With Action comes Movement
Last week the University of California regents proposed another 16% tuition increase, over 4 years, in preparation for anticipated state funding cuts. As September comes to a close, I cannot help but reflect on my career as UC student.
Two years ago, while most of students were preparing for their first day of the school year, I was debating whether to make protest signs for the scheduled UC-wide walkout or not. In 2009 the UC Regents proposed a 32% tuition increase, faculty paycuts, and scheduled furlough days in an attempt to close a budget gap that was several millions of dollars. If the state’s money wasn’t headed to education, then where was it headed? Little did I know that, that first protest would be the first of many.
On the first day of my Junior year at UC Davis, hundreds of students and staff gathered in our school quad in support of a UC-wide walkout. Teachers left their classrooms, and students left their chairs empty. Within the crowd of hundreds were many different faces. I witnessed young undergrads and distinguished professor speak about dreaded financial changes our university was going through. After hours of speeches, chanting, and marching, folks went home to energize and regroup. The momentum of this movement was strong. Dozens of action-planning meetings were held on campus with hundreds in attendance.
Over the year, meetings evolved into direct actions. In November, hundreds of protesters took over the UC Davis administration building. 51 students and a teacher were arrested. In December, 60 Berkeley students were arrested for occupying a building. That year, I saw my housemates and friends get handcuffed and stuffed into vans. I saw peers speak about how they could no longer afford to finish their college education. I saw hard-working students get shot with teargas and rubber bullets as if they were criminals. The state was robbing young minds of a quality education-that was the only crime that I witnessed.
It is 2011 and tuition hikes are here to stay. Yes, the regents are proposing these increases, but the state’s poor support is what makes the hikes so conceivable. In 2003 the incoming UCD undergraduate paid $6,438 in for annual fees and tuition. In 2007 they paid $8,925. This year, those incoming freshman will be shelling out a whopping 13,860. For the first time ever, the total amount that UC students will pay in tuition this year will exceed the state funding the public university system receives. California’s budget has been on life support for as long as I can remember, even though the Golden State is the eighth largest economy in the world!? Where’s the money?
Spending on correctional facilities has increased dramatically over the past generation, while spending on higher education continues to plummet. The public will not keep silent. Books not Bars campaign supporters continue to protest against the California Youth Authority in hopes that California will realize that these facilities need to be shut down. The money that funds these Juvenile Justice Prisons should be reinvested into our starving higher education system.
One of the most important lessons I learned in college was on that grassy quad, not a classroom: Without action, there is no movement. I look forward to seeing continued action come from the students across the UC system.
Mercy Albaran is the new Ella Baker Center Communications and Media Intern. She is a home-grown Oaklander, and recent graduate from UC Davis. Her hobbies include: trying new restaurants, singing, and beatboxing. Follower her on Twitter @DJMercyMerc