Thursday, February 21

Students should rally for affordable education


Submitted By: Robert Samuels

We are getting to the end of another quarter, and students are starting to hit the books, but now is also the time to fight for affordable, high-quality public education in the state of California. The governor said that it was the protests at UCLA in November that pushed him to increase funding for the UC system, but we still have no guarantee that the university will be fully funded, and we are facing skyrocketing fees and a reduction of class offerings.

Students need to come out to the rallies on March 4 at Bruin Plaza at noon and 4:30 p.m. to show their support for public education and to push to maintain access, affordability and quality at UCLA. To help fight for these important issues, UCLA Fights Back, a coalition of students, faculty, community members and unions, has worked together to come up with a set of demands to present to the administration and the media on March 4. The first group of issues deals with opposing the privatization of the university:

““ Reverse the 32 percent fee hike

““ Reduce class sizes

““ Stop the push to move classes online

““ End the humanities restructuring project

““ Not increase out-of-state enrollments

While some administrators say that we have to raise fees in order to maintain the quality of undergraduate education, we know that the system has enough money to reduce the number of large classes and increase the number of small, interactive seminars. Students and faculty members also do not want to move classes online, and we want to protect the humanities against any radical restructuring. Finally, Californians have built and paid for this great university, and we demand that the university accept more in-state students and not fewer.

Another set of demands concerns what we see as the re-segregation of higher ed:

““ Change the university admissions policy to increase black, Latina/o, Native American and underrepresented Asian student enrollment

““ Provide financial aid to undocumented immigrant students

While the university has begun the process of rethinking its admission policies in order to accept more underrepresented students, the current move to raise fees and cap enrollments will result in a re-segregation of higher education. Moreover, as the university continues to accept undocumented students, it refuses to provide them with any financial aid, and now that fees are going up, these students will be harmed the most.

The next group of demands concerns the issues of budget transparency, shared governance and democratic participation:

““ Stop the formation of closed administrator- or faculty-only restructuring committees

““ Institute fair and equal student and worker representation on campus administrative governance bodies and committees

““ End policies and practices that violate students’ and workers’ right to free speech and assembly on campus

““ Create at least one free space for students organizing and gathering on campus

Too many decisions are being made behind closed doors, and too many people are being shut out of important conversations. Students need a full voice in deciding the future of this university, and we reject the notion that only outside consultants or a small group of administrators can restructure our schools. We demand that the free speech of the students, faculty and workers be respected and encouraged, and we request a space for free assembly.

The final set of demands counters the current practice of asking employees of the university to do much more, while they are being paid much less:

““ Rescind the furloughs for workers who earn less than $40,000/year

““ Reverse the layoffs of lecturers

““ Stop replacing graduate student instructors with readers

““ Restore sections to large lecture classes

““ Restore Covel writing tutors

In an effort to save money, the administration has hurt the most vulnerable workers and has pursued several actions that undermine the quality of education at UCLA. The result of laying off lecturers and eliminating jobs for graduate students is that there are now fewer classes, and the classes that are still around are much larger and often no longer have labs or sections.

We have also seen the elimination of writing tutors and the elimination of the general education seminar requirement. Now we are hearing about moving language classes online and in the summer. Someone has to stop this constant downsizing of educational quality, and UCLA Fights Back calls on the administration to stand up for high-quality public education.

Samuels is a lecturer in the writing programs and president of the UC-American Federation of Teachers at UCLA.

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