The grassroots movement #occupywallstreet — a peaceful protest that began Sept. 17 in New York City — continues to draw attention to many scattered yet pertinent issues plaguing the nation. On its first day, a reported 2,000 individuals marched down Wall Street, protesting corporate greed and influence, social inequality and conservative politics. The group’s progressive activism is reminiscent of the Middle East’s pro-democracy movements which relied heavily on social media outlets to orchestrate (mostly) peaceful yet visible opposition.
It’s hard to say whether Occupy Wall Street’s cause for protest is particularly unified or constructive, as reflected by its 90 percent drop in attendance over the course of nine days, dwindling from thousands to 200. However, the productivity associated with proactive beha[media-credit name=”Natalie O’Brien” align=”alignnone” width=”250″][/media-credit]vior is impossible to deny and should speak to the UCSB student population in more ways than one.
The UC system is a microcosm of the American government — the finger-pointing, false statements and promises and general absence of viable answers or solutions. As tension and desperation builds, so does the cycle of blame. The students demand more of the Regents, the Regents place the responsibility on the state and the state maintains that its hands are tied and points to the Regents’ risky business practices. In many ways, students can take a page out of the protestors’ book.
UCSB’s senior class has seen a 60 percent rise in tuition over their four short years of college, yet a comparatively small amount of action has been taken. Depressingly, this spike in tuition is only projected to worsen in the coming years. The Regents proposed fee hikes every year for the next four years, adding up to a potential $22,000 increase by the year 2015. Although they consider this estimate to be the “worst-case scenario,” even this situation relies upon the hope that state funding remains stagnant — an implausible idea when it has fallen steadily over the past years. Currently, state funds are supplying the UCs with the same levels of funding they did in 1997, despite the fact that the system is now serving 73,000 more students.
In reality, the demand for accountability in the United States can only be loosely compared to the recent call to action in places like Egypt and Libya, largely due to differences in the structure of government and society. However, this does not detract from the mass frustration of the American public. While powerful foreign leaders tried to quash citizens’ unrest with extensive violence that sparked a global outcry, the American public’s call for a greater say in political discourse and policies they can stand behind is met with seemingly empathetic inaction. In both national and educational settings, those in power claim that responsibility for the issues in question is diffused across various groups, none of which will admit accountability.
Not every student reading this article will feel moved enough to take to the streets as our fellow citizens have done in New York — although many have, as seen by the astounding number of students present to protest at each meeting of the UC Regents. However, the issues affecting our accessibility to education have become so severe that we can no longer be passive. The fate of the continuing battle depends on our ability to demand visibility in masses that reflect our passion; hopefully the link between being seen and being truly heard can withstand the test of time and reach the seemingly deaf ears of those spiking tuition to unreachable heights.
— Daily Nexus editorial staff