The UC San Diego Coalition for Educational Justice is an organization comprised of students, workers, staff members, and faculty who have joined in a struggle to transform the University of California into a truly democratic and transparent institution accessible to ALL California residents.
1. Affordability and accessibility to our public university
WE demand that our state government and our administrators take immediate action to eliminate all student fees and restore our universities to what the California Master Plan for Higher Education intended them to be: $0 tuition public institutions. Adopted in 1960, this plan promised all Californians that their tax contributions would be used to provide free higher education to their children. Originally, “fees” were merely intended to cover auxiliary costs (e.g., dormitories, parking, recreational facilities). Over the past three decades, the compact that gave California the most reputable higher education system in the country has been gradually eroded by politicians and administrators who have decided without public consultation that the university should serve primarily as a semi-private, money-making, research institution.
$0 tuition would make a UC education available to both working class students and to middle class students whose family earnings would disqualify them from receiving substantial financial aid, thus making them dependent on student loans to cover fees. The explosion in student debt that we have witnessed as tuition keeps rising is not only detrimental to students and their families. It is also deepening California’s economic crisis. It is in part because of this that we firmly oppose the “high tuition/high aid” model that the regents and the UC President are presently adopting, which is nothing more that a “high debt” attempted remedy.
WE also demand that our university immediately suspend plans to import out-of state students who are willing to pay higher non-resident fees as a solution to a situation that could be remedied by increasing the state’s contribution to the UCs and by improving management and budgeting. The UCs were built by and for the California public and they should remain so.
Additionally, we ask that the university engage in a renewed effort to increase student and faculty diversity. The UC cannot claim to be a “public” university when its population of historically underrepresented minority students and faculty is completely out of proportion with the demographics of these groups in our state. Our administrators and faculty need to devote the necessary time and resources to remedy this unacceptable status quo without delay.
2. Public support for our public university
OUR state government should unequivocally reinstate its commitment to the California Master Plan for Higher Education by properly funding our universities so that students can get a quality, tuition free education.
Furthermore, we call on the governor and the legislature to ensure that when they redistribute state money to prioritize education, they do so in a way that does not take critical support away from those locked up in the state’s burgeoning prison-industrial complex. Instead of building more underfunded prisons, we insist that our state prioritize education over incarceration.
WE also petition that our elected officials and our university administrators publicly endorse the California Democracy Act ballot initiative which would amend the state constitution to require a simple majority (not a 2/3 majority) to levy and allocate more public funding for the university as well as for other crucial areas of government.
3. Respect and protection for our workers
OUR workers play an integral role in making the university function. Without them our university would cease to function effectively and there would be no learning and research. Our university should immediately desist from laying off lecturers and workers that provide crucial student and patient care services as well as from furloughing faculty and staff.
The university must acknowledge all agreements made and all contracts drafted between the institution and unions prior to the establishment of salary cuts and “forced lay-off days.
OUR public university belongs to our workers as much as it belongs to anybody else. Our administrators/managers should immediately end worker intimidation and should treat their fellow employees with dignity and respect.
4. The Democratization of our public university
WE demand that our regents immediately reverse the emergency powers they recently bestowed upon the UC Office of the President. We also request that our administrators provide the university community with absolute transparency in how university budgets are drafted and how our money is spent. This means access to how unrestricted funds are possibly being used to increase the compensation of star administrators, faculty, and coaches. This also indicates providing a transparent account of how student fees are being used as collateral for construction bonds. The university shall provide its constituents with a precise record of where it allocates restricted and unrestricted funds, whether the restricted money is truly limited by law for certain expenditures or whether some of it can be legally funneled into the academic core.
WE also demand that our university immediately remove excess managers/administrators (currently there is one manager/administrator for every faculty member). The university shall use the million dollar savings this would provide for instruction, student support, and for paying workers a living wage with benefits.
In addition, we ask that our state government and/or California voters amend the state constitution to reconfigure the Board of Regents in ways that will democratize our university and introduce more transparency to it. We call on people to reflect on the harm done to our public university by regents who mostly come from the corporate sector and are steeped in a neo-liberal way of thinking and acting that blinds them from understanding the meaning of a “public trust.” If we do not institute ways of limiting the influence of these members, our university will continue to be progressively turned into a mostly privatized, elitist institution that will serve the interests of those who want to make money first, and for whom education is the last priority.
WE propose the following modifications: first, we submit that the body’s name be changed from the “Board of Regents” to the “People’s Board of Representatives of the University of California.” Secondly, instead of “representatives” being appointed by the governor, we propose that they be elected every four years by the people of California. Thirdly, instead of having just one student regent and two non-voting faculty regents (out of twenty-six), we propose that the seven ex officio regents (i.e. the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, etc.) be eliminated and replaced by a new body comprised of three undergraduate student representatives, two graduate student representatives, and five faculty representatives, all with voting powers equal to those held by the elected members. These student and faculty representatives shall be individually chosen for two-year terms by the other elected representatives in the board.
5. Open our public university to its public
WE propose that our university provide funding and support for initiatives that increase its presence in the communities outside of our campuses. This includes an increase in research that actively works alongside communities in socially constructive and conscious ways. This also means outreach programs that will increase recruitment from those communities that have been historically underrepresented in our classrooms.
WE also demand that our university partner with our state to provide more affordable, more efficient, and more reliable, environmentally sustainable modes of transportation to our campuses (e.g., electric trains, biodiesel buses and shuttles with bicycle racks, etc). We also request that our university make parking spaces more affordable not just for students but also for citizens of the state in order to make our public campuses more accessible to them.