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Protecting Public Education

What Difference Does Day of Action Make?


“Walk Out!” Have you ever felt a burning desire to shout these two words and stand up for a cause while sitting in lecture? With advanced stages of senioritis, I’ve often thought of doing so purely because the sun is out. This week, I found just the ticket to taking a literal and figurative stand, namely, the UC Budget Crisis. But one must wonder: Does protesting really make a difference?

Alexandra Markus

March 4 marked the “Day of Action” where many gathered and marched to make their voices heard. After attending the scheduled events—including bagel breakfast, press conference, bike mass and march on State Street—I found I was not very confident that our protests would in fact create change. Whatever happened to burning down banks, I.V.? Just kidding; but considering the current financial state of California and the rising tuition, it seems that something drastic must take place in order for anything to change.

Despite my doubt, many remain positive that protesting does in fact help. Professor Aryane Fradenburg, of UCSB’s English department, is one of the most admirable professors I have had at the university. She has been an integral part of actions against these recent attacks on affordable higher education and liberal arts.

“I will be going to the rally at UCSB and otherwise doing no business, usual or unusual,” Fradenburg reassured me when I asked if she planned to participate in the “Day of Action.”

Fradenburg outlined what she hoped to accomplish on the day of the rally. “Tomorrow we will join together — students, staff, parents, alumni, and fellow teachers — to demonstrate that curiosity, innovation, and reason are still alive and well in the Golden State. It isn’t just our university — it’s our school system, our diverse culture, our world-class economy, our endless creativity, our sunny day. And we’re keeping all of it.”

With highly regarded professors taking the lead, why aren’t more students jumping on board? Perhaps it is because many UCSB students are privileged enough to have most all tuition costs paid by parents. But if not for the sake of our parents’ wallets, fellow students, please participate for the sake of protecting our education and keeping our valued professors at UCSB.

“Most of us can do other things besides teach,” Professor Fradenburg commented. “I myself am a psychoanalyst, and devotion to my private practice is looking better and better as a way to spend my time these days,” she admitted last July at the UCSB Budget Forum held in Campbell Hall. Professors leaving the university will lower its prestige and reputation, and the ripple effects will probably include less fundraising power and larger class sizes as well as a lower quality of education generally.

I must confess, I was not impressed with the 30 measly bikers participating in the bike mass — though bless their hearts, they did bike from Isla Vista all the way to downtown Santa Barbara. I’m clearly not alone in questioning the effectiveness of such protests as evidenced by the small turn-out in a community where bike ownership is nearly universal. Perhaps something more eye-catching than the 8x11.5-inch printer papers taped to their backs would have caused more of a stir?

However, the march up State Street definitely left a greater impression. Around 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 4, a force of students, children, professors, parents, senior citizens, and dogs marched up Santa Barbara’s State Street. Some were singing, others shouting chants, and some zoning out and simply following the crowd.

Is this enough to create change or has this protest shown that, yes, divestment in public education is a concern but, no, not enough of a public outrage to provoke change?

One freshman at UCSB believes she can make a difference. “I couldn’t afford private schooling so I went to a public university,” Samantha Tancredi told me as she marched with the gaggle of protestors. She added, “My choice backfired,” she said of the increasing tuition. “It’s not fair.” It was touching to see that some people do care, and not just for their own financial reasons. Tancredi and other outraged college students were joined by parents pulling children in wagons; I spotted an elderly couple, one walking with a sign and the other walking with a walker, at the tail end of the protesting parade. I asked the couple why they are joining in fighting for the cause. Ed Grat, retired teacher in the Goleta School District, said the budget cuts show that, unfortunately, “education is not a top priority. Many students have to work two to three jobs just to support themselves.”

I believe that change requires tireless effort. Like one of the leaders during the march up State Street shouted into the megaphone, “I know you are all getting tired, we have been protesting all day. But the regents are not getting tired of cutting funds and raising fees! We must keep going; we cannot get tired!”

Maybe the “Day of Action” is a start to something larger. Looking back in history, great change has resulted from protests and marches. I don’t think immediate change will occur, if any will occur at all, but if people continue to speak up and continue to fight for their cause, we will see a difference.



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