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Correction Appended

As I walked through campus on Friday and saw masses of students assembled in front of Wheeler, police cordoning off crowds and the overpowering assortment of noises-chants, fire alarms, bullhorns-I came away with an overpowering sentiment: this school has become nothing more than a parade and a circus show. This strike stems from a blinding, illogical sense of entitlement, fueled by ignorance. Friday only gave me an intense sense of disappointment with my fellow students, who are supposed to be among the smartest and most inquisitive in the nation.

However convenient it may be for students to miss class and chant hypnotically outside of Wheeler, other than creating a scene of Orwellian mass mindlessness, what does this accomplish? I had not heard one viable solution posed, nor talked to many students in the crowd whose reasoning didn't ultimately come to: "well, I'm actually not that educated on this issue."

The type of literature published by the Solidarity Alliance is simply an unfocused and unsubstantiated diatribe against "the institution", designed to make students read it and scream "Yeah! I'm against this unbelievable abuse! Down with the oppressors who are purposefully destroying my education!"

The shameful facade that is the homepage blatantly and irresponsibly takes advantage of student trust. I simply don't understand how their demands are viable when the State of California is facing a budget gap of billions. This strike has all the markings of groupthink and religious fervor aimed at a ridiculously romantic ideal-qualities that I did not think defined UC Berkeley until now.

My question to the strikers is what solution are you proposing? How do you expect the regents to compensate for budget cuts? Should they halt current construction projects, causing hundreds of construction workers to lose their jobs? Or maybe they should deprive the medical facility of its reserve kept in case of natural disasters so they can treat wounded people. Or better yet, they should carry torches and spears to drive out all of the administrators from their offices and install a cooperative consensus-based democracy where all 35,000 students on this campus vote for every decision that needs to be made!

I have heard only one logical argument, which is to protest the state for their mis-prioritization of funding for our country's number one public university system. The state has cut UC funding by $637.1 million this year, much less than the cuts to prisons. Between 1990 and now, state funds have fallen by approximately $7,200 per student. This is irresponsibility that needs to be focused on, but instead it is tucked away on the corners of Strike websites and excluded from picket signs.

Yudof can lobby legislators for increased funding, but is ultimately at the mercy of a dysfunctional and bankrupt state. We are facing fee increases because the state has cut our funding, not because the regents have some sinister intent to charge us extra money or buy diamond-encrusted bobble heads for their desks. It is easy to cite "lack of transparency" when you don't like what the regents are doing, but how many people have actually tried to research this before assuming Yudof would use our money to the detriment of the university?

But we ignore these questions and march out to Sproul to demand that Yudof be fired. Why is Yudof being interviewed by The New York Times instead of the governor? Because of us! Because we are framing this protest against the regents, we are targeting media attention for this issue to the intermediary, and we are wasting an invaluable opportunity to target the people that have most power to improve our situation.

Instead of facts, answers, and change, the only thing that I see happening is that our limited academic resources are being squandered. The university was forced to spend funds on police forces to contain the protests, in addition to the money already paid for teaching, classrooms and other services that Friday were so forcefully deprived of us. Isn't this a budget crisis? It costs $30,000 to open the Moffitt and Doe libraries during finals for the next two semesters, ironically the subject of earlier protests. Instead money was wasted on students screaming at a misconceived aggressor for an imaginary solution.

I know fee increases make it difficult for students to attend Berkeley-this makes me sad and angry. But the regents cannot simply conjure the money it takes to continue operations. As long as there is no increase in state funding, Yudof could sell his house, all of his possessions and forego all pay but the university would still have to implement fee increases in order to maintain the academic quality of the UC system.

As UC Berkeley students, we must learn about this crisis and its causes. At the recent ASUC-sponsored Townhall with the Chancellor, I was horrified to see people directing angry and accusatory words toward the Chancellor, not to mention the hundreds of self-righteously angry students that scoffed at the idea of even attending the event, which was an unparalleled opportunity to learn.

So where is the real irresponsibility of the UC Berkeley Budget Crisis? It is in the students inspired by mob-mentality to throw trash at California Hall instead of writing to state legislators. The students that caused libraries to be closed all day on Friday. The students that got a thrill from engaging in dull-eyed chants outside of Wheeler while causing 3,800 of their peers to miss class.


Correction: Tuesday, February 9, 2010
An earlier version of this op-ed incorrectly credited the Solidarity Alliance with organizing protests to re-open UC Berkeley libraries. The article also incorrectly stated that the state cut the UC's funding by $813 million this year. In fact, UC funding was cut by $637.1 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Tara Raffi is a former ASUC senator. Reply to [email protected]

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