UC Walkout

This is a brief post, to draw attention to what is happening on UC campuses across the state today. Faculty and students, as well as several other groups of UC employees, are walking out today, the first day of classes. The reason is primarily to speak out against and draw attention to the way the UC Board of Regents is handling the recent budget cuts. It should be noted that part of this issue extends past the UC. The state continues to cut money from its education, hurting both its present and future. This follows a long history of the state turning its back on education: since the passing of Prop. 13, the state’s education fell from fourth in the nation to forty-fifth.

However, this walkout is focusing largely on the choices of the Board of Regents. The tuition hikes, furloughs, pay cuts, lay offs, and administrative excess are contributing to the downsizing and privatization of the public university system. If you have a moment, please read the reasons why faculty are walking out here. Or read the open letter to grad students, who are in full support of the faculty’s actions by clicking here.

For me, it is an interesting experience. What should be the first day as a TA, working with my advisor, and meeting my undergrads has been replaced with this walkout. While I must admit that it is frustrating to begin my grad school experience with this walkout and I am torn over the impact this has on students (providing one less instructional day), I stand in solidarity with the faculty. The priority of public education and the goals of the UC must remain important for both current and future students. The priority of education in this state has been lax for decades, this cannot continue. That state and the Board must realize the implications of their actions and decisions.

California's Financial Woes & Education

While I’m not teaching at Palomar anymore, I still have access to my email there. Today I checked the account (which I have been doing off and on to make sure I haven’t received any emails about action I need to take before I move) and saw more of the same. Due to the terrible state budget, educational institutions have been forced to scale back their costs. At Palomar, one of the ways of doing this was pay cuts for adjunct faculty. Personally, if I was still teaching I would be of course sad to see a pay cut, but happy to still have classes. This has been difficult for some of the adjuncts to accept, as they voice their anger/frustration/sadness/etc. via email to all of their colleagues.

However, today there was more bad news. In my department, they will be cutting 10 sections in the 2009/2010 school year. This is on top of already restricted number of sections from previous cuts. For me, I’m relieved that I am not teaching this year at Palomar and don’t have to hold my breath waiting to see if one of my sections gets cut. However, for Palomar I am saddened. I know there are other faculty members, particularly adjunct, who need these classes to teach and pay their bills. And the students suffer here as well. They will have less classes to choose from and will be forced to learn with much bigger classes. One of the benefits of community college is the opportunity to learn in a small class, to know that your instructor knows your name. Having now taught at community college, I see its value. Many students work full time and are putting themselves through school. They are trying to make each semester work for them as they move toward either getting their A.A. or transferring to a four-year-school. To restrict their opportunities and worsen their learning environment is a terrible burden. Their instructors might also be working at other institutions or second jobs to account for the lost sections and pay cuts, preventing them from giving their best to their students. What a tragedy!

California’s budget has been suffering for years. To fix it, of course we all must make sacrifices. However, to fix it by continuously robbing funds from education is inexcusable. I read about furloughs at state schools and recently the UC faculty has threatened to walkout in response to the board’s decisions to handle the budget. If the state continues to restrict education, what type of future will we have?! We will lack the brilliant minds that are needed to keep and grow the state’s economy. With a worsening education system, how can we expect to continue to entice people to stay in the state?

For me, it’s personally painful. I am grateful that I am returning to school this fall and for at least my first year, have funding. I am thankful that I’m not teaching adjunct and don’t have to be worrying about pay cuts and sections being dropped from my course load. But I also think about my future years in grad school, will I continue to have funding? Will I be able to find work in the state once I have finished school? I would love to stay in California, but will I even have that choice?