Debriefing: Student Activism

Taking a look at the efforts of students leading up to the elections, as well as the effects of Prop. 30.

In early October, ASUCI and CALPIRG teamed up with a common goal of registering 7,000 new voters for this fall’s elections.By Election Day, ASUCI registered its own goal of 4,000 voters and CALPIRG registered 2,021 voters toward their goal of 3,000 — a total of 6,021 new voters.

“We were able to register record numbers of student voters and this was mainly due to online voter registration,” Esther Mealy, New Voters Project Campaign coordinator for CALPIRG at UC Irvine, said. ASUCI registered half of its voters online.

60 percent of America’s youth voted in this election, and 19 percent of California students contributed with their votes.
ASUCI put on many events throughout the quarter leading up to the elections, some of which discussed the history of voting. Robin D. G. Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA, gave a lecture on Civil Rights in the Age of Neoliberalism on Oct. 24.

“We were not just going on the regular road to get people to vote, we were actually talking about people who have become disenfranchised — people who do not have the right to vote. A lot of students do not get exposed to that side of the story. Voting is a privilege,” ASUCI Executive Vice-President Andrea Gaspar, said.

Amrita Dhinsa, the voter registration director for the ASUCI initiative, said that California has had many budget cuts and students’ tuition has increased while quality has decreased — without students’ input.
“As students, our votes matter a lot more, especially with issues like higher education, that affect us directly are being put up on the ballot or presented as bills in Sacramento,” Dhinsa said.
As part of CALPIRG’s New Voters Project, launched in 1984, PIRGs focused on their “Get Out the Vote” initiative. Volunteers texted students, who gave their contact information on pledge cards during CALPIRG’s classroom visits, asking them to text 10 of their friends to remind them to vote. “Get Out the Vote” made 18,252 contacts at UCI.

CALPIRG incorporated as much creativity as they did technology. Volunteers made vote-bot cardboard costumes for volunteers to dance around in at events.
On Election Day, CALPIRG drew voters to their table with “I voted” mustache stickers and a chance to sign on the pledge to vote mustache poster.

“I think that students care about the future and about education. They are motivated and those are all traits that they would like to see in the voting population,” Mealy said.

Proposition 30 passed due to a large student vote, bringing a temporary increase in personal income tax on annual earnings of $250,000 or more for the next seven years and a temporary increase in state sales tax rate for four years.

UCI Chancellor Michael Drake called the passage of Proposition 30 a “gratifying validation” of the appreciation our fellow citizens have for the value of public education.
“It’s a rare event for people to vote against their own pocketbooks … but they recognized the need to pay a little more today to support the future.” Drake said in a campus-wide email.

These temporary tax increases provide an additional $6 billion in revenue to pay for programs funded in state public schools and colleges.
The funds are barred from being used for administrative costs, which means more funding for the public institutions themselves.

“The passage of Governor Brown’s budget initiative has created an opportunity to bring stability to the funding of public higher education in California,” University of California President Mark Yudof said in a statement to students.

“Had it not passed, UC faced a $250 million cut and the expectation that Regents would consider a mid-year fee increase,” UCI Vice Chancellor Meredith Michaels said.
Proposition 30 keeps necessary funding from being cut, but administration will still need to find ways to provide funding for mandatory necessities that the universities are still lacking because of the many previous budget cuts.

“We will remain steadfast in our determination to preserve the quality, access and public service that have made the University of California an indispensable resource for the entire state,” University of California Chairman of the Board of Regents, Sherry Lansing said in a statement.