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Davis, California

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Column: Monkey, do as I say

University of California students up and down the state were playing bongos, singing, protesting, picketing, rioting, getting arrested and some were even tasered late last week.

UC Regents voted 21-1 on Thursday afternoon to raise student fees 32 percent starting winter quarter. You might have noticed the group of 200 people storming through Mrak Hall, Dutton Hall, some of your classrooms or even the ARC.

Fifty-two students were arrested Thursday night in Mrak Hall after they refused to leave the building once it was closed.

I spoke with Sing Wang, a senior international relations major who was one of those arrested, about what this 32 percent increase meant to her.

“First of all, end of diversity for the student body,” she said. “[The regents] don’t realize that a lot of communities are being affected by the 32 percent [increase]. The regents claim the increase is helping students with financial aid, but they don’t realize that it means more loans.”

The UC website breaks down the fee increase like this: There will be a mid-year $585 fee increase starting January 2010. Then “fees will raise again by $1,334” effective summer 2010.

Basically, the UC is making the students pick up the slack for shitty monetary distribution in Sacramento. Or so they say. Students are being charged extra money while fewer classes are being offered, more of our teachers are being furloughed and our lectures are becoming more and more crowded.

Man, oh man.

My favorite part of this whole ordeal – besides spending more and more money on what feels like less education – is the salaries of people like UC President Mark Yudof, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and other top administrators in the UC system.

President Yudof makes over $500,000 annually, not including his pension and other benefits. Chancellor Katehi receives a $400,000 salary – an increase of $85,000 from previous Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. Again, this is not including benefits.

“Ridiculous,” Wang said of administrators’ excessive salaries. “They’re getting paid for basically doing nothing.”

To tell students from working-class families that we need to make sacrifices while these hot shots walk around with their near-half-million-dollar salaries is absurd.

I’m sure you all have received Chancellor Katehi’s heartwarming e-mail about the state of the University.

“The UC Board of Regents is scheduled to reluctantly vote this week on new fee increases for our students, increases that are unavoidable in the face of even more drastic cuts in state support for our academic programs,” Katehi writes.

The word unavoidable is the real kicker.

Bob Samuels, president of the UC American Federation of Teachers, recently discussed the protests and the fee increase issue on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

Goodman asked Samuels what he thought was President Yudof’s strategy for this budget crisis. He exposed that the UC lent $200 million to the state even after the UC’s budget was cut this year.

Why the hell would we do that instead of using that $200 million to supplement “unavoidable” student fees?

Samuels shed some light on the hypocrisy in the leadership of the UC:

“[Yudof] said, ‘When we lend money to the state, we make a profit from interest. But when we spend money just on teachers’ salaries that money just disappears,'” Samuels said. “So, from [Yudof’s] perspective, instruction is a losing proposition.”

I’m glad to know we’re in good hands. If Yudof cared about the UC and the education of its students more than how much money he makes from interest, he might initiate salary cuts for some of the “3,000 people who make over $200,000,” to quote Samuels. Or cut the regents’ six-figure salaries. Or any chancellor’s six-figure salary.

The leaders of the UC, a public school system, should be the ones setting examples and taking charge. Instead, they have a “do as I say, not as I do” approach that has finally ignited a flame among not only UC students, but faculty and staff as well.

For a public university to shoulder such an enormous burden on its students is embarrassing. Like many of the protesters’ pickets said, “If I wanted to go to a private university, I would have been born rich.”

SARA KOHGADAI needs to graduate before she cannot afford to. Hollar at her at sbkohgadai@ucdavis.edu.

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