Today, over 500 students and workers are demanding a stop to unnecessary fee increases and benefits cuts. Protesters are blocking entrances to the UC Regents meeting. Three students have already been arrested for demanding entrance to the meeting to carry their message to the Regents. Police have used pepper spray on the crowd. Some barricades have been knocked down as protesters push toward the entrances.
Protesters include members of the UC Student Association, AFSCME Local 3299, CUE-Teamsters Local 2010, UAW Local 2865, UC-AFT, and the California Nurses Association who have joined together to raise awareness of moves by the UC administration that will mire even more Californians in debt and poverty.
University of California Regents are once again embroiled in controversy over proposed student fee hikes and wage and benefit cuts for graduate student instructors and front line staff. Many students and staff believe these cuts are unnecessary, and would promote poverty and debt in California.
Regents will be discussing another 8% increase to student fees.
“Why are Regents pricing middle class families out of UC? My student fees have gone up 40% over the last two years. I am lucky to still be here, but it is getting harder and harder to afford an education at UC,” said Claudia Magana, UCSC student, “It’s heartbreaking to see bright, hardworking students being forced out of quality education or condemned to a lifetime of debt when they graduate.”
An independent study of University of California finances conducted by UC Professor Charles Schwartz indicates that students now pay more than the true cost of providing an education. UC officials have come under fire for using student fees to fund expansion projects.
Along with fee hikes, University officials are looking at severe cost cutting measures such as reducing tuition and fee waivers for graduate student instructors, tripling healthcare premiums for retirees, and raising the retirement age for new staff.
“I haven’t received a cost-of-living increase for 3 years, and furloughs have eaten away at my modest savings. I want to retire with some amount of dignity, but UC’s proposal to triple healthcare premiums for retirees could be the difference between barely making it and being down-and-out.” Said Amatullah Alaji-Sabrie, UC Berkeley Legal Assistant.
Graduate student instructors perform a large share of instruction at the University of California. In exchange for their teaching, Graduate student instructors are provided a stipend and a waiver of educational fees. UC Regents will be discussing a rule change that would drastically cut fee waivers for graduate student instructors.
“The university system is being overtaken by bankers and Wall Street type CEO’s, it is completely ill-managed,” said Lakesha Harrison a UCLA Licensed Vocational Nurse and President of AFSCME Local 3299. “Last year employees and students voted no confidence in President Mark Yudof, his Wall Street approach is to dismantle the Master Plan and all the good it has done for California” said Harrison. “Yudof’s pension proposals would devastate patient transport, custodians and other workers who do physically demanding jobs because they penalize workers who are physically unable to work until 65 by reducing retirement income and raising health care costs for retirees.”
Public outcry over UC’s management performance has steadily increased in response to the release of an 8-part investigative report about UC Regent conflicts of interest written by journalist Peter Byrne. The investigative story titled “The Investors’ Club: How the University of California Regents Spin Public Money into Private Profit,” chronicles a troubling history of conflicts of interest involving numerous UC Regents.
According to Byrne, this is a problem that has plagued UC for decades but has accelerated in recent years as the Regents have increasingly failed to hold themselves to sufficient ethical standards in their investments practices, particularly around questionable private equity investments that Byrne says have directly benefited individual Regents.