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UC students mobilize for meeting

By Srbui Karapetian

Nov. 16, 2009 12:10 a.m.

Last week, students at UC Irvine began a handwritten-letter campaign to the UC Board of Regents and garnered upward of 100 personal letters from students who voiced their concerns about the University of California budget and lack of state funding.

“We are planning to collect 500 letters in time for the upcoming UC Regents meeting,” said Sarah Bana, vice president of the Associated Students UCI. Some 30 UCI students will make their way up to UCLA by car in order to deliver those letters to the regents, she said.

Along with UCI, students from campuses across California have been preparing for the meeting to voice their dissent and concern with the regents’ proposal made earlier in September to increase student fees by 32 percent along the course of the academic year.

The regents meeting will take place in Covel Commons from Tuesday to Thursday. UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council President Cinthia Flores said she anticipates the participation of some 600 to 700 UC students.

As it currently stands, undergraduate resident tuition is $7,778. If the regents approve an initial 15 percent student fee hike for winter quarter in the upcoming meeting, it will raise student fees to $8,373. A second fee hike has also been proposed that, if approved, would raise undergraduate tuition to $10,302 by fall quarter 2010.

Undergraduate nonresident student fees, meanwhile, is projected to be upward of $11,000 by fall quarter 2010, and additional increases in graduate and professional school fees have also been proposed.

“It is extremely difficult to plan for the year and have to pay an extra $580 per quarter,” said Utsav Gupta, president of the Associated Students UC San Diego.

Gupta said UCSD is providing funding for bus transportation for student protesters attending the UC Regents meetings in Los Angeles.

“We are taking 150 students per trip, and are planning at least three trips to UCLA in order to get as many students to participate at the event as possible,” he said.

The fourth-year bioengineering biotechnology student, along with his fellow officers in ASUCSD, has planned teach-ins about the midyear fee hike proposals and budget shortfalls, as well as a walkout, rallies and a commission on the future of the UC throughout the past several months.

“I want to reach out to the San Diego community and really help them understand that the University of California has helped bring jobs and maintain a social culture in the area,” Gupta said. “Without more state funding and a continued fee increase, it might be difficult for many students to continue their education,” he said.

For this reason, Gupta said he has signed up to speak in front of the UC Regents during the public comment portion of their meeting, which will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA, meanwhile, has been working to take care of the logistical details of the event and raise awareness in the campus community about the upcoming meeting.

“Student officers have made many presentations on the Hill and have visited classrooms to inform students about the meeting,” Flores said.

Will Smelko, president of the Associated Students UC Berkeley, also noted that many students from Berkeley will come down to Los Angeles.

“My primary focus is to have our voices heard at the regents meeting, and our deep dismay and concern about substantial increases in student fees,” he said.

Throughout the past few weeks, a strike was held at Berkeley in which students rallied against the student fee hikes and employee compensation cuts.

Currently, ASUC Berkeley is working on putting together a video blog about how students are affected by the budget shortfalls and curtailing of campus services and programs, Smelko said.

At UCI, student regent designate Jesse Cheng also said that he believed the midyear fee would hurt students.

“The $75 million revenue an initial fee increase of 15 percent would raise covers only 6 percent of the $632.6 million budget gap in the UC system,” said Cheng, a fourth-year Asian American studies student.

Rather than raise student fees, he proposed that the UC divide this revenue between its respective 10 campuses and make cuts equivalent to what would have been garnered with student fee hikes. Campuses are undergoing tremendous cuts as is, he said.

Cheng is also going to propose to the regents that the health insurance students receive should be standardized, in accordance with an economies of scale model.

“The more people we have signed on to one type of G-SHIP, the more low-cost it will be, theoretically,” he said.

Many students realize that the decrease in state funding has pressured the UC Office of the President to implement cuts and curtail campus programs that it would not have done so otherwise.

“What matters most to UC students is that the access, affordability and quality of the UC system is not jeopardized,” Bana said. “And many students are participating in the regents meeting to make sure that it is not.”

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