Enough is Enough
By Alex Distefano
As if things weren’t bad enough for students seeking a higher education in California, the UC system plans to increase tuition fees next fall, this time by up to 6 percent. This will undoubtedly have a huge impact on those already struggling to pay for school and make ends meet.
UC leaders will take the proposal to the Board of Regents at a meeting in Sacramento in July. The increase, which would average to an estimated $730 per student, would cover most of the $139 million shortfall expected for next year, according to Patrick Lenz, UC’s president of Budget and Capital Resources.
But, as this rhetoric continues, and the pundits and politicians play the blame game, students move beyond anger to frustration. Just last week, this frustration turned into organization and action as a group of around 50 student protestors gathered together for a Local Day of Action For Education at UC Riverside. Protests also targeted the district offices of several local senators and elected officials.
David Castillo, the legislative liaison for the university’s Associated Students, was an organizer of Inland Day of Action events, and said that although the turnout was not as big as expected, it was still a success. The day, Castillo told the Weekly, consisted of groups demonstrating in front of the offices of state Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), Sen. Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet) and Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert).
“What we wanted to do was be assertive and present people with a change on how we should view our legislators,” Castillo says. “What we did on May 11 was more than a protest. We were lobbying, and we are trying to radicalize it and let people know not to be afraid of these people. We need to hold them accountable.”
Castillo said that there were no incidents of violence or police arrests, but demonstrators did encounter some hostility from staff members working in the elected officials’ offices.
“At first, the CHP showed up to question us in the morning at UC Riverside,” Castillo says. “They were not threatening. They just told us about safety and ordinances we had to follow since it was state property we were going to be on. But we knew all the rules and ordinances. They left us alone after that.”
However, Castillo said that at several points things boiled when some of the staff members became angry and wanted the group to leave.
“Senator Emmerson’s staff got aggressive with us,” Castillo says. “There was a group of people in the lobby, but they kicked us all out and everyone was forced to leave.”
Things also got testy at Nestande’s office.
“These people were very aggressive towards us,” Castillo says. “We were nonviolent, they immediately were threatening to call the cops—which they did—and they claimed we were part of the Occupy movement—which we are not. They didn’t want to hear anything we had to say.”
Then the police arrived.
“We were not breaking any laws, we left accordingly and peacefully, but we know they got the message,” Castillo says. “They assumed we were all on student aid, but little did they know most of us struggle with two jobs to pay for tuition. This entire system is corrupt.”
La Tonya Young, 33, a former UC Riverside student with an undergraduate degree in ethnic studies, also told the Weekly that she is fed up with the current state of affairs of higher education.
“Every entity is at fault,” Young says. “The state is the primary focus since they coordinate a budget. The repeated rhetoric of “It’s not our fault” will not fly anymore. The regents and our so called ‘leaders’ need to stand up to the legislature and explain to them the bill cannot be paid on the backs of students any longer.”
And just like Castillo, Young says the Inland Day of Action accomplished its goal.
“We sent a message to these people—who are elected by us—to supposedly act in our best interests,” she says. “I blame those who do nothing to fight for education. We all need to fight to ensure those behind us have the opportunity to thrive and have a successful life.”