The Daily Californian Online

Newsom Addresses Protests, Cuts

By Jordan Bach-Lombardo and J.D. Morris
Daily Cal Staff Writers
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Category: News > University > Higher Education

Gavin Newsom makes his point while talking to UC Berkeley students in the ASUC Senate Chambers on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday, The Daily Californian's J.D. Morris and Jordan Bach-Lombardo spoke with Lt. Gov. and UC Regent Gavin Newsom about student protests and state funding reductions after he talked with students in the ASUC Senate Chambers.

The Daily Californian: (In response to budget cuts) some students took to the top of Wheeler Hall - they've occupied it several times. How do you respond to that?

Gavin Newsom: I completely understand it, and I think people should express themselves, but always in a peaceful and thoughtful manner, and I say that from a legitimate point of view that if you want your voice to actually be heard, you want to do it in a way that gets more plans, that builds more support. Sometimes people can get a little too aggressive, and it actually hurts the cause that they're trying to promote. So doing things that are peaceful and organizing their voice around an issue, I think it's a fundamental value that needs to be enhanced, not just protected, it should be championed. I love that energy and love that thing. And if it's not happening on the UC Berkeley campus with all those fee increases, I mean, we're in serious trouble, so I'm encouraged. But when people start locking themselves in and denying other people access that are innocent in terms of the debate and when people start to incite behavior that can actually start tipping and losing support, that's when I just want to pause and say, 'Hey guys, you don't need to go this far.'

DC: What do you consider the state's obligation to the UC to be in terms of the funding level? Do you think there's a legal obligation to it?

GN: You could argue a legal obligation, you can argue against it, but forget legal or not, there's an economic impetus ... The most important asset in this state is human capital. The most important investment we can make is in the minds of young people and that education is how we can compete ... That's why California has always been on the leading, cutting edge, why California's economy is as big as it is today. So much of what the vision of the (state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education) established and what we've sort of - through fits and starts - have organized around has been the engine of that economic success. So I think, forget the legal construct, it's in our interests and everyone's interest - business, community, non-profits, faith-based, all of us - to engage in making a case for a bigger investment and a more sustainable investment.

DC: Considering the declining state investment, you talked about privatization and federalization of the UC earlier. At what point do you think the state and the general public loses the authority to criticize the UC or talk about the UC in terms of what it's doing with its money, and when does it become a not-public university?

GN: Well, you could argue it's there already with 10 percent and 12 percent of your budget that comes from the state ... But the UC system is a public system and the public needs to demonstrate that commitment by having legislative leaders and executive leaders that demonstrate that commitment by financing new funding and by supporting it directly and indirectly by spending time and not just spending money to support the institution, so it's just vital to the fate and future of this state. I don't want to see it privatized more than anyone else - that's why I'm not going to support more of these cuts, and that's why I'm not going to support these fee increases. So you have to deal with the cards that are dealt.

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