The political move by the UC Board of Regents to raise tuition is not only hurting students but is also moving our university away from its previously clear public nature. After Wednesday’s meeting and in the wake of Thursday’s vote to increase tuition, we no longer perceive ourselves as a true public university. When the state allows a university to turn students into a significant source of funding, it is allowing the university to slowly discard its public identity.
We are often presented with a number of justifications for why certain changes — such as increasing enrollment of out-of-state and international students — are good for the university. But we are aware of the more practical, financial reason behind these changes — these students pay higher tuition rates than Californian students. And while this makes financial sense, relying on these students for funding is just one example of how the UC system is moving away from being California’s public university.
At the regents meeting Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown presented an alternative plan to the proposed tuition hike, aiming for three-year graduations and increasing online education, among other proposals. We not only believe this is not a feasible plan, but we also see this as a contradiction of the mission of the university. Brown’s suggestions are representative of his view of public education institutions as degree-generating machines. His focus on ushering students quickly in and out of the system starkly contrasts with students’ desire and need for a better classroom experience. Many administrators have, in our talks with them this semester, expressed the need for the improvement of the overall undergraduate experience. Brown’s plan pushes for a shift from the traditional model that both the students and administration want.
The frustration students have exhibited over the past few days mirrors our own frustration. We wish more attention would be paid to students, starting by including them more in the initial steps of this plan. We appreciate that students recognize the magnitude of this problem. Protesting at the regents meeting puts pressure on the regents, but we need to see similar pressure on the state. The next step would be to talk to our state through lobbying state legislators. This spark and desire for action should not die out with the regents’ decision.
It is important to remember that tuition hikes are not the product of one side’s actions. We blame UC President Janet Napolitano for not delivering on her promised political strengths and instead allowing yet another tuition hike. We blame the board as a whole for not better defending public education and instead shifting the responsibility onto others. We blame the state for putting the university in this position in the first place. And we also blame the public, the California taxpayers, for the absence of their voice and support. Amid the chaos of pointing fingers and blame-shifting, we remain with questions of responsibility: Whose responsibility is it to maintain the traditional, state-funded nature of this university? Whose responsibility is it to deal with the upset students when they find out that, once again, their tuition has gone up? And whose responsibility is it to fight for the students?