Protests won’t solve UC crisis

December 6, 2009 — by Vijay Menon and Abhi Venkataramana

Hundreds of students stormed into UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall on a mid-November morning and took control of the administrative building, dumping piles of week-old trash, barricading the hall, and ignoring police requests to relinquish control of the building.

Using loudspeakers to address the crowd of students and policemen gathering outside the window, protesters angrily voiced their complaints over a recent university announcement that tuition fees would be hiked by 32 percent at the university.

While UC students are justified in their indignation over the increased fees, they must understand that their protests will do nothing to solve the problem. California’s budget crisis coupled with the poor economic situation has crippled the finances of the UC system. The decision was not one of choice, but rather one of necessity for a school with a $535 million budget gap.

Although the tuition hike will hurt middle-class families who depend on the UC system for an affordable college education, the cuts are the only way that the UC systems can manage to offer the same quality of education.

The tuition strikes the best compromise to California’s budget crisis. Undergraduates, who now pay around $7,800 a year, will have now have to pay around $10,000. Although this is already difficult to swallow for some families, so-called victims of the tuition increase must understand the circumstances surrounding the move and remember that they are still receiving a quality education for a relatively low cost, especially in comparison to many other Californian private schools.

UC Berkeley has had a long tradition of protest, dating all the way back to the People’s Park protests in 1969. In fact, these current protests were a success in terms of their nonviolence and ability to bring attention to a significant issue. However, the state of California and the UC administration are in a bind and students parading outside of classes, taking buildings hostage and piling garbage into stacks is not only being counterproductive in reaching their eventual goal, but they are also establishing a certain belligerent and distasteful reputation for a once-dignified university. Until the economic climate allows for it, students must be patient and perhaps begin creating relief organizations to help those in dire need of financial aid. Surely that would be more effective in combating Berkeley’s pecuniary paradox.

As tough as it may be for parents and students alike to reach into their already overstretched wallets to pay off the UC system’s $535 million budget deficit, it is important to come to terms with the fact that this is the best way to solve the crisis.

It’s time for protesters to put down their banners, turn off their loudspeakers and accept the hike in UC tuition. After all, there is no other realistic alternative road to preserving a world-class education system in a sinking economic times.

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