‘Decline and Fall of the UC’ Responds to Recent Tuition Hikes

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Fourteen people gathered at the Graduate Student Commons last Tuesday to discuss some of the most disputed questions among the student body surrounding the UC regents’ approval of a tuition increase last November.

“The Decline and Fall of the University of California: A Workshop” was hosted by the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865, a union of over 12,000 student tutors, teaching instructors and graduate student assistants across the UC system.

UAW’s UCSC Campus Chair Jeb Purucker led the discussion, which sought to connect recent UC history to the rising costs and declining quality of education faced by over 238,000 UC students.

“The main thing to recognize is that what’s happening around us isn’t just the natural result of scarcity,” Purucker said. “The narrative that the state is not giving us enough money is too simplistic.”

The workshop was based on Teach the Budget, a curriculum created by the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) in 2009. The curriculum provides an overview of the UC’s financial system and was used by UAW to organize a strike against tuition hikes in 2010.

Rather than focusing on the state’s lack of financial support, the conversation was framed around the “Compact for Higher Education,” a plan signed by the UC and CSU systems and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004. The plan resulted in reduced state contributions and further reliance on private sources of funding — primarily tuition.

“Understanding why that rewrite of the charter of the university was undertaken is the most important and difficult piece of understanding the present,” Purucker said. “These were a series of political decisions that our administrators made to restructure the university in the model of a financial corporation.”

For an hour and a half, attendees listened to Purucker explain the curriculum, asked questions and related their personal experiences to the discussion.

Second-year Ethan Pezzolo, who came to the workshop to better understand the cause of the recent tuition increase, felt “really angry and distressed” as a result of the information presented.

“I feel discomfort for the mass of students in California, their future and [the lack of] power they have in their education,” Pezzolo said.

Purucker said the union will continue to host workshops like this throughout upcoming months to mobilize students to take action against the most recent tuition hike.