Illustration by Megan Laird.
Illustration by Megan Laird.

What’s summer without thoughts of Mark Yudof? Some may say pleasant. But, as finals dwindle down and memories of cramped classes fade, students should resist letting all of their thoughts wander to travel, relaxation, or that new lucrative summer job. Without chanting crowds at the base of campus as a visible reminder of all that we’ve lost to state budget cuts this year, it’ll be easy to forget what’s still at stake in the future. But when students — at least those who haven’t dropped out because of increasing costs — return in the fall, classes will still be full, libraries still closed, and lecturers still being laid-off. And, in November, Californians will put a whole new set of decision makers in office — people who could seal the fate of public education for many years to come. It’s too crucial a time to forget about higher education now.

When class is out for summer, that won’t mean UC administrators will take a break from making decisions that affect the whole system. According to a calendar on the UC website, the Commission on the Future, a group created to re-imagine the future of the UC system, will present its final recommendations to the UC regents in early fall. The recommendations include proposals that could drastically alter the UC, including three-year degree programs, increased online courses, multi-year fee increases, and increased admittance of out-of-state students.

This summer may be the last few months in which students can comment on these recommendations before some become set in stone. Administrative decisions also happen on a smaller scale on individual campuses during the summer. Last summer, UC Santa Cruz eliminated the position of Marlene Olson, Student Media Director, while members of student media who benefit from her position were not around to advocate for the position.

On a bigger scale, this summer is important because it precedes the November election, which will bring California a new governor and new representatives in the legislature. As much as we students bemoan Yudof and the regents’ faults state lawmakers, especially the governor, have even more power over our educational opportunities and those of future generations. It also might be important to note that a handful of candidates have been the regents that previous generations of students bemoaned.

The first step is to vote. People between the ages of 18 and 24 are the least likely of any age group to cast their ballots, which is also why our voices are considered less important to many politicians interested in re-election.

Write letters to the gubernatorial candidates and legislative candidates — ask them what they plan to do to fix California’s broken educational system. Students should also talk to their families, friends, grandparents, co-workers — you don’t even have to share your political ideologies.

All you have to do is share with them your experience in public education — you can tell them that its quality has declined, because that’s the truth. As much as people may hear it from news outlets, they may feel differently after hearing it from you.

Summer is our time off, and students don’t have to be constantly watching CNN. But this year has shown that, when we talk about it — or yell about it, rather — lawmakers do hear us. Governor Schwarzenegger increased funding for higher education in next year’s proposed budget, even though the state is still in the red, and he cited March 4 student protests as a reason for his decision. That might not be enough, but it’s not nothing. So keep talking about it. We can’t let ‘em off the hook yet.