During class today, a professor inquired about our involvement in the student protests. Her sly smile revealed optimism and pride stemming from her past involvement in political movements. A few students raised their hands, radiating immense feelings of gratification. However, one student raised his hand to disclose his opinion about the protests.
“Hasn’t the tuition already gone up?” he asked, insinuating that there was a lack of purpose to the protests. Immediately I realized that many students are missing the point of these public demonstrations.
The cost of a bachelor’s degree goes far beyond that of a quarterly tuition. Instead, an education will also cost you the high price of your time, your soul and your sanity. We students willingly sacrifice ourselves for a degree, a vast testament to our dedication to education. Now, this very dedication is used as collateral. Our degrees are held ransom by the university, unless we are prepared to pay the price. Some of the students have already invested years toward their degrees, so it is unlikely that we will forfeit our intellectual capital. Instead, we bite the bullet.
As a first generation college student, I already understand that post-college life involves repayment of loans, repayment of loans… oh, and repayment of loans. Basically, I am sacrificing my financial future for a degree. However, I did not realize that the university was going to keep doling out debt to students, with a blatant infringement on the right to an education. A college degree should not be limited to those that can afford to pay. Enough is enough.
The protests represent a communal voice and an opportunity for change. The marches, sit-ins, occupations and demonstrations speak to the sacrifices that thousands of students have made. More importantly, these protests empower students that have fallen victim to the tuition hikes (unfortunately, not everyone was able to afford the ransom). The protesters’ occupation in Olson Hall is a nostalgic and romantic gesture that reflects the history of student dissent. We are dissatisfied with the UC system and its lack of empathy for its students. It is time for change, and all good changes start with a voice. I am certainly relieved that the voice of the student community has spoken. While we may be willing to bite the bullet, we sure as hell will tell the chef how bad it tastes.
CHELSI FOREMAN can be reached at email@example.com.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu