At the peak of last week’s protests against a 32 percent fee increase, 52 students and faculty attempted to occupy Mrak Hall and were arrested for trespassing.
The arrests captured the attention of media around the country and of students across the UC system. For many of these students, the protest was a wake-up call to the condition of their education. The situation united them with their professors – who also experienced pay cuts – in the spirit of preserving public education.
The arrests also certainly captured the attention of UC regents, who dealt with hoards of enraged students before, during and after they cast their votes. They saw the consequences of their actions on the faces of those who will be most affected by the fee increases.
These attributes considered, the protest was an immense success.
However, the arrests did not capture the attention of state legislators. These representatives did not hear thousands of students angered by what seems to them an abandonment of public education. They have not yet come to terms with the result of years of faulty prioritization.
To simply stop making cuts like the ones made last week, UC will need $900 million from the state. Yet with a $20 billion deficit next year, California isn’t exactly going to hand it over.
Students must move beyond Mrak Hall and take advantage of the 15-minute drive to the capitol – no other UC is this close. This will allow UC Davis students to take the lead and advocate as energetically at a state level as they have against UC administrators.
Instead of studying at Mrak Hall, students should study at the steps of the capitol so that legislators can see both the dedication and opposition they feel toward the dismal funding UC receives.
Yes, the regents could help by scaling back some of their own administration. And yes, maybe even UC Davis could contribute a couple million here and there by cutting back administrative pay. But in the long run, that’s just not going to cut it. These are short-term trims that will only prolong a concrete solution.
Students need to partake in conversations about the situation with their friends, their friends’ parents, their neighbors, their neighbors’ friends – anyone who will listen and vote. Californians are also constituents and have more influence over lawmakers than they do regents.
We can see that some students are already beginning to do this, and gaining momentum. We strongly advocate these efforts and feel that in doing so, students will be helping to save public universities, not just numb the pain of budget cuts.
[Correction – Nov. 24, 2009: Due to a typographical error, the original article said the state would face a $200 billion deficit. The projected deficit is actually in the $20 billion range.]