‘Anybody game for a march on Sacramento?’

In a letter sent to the editors of the nine UC student newspapers and top A.S. councilmembers, Yudof apologized for raising student fees and decried state legislators for cutting back extensively from higher-education funding over the last decade.

State funding for the university on a per-student basis has dropped by over $8,000 since 1990. The UC Board of Regents will vote on a 32-percent student fee increase this academic year — the eighth increase in the last eight years — raising fees to $8,958 per year.

According to Leslie Sepuka, spokesperson for UCOP, “lobbying” will consist of the 10 UC campuses and their local supporters meeting with state legislators in order to educate lawmakers about the negative impact of the budget cuts on the university.

“We’ll be organizing activities to encourage Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to include improved funding for UC in his January state budget proposal,” Sepuka said.

The university will be asking for a $903 million restoration in the 2010-11 budget. Of the $903 million, $106 million would be reserved for contributions to the UC retirement plan and $160 million would go toward currently underfunded enrollment growth.

An additional $305 million would be set aside to restore the cuts made to the 2009-10 budget, while $332 million would contribute to restoring programs that have been cut — such as library hours, undergraduate courses and graduate programs.

According to Sepuka, the new lobbying efforts will begin in 2010 — when lawmakers begin discussing the 2010-11 state budget — and will include visits to Sacramento by UC officials, along with letter and email campaigns.

Yudof has previously testified before the legislative budget committee in Sacramento, in addition to meeting with Schwarzenegger and legislative leadership, to discuss the university’s budget. It has not been confirmed, however, whether he or any campus chancellors will be personally making any more trips to Sacramento.

Sepuka said student involvement is critical to the campaign’s success.

“We hope to work with the student groups as much as possible, and President Yudof has been meeting with the student government leaders on several campuses recently,” Sepuka said.

However, UC Students Association President Victor Sanchez said he is wary of Yudof’s proposed lobbying plans. he said he fears the UC president will not follow through with his statements.

“We’ve heard of him wanting to lobby the Legislature to get more money, but there hasn’t been a lot of collaboration,” Sanchez said.

According to Sanchez, student lobbying efforts are committed to increasing collaboration between students and university administrators.

“Each side can inform the other,” he said. “They keep us aware of what’s going on and we can vocalize our own ideas: that fees going up, education going down isn’t the right way to do things.”

Sanchez said that plans have yet to be made for a collaborative UCOP and UCSA lobbying initiative.

“There’s been a few steps,” Sanchez said. “We meet often and there’s been oral commitment, but nothing tangible. We’ll continue meeting with them, but for now, we’re just trying to boost cooperation and champion our own campaigns.”

Adam Keigwin, spokesman for state Senator Leland Yee (D- San Francisco/San Mateo), said that while Yee has consistently voted against cuts to higher-education funding, he is concerned with the university’s budget priorities. He said the senator feels there are other issues to be addressed.

“Senator Yee has always been one of the few ‘No’ votes,” Keigwin said. “But there’s waste in the UC system with executive pay raise after pay raise. There’s all this sentiment that rhetorically sounds nice, but it’s bloated at the top. It’s disingenuous. Faculty is not increasing, students are not increasing, but executives keep increasing. The current budget is not a formula for success, and right now, more attention must be given to faculty and low-image workers instead of taking care of the elite.”

Sanchez echoed the same sentiment.

“We’re deep in a crisis that impacts more than the university — it impacts the future of California,” said Sanchez. “UCOP and the state need to focus and start taking responsibility.”

Readers can contact Angela Chen at [email protected].

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