California Tuition Turmoil

Peter Wood

The tuition protests at the University of California have been gathering hordes of television cameras and news reporters. No other event in higher education attracts the media like a good old-fashioned student sit-in or protest march. Reporters seemingly are drawn to the incense of righteous indignation and idealistic fervor. 

Of course, it has been a long time since any student protest could be unironically described in those terms. The California protests were ignited by the Board of Regents’ decision to hike tuition by 32% in response to state budget cuts. Students accustomed to steeply discounted tuitions based on taxpayer subsidies are aghast at the idea of having to pay something a little closer to the actual cost of the educational services that they consume.  

One of the ironies here is that the Board of Regents have no one to blame but themselves for the profound ignorance of economics displayed by the students. A curriculum that doesn’t ensure that students have a basic understanding of public finance, cost structures, and social services leaves students in a sea of incomprehension when it comes to the sorts of financial stringencies the University of California faces. The students who occupied a building at UC Santa Cruz issued a list of 35 demands that reflects their virtuosity at magical thinking and utopian manifesto-writing but shows them ill-equipped to manage their own credit cards, let alone a public university. The demands include:   

Repeal the 32-percent fee increase 
Keep all resource centers open: engaging education, women's resource center, and all other diversity centers 
Keep the campus child-care center open 
Making UC Santa Cruz a safe campus for all undocumented (AB540) students and workers
Repeal all furloughs to all campus employees, renege the 15-percent cut in labor time for custodians 
Un-arming UC police of all weapons including tasers
An apology from the regents and the state 
Creating a free and permanent organizing space on campus for student activists and organizers (first options: Kresge Town Hall)   

The protesters added some “long-term” goals, including:  

no student fees 
abolition of regents' positions 
abolition of all student debts 
tripling of funds from the state to public universities 
Impeach Mark Yudof 
cut ties with Lockheed Martin, Los Alamos & Livermore National Labs   

Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, was listed last week in Time magazine’s “10 Best College Presidents.” He was pictured rolling up his shirt sleeves. Good idea. His work is cut out for him. 

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