Last Thursday, I had the distinct pleasure of opening a copy of The California Aggie and seeing a letter to the editor from Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi commenting on my previous column. In his response, Lieutenant Governor Garamendi saw fit to claim that I had “assumed too much” when criticizing his previous statements to UC Davis students, in which he said, “students need to rise up and raise hell. If that doesn’t happen, then this fee increase will continue.” While Garamendi carefully clarified his previous statement, stating that his words were meant to advocate informed dissent on the part of students, it appeared as if he was unable to provide any response to the central point of last week’s column – that the responsibility for affordable education in California should not be placed upon the backs of already overburdened students.
In order to be clear and avoid the possibility of any incorrect assumptions, I will state the message of this week’s column in a very direct and simple fashion: It is the responsibility of those with the power to raise student fees to ensure that high education remains affordable. In the case of California, this power rests mainly with the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees. For Garamendi, who serves as both a regent and trustee due to his office of lieutenant governor, to suggest that students need to “rise up and raise hell” in order for fee increases to stop is not only extremely hypocritical, but also directly contradicts the actions of these boards over the last two years.
In March of 2007, both the UC Board of Regents and CSU Board of Trustees held meetings to discuss 7 and 10 percent fee increases for their respective systems. After limiting the public comment session to only 30 minutes, and hearing a wide variety of what could only be defined as “informed dissent” from UC students, the regents voted to impose the discussed fee increases for the 2007-2008 school year.
The 2007 fee increases left students across the UC and CSU campuses frustrated that their voices had not been heard by the seemingly out-of-touch administrators. What was even more upsetting was the fact that John Garamendi, the recently elected lieutenant governor who had made campaign promises to stop fee increases for California’s colleges, had failed to attend either meeting. It appeared as if the action of informed UC and CSU students was no match for irresponsibility and negligence on the part of our elected officials.
Over a year later, the situation was similar as the UC Board of Regents met to once again discuss an increase in student fees. In May of 2008, the board discussed raising student fees by 7.4 percent for the 2008-2009 school year. The 7.4 perecent increase, if passed, would result in a net fee increase totaling above 90 percent since 2001, meaning that UC tuition has almost doubled in the last seven years.
Despite vigorous anti-fee increase demonstrations, which resulted in the arrests of 16 UC students, the Board of Regents continued to ignore the voice of “informed dissent” and went ahead with the proposed tuition hike.
As you can see, the last two years of student “hell raising” have yielded little change, but not because we have failed to present the administration with catchy chants or well-designed protest signs. The reason we, as students, have failed deals with a lack of accountability within the highest levels of our state government. The arguments offered by student protestors have been presented before the regents countless times before, but as long as members of the board continue to say one thing and do another without repercussion, I fear financial relief will remain just outside our grasp.
JAMES NOONAN believes informed dissent is only useful when your opposition is willing to sit down and listen. Contact him at email@example.com. Dissenting opinions welcome.