Recently, there’s been a lot of talk on campus about budget cuts and student fees, especially now that the 32 percent increase has been approved by the Regents board. However, let’s back up a little bit and talk about the truth of the matter so that we can learn the best way to move forward, hold the correct people accountable and enact a positive change.
The UCs put themselves into this predicament. They cut a deal back in 2004 with Gov. Schwarzenegger to give him UC money in exchange for the promise of no budget cuts, no cutting back on student enrollment and no unpredictable student fee increases. Schwarzenegger kept up his end of the deal for a few years but eventually let the UC system down. Because the deal did not include California’s legislature, it is hard for offices in Sacramento to create policies that would change the situation to give us more aid.
The budget crisis is not the government’s fault. California is a highly Democratic state, and when polled, most constituents would be happy to raise taxes for education as long as they had proof that it was actually going toward schooling. It’s not going through, however, because the UCs failed to organize their books and report to the State government where their money is going. This is UC President Robert Dynes’ legacy that Yudof stood to inherit.
Still, the current administration is by no means guiltless. They approved a 32 percent fee increase for us to pay out of our pockets in order to get them out of the financial crisis that they themselves created. This is the easy way out. They need to be lobbying Sacramento and lobbying the state government for money. They need to take up their issue with D.C. and apply for federal grants. In the mean time, they should be working on getting their financial records in order so that taxpayers can help them out as well.
As students, we have the power to enact change for our situation and demand accountability from the UC administration to fix their political folly. We can do this more efficiently and effectively than we currently have. We need to move the rallies and protests from campuses to high-profile locations like Sacramento and D.C., where it would be impossible for the government to miss us. The government will listen. They want to make their constituents happy in order to stay in office, and the UCSB student population has 20,000 votes to bargain with. We need to get our voices heard by calling legislators, congressmen and Schwarzenegger himself so that we can counter the Republican mantra of “Don’t raise my taxes” with our own united chorus: “Don’t raise my tuition.”
Let’s make ourselves heard. Though our struggle is within the UC system, the government can also enact change. We need to play political hardball to enact political change. Education from a UC school needs to be available to people of all income levels and not be a luxury of privilege. This is necessary in order to maintain the diversity of UC campuses so that jobs in America can reflect that diversity. With an affordable education, people from different walks of life can become administration officials. If we are represented by publically educated politicians, Congress will understand what it feels like to struggle financially as a starving college student and fight harder to stand up for us.
In order to enact change, we need to try to understand the situation and hold the right people accountable. We need to stop complaining about the issues and make it so that the government is on our side. In order to fix a political problem, we need to fight in a political way.