UAW 2865 Statement to the Regents and UCOP about 9.6% fee hike, 7/24/2011

UAW 2865 members will deliver this message to the UC Regents at their meeting on Thursday, July 14th, 2011, the day the Regents are scheduled to discuss a new 9.6% fee hike for UC students.

To the Regents of the University of CA and UCOP:

We are members of UAW 2865, here to deliver a statement on behalf of our local.

California’s recent budget represents a continued attack on public education, with another $650 million in cuts to the UC system alone. The state’s latest round of austerity measures mortgage our future by cutting education opportunities for today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders, as well as the essential public services that are helping so many Californians survive the current economic recession. This state has taken the shameful path of balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable – youth and low-income communities — rather than requiring businesses and the wealthy to pay their fair share.

But the Regents’ latest proposal to raise fees an additional 9.6% — supported by a hasty and ill-conceived resolution passed in a special session by a minority of members of the Academic Council — is just as shameful. It is an attack against students, against workers, and against the UC’s own founding principle of being tuition-free. For the first time, student fees will be a larger revenues source than state dollars. As the UC, we can no longer claim to be a public institution. We have become a fee-for-service business venture.

UAW Local 2865 represents 12,000 academic student employees from all UC campuses. As members of UAW 2865 and student-workers in the UC, we stand for future generations’ right to quality education that is affordable and accessible. The UC Regents and UC Office of the President have made a tremendous and grave mistake by embracing a model of privatization that leaves many students with the heartbreaking choice of either taking on tens of thousands of dollars in debt, or forgoing a UC education altogether. By supporting round after round of fee hikes as a way to address budgetary issues, the Regents seem to have forgotten the goal of public education: to be affordable and accessible for students of all incomes and backgrounds.

Members of UAW 2865 have not forgotten these critical guiding principles that built the UC’s reputation for both quality and accessibility. We will not stand idly by as this system is unnecessarily dismantled. Both in the classes we teach and the classes we attend, we have seen the devastating impacts of these fee hikes and tuition increases: increased class sizes, workloads, student debt and time to graduation, facilities in disrepair, reduced library hours, and more. We see the painful truth: that we are rapidly losing ground as a world-class institution for higher learning. We are living off of what will soon be an empty reputation unless significant steps are taken to address what is as much an issue of misplaced spending priorities as it is a lack of revenue for the UC. Already, departments are losing ground in national ratings, faculty are leaving for better universities, and students are finding that they are graduating with more debt than ever before, but with a degree that means less and less.

UAW local 2865 members will not be worn down by these attacks on our professional and educational integrity as student-workers of the UC. We are outraged, and we are more committed than ever to fight for our education.We will be tackling these issues on all fronts: at the state level against the budget cuts and for new revenue, on the street in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters trying to bargain fair contracts and protect their rights, and at the campus level standing with students as they oppose fee hikes and helping to educate students, their families and the public that things must change.

We need new leadership from within the UC that is willing to fight to protect this incredible public institution, and not gut it in order to compensate a severely bloated administration. Between 1991 and 2010, the number of employees (FTEs) in the UC grew by 47% while management ranks grew by an astounding 220%. This trend is intolerable and must be reversed.

Today, we ask you the Regents to reject this proposed 9.6% fee hike and to show your commitment to the university by reducing the salaries and number of upper management and restoring funding to the core missions of the university — teaching and support for students and the critical work done by our staff in departments, on the grounds and in dining halls, in the libraries, and throughout the university. Today we ask you to show your commitment by taking real action to fight for new revenue for the state budget, by advocating for closing tax loopholes and introducing new taxes on those who can afford it, corporations and the wealthy.

It is clear that today we are in a struggle that will determine the future of the UC system. We invite you as Regents and all of those who still believe in public education to join us in defending public education against budget cuts, fee hikes, and all other efforts to privatize this world-class public institution.