Learn From Cuts

September 25, 2009

The opposition to the University of California's (UC) budget cuts, which was given an exceptionally strong showing in Thursday's walkout, is just one example of a much longer effort to oppose massive disinvestment in the system of public higher education.

Yesterday, thousands of students, professors, lecturers, clerical workers, alumni and other concerned people at all ten campuses of the University of California (UC) walked out of class and work in order to protest the proposed cuts. The state has decided to cut $800 million from the UC's budget and a proposed UC Regents plan (PDF) would increase tuition by 50 percent over the next two years, cancel some required classes and lay off campus workers.

It goes without saying that the burden of the cuts will be borne disproportionately not only by poor and working class students, but also by the UC's workers, who are either losing their jobs or being asked to do the same (or possibly more) work for less pay.

Here is a recent example, one that took place before this summer's cuts, from my home campus (UC Santa Cruz) where campus administrators chose to implement the budget cuts by effectively closing the Community Studies Department and the Chicano and Latino Resource Center. A loose coalition of students of color calling themselves the Student of Color Collective (SOCC) held a week-long hunger strike at the base of campus and presented the administration with a list of demands and goals.

Compared to the SOCC's demands and goals, the concerned UC Faculty's list of three "absolutely minimal" demands for the September 24 walkout was sparse and relatively uncontroversial: No furloughs or pay cuts on salaries under $40,000; implementation of a plan that would allow faculty to take furlough days during instruction; and full disclosure of the UC budget, which would allow for greater transparency about how money is allocated.

Beyond these demands, the movement for the walkout has gained a life of its own.

As last week's teach-in at UC Berkeley shows, UC faculty are using the budget crisis to deepen our knowledge of the history of the budget cuts, how they relate to California's legislative system and how things could be different. We are understanding better than ever how the budget crisis affects all of us.

But at the same time, it's important to point out that the cuts affect some of us more than others. On my campus, I think we need to be asking why, when it came time to make concrete decisions about these cuts, "ethnic" student resources, and fields concerned with social transformation (like Community Studies) were the first to go. Why are these cuts being directed at family student housing and childcare?

The lesson I learn from all of this is that, surprisingly, while the recent protests were certainly about money, the fundamental questions that they raise, and will continue to raise, go far beyond funding. What community is the UC accountable to? How long will it be able to rule from the top -- through the regents, president and campus administration -- against the people who actually make it work? If the walkout is any indication, it may not be much longer.

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UC Berkeley Budget Crisis Teach-In September 14, 2009:

(see video below)


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Comments

I think its safe to say that this issue isn&;t going away, and that more media coverage will shine a light at just how little California cares about the public higher education system. It seems that President Obama and members of congress are now putting more emphasis on higher education, which as a person who is barely getting by and planning on going back to school for a secondary degree makes me happy - but I&;m still skeptical. If I was to go to school in California, there&;s no guarantee that I would get the same topnotch education or have the same resources available as in years past. California will start to see less impressive and less upper echelon students and individuals in its system if the cuts continue in this manner with no intervention of any kind.

LTizzle, you&;re right, there&;s a ton of reasons to be skeptical. But then there are also a ton of reasons to be hopeful, and I think that the events of the 24th, and the ongoing efforts of groups like the SOCC, give a number of them.<br />
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One of the reasons I think the UC response is so important is that what is happening at UC isn&;t restricted to California. It&;s happening pretty much everywhere. See <a href="http://recessionreality.blogspot.com/">Recession Realities in Higher Education</a> for a number of examples--Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, Missouri, and other states are all making significant cuts to their public higher education. Even private schools are making significant rollbacks.<br />
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I think that Californians in general care deeply about public education. Unfortunately, since California is also the only state that requires a 2/3 majority in the legislature to increase the property taxes necessary to fund it, the state has been taken hostage by a Republican minority who can block tax hikes even when they are popularly supported.

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