An estimated 400 people representing a coalition of University of California faculty, staff, and students walked off their jobs and out of classes at UCSB for a day of action and solidarity on Thursday, September 24. The purpose? To protest student fee hikes, funding cuts, and changes to the traditional UC system of shared governance.
The UC system-wide budget suffered a three percent cut due to decreased state funds, resulting in over 100,000 full-time UC employees receiving pay cuts of four to 10 percent, and students having to pay a 9.3 percent increase in student fees.
Student protesters raised handmade cardboards signs with colored letters spelling out “Furloughs 4 the Regents,” among other messages consistent with the cause. Union protesters lifted signs saying “Stop Yudof’s cuts to education and research,” and “Yes, we can take back our university.”
The UC Budget Crisis Education Rally began at 11:30 a.m. with poets, and two songs by Ron Paris.
English Professor Yunte Huang threw puns left and right and had the crowd laughing with his poem about furloughs and President Yudof. “Enough about ‘loughs. Let’s talk about something high-higher education. You go to high school to get high, and you go to college to get higher,” Huang said in his poem.
Following the poems, professors, representatives from University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), undergraduate students, graduate students, and non-represented staff gave speeches. Each speaker presented information and essentially the same message: If action is not taken against the UC Regents, the UC system will suffer repercussions for a long time.
“The UC Regents are rather arrogantly taking very damaging measures that harm the UC system, the state, and the students,” professor of philosophy Nathan Salmon said.
The regents propose to further increase student fees by 32 percent this year. “It’s really quite scandalous,” said Suzanna J. Levine, professor of Spanish and Portuguese. Walkout participants decried the privatization of the university. “It’s about bringing attention to the administration’s mismanagement of our university,” said professor of art history Robert Williams.
The protesters hoped to bring attention to the lack of accountability and oversight that they said currently characterizes the administration of the system.
“If the state does not begin to fulfill its commitment to the University, we shall see what was once the greatest public institution of higher learning in the world reduced to a state of mediocrity,” professor of political science Andrew Norris said. “This will be a crushing loss …for every Californian who has benefited culturally and economically from the intellectual resources and innovative technology the University brought to the state.” He added, “As one of my colleagues observed, we are killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Faculty urged students and parents to write letters to the governor and state legislators and to join Option 4, a discussion on the California state budget and its impact on K-12 and all of public higher education. A teach-in is scheduled for 3 p.m. to midnight on October 14 in Campbell Hall at UCSB to further educate students and the public about the financial crisis and opportunities to defend the UC.
California’s university system is distinguished by its affordability, among other things. The 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education established higher education as a public good provided by the state for the people.