Opinion Columns & Blogs

February 18, 2012

Alma Fausto: Can't we all just get along?

There is a bad taste left in the mouths of most UC students toward the system administrators and officials, especially over the past few months with protests and police action going awry. While many have taken these incidents as indications that there's a dichotomy, it's important that students realize they need to collaborate with UC representatives and not just antagonize them.

Probably the most contentious of events happen during UC Board of Regents meetings. The general distrust and dissatisfaction from students show up in these forums. The "us against them" sentiment reveals itself at these meetings, but few, if any, serious efforts for collaboration are promoted.

Sherry Lansing, chair of the Board of Regents, said the May regents meeting will be held in Sacramento so that students, alumni, faculty and regents could rally at the Capitol together to "spotlight the adverse effects that cuts in state funding have had on the university and to build public support for re-investment in higher education," according to a statement released by the UC Office of the President.

An invitation like that is a small stepping-stone in the path of mending relations between the UC system, namely the regents, and the students whose wounds are constantly being opened with fee hikes and budget cuts.

In recent years, the faith students have in those who were supposed to represent them has been dwindling -- a sign that collaboration among students, their campus administrators and system officials is nonexistent.

The fact of the matter is that issues such as fee increases, budgetary constraints and many of the fiscal problems that persist in the UC system can be traced to a larger entity that isn't holding up its end of the bargain -- the state.

Nothing unites a group of people like having the same enemy. In this case, the shortcomings of the state's contributions are the cause for tension between students and UC officials who are stuck with the unfortunate job of delivering the bad news of higher tuition. Disgruntled students are blaming the messenger.

Students and the system need to band together, form a single strong front and go after the real root of the turmoil. Attending the May regents meeting in the Capitol would help to show how serious the effects of budget cuts have been on students. A divided system and student population cannot be successful in changing current conditions. Not only would rallying in Sacramento bode well for airing out grievances, it would be the ideal place for administrators and students alike to suggest solutions together.

The protest is set to take place on May 17. It's been proposed that students be given a leave from classes to be able to drive to the protest. If those leaves were to be encouraged or students decided to attend the meeting anyway, it would show the depth of student sentiment to the state. Recently, the University of California Student Association agreed to support the regents' rally at the Capitol in May by organizing groups of students to join the protesters. Talk about an invitation for cooperation and teamwork.

If regents and students can unite at the Capitol, they can set aside past tensions with each other and concentrate on lobbying the state instead. Only then will solutions become plausible. At the moment, the bickering between regents and students diverts attention from where it should be. Uniting would show how dire the situation is, the willingness from both parties to set aside differences and fight for the same purpose.

In the past it has always been only students protesting. It needs to become students and regents protesting side by side. Leaders on UC campuses need to ensure they mobilize their students to participate in the rally and show a strong presence. Especially the youngest campus of them all -- UC Merced. Our presence needs to be felt more because we are the growing child that needs a little bit extra help to make sure we grow up strong like our sibling campuses. That can only happen if the dichotomy between students and regents ends. We are not each other's enemies.

The author is a senior in political science at the University of California at Merced.

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