Demonstrations at the University of California at Berkeley are difficult to avoid; in terms of magnitude, they are matched at USC only by solicitors and the syllabic overload that is the SoCal spell out. Berkeley, famous for being the seat of student unrest for decades, is a hotbed for indignancy — so the scene that played out on Cal’s campus yesterday, as well as on the campuses of almost all the schools in the UC system, was not unusual.
The protests’ importance, however, cannot be diluted. The third day of classes at all public universities in the Golden State was interrupted by student and faculty demonstrations against substantial tuition increases and pay cuts across the board.
Across town in Westwood, about 700 students and faculty members gathered in UCLA’s Bruin Plaza to protest; at UC Irvine, hundreds of students crowded the steps of the administration building. Berkeley, never to be outdone in the arena of public outcry, saw a crowd of between 1,500 and 2,000 at Sproul Plaza, equipped with signs that read “Don’t tread on public education” and battlecries of “Si se puede!”
Some UC students can expect to pay 44 percent more in student fees next year — a total of $10,300.
This initiative comes on the heels of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s so-called “faustian” 2004 agreement with UC President Robert Dynes, in which it was decided that student fees would increase in exchange for a long-term augmentation of UC funding.
However well-intentioned Dyne’s pact with the governator was, the fact remains that tuition increases are boosting school funds at the expense of the students, not the state. Faculty, already famously underpaid, are also largely taking the brunt of the budget cuts.
The purpose of a public education system, especially one so lauded as the UC schools, is to provide affordable education. Budget cuts cannot be battled by undercompensating faculty and increasing tuition.
USC students are not insulated from the economy’s effect on education; the school-wide hiring freeze is testament to that. In this time of economic duress, we must remember our priorities and speak out.
Lucy Mueller is the Daily Trojan’s editorial director and a junior majoring in cinema-television production.