Student Forum with Chancellor Drake Helps to Air Concerns

On Jan. 13, an open forum was held in front of a full house at the Humanities Instructional Building in response to the student protests concerning the 32 percent tuition fee increase since Fall quarter.

UC Irvine’s Chancellor, Michael Drake, opened the event with remarks discussing the functions of the budget, fees, and the value of education. Following, Drake addressed student questions regarding the hike in fees. Drake was accompanied by Michael R. Gottfredson, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of UCI, and Paul Henisey, Chief of UCI Police Department.

Drake mentioned that efforts like the letter writing campaign in December, where students united to write to Sacramento about their concerns, were key in addressing discontentment with the fee increase.

After explaining how UC campuses are still receiving financial support and offering the Blue and Gold Opportunity plan to help ameliorate high tuition fees, Drake reminded his audience that, “we are all committed to the gold standard of higher education.”

According to Drake, his Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan allows students with family incomes below $70,000 to pay no systemwide fees during the course of the 2010-11 academic year.

Furthermore, Drake mentioned that family incomes exceed $70,000, other grants and scholarships are available.

After Drake’s remarks, a broad range of student questions were addressed.

When asked about why many Humanities programs were being cut, Gottfredson, clarified that cutbacks in the Humanities department were not drawn disproportionately in comparison to other departments.

When students expressed doubt that their efforts to communicate with Sacramento were taken into regards, Drake reaffirmed that the, “advocacy to Sacramento [had] worked.”

When asked what he would do in the students’ place, Drake replied that he would focus where the problem is, and this, he believed was at the state level.

In regards to student-felt injustice with the UC system, Drake responded with reassurance that the UC Regents’ budget is public as well as their meetings, despite the Nov. 18 and 19 UCLA stand-off at which students were banned from re-entering the UC Regents’ meeting.

Students also expressed that they felt their first amendment rights were violated by UCPD not only at the UCLA protest but during instances on the UCI campus.  The examplewhere posters advertising the protests on campus were taken down by UCIPD was raised.

Henisey confirmed that the treatment of student protesters at UCLA was in review while any other possible violations could be addressed to him.  He also stated he was not aware of the incident on campus.

Drake reassured the students that he was working with the UC Regents and Washington D.C. to assure that students receive a quality education.

His philosophy regarding a public education was summed up in a few words.

“The best fees are no fees,” Drake said.

The wife of a worker was present at the forum and wanted to discuss outsourcing, but Drake explained that the forum was not for collective bargaining.

The audience occasionally shouted out words of discontent when they felt a question was not addressed properly, but despite the tension in the room, the forum offered channels for students to vocalize frustrations.