Town Hall Meeting First of Many to Come

Chris Sinclair | Staff Photographer

On Nov. 9, a town hall meeting was held to answer the questions of members of the student body.

Before the start of the 2010-11 year, the ASUCI Legislative Council wanted to give space to students who wanted their questions answered.

Since then, they have implemented plans to host multiple open question-and-answer forums in the form of town hall meetings to encourage dialogue between students, officials, staff and regents.

According to UCSA Board Chair and ASUCI executive vice president Andres Gonzalez, the aim of these various meetings is to “address hot student issues to better educate students on happenings that affect them.”

A panel consisting of student regent Jesse Cheng, associate vice chancellor for planning and budget Richard Lynch, chancellor for budget and planning Meredith Michaels and Gonzalez met in Woods Cove this past Wednesday for the discussion.

Although all questions were welcomed, the focus of the meeting quickly zeroed in on queries of the future of fees and possible fee hikes.

Students wanted to know why there was a fee increase in the first place in addition to questions of where the extra cash was going.

A little over 100 students came to the meeting to discuss their concerns over these tough topics.

Meredith Michaels began the evening by giving an overview of the UC budget. According to Michaels, the breakdown of core funds consist of 90 percent state funds and tuition, 5 percent student fees, 4 percent self-supporting programs and 1 percent of money that is classified as “other.”

Come Thursday of this week, however, these numbers may very well change. There is a recommended eight percent increase in educational fees (which is on the agenda to be renamed as “tuition” during this week’s regents meeting) as well as an eight percent increase in student service fees.

Yet, despite this, Lynch remained optimistic, pointing out that the UC system is not as worse off as other public schools.

He highlighted the significance of the fact that the University of California does not and will not consider the elimination of one of its campuses — something that was also rumored during the economic crisis of the late 60s. Using the newest campus, UC Merced, as an example, Lynch and Cheng cited the fact that the campus is key because it embodies the UC mission statement. Not only is it the only UC in the Central Valley, its statistics show relatively diverse numbers in respect to other campuses.

With a student body of 30 percent Chicano/Latino, 12 percent Black and 60-70 percent of the students supported by the Pell Grant, UC Merced is known as an asset to the UC system and serves as an example of what the regents are not willing to do: close up shop.

In addition, students were re-assured that senior administrators and chancellors took a five percent paycut before there was a system wide reduction in July of 2009 of 10 percent for those employees making more than $240,000 annually. Cheng also revealed that all Regents are actually volunteers, with his tuition being paid for (as student regent) being the only exception.

Overall, many considered Wednesday’s meeting a success. Gonzalez took this response as yet another reason to emphasize the importance of staying informed in part of the student body.

“The Town Hall was a success at educating and providing a civil and constructive environment to talk about the issue,” he said. “The night ended on a lighter note looking ahead as to what students can do, where [we] asked students to get involved in the movement. Students who feel passionate about these issues should join us in the fight to prioritize higher education funding.”