Student Regent Alfredo Mireles Jr. and Student Regent-designate Jonathan Stein wrote an open letter to the UC community in response to the decision to postpone the UC Board of Regents meeting and Wednesday’s Occupy Cal demonstrations, where police actions — using batons to gain access to the protesters’ encampment — has caused outrage from the campus community and prompted an inquiry from campus administration.
Monday morning, UC regent leadership announced a decision to postpone the upcoming UC Board of Regents meeting, which student protesters planned to attend in order to voice concerns over state divestment from the UC system, among other issues.
Read the full letter below:
An Open Letter to Students, Administrators, Faculty, and the Regents:
The leadership of the Board of Regents has chosen to cancel this week’s Regents meeting. This letter addresses that decision, the recent protests on UC campuses, the continued defunding of public higher education by the State of California, and recent police brutality at UC Berkeley.
The State of California’s unprecedented and short-sighted divestment from public higher education is a disastrous moral and economic choice. In the short term, it hurts students. In the long term, it will hurt all Californians.
The University of California is a nationwide leader in educating students who are the first in their families to go to college, students who come from underserved communities, and first-generation students who are the children of immigrants. Collectively and through sacrifice, the State of California has built an institution that excels at providing a world-class education to students who have faced the greatest challenges to access it.
And yet the State is choosing to tear that institution down. The State of California cut the UC by $650 million in the past year, with a $100 million trigger cut likely on the way. These latest cuts come on the heels of decades of declining funding. The cost is felt first and foremost by students, who face nothing but bad choices: work multiple jobs to make ends meet, take out enormous loans that will be paid back in a terrible job market, or drop out and pursue an education somewhere cheaper or not at all. Generations of Californians attended an excellent UC at low or no cost; today, those same Californians are forcing the next generation of students to attend a university under threat, and at a high and rising cost. It is privatization of our greatest public good, and a morally bankrupt choice on the part of our citizens and our state government.
It is also a short-sighted economic choice. For decades, the University of California has fueled this state’s economic success, by driving innovation and entrepreneurship and graduating thousands of highly skilled workers into the California economy. Defunding this institution may ease our budget problems today, but doing so will bear bitter fruit for decades to come, as we become a less attractive destination for businesses and entrepreneurs. Cutting the UC hurts every Californian’s opportunity to get a well-paying job, decreases our future tax revenues, and delays or prevents entirely the research breakthroughs that advance our society and our economy.
The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate support the actions of students who call attention to the privatization of public education through courageous and peaceful protest. The police violence at UC Berkeley on November 9 was reprehensible and ought to be condemned, not defended, by campus and systemwide administration. We have additional concerns about freedom of speech – on the day of the protests, a Berkeley Law student was stopped by police officers while far from the events at Sproul Plaza simply for carrying a megaphone. When she was unable to produce a student ID, she was handcuffed, placed in a squad car, and cited for a misdemeanor. Free speech and providing equitable access to education have been hallmarks of the UC and particularly UC Berkeley — by suppressing speech that advocates for education access, we do violence to two of our most cherished principles.
The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate oppose the decision to cancel this week’s Regents meeting. We understand that local law enforcement authorities recommended the meeting be postponed in the interest of public safety. However, students have a right to protest peacefully and make their voices heard forcefully; this action eliminates their opportunity to do that. We would support finding a way for student attendees to exercise their constitutional and moral right to protest while excluding non-student elements that raise the specter of violence and vandalism. We urge students who had made plans to travel to San Francisco for the Regents meeting to travel to Sacramento instead, and make student frustrations known to the state’s ultimate decision-makers.
To fund the University of California, the State needs revenues. The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate support ending Proposition 13’s treatment of corporate property taxes and ending the two-thirds supermajority requirement for raising new revenues in the state legislature. The Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate also support increasing taxes on the wealthiest Californians. Those at the top of California society have benefited the most from the fact that California is a vibrant, innovative, and diverse place; in times of struggle, they should give back to make sure that other Californians have the same opportunities to succeed that they did.
We hope that our fellow Regents and the administration of the UC will be forceful advocates for new revenues for state government. To not do so leaves us with only a single, cynical choice every year: submit a funding request to the State and lobby for it despite knowing Sacramento is unlikely to meet it; search internally for savings after yet another budget cut that we knew was coming; and fill the balance of our budget deficit on the backs of students, pushing those in the middle class further to the margins.
We have a responsibility to fight for an alternative. Students are leading the way. We hope that the University of California and its leadership can join students in the fight to preserve truly public higher education for all our citizens. As the Student Regent and Student Regent-Designate, we have a responsibility to be the students who partner with the Regents and the University’s top decisions-makers. We will continue to advocate from within the system for the principles and beliefs driving student energy and passion.
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