The Last Straw

University Issues: The regents' defeatism when passing the fee increases indicates their ignorance of the human cost of their actions.

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We could have written this editorial two months ago: In front of hundreds of protesters, the UC Board of Regents approved the largest student fee increase in 18 years yesterday.

To a certain extent, the sentiment that fee increases were inevitable is true, at least for this year. Yet this inevitability does not relieve the regents of all culpability for this decision. Yes, we're in a bad economy. Yes, the state is in a budget crisis.

But the magnitude of the hike, and the decision to end furloughs instead of ending fee increases, was completely left up to the UC Office of the President and the regents. In the end, the decision was in their hands.

And though it's too late this time around, this must be the last time-for a long time-that students see an increase in their fees. Current students have been told this is an investment in the future and that these painful measures are necessary to maintain the high quality of the university.

That being said, we should expect to see no further drastic drops in quality in our time here. If students are being forced to pay dramatically more, they should at least be offered an acceptable number of classes, manageable class sizes, and crucial services and programs.

In the run-up to the vote, we were disappointed by the defeatism of the board-none of the regents expressed any believable regret or anger that a 32 percent increase is what it has come to. Similarly, we expected to hear something from President Mark Yudof and Chancellor Robert Birgeneau during the strikes or the meeting.

Though the regents couldn't prevent the necessity of a fee increase, they still had the opportunity to take a stand on behalf of students. But this is all still just a routine for them. At some point, the board needs to say "no more." And that point should have been yesterday.

What the regents clearly don't see is the human cost of their decisions. Like Yudof, they seem to be caught up in "the ethereal life": Their decisions govern the everyday lives of students, faculty and staff at the university-yet without a campus and with separate careers, the regents rarely interact with those who are most affected by their decisions.

They see numbers, percentages and a bottom line. They don't know the middle-class students who will be forced to drop out because they can't afford to pay more than $10,000 in fees per year. They don't know the members of underrepresented communities, who, fazed by sticker shock, will assume the university is out of their reach.

Going forward, we charge this board to visit the campuses and interact with those they have been appointed to govern. Administrators need to realize that the university is not just a business, and although we are facing financial strife, there's much more at stake than money.

There is a real human cost to these decisions. And if we continue down this road of fee increases year after year, the cost will not just be to individual students but to the state as a whole.


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