News & Views item - September 2009



Protests by University of California Students & Staff Ignite. (September 25, 2009)



The September 24 demonstrations scheduled for the ten campuses of the University of California by students, academic staff and other employees to protest deep budget cuts, layoffs, enrollment cuts, course reductions and higher fees have taken place and have gained international recognition.


One UC professor has told TFW that in fact:


The state university system in the United States is falling apart, and UC is leading the pack. Both Yale and Columbia have decided to keep hiring faculty during the global financial crisis, knowing that they can pick up top people who bail out of top places like Berkeley and UCLA. As soon as the stock market picks up enough, Harvard and Stanford will start hiring again too. However, the state systems will stay broke  for years, until unemployment levels drop down to approximately normal  levels and tax receipts are more healthy.


For those that see the protests as the product of a disgruntled segment of students and some staff the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley paper reports:


UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau held a conference call with reporters this afternoon in which he said he supports the repeal of Proposition 13, which many point to as a key cause of a decline in state revenues that led to the budget crisis.


"I think that students should be upset and they should be expressing their opinion on the fee increases," he said. "I tell them: go down to Sacramento, go down to your local legislator and tell them that it's the obligation of the state of California to support this great educational system."


And to summarise what the fuss is about: savage budget cuts to deal with a US$750m (A$870m) shortfall and as one group of protesters summed up the projected increases in tuition: "UC regents vote next week to raise student fees, already up 250% over the last decade, by an additional 30%".


The Associated Press reported that university officials say the fee hikes and enrollment cuts are needed to maintain the quality of education at UC, and the furloughs are designed to preserve jobs and benefits while spreading the financial pain among all employees.


They say students and employees should direct their anger at state lawmakers who have reduced funding to the UC and California State University systems by 20% to close a massive state budget deficit.


"We understand that there's frustration and angst on campuses," Peter King, a spokesman for the UC system said. "Our only hope is the angst and frustration is directed at the true source of troubles, which is Sacramento. For 20 years, we've seen a steady decrease in funding."


A general assembly was set to take place this evening at 6 p.m. (11:00 AM, 090925, in Sydney) on Upper Sproul Plaza (UC, Berkeley) where organizers and students would discuss how to move the effort forward after today's events.