Thursday, July 16, 2009

Save the U.C. System

[An Open Letter to the President of the California State Senate and Lt. Governor of California, John Garamendi]

July 16, 2009

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 1114
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.445.8994
Fax: 916.323.4998

Dear Lt. Governor John Garamendi,

I am writing to you as a former resident of the state of California and an alum of the University of California at Santa Barbara because I am deeply concerned about the impending budget cuts that are about to hit the U.C. system (and I should mention the CSU, community college, and K-12 system as well). The cuts to the U.C. system has hit national news, and two different blogs that I read have also covered the upcoming crisis about to hit the U.C. system. And most recently I received a letter (as a UCSB alum) from the U.C. Regents urging me to become engaged in the fight to save the U.C. system from extreme budget cuts, such as the one described in this particular sentence:
"In the past 20 years, the amount of money allotted to the University through the state budget has fallen dramatically: General Fund support for a UC student stood at $15,860 in 1990. If current budget projections hold, it will drop this year to $7,680."

I applaud your efforts to be the lone voice of dissent at the most recent U.C. Regents board meeting--and I agree that we need to fight fiercely now in defense of the university system. And I want to add my voice to that fight, even from afar. I know others do as well, since there is a petition circulating to stop U.C. budget cuts.

I am a product of the public school system. From kindergarten to UCSB, I attended CA public schools and received a quality education, even in a working-class/middle-class neighborhood that wasn't expected to send its students on to ivy league schools, let alone four-year universities. Many of my college-bound classmates went to a UC school, a CSU school, or the local community college with expectations of transferring into a CSU or UC after their A.A. I was so inspired, while at UCSB, by the number of friends and relatives I had who took this specific route--attending a community college and then transferring into a U.C. school, that I decided I wanted to become a college professor and to work at a school whose commitment to its students were similar to the California state university system. The California state university model has allowed so many students, like myself, to earn a degree and to imagine career possibilities that seemed like a pipe dream when I was in elementary school. One of California's strength has been this model, and as a beneficiary I am saddened that the state may turn its back on students who want a quality education at a price they can afford.

I know that there are tough choices that the state government has to make, and I don't envy the hard decisions that the government and the residents of California must face; they are similar to the tough choices that we are all experiencing across the nation, especially those of us who teach in higher ed. I know this is just one letter, but I'm hopeful that my letter, along with the letters of many others and the petition signatures as well as phone calls, faxes, and email messages to your office and others throughout the California legislature may send a message to the government and citizens of California that the U.C. system should be protected from severe budget cuts.

The U.C. system is where ethnic studies was born on the West Coast. It's where Asian American studies and the Chicano studies movement and pan-racial coalitions began. The U.C. system is where Angela Davis teaches and where the first Asian American chancellor took office and where students went on hunger strikes to demand an ethnic studies requirement system-wide in the late 1980s. The U.C. system is where my consciousness was raised, where I became a feminist, where I became a queer ally, where I began to put together the pieces of how power operates, where I first learned the word hegemony, and where I developed my passion for Asian American literature, mixed-race studies, and social justice issues.

Please--help make my letter be part of a movement to save the U.C. system.

The blogger of Mixed Race America

[If you are an alum of the U.C. system, please consider signing this petition. If you are a resident of California, you can click here to find your state legislative representative and write a letter in support of the U.C. system, and if you are out-of-state, like myself, you can email Garamendi's office by clicking here or you can write your own letter to his address at the top of this blog post]


Greg said...

Thank you for writing this post/open letter. I know that every little bit counts, but I can't help but feel that the entire situation is hopeless. I think education is incredibly undervalued in US society. Confounding this is the commoditization of education, which I believe will be the downfall of our society. People really need to wake up and realize that in order to make this world a better place, all of its citizens must be given equal access to the most basic tool of empowerment--knowledge, and furthermore, should be taught the value of critical thinking. The state of education in this country, a country as privileged as it is, is a total disgrace.

Jennifer said...

Hi Greg,

I do wonder at how much writing letters or even protesting is going to do because it seems like there are SO MAN PROBLEMS with the California state budget--education funding, of any type, is but one of a myriad of problems going on (you'd know this better than I would since you are THERE and I am here). But as an alum, I just felt I had to do or rather say SOMETHING, even though I wonder whether it's just pissing in the wind (sorry for that crass analogy, but honestly, I couldn't think of a more appropriate way of putting it--I'm welcome to suggestions of course!)