Defining UC Berkeley’s future

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The year 2011 marks unprecedented change. A “super committee” is at work in Washington, D.C., attempting to solve our nation’s debt crisis, leaving key programs like Pell Grants at stake. A budget crisis plagues Sacramento, forcing our tuition to skyrocket.

Closer to home, the UC Berkeley campus is in the midst of Operational Excellence, a proactive initiative to deal with our gaping budget hole and identify savings. Every campus unit will be forced to ask itself how it can operate more efficiently while maintaining their core services and upholding the university’s mission of excellence and accessibility — and the ASUC is no exception. We are in the process of realignment and exploring how our new reporting authority can enhance the work we do serving Cal students.

In a year where students’ contribution to the university exceeds that of the state for the first time in history, we must seize this opportunity to elevate our voices and chart a new course for UC Berkeley and public higher education in the years to come.

Now more than ever, students are primary stakeholders in the fight for public higher education and should be given a seat at the table accordingly. As the executive officers of one of the largest autonomous student governments in the nation, we do not take our roles lightly. We recognize that the ASUC is and must remain a forum for student collaboration and a vehicle for student engagement in decision making in all arenas.

This year, the ASUC will be the headquarters for student activism. As UC Berkeley students, we are among the best and brightest in the nation. The ASUC is the mechanism to translate our ingenuity and intelligence into concrete action.

We will send students to Washington, D.C., and Sacramento to lobby our legislators to protect public higher education and ensure access and affordability for all students. We will inject the student perspective into every campus decision to keep administrators accountable. We will fight to make sure that in a climate of budget cuts, student services will be protected. We will present students with opportunities to compliment their academic work with real-world applications. And through it all, we will continue to provide events and programming to enhance student life and Cal spirit.

With the new academic year just beginning, we are reaching out to all of you and sending a  simple message. Recognize that you are part of an institution with a powerful mission: to serve the public of California. This is a pivotal moment in the history of public higher education, not just in California, but across the nation.

As the pre-eminent public university in the world, we lead the way and help define what public education looks like. This leaves each of us with an enormous responsibility, so we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.

Take this opportunity to become engaged. Join the ASUC and be a part of the student movement to protect and preserve public higher education for generations to come.

Joey Freeman is the ASUC External Affairs Vice President and Vishalli Loomba is the President of the ASUC. Executive Vice President Christopher Alabastro, Academic Affairs Vice President Julia Juong and Student Advocate Samar Shah also contributed to this op-ed.

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