Possibility of Heightened Fees? ASUCI Says No Way, Not Okay.

UC Irvine’s Associated Students, Alumni Association and Office of Community & Government Relations hosted the second annual “Candidate Write-In” at the Phineas Banning Alumni House in which students wrote letters to local office-seeking constituents to push for higher education initiatives for the upcoming Nov. 2 mid-term election. Students also gained advice at the write-in from former senators Dick Ackerman and Joe Dunn as they expressed the importance of letter writing in the political process.

The significance of the letter write-in has heightened this year due to the University of California facing unprecedented budget cuts. According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state’s current deficit is $19.9 billion, leaving UC with a $900 million dollar shortfall.

The campus has absorbed significant budget cuts requiring the suspension of hiring in many areas, curtailment of service hours in some units, larger class sizes, reductions in class offerings, fewer travel and training activities and many other actions detrimental to the university.

Other issues important to UC students include the push for the California DREAM Act in which undocumented AB-540 students could apply for student financial aid administered by UC, CSU and California community colleges.

The write-in was meant to bring all of these issues to the forefront of candidates’ priorities amidst the mid-term elections.

Logan Frick, ASUCI’s administrative affairs vice president, attended the event and expressed the importance of raising political awareness of the UC community and making people realize that their vote matters, especially if they vote for candidates in support of higher education.

Frick also claimed the write-in is a phenomenal opportunity to open a dialogue with former and new politicians in the context of higher education.

Candidates Melissa Fox (Democrat) and Don Wagner (Republican), running for California’s 70th Assembly District, spoke at the event along with senators Ackerman and Dunn.

According to Student Regent, Jesse Cheng, candidates that show a strong connection to the university are valued.  Cheng also said Fox made an impact by directly speaking to issues of funding and financial aid.  As such, if elected, she could lead the way to champion higher education.

Cheng explained the value of the write-in, saying that it holds candidates accountable to the promises they made.
Recently, Fox wrote on her blog at votemelissafox.com, “My mother taught me that libraries are places of magic and inspiration, as well as the foundation for an informed citizenry that is essential to democracy.  Those are the values that I’ll take to Sacramento when I represent our district in the Assembly.”

Wagner said, “I know what works and what doesn’t in education; I have fought hard to craft sound and successful education programs, and to oppose the inefficient education bureaucracy that stifles real learning in California,” according to wagnerforassembly.com

Ackerman and Dunn explained the importance of constituents in the political process as well as the pivotal position UC represents as it creates the knowledge that California State Universities teach and that community colleges implement, according to Frick.

UC Irvine’s Chancellor Michael Drake also attended the event and encouraged the success of letter write-ins. Recalling last year’s “Budget Write-In,” Drake stated in an article by Cathy Lawhon published by University Communications, “When I visited Sacramento in the spring, I met legislators who received those letters that we wrote last December and thanked us for them. They knew our issues and were strong advocates during the budget process.”