Wednesday, April 24

We should direct ire over cuts at Sacramento

Student protests have an undeniable energy and vigor that have been extremely effective in enacting change in the University of California’s history. I’ve always enjoyed my dad’s story about when students protesting the Vietnam War burned down the Isla Vista Bank of America when he was a student at UC Santa Barbara.

Today marks another protest at UCLA, the UC walkout. At noon, students and faculty will leave their respective posts and head to Bruin Plaza to demonstrate their discontent with planned fee increases and program reductions. Public higher education is extremely important and deserves attention when it is threatened, but the dialogue of this protest should exist between students and Sacramento, not students and the UC Board of Regents.

At UCLA, programs such as Covel Tutorials and Night Powell have been eliminated this year.

Throughout the UC system, there will be enrollment and faculty reductions, as well as cuts in offered courses.

Currently, we, including UC President Mark Yudof, are all dealing with the unfortunate results of the California state budget crisis. Students and faculty target the UC Regents to challenge the so-called “privatization” of the UC system, when we should actually focus our efforts toward Sacramento and our Legislature.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, under drastic pressure to lower California’s debt, cut the UC budget by $169 million in 2004.

These cuts represent a shift from the UC system remaining a public good to a privately funded system. To cope with reduced funding, private donors and increased student fees are, what Schwarzenegger argues, the only way to maintain the quality of the UC under the unfortunate budget constraints.

This shift is what students are protesting today. The UC Regents are only trying to outline a budget that fits the money they’ve been allotted. They are not at fault for the state of California’s economy. Students need to comprehend that our state budget does not have an abundance of money at present for many public programs.

The UC system is not alone in receiving drastic cuts. Programs for domestic violence, health care and state parks will be underfunded this year. Students and faculty remain firm that the UC system should not be subject to the consequences funding cuts produce but make no mention of other realistic plans of action the UC system could take.

We have to face the reality that, as Californians, we are in a recession and need to creatively face that challenge. Wasting the state’s money further by not attending the first day of lectures just to complain about President Yudof, who has expressed his own great frustration with the cuts, is not a productive way to inspire change.

Students should understand the politics of the decisionmaking in Sacramento before triumphantly picketing. We need to remember the harsh reality of making ends meet that we, our parents and those close to us have to face because of layoffs and salary reductions.

Obviously, increasing taxes to garner more funds to keep the UC system entirely public would not sit well with any citizen’s pocketbook at a time when California’s unemployment rate is in the double digits. It is more realistic and effective to target Sacramento with a student plan that attempts to channel money to the UC instead of other various state programs.

The UC has a celebrated history of public education that is world-renowned as well as a legacy of student protest that has impacted youth culture and politics for decades.

Both of these qualities have inspired the love I have for our university and my appreciation for its dedication to higher education. It is not the protest itself that is shortsighted, but the change it is supposed to motivate.

The walkout today is an important reminder that students are dissatisfied with budget cuts, but it would be more effective if students were to step up to the challenge of practically solving our financial problems. Picketing and skipping class will not make us any closer to solving the debt crisis in Sacramento.

E-mail Mier at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

E-mail Mier at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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