As students gathered in Classroom Unit 1 on April 29th, to put a face to the academic administrators in charge of the future of their education, it was unmistakable they came demanding answers.
The Student Union Assembly (SUA) held the last budget forum out of three for students to speak with deans from the Social Sciences and Humanities divisions, as well as Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger about the future of academics.
“My future is in your hands. The way my life unravels, the way I interact with the world, all of that is in your hands. What are you prepared to do about that?” a female student pleaded with the Dean of Social Sciences Sheldon Kamieniecki as the night commenced.
Although students came insisting on transparency and alternative solutions to academic and educational cuts, administrators faltered in giving students coherent answers. Instead, when confronted about which Latin America and Latino (LALS) professors were looking to be fired as well as which programs were going to be cut, the deans made it clear that they did not have any specific solutions.
“The budget crisis is a glass is half empty or half full situation. We’re not cutting majors thus far, we’re not cutting the faculty,” said Sheldon Kamieniecki, the Dean of Social Sciences. “I say to each group of students, ‘Okay I understand how you feel about your specific cause, but I am facing a 1.3 million dollar cut to my department. If I don’t cut here, what do I cut?”
Laura Barringer, a third year LALS student, along with many other students at the forum came to raise her voice to administrators about what she saw as pointing to a larger problem within the UC. For her, the solution lies in compromises from the top down, and not the other way around.
“There are always people on the top making cuts to the people on the bottom without critically looking at whether they themselves could be cut,” Barringer said. “The need to have so many chancellors and deans isn’t as important as our education.”
Despite the lack of solutions, many deans seemed sympathetic to the students concerns, since they were facing budget cuts and hard decisions within their department as well. Executive Vice Chancellor, David Kliger said he’s made appeals for the students to UC President Mark Yudof since the beginning of his term, believing that the problem lies at the allocation of California state taxes. According to Kliger, 20-50 years ago, the prison system in California cost $50 million dollars less to support it than did the public education system.
“Today, the money we spend to support prison systems is more than the total cost of UC’s CSU’s and community colleges combined,” Kliger said. “Our prison system in California is funded by cuts to higher education.”
Matt Palm, SUA Commissioner of Acadmic Affairs, agreed that change for the UC system must come from the state level.
“The major targets here aren’t the Regents but state legislators,” said Palm, a third-year Kresge. “If Republicans don’t get over their tax allergies, then we will be forced to become a private institution—dependent on private donors in order to survive.”