Hundreds of students filled UC Santa Barbara’s Campbell Hall for a nine-hour teach-in on October 14. Dubbed “Defending the University: A ‘Teach-In’ on the Current Crisis,” the event provided a public forum for faculty, staff, and students for a discussion of the university’s current economic woes.
Many of the speakers – including professors and politicians – discussed ways of solving the budget crisis without hiking student fees and imposing furlough days. Keynote speakers included George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley; Stan Glantz, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and past chair of the UC Committee on Planning and Budget; State Senator Loni Hancock who is chair of the Elections, Reapportionment, and Constitutional Amendments Committee; Ruth Gilmore, professor of ethnicity and geography at the University of Southern California; and Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Association.
The University of California school system currently ranks “47th or 48th” in the nation, according to Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center. Many of the speakers agreed that the University of California system used to be the best in the country, but because of mismanagement by President Mark Yudof, the UC Regents, and Gov. Schwarzenegger, its schools have slipped greatly in the rankings.
Wong said he has witnessed the “re-segregation of UCLA,” as the median income of students continues to rise due to higher and higher student fees. Wong said that privatization of the University of California means that less privileged students, particularly undocumented students, lose the opportunity to attend college.
The state prison system and the tax system were also scrutinized. Speakers agreed that these systems are related to the politics of funding higher education. Lenny Goldberg of the California Tax Reform Association suggested that big oil companies and other major corporations enjoy special tax privileges in California. He said billions of dollars are wasted or lost in abuses or fraud in the current tax system. By fixing loopholes in the oil industry and others, he said, the tax burden would be spread fairly and the UC system could be properly funded.
UCSB student Sharde Davis urged students to “take back” the university. She traced past increases in student fees and advocated student action, and said there are three branches of authoritative government at the university: academic, administrative, and student government.
“We are chartered to be included in deciding the way our money is spent,” Davis said.