Members of the campus community gathered in the ARC ballroom Monday night in an effort to voice their concerns over the recent increase in student fees.
The Fall Dialogue with the Chancellor was designed to join students and administration together to brainstorm ideas for mitigating the university’s budget woes.
“I hope that tonight’s event is the beginning of a sustained dialogue,” said Chancellor Linda Katehi. “We are members of one community and it is important that we come together and talk about what upsets us.”
Chancellor Katehi began the evening with a discussion of her educational background where she cited her own reliance on free education and emphasized her commitment to public universities.
“Over the years, I have had many opportunities to move to private universities, but I chose not to because I truly believe in public education,” she said. “Public universities have a mission to increase the quality of life and provide social stability, and it is very difficult for me to see that this mission is going away.”
Chancellor Katehi was followed by an introduction by provost and executive vice chancellor Enrique Lavernia, who stressed the importance of discussion between administration and students.
“We are facing an unprecedented challenge and we need more ideas,” he said. “We all know that the best ideas come from folks who are educated on the details of the budget.”
Associate Vice Chancellor Kelly Ratliff then presented the audience with an overview of the budget and the specific cutbacks.
In her discussion of the budget, Ratliff spoke of the fact that though the state still remains the largest funding source of the university, this number has been quickly declining while the university system has been simultaneously growing.
“In the last decade, the proportion of shares contributed by students and the state have essentially reversed,” Ratliff said. “The state’s share has been cut in half while the students’ share has nearly doubled.”
Students were then given a chance to give testimonials where many shared their struggles to continue their education in light of the increasing student fees.
“I am a first-generation college student and my great fear is that I will be the last,” said one student in his testimony. “My little brother is in the military trying to get into college and all he hears from me is that I may not even be able to return to school because I can’t afford it … What kind of example is that for him?”
State Rep. Mariko Yamada (D-Solano) also spoke during the question and answer session. She shared her copy of California’s budget, of which only two pages address the UC budget. She encouraged Chancellor Katehi and the administration to lobby more with the state, and asked that testimonies be sent to her so she could compile a convincing argument for other representatives.
“It’s going to be difficult to get two-thirds of the assembly to agree on these priorities,” Yamada said.
Other students expressed frustration at the UC Regents and said they were sending disingenuous messages.
“It is hard for me to believe that the current budget crisis is an inevitability,” said English graduate student Catherine Fung. “I think it is the result of decisions made by a few powerful people called regents who have backgrounds in the private sector and are privileged themselves.”
Other students took aim directly at Chancellor Katehi, citing her salary, which is 27 percent higher than her predecessor.
“It is hard to stand here and hear you say that you care when you are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” said another student during the question and answer session. “You said yourself that you only got an education because it was free, but we are paying thousands to come here.”
Though no additional meeting times were set at the dialogue, Student Assistants to the Chancellor are in the process of planning additional dialogues. In addition, administrators in attendance expressed a willingness to engage in further similar dialogue.
“We only had two hours here, and we weren’t sure what we would accomplish,” Ratliff said. She suggested meeting as early as next week to address more concrete details.
ERICA LEE can be reached at email@example.com.