By Valerie Luu
Campus News Reporter

The Student Union Assembly (SUA) rallied at the Baytree Bookstore last Thursday to protest the Board of Regents’ proposed student fee increases of seven to 10 percent. With the fee hikes, the Regents hope to mitigate the recent decrease in state funding to the UC.

The rally was the culmination of the SUA’s UC Budget and Diversity Crisis Week of Action, during which it organized activities to educate students about the California budget crisis and lack of diversity at UC Santa Cruz. Sandra Lane, external vice chair intern for SUA, pointed to the connection between the budget and diversity issues.

“When students fees increase, less students have access to education,” Lane said. “So we don’t see the same diversity in the UC system that reflects the demographics of California.”

About 80 people, including students, union workers from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), joined together to fight the fee hikes.

Mike Rotkin, community studies lecturer and member of AFT, addressed the crowd by telling students that they have the obligation to inform each other about the issue.

“We have 15,000 students on campus. We cannot afford to have this small of a group engaged,” Rotkin said. “If we get organized, we can turn around this state and we can certainly turn around this damn university and make them not raise student fees and give people that work here decent wages.”

Despite the low turnout, Matthew Palm, SUA treasurer and rally organizer, was impressed by the presence of union employees.

“The workers from UPTE and AFSCME really showed their solidarity with students,” Palm said. “The workers at today’s rally had this sense ‘We have each others’ backs, we’re all in this together.’”

The four District 27 candidates for state assembly — Stephen Barkalow (D), Bill Monning (D), Emily Reilly (D) and Barbara Sprenger (D) — also came to voice their support for students.

Steve Barkalow, a Democratic candidate for the California Assembly, said education should become a priority in California.

“Funding needs to constantly be there so we are at the cutting edge of science, math, education and creativity,” Barkalow said.

The controversy concerning student fees stems from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2008-2009 budget, which includes a $332 million cut to UC education. The budget is an attempt to alleviate the projected state budget deficit of $16 billion.

To compensate for such a cut, the UC Regents voted at UCLA on Wednesday to increase student fees between seven and 10 percent.

Student fees have been raised 97 percent since 2002, Lane said.

“At a time [Schwarzenegger] said he wasn’t going to tax Californians,” Lane said. “He’s taxing students by raising our fees.”

Currently, undergraduate student fees are $8,689.70 and $28,309.70 for residents and non-residents, respectively. Student fees could increase up to $900 per student, Matthew Palm said.

“You’re paying more to get less,” Palm said. “That will happen — that’s why we need to get people at the Regents’ meeting and at the action in Sacramento.” The SUA organized free transportation to the rally at the Regents’ meeting Wednesday, and will also provide free transportation to the “study-in” at the state capitol building in Sacramento this Monday, May 19.

Sarah Smith, a fourth-year graduate student who attended the rally, said quality education should be available to everyone.

“It’s unacceptable to continuously try to balance the budget on the backs of young people in this state,” Smith said. “Students should be outraged and get out there to start to get organized.”

_Additional reporting by Rosie Spinks._