This quarter I am teaching Art History 6B, a lower division survey course. In the past, it has been taught in Campbell Hall, and has enrolled between 650-750 students. This year, owing to budget cuts affecting our TA allocation, we have had to reduce the size of the class to 425, and it is now taught in I.V. Theater. This past week, close to 150 students tried to crash the course, three times more than have ever tried to crash a course of mine before, and I have had to turn almost all of them away. Many students have pleaded with me, in person or by e-mail, to give them an add code. Not only does their exclusion from the course mean that they cannot graduate on time, some who are unable to find a place in enough courses will not be able to qualify as full-time students and will lose their financial aid. One even told me that he will no longer qualify for health insurance under his mother’s health care plan. I have been teaching at UCSB for more than 20 years and this situation makes me sick with disgust. Having to turn students away makes me feel like a pawn in a system that is betraying the people it is supposed to serve.

Before you or your parents fire off an angry letter to Chancellor Yang, consider that the UCSB administration deserves relatively little share of the blame. The real fault lies with those legislators, led by the Governor, who have cut back funding for the UC system, as well as with the Regents and UC Office of the President, who have mismanaged the University and led it to neglect is its principal mission to educate the young people of California. Your difficulties finding room in the courses you need is a direct result of choices they have made. Even the Governor, impressed by the student protests of the past few months, has decided that the de-funding of public education must be reversed. The details of his plan are problematic, but the restoration of funding is an urgent necessity. At the same time, reform of the UC system is also a necessity. State Assemblyman Alberto Torrico recently observed that even if the State were to give the UC all the money it needed, the money would simply be misspent: “If I gave them a blank check, they’d use it for administrative costs instead of education.”

So direct your anger higher up on the chain of command. Send your letters to Chancellor Yang, but also send copies to the Governor, your state legislators, the Regents and President Yudof, as well as to your local press. Those of you whose parents are alumni of the UC system might want to write to the Alumni Association as well. Contact information and direct e-mail links for many of the most appropriate addressees can be found on the UC Regents Web site: the ex officio Regents include the Governor, the Speaker of the State Assembly (Karen Bass), the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Jack O’Connell), the President of the University (Mark Yudof), and the President of the UC Alumni Associations of UC (Ronald Stovitz).  Click on “Contact the Regents,” then click on their individual names. 

Your education is not a game of musical chairs. You have every right to demand that your University and state government work for you again. This past fall’s protests demonstrated the need for a change of course even to a rebarbative Republican governor — now make sure that effective reform is finally achieved.