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USAC must lead lobbying efforts

By Daniel Feeney

May 9, 2010 9:00 p.m.

Dear newly elected student leaders,

Before I start going on about how you need to do this or that this upcoming year, I want to congratulate you on your recent election. Although you may have bugged me with your fliers and your phone calls, you all did a good job of getting the word out about your slates.

As the election is over, however, I am afraid that you, as the Undergraduate Students Association Council, will go from being on every corner of campus to the normally low post-election visibility. With the cost of education rising and the number of classes diminishing, you should prepare to act and become visible throughout all of next year, utilizing the sentiments of students at UCLA and the University of California to apply a constant pressure to the state.

This past year, we witnessed that students across the UCs can protest visibly, and en masse, against budget cuts, particularly during the November UC Board of Regents meeting. Unfortunately, despite the strong show of support, the protest was already too late.

The UC Regents were, in my mind at least, essentially acting as a sort of intermediary, delivering news of the budget issue to the students. Now that we know the issues plaguing the university, we have also begun to understand where many of our issues arise: the state.

Though the state is a much broader and more nebulous power than the UC Regents, whose actions can be easily identified and quickly criticized, it seems to be the source of many of the UC’s issues. Unwise spending policy, coupled with costly propositions (like the recent high-speed rail proposition, which I have bitterly complained about since its passing), have led to yearly budget crises that threaten our education at UCLA.

What you at USAC can do to prevent these cuts is lobby ““ lobby not just on our behalf, but with our help. As our USAC officers, you are in the perfect position to organize UCLA students into a body that can call for the state to undertake financial reform and to make higher education a priority.

Currently we have the Bruin Lobby Corps, through the Office of the USAC External Vice President, which speaks on issues on students’ behalf. While this is a useful group, there have also been complaints that they lobby primarily liberal issues.

Instead of using only the Corps, we must utilize the entire office of the EVP and USAC as a whole to organize students and lobby the state. USAC can move above liberal or conservative ideas to gather support around something we all have a vested interest in: the quality and cost of our education.

In the past, students have protested actions taken. This year we must take a different approach ““ we have to try to pre-empt cuts and call for a prioritization of education before a problem arises.

According to the Fresno Bee, state Controller John Chiang said that monthly revenue was not as high as predicted, worsening the state’s deficit. If this situation has any predictive powers for the coming months, which I am afraid it will, the UC may face even more cuts. While the students’ lobbying efforts may come to no avail, if we want to have any ground from which to complain about cuts, students should speak now.

We see the continuing signs that more cuts may be coming, and you at USAC can use your respective offices, and the body as a whole, to coalesce students into a force that can take action. As a body, USAC has many important tasks to oversee. And you, as individuals, campaigned on slates stating that you would fulfill certain promises. With that said, our education is one issue that all students across the university can agree upon.

By becoming vocal now, we can hopefully secure a larger piece of funding from the state and in doing so help prevent cuts to educational quality, or even further fee increases.

Over the past few quarters, we have witnessed an increase in student fees and threats to cut down class sizes. Had we chosen to speak as students before the cuts, had we organized as a body before the issues unified us in anger, we may have prevented the problems from occurring in the first place.

You at USAC provide important services for the campus, but more importantly, you have the power to act as a voice of the undergraduate body. If you are able to garner the help of the student body as a whole, you are in the perfect position to let our voices be known to the state and to ensure that students are provided with affordable and high-quality education.

I hope you all are able to have a successful year and can achieve all of the campaign promises that you ran on.

Hoping for no budget cuts,

Daniel Feeney

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

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