Lieutenant Governor Addresses Class

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a UC Berkeley Alumnus, Spoke to Students About Rising Higher Education Fees

Photo: Lt. Gov. John Garamendi spoke to Political Science 179, advising students to take action through rallies and demonstrations.
Michael Kang/Photo
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi spoke to Political Science 179, advising students to take action through rallies and demonstrations.

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More than 40 years after attending class in Wheeler Auditorium, California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi took up the role of lecturer for hundreds of Political Science 179 students yesterday.

Garamendi, who graduated from UC Berkeley in the 1960s, addressed concerns over rising higher education fees and urged the young audience to make their voices heard through rallies and demonstrations.

"If you have any interest in your future ... you have got to get involved in this," Garamendi said, stressing that quality public education is crucial to California's future.

Last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced proposed budget cuts that would leave the university with $417.4 million less than it had originally asked for. In response, the UC Board of Regents considered ways to handle the possible cuts, including raising student fees and lowering enrollment rates.

The regents are set to consider a recommendation in March authored by Garamendi to freeze fee increases.

"The intellectual infrastructure of this state is built largely on the public education system, but it's rapidly becoming privatized," he said.

Garamendi also spoke out against the regents' November 2007 decision to increase some professional school fees, namely at Boalt Hall School of Law and Haas School of Business.

"It's slamming the door on a whole part of the student population," he said.

During his time as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Garamendi studied business and economics and played on the football team. Yesterday, he recalled spending sunny

afternoons in Dwinelle Plaza and attending class in the midst of Vietnam War protests.

"This town has not changed in 46 years," Garamendi said, noting Tuesday's contentious Berkeley City Council meeting where members clarified their stance against the downtown marine recruiting center. "Last night was pure Berkeley-fun stuff."

Political science professor Alan Ross praised Garamendi, calling him a strong advocate for students.

"He's really in tune with what's going on, and can relate to students in ways few legislators can," Ross said.

But senior Jonathan Bye said he found some of Garamendi's ideas "Pollyanna-ish," saying that lucrative offers from private campuses will always lure professors away from the UC system.

Junior Dyana Delfin Polk said that while she doubts the regents will vote to freeze fee increases, she liked how Garamendi encouraged young people to be politically active.

"Our campus has become really apathetic, and we need to mobilize as students," she said.

As his time drew to a close, Garamendi pointed at the filled seats where he had once sat.

"This is the greatest university in, I think, the entire world, and therefore, you have an obligation to contribute more than any other," he said.


Stephanie M. Lee covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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