State of the State: UC Board of Regents

The UC Student Regent-Designate Examines the Fight We're All Facing to Maintain UC Excellence

Patricia Kim/Illustration

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Correction Appended

We are in a very different world from where we were six months ago.

The State of California has cut the UC system by $800 million. In response, the university has raised our tuition, cut our work hours and reduced our student enrollment. We are in a very different world from where we were six months ago. In those six months, the state government has fiscally punched the university in the face. There are two directions we can go from here.

The first would be to wipe the blood off, and walk away from the fight. This would mean that we would start planning for a University of California that does not depend on state funding, and does not expect much of it to come in the future.

Russ Gould, the Chairman of the UC Regents, has already started moving in this direction. He has formed, with UC President Yudof, the Commission on the Future-a commission whose challenge is to preserve quality, accessibility and affordability in the face of disappearing resources. The next public meeting of the Commission will be held next month for Phase II of planning.

The second would be to punch the state government back. We would aggressively lobby the state government to fully fund the University of California. This is not to say we have not done this before.

The University of California Student Association has successfully lobbied the state of California for years, and President Yudof is now asking students to join him in a letter writing campaign to the state to remind them of the importance of the UC. But we are in a very different world than we were six months before, and we would need to punch like we have never before.

After being punched in the face, it's important to recognize both directions have merit. Russ Gould is not wrong in creating the Commission on the Future-nothing in the past number of years would suggest that the State of California is a reliable fiscal partner to the university.

However, it is important to recognize that the UC system created by the Commission on the Future is a private UC system. It will not be as accessible, affordable, of such quality or diversity as the system we have today. But unless the state does a 180 degree turn in its funding, it will be necessary.

But I really believe in punching back. I do not think that we should ever stop fighting for the public funding of the University of California. As students, faculty, staff and alumni, if we do not fight for the university that we know and love, we are robbing the future of California from the opportunities that we have enjoyed.

Punching back, however, also means that you have to understand the size of the fight you are entering.

We must recognize that we are asking for the reversal of years of culture and constitution that have fatally underfunded higher education.

We need the public of California to argue that the University of California is worth defending.

We need to see this argument in upcoming budget battles, in the gubernatorial race, in the everyday conversations.

It will take no less than the entire state of California to win the fight we are engaging in.

There are two directions we can go from here. While I believe it is important to prepare to lose the fight, and walk away, I also believe that we owe it to ourselves, and our future, to pull our arm back and swing. Swing really, really hard.


Correction: Wednesday, September 16, 2009
An earlier version of this article misspelled UC Student Regent-Designate Jesse Cheng's first name.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Jesse Cheng is UC student regent- designate. Reply at [email protected]

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