Governor Candidates Touch on Higher Ed. Platforms

    As dramatic state budget cuts continue to stir unrest within the University of California, candidates for the 2010 gubernatorial election have begun to take their positions on the touchy topic of funding higher education.

    Though it is still very early in the election — primaries aren’t until June, and the election itself will be held in November 2010 — those vying for the office are already publicizing their positions on hot-button issues, including what to do about the state’s ailing public universities.

    Early candidate and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom addressed the UC walkouts directly, encouraging California legislators to strengthen the Cal Grant system and roll back fee increases.

    “We’re just now starting to see the unrest that accompanies such drastic cuts,” he said in a statement released Oct. 1.

    Newsom said he favors full funding for the UC system, though he conceded that extensive budget reform is necessary before this can happen. His position appeals to public fears that the university is becoming more privatized.

    UCSD College Democrats President Victor Lin said he is afraid higher fees are making for a decrease in accessibility to the university. Lin worked for Newsom’s campaign this summer.

    “He’s basically a champion for us students,” Lin said. “Newsom is the only guy out there in the entire field of Democrats and Republicans, who is actually trying to protect us students from further tuition increases.”

    While the other gubernatorial candidates have not explicitly discussed the systemwide UC walkout that took place on Sept. 24, several have taken a stance on the priority of funding higher education.

    Republican candidate Meg Whitman, who is the former CEO of eBay, said that in today’s economy, the state should “put jobs first.”

    Though Whitman said she would like to “restore much of the spending in higher education,” she added that universities must take a backseat to reviving California’s job market.

    Warren College junior John Don, a member of College Republicans at UCSD, said Whitman recognizes the importance of the UC system to the job market.

    “She’s even singled out UCSD as part of the economic engine of the state,” Don said.

    Revelle College junior Alec Weisman, editor of conservative on-campus newspaper the California Review, agrees.

    “Whitman would go with what would work on a statewide level and would actually get things done, based on how a business would do it,” Weisman said.

    Republican candidate Steve Poizner, who made a name for himself as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said the state should provide “necessary resources” for universities to produce more engineering and business students.

    He has not yet presented any possible solutions for saving the UC system.

    Former House of Representatives Rep. Tom Campbell hopes to raise revenue for the university by allowing UC researchers to retain the patents for their discoveries rather than forcing them to turn the patents over to the state.

    He hopes his plan will draw new faculty members, despite the recent pay cuts and furloughs that have driven away valuable UC professors.

    Jerry Brown, former governor of California and prospective Democratic candidate, has released no public statement conveying his views on education. (Brown has not yet officially declares his candidacy, despite having filed paperwork a week ago.)

    Brown drew heavy criticism in 1992 when he suggested that teachers should calculate “psychic income” — or, the satisfaction and intrinsic rewards they got from teaching — into their overall salary.

    Readers can contact Hayley Bisceligia-Martin at [email protected].

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