Fall of 2011 will be remembered as a dark time for the students of the University of California. The regents approved a controversial second fee increase on July 14, adding a 9.6 percent increase to the previously approved 8 percent increase. Student protesters at UC Berkeley were met by police wielding batons and bean bag guns, and police use of pepper spray at UC Davis on Friday, Nov. 18 drew outcry from across the nation. At the same time, Congress began pushing through legislation that would change the Internet on a fundamental level, allowing copyright holders the power to dictate which websites could be or could not be reached, despite near unanimous opposition from technology companies.
After a quarter filled with anger and tension then, it is not surprising that 18 students disrupted Thursday’s Regents Meeting at UC Riverside with a 50-minute sit-down protest. It is not surprising that Google, Reddit and dozens of other websites, many of which staffed by recent graduates, blacked themselves out on Jan. 18 in protest.
At the dawn of a new year, it is tempting to hope that everything will be better now. That our work is done and that now we can live in peace. That there will be no more tuition hikes, that the Internet will be safe, that the Regents will put students’ needs first. That the UC will begin a system-wide renaissance.
There are some actual glimmers of hope. The UC Regents announced last Wednesday, that they had moved their May meeting to Sacramento to allow officials to participate in protesting at the state capitol in response to Gov. Brown’s cuts to funding for higher education. The Regents and UC President Yudof have also acknowledged an alternative tuition plan proposed by UCR student Chris LoCascio, president of FixUC. The proposed plan would abolish tuition payments in favor of payments of 5 percent of wages from 20 years after graduation, with discounts allotted for transfer students, graduates who work in the public sector and graduates who stay in the state.
In turn, after the Jan. 18 Internet black out, SOPA and PIPA both fell out of favor, no longer under consideration for the year. Members of Congress have even begun to reach out to the youth who participated on blackout day through venues such as Reddit.
Unfortunately, the inescapable fact is that the UC system is still caught in the midst of California’s fiscal problems and that the Internet is still under attack. Although Gov. Brown’s budget proposal allots $90 million more this year than the year before, it still falls $660 million short of the budget two years ago. Though PIPA and SOPA may no longer be immediate threats, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement still looms on the horizon, further threatening the future of the Internet.
After the chaotic events of fall 2011, the response to the alternative budget proposal and the Regents’ decision to move their May meeting to Sacramento have introduced new hope to the student movement; however, if any real change is accomplished, both students and administrators will need to continue working.
Though we may be tired, our energy spent debating, protesting and signing petitions, our small victories are not something to be laughed at. They are just that: victories.
These small victories are proof that, with conviction, with desire and with hard work, we can make a difference. Our ideas can prevail and that we can garner attention. We are not just another young generation of unengaged proletariat, and we can actually make a difference.
Anteaters, now is not the time for rest. Now is the time to continue striving so that, one day, we may be able to look back on our world as a place better because of us.
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