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Davis, California

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Column: UC students wrong to protest?

I’m impressed by the number of people in the media who think attacking UC student protesters will somehow solve the budget crisis.

Columnist Ruben Navarrette of The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote last week that UC students were “bratty” for organizing against the fee increases. I think there’s something in the Bill of Rights about the right to organize and protest, but I’ll let Navarrette Google that himself.

For students having a hard time paying tuition, Navarrette recommends “taking an after-school job, or taking time off, or taking out a loan or doing any number of other things that grown-ups have to do when they run up against adversity because things didn’t go according to plan.”

I don’t really have the space (or patience) to argue with Navarrette’s advice, but if you’re a college student who has ever had to come up with some of your tuition money by yourself – let alone all of it – you probably think he sounds ridiculous. Working is all well and good, and something that many of us do. But if public education is supposed to be affordable, then why is working full-time and going into debt – just to stay enrolled – the standard?

To me, a person who has worked full-time to afford classes and taken out a lot of loans on top of that, Navarrette’s implication that college is accessible to everyone is bullshit. I’m sure other UC students, or would-be students, who for reasons concerning finances, citizenship status and other circumstances, would agree.

Columnist George Will chimed in this week, too, by criticizing the administrative practices that led to the crisis. But Will doesn’t take on the administration and its failures. Instead, he criticizes the students, faculty and staff who have been protesting against the fee increases, layoffs and furloughs for their activism.

According to Will, the $10,000 a year we’re all paying is still 70 percent cheaper than tuition for Stanford and other private universities, and we should be goddamn grateful. After all, the privatization of education isn’t affecting all students – just the poorest among us.

Here’s my suggestion to Navarette, Will and others like them: Instead of offering empty and misinformed criticism, they would do better to suggest solutions rather than blame the victims.

AB 656, for example, would tax the heretofore-untaxed oil companies for public education funds. That could generate some major money. As another example, some people have been floating around the idea of having community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees. Those alternatives are better than making a bunch of blanket criticisms.

HALEY DAVIS thinks columnists are irritating, including herself. She can be reached at hrdavis@ucdavis.edu.

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