The State of the State: Campus Focus

Students Will Feel the Pain of Budget Cuts Firsthand, But Should Come Together to Fight for More Funds

Alan Chen/Staff

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The state budget crisis divides many who should share common interests. Dollar rationing pitting primary school educators against university faculty members benefits no student of any age. Yet the fight for California's ever more limited supply of state educational dollars is an unfortunate fact of life presenting problems for students of all ages, especially for future students of classes not yet matriculated into preschool, much less into graduate studies.

On Cal's campus, the budget crisis has severely depleted access to particular schools of study in a diversity of disciplines. Academic programs face restructuring cutbacks in faculty that could cripple academic excellence in nationally prominent programs. Depleted (decimated) lecturer positions and reduced graduate study programs will produce fewer section offerings and substantially larger class sizes, which in turn will increase competition (division) among Cal students to register for hard to get, popular or required classes.

Every day, Cal students will feel negative impacts from budget cutbacks. Furlough days will limit access to faculty and staff. Restricted work-study opportunities will create severe financial hardship for those who work to cover the historically unprecedented fee increases we are now required to pay. As stakeholders in the outcome, Cal students have an obligation to become activists in the process of protecting student interests. Students must register to vote. Making individual contact with assembly members and state senators, as well as with the Governor's office, to petition for increased allocations of the budget pie to the UC system, is one place every student can start to create protections for Cal's world class academic standing. A second avenue for seeking change (and fairness) would be to express opinions to UC Board of Regents' system representatives concerning the need for pro rata cutbacks, not the presently proposed increases, in administrative budget and salary allocations. During these times when reductions for student services and increases of student fees burden everyday life for Cal students, faculty and staff, UC system administrators should not, unilaterally, avoid the financial pinch.

Sadly, the budget crisis also provides cover to those: (1) who would seek to restrict access to higher education to traditionally underrepresented groups at Cal through cutbacks to the Cal Grants Program, while simultaneously squeezing members of the economic middle class through higher fees and tuition expenses; and (2) who feel threatened by, or perhaps envious of, the University of California's independence from partisan political whims and machinations. As cutbacks permeate the UC system, we have even seen faculty members at some UC campuses point fingers toward other campuses in an unseemly attempt to elevate self-prioritization by denigrating the academic quality of other system universities. Students should not join in comparative intellectual demonizing, but rather, should find and employ creative solutions and forceful advocacy to demand that increased resources be made available to benefit all students.

Students, and the ASUC, need to fight against financial actions which jeopardize the ASUC's longterm financial viability and legacy of independence as a student-run and operated organization. As the largest independent student government in the nation, the ASUC must also sacrifice and budget wisely, but not at the expense of student autonomy or at the cost of program eliminations. Shared sacrifice over limited dollars does not mean stunted independence and stifled program development. Simply stated, the ASUC must increase revenue streams without depleting reserves or eliminating vital student activities.

Every part of the Cal Campus, in some way, suffers from the current state budget crisis. Generating new, increased endowment sourced funding for all operations (including student government and campus life programs), without strings being placed on academic independence, will limit self-destructive financial infighting. Shared sacrifice without program elimination and finger pointing will prevent internecine divisions brought on by the rationing roulette games now being played out within state educational and UC circles. If we do not speak out, act and collectively support increased revenue sourcing and together fairly share revenue distribution sacrificing, then we shall silently and separately become agents of the demise of California's historical excellence in providing quality educational opportunity at all levels and for students of all ages.

Will Smelko is the ASUC President. Reply to [email protected]

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