Day of (my in)Action

Today was “March Forth,” the Day of Action against the education crisis in the U.S. It began as an effort in California inspired by the state’s education cuts, furloughs, and fee hikes. However, it spread across the nation, with actions taken in 42 states. I should begin this post by clearly stating that I support the protests and the actions taken today.

However, I did not participate in the protests… at least not with a physical presence. One of my professors canceled his class today, while the class for which I the Teaching Assistant met off campus. My discussion section met right near the bay, outside on a thankfully rain-free and sunny morning. Having section with the sun shining down on us and the bay behind us provided a nice escape from the campus protests. The lecturer held our lecture in a downtown community center and because it was just so beautiful, I decided to ride my bike. Other than respecting the protest (I’m purposefully choosing not to use the word strike, despite the organizers’ titling it as such), we also held these sessions off campustitling due to the UCSC protests’ tendency to block the campus’ two entrances.

I again stress that I wholeheartedly agree with the protest’s grievances and goals. However, I am unsure that not attending classes demonstrates to the leaders that students care about their education. Maybe that’s the cynic in me. But I have to think that perhaps marching on a non-class day might have more aptly reflected their commitment to this very serious cause. Right or wrong, I hope that today’s efforts garner public support and eventually serious change.

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?