Illustration by Joe Lai.
Illustration by Joe Lai.

The recent outbreak of swine flu has our Board of Regents scared. 

In these times of fear we see people act irrationally. From airplanes landing prematurely to the UC Board of Regents canceling their annual meeting, the H1N1 virus has many on edge.

This year, pressing budget issues facing the entire UC system would’ve been the main priority of the Regents’ three-day meeting. In Santa Cruz alone, community studies, American studies, Latin American studies, feminist studies, and men and women’s water polo are but a few of the programs in danger of being cut back or cut completely.

Another vitally important topic that was to be discussed is the raising of annual tuition for students. In the past decade, fees have more than doubled, with the state now paying half of what it was 20 years ago. The proposed fee hike for the 2009-2010 year is 9.3 percent.

The issues and solutions that the Regents decide upon affect every single UC student. By turning what would be an extensive three-day meeting into a one-day conference call, the Regents have effectively denied public comment and press access to the meeting while belittling issues that are extremely important to the very students they should have been serving.

Amid all this foolishness, the UC Regents have not only found an excuse to skirt some of their most important duties, but by treating San Diego, where the meeting was to be held, like a plague-ridden city, they’ve shown that they care about themselves more than their students.

The flu, or influenza, has been a common illness among humans for decades. Every year, people flock to medical centers to receive flu shots before the season begins. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu hits about 5 to 20 percent of our population and kills around 36,000 people annually. 

Conversely, the H1N1 virus, caused by a mutated influenza virus that infects pigs, had 1,516 confirmed hospitalizations as of Wednesday afternoon, and it has caused approximately 160 total deaths to date. 

Yet during all the frenzied media coverage of World Health Organization security alerts, we as students have carried on with our everyday responsibilities. We continue to juggle our school and work responsibilities; there’s no time for some pig flu scare in our hectic lives.

The UC Regents’ cowardly avoidance of San Diego and their duties is inexcusable. If H1N1 is such a problem that they cannot risk going down to San Diego themselves, it is difficult to understand why they are allowing UC San Diego, with approximately 28,000 total enrolled students, to stay open. 

As servants of a public institution that faces major budget cuts, educates thousands of students from all over the world and is considering raising tuition by nearly 10 percent, the Regents do not have the time or luxury to cancel a meeting as important as this bi-monthly, three-day Regents gathering. 

In light of such strenuous financial times, the actions of the Regents are ill-advised, cowardly and selfish. Their position of privilege does not put them above doing their jobs. This meeting was too important to shy away from, and yet they decided to regardless.