Students protest fee hikes

    UCSD students, faculty, staff and community members rallied in protest of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts to higher education on Feb. 17. The rally began at noon at Price Center Plaza, followed by a march to the Chancellor’s Complex.

    Mulloy Morrow
    Guardian

    According to Harish Nandagopal, A.S. vice president external, approximately 250 people attended the hour-long rally.

    The rally was organized by the UCSD Coalition to Stop the Cuts, which includes members of the A.S. Council, the California Student Public Interest Research Group, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, Students for Economic Justice, Associated Student Employees-United Auto Workers Local 2865, the Graduate Student Association and others.

    Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson said he supported the rally.

    “I am particularly concerned that some budget proposals target the low-income students, and I think this is a major step backward for the university,” Watson said. “I am hoping that this can be reversed.”

    Speakers from labor unions, faculty, student government organizations and minority support services addressed the budget proposal and its consequences.

    “Raising the fees on grad students is foolhardy; it won’t raise revenue, it will only limit access, and it will hurt the state,” graduate student speaker Lee Lovejoy said. “We need to send a strong message to the governor and legislators and to the voters as well, who may not all be educated on these issues.”

    According to Nandagopal, the A.S. External Affairs Office helped provide the resources for the rally to take place.

    “We just want people in the community of San Diego to know what the issues are,” Nandagopal said. “We’re going to mobilize students throughout the state of California to fight against fee increases and outreach cuts.”

    Speakers and attendees expressed their concerns with the governor’s proposed tuition increases and funding cuts, which include a 10 percent fee increase for in-state undergraduate students and a 40 percent fee increase for graduate students. These hikes would bring the average undergraduate tuition fee up to $6,020 and the average graduate fee up to $8,926 for the 2004-05 academic year.

    Patrick Velasquez, director of the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services, voiced his opinion regarding the proposal for the complete elimination of all K-12 outreach programs and the potential decreases in financial aid.

    “[The budget proposals] will mean that we’ll see fewer underrepresented students of color, we’ll see fewer working-class students on this campus, and that hurts the education of all students here at UCSD,” Velasquez said.

    Other speakers focused on the impact of public policy on the state’s economic development.

    “It’s bad policy to burden education,” Tony Valladolid, director of Student Legal Services, said. “Futuristically, we won’t have the highly-educated, skilled worker that [is] necessary for a robust economy.”

    After a series of speakers, Nandagopal announced that attendees could join in a march to the Chancellor’s Complex, where students voiced their demands and concerns over a megaphone.

    “We are having a rally to announce our presence to the chancellor, the Regents and to the legislators,” Joshua Wilson of Students for Economic Justice said.

    According to Wilson, the UC Board of Regents and UC President Robert C. Dynes are on the students’ side. He said, however, that he and other students want to make certain that the UC officials do not comply with Schwarzenegger’s proposal.

    Schwarzenegger has also proposed a cut of five percent, or $35.3 million, in spending on faculty, decreasing the 19.7:1 student-faculty ratio to a ratio of 20.7:1.

    “I can speak from personal experience that [the proposed budget] has made it harder to find lecturer positions,” lecturer John Brady said. “Next year it’s not clear that I can come back to UCSD.”

    UCSD Coalition to Stop the Cuts members said they hope to organize and mobilize students at other UC campuses, the California State University system and the community colleges.

    “It’s relevant to talk about these issues because [the budget cuts are] going to affect all of us,” said graduate student Irmary Reyes-Santos, a member of the UCSD Coalition to Stop the Cuts.

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