Challenging Student Apathy

Welcome to a new year, UC Irvine. There are moving boxes to unpack, books to buy and booths to navigate around on Ring Road.

But there’s also more than mere excitement brewing in the air. Every new year brings ongoing problems from the past: soaring tuition, fewer classes and concerns about the state of the UC system and higher education as a whole. People are agitated, frustrated and confused.

And rightfully so. These are tumultuous times across the state. Funding is short and budgets are unsteady. Last year’s 32 percent fee increase was a significant moment in history. It suggested the alarming realization that the students were expected to provide a bailout for the UCs.

Following a year of walkouts, teach-ins, sit-ins and protests, it’s only natural to wonder what the coming months have in store. Since this time last year, UCI has seen increased activism surrounding issues ranging from fee increases to accusations of racism throughout the UC system.

With so much happening amidst our busy student schedules, it’s easy to lose track of the numbers and the news. There will be times we’ll feel overwhelmed by information Đ both from our classes and from news headlines alerting us about the crisis concerning our state and higher education.

Sometimes, it will be confusing. To many, the protests will seem unwarranted. The anger might feel misdirected. It’s frustrating to see people marching and chanting on Ring Road and calling for us to walk out of our classes when we don’t even really know what’s going on and why we should join.

There is a lot of information to sift through and if student leaders and protest organizers want others to join in their rallies, they must have the patience to educate and inform, as well as encourage dialogue and discussion. Speak clearly and honestly. Don’t only give biased perspectives. Tell us to put pressure on the administration, the Regents or our state representatives, but share the facts first. We want to hear why we should care; we don’t want to just see spray paint and banners. We want explanations and we want to know what the bigger picture is.

And, when these opportunities present themselves, it is our responsibility to get informed and take a proactive stance. Education is a two-way street, and this is an opportunity for all of us to learn about the state of the university. Whether we know the exact numbers of our quarterly fees or not (and, by the way, this fall’s fees are a lovely $842 more than they were last fall), it doesn’t mean we’re at a four-year university for kicks. We’re here for a reason: to pursue something and to gain the knowledge and tools we’ll need to be successful in the future Đ and success requires an education in matters beyond textbooks or crowded lecture halls.

There are many times when apathy will seem like the better and easier route to take. While we are all busy with assignments, club meetings, hectic work schedules and parties, ignoring the reasons behind the protests only leads us further down the rabbit hole of apathy and misunderstanding. This doesn’t mean that walkouts and sit-ins are the only way to show we care. Part-time jobs and other commitments might keep us indoors. After all, we are paying thousands to be in school and to take classes. There are other ways we can learn about the issues: read the news, ask questions, listen closely.

It is up to us – students, faculty, staff, campus leaders – to care, to learn about the issues, to educate others. We must be willing and able to form educated opinions and draw informed conclusions. The decisions being made today will impact our futures.

Challenge accepted?

Please send comments to newuopinion@newuniversity.org. Include your name, major and year.