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If the Regents aren’t acting for the students, is the State?

In the past couple of months, the University of California and its 220,000 -plus students have been involved in an endless, agonizing saga involving two sides who are both arrogant and problematic. On one end, we have the UC President and Board of Regents, who have proposed and passed a five percent gradual increase for the next five years. On the other end, we have Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Assembly, who are withholding funding from the UC.

We all know the problematic story of the UC – during the proposition of the tuition hike, the UC passed salary raises for the upper administration. Perhaps nothing could send the message of students’ dissatisfaction more than the protests, sit-ins and takeovers that followed the decision. Then, in the midst of the students’ outrage, the governor voiced his disapproval for the tuition hikes and instantaneously gained students’ support for his opposition. In fact, to this day, Gov. Brown openly criticizes the tuition hikes and has even publicly announced in his 2015 budget proposal that if the UC increases the tuition, he will withhold his promised funding for the UC.

Nonetheless, I find it crucial for us to understand why the governor has maintained his stance on this issue. To do so, we must first analyze the governor’s reasons for believing that there is no need for a tuition increase. Brown believes that the UC is wasting money, and that instead of asking for more money, it should cut its waste.

What is the governor’s definition of waste? He believes that the UC is letting too many international and out-of-state students come to UC schools. He believes that the UC is too lenient on students and that they must push for students to graduate earlier by providing online education, including almost all of lower division courses.

These reasons, to me, are far from ones that we should be in support of. First, to speak to the suggested notion that there are too many international students here, I must remind everyone that this is a PUBLIC university system, meaning it is open to everyone who aspires to come and change their lives, despite the social and cultural barriers they must face. It should not matter where the person comes from. It should not matter what their nationality is, and we should certainly not cut anyone’s access to the public educational system. To me, the governor and the State Assembly’s push to cut international students’ access to this institution is one of a xenophobic nature and one we must protest. Education is a right, no matter the national origin of a student.

To speak to the second point posed by the governor, I wonder what Brown would say if he were to go through the UC as an undergraduate today. It is easy to say that we should push students to graduate earlier, but in reality, with the long range of course requirements, lack of physical space and the intense curriculum that constantly serves to “weed out” students, it is much harder for students to graduate today. Many students come to their first year unprepared, not knowing what they want to do, and for the most part, it takes a while for students to adjust to the environment and find their path. Pushing students to graduate earlier will only result in increased pressure for students to drop out, especially students who are first-generation in their families to attend college, or those who come from lower income backgrounds with fewer resources in order to graduate.

So really, the governor’s demand for the UC to force students to graduate faster is a rather  systematic way of disempowering the low-income and first-generation students from being able to sustain their education. Needless to say, such a move would not allow students to seek and learn about their passions that aren’t necessarily part of their academic curriculum.

Finally, to the point of the governor’s push for online education, I must insist that the governor needs to prioritize quality over quantity. There is absolutely no proof that online education is beneficial to students’ learning. In fact, much of current research proves otherwise. So when Brown suggests that the UC should promote online education, he is really suggesting a slow and steady decline in learning which will lower the quality of education for all students.

To be clear, I do not support the tuition increase, as I truly see no acceptable reason for it to happen at a time when the majority of costs have not been increased.

Nonetheless, I cannot support Gov. Brown or the State Assembly’s stances on the tuition hikes.  As much as I disagree with and criticize President Napolitano and Board of Regents on deciding to increase the tuition, I cannot support a tuition stabilization plan that is based on xenophobic views, cuts access for low income and first-generation students and leads in a decrease in the quality of our education.

 

Parshan Khosravi is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at khosravp@uci.edu.

 

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