CalPIRG, a nationwide student activist group, hopes to alleviate economic difficulties for students with their lead campaign for affordable education.
The Affordable Education Campaign, which is taking place at all of the UCs and select California State Universities, aims to work toward reducing fee increases and eliminating cuts to the California higher education system.
“Instead of targeting the administration, we’re actually going to work really closely with the administration and faculty,” said Manny Rin, CalPIRG UC Davis chapter chair and junior environmental policy analysis and planning major. “Instead we’re going to focus more at the actual source, like the state budget, and make sure that Gov. Jerry Brown and key legislatures don’t make any more cuts to higher education.”
A key part of the campaign is a rally in Sacramento planned for late March, which Rin hopes will bring students from across the state.
“We want to focus on doing large events to get media attention statewide and hopefully encourage the general public to make sure they realize how important higher education is in California,” Rin said.
The campaign leaders hope to present the legislature with a yearbook, signed by current students, alumni and VIPs, such as celebrities, in support of higher education.
Furthermore, the goal is to get as many students as possible to take part in the rally in Sacramento.
“A group of 50 students going to a lobby day at the capitol building is way more effective than a group of 15. One thing that legislators respond to is numbers and faces, and the more students that get involved, the more legislators will feel obligated to help alleviate the problems,” said Levi Menovske, CalPIRG UC Davis chapter board member and junior political science major, in an e-mail interview.
The Affordable Education Campaign is eager to rally students and faculty alike, especially with Brown’s recent budget proposal that would cut $1 billion from the UCs and state universities and $400 million from California community colleges.
“We’re trying to influence the political process in California to keep public higher education a big priority in the coming budget,” said Brendan Wallace, CalPIRG intern and sophomore neurobiology, physiology and behavior major. “Brown’s office just issued the budget proposal for 2011-2012 and it includes a $500 million cut from the UC system. So right now is a pretty crucial time to rally popular support for public education and keep the cuts to a minimum.”
CalPIRG members are optimistic in the success of the campaign and cite other CalPIRG campaigns as examples of triumphant student movements.
“CalPIRG has very specific criteria for campaigns that we will take on and one of those important criteria is that the campaign has to be something winnable, that is we have to be able to have a victory and get the results we want,” Menovske said. “Ultimately the goals of this campaign are to not only stop the fee increases indefinitely, but also reduce the cost of higher education and make less of a burden for students around the nation.”
Rin focused on the idea that every student at UC Davis can easily get involved, in both big and small ways, and invites all students to come to the CalPIRG Kickoff Meeting on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. in 234 Wellman Hall.
“People should definitely get involved. There is a ton of stuff you can do, whether it be signing a petition or being in the march,” Rin said. “It should be a lot of fun and it should make a big impact.”
HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.