By: Kaylen Goodman
Emma Heaney is a current graduate student in the Humanities department at the University of California, Irvine. However, her studies are not her only focus as she also holds a position as a teaching assistant of poetry (English28A). Although Heaney holds public education in high regard, she chose to attend a private institute—Smith College in Massachussetts—for her undergrad education.
I met with Emma on October 5 to discuss her issues with the budget cut, concerns, and overall emotional health during this fiscal crisis. Convicted and informed, Heaney allowed me some great insight:
Goodman: How have the budget cuts affected your position and studies at UCI?
Heaney: My concern is the future of the UC system. Although I could get a job at a different institution, I would like to stay in the UC. The budget cuts affect employment and faculty positions are being compromised. While my fees have not increased tremendously, the future of incoming graduate students is concerning, these increased fees will ultimately decide if they can attend a UC or not.
Goodman: Are you a member of a union?
Heaney: Yes, all graduate students are part of the UAW—The United Autoworkers.
Goodman: What has your union done for progress/change? What is your role in UAW?
Heaney: The purpose of being a union member is to represent the union. My membership represents what we stand for as a group—a union that wants to voice our struggles as students as well as TA’s. The UAW’s were at the flagpole on September 24th, including myself.
Goodman: Do you feel the UC system is failing as a public educational institution?
Heaney: I believe the administrative leadership is failing. We are all the UC, students, faculty, administration, but the issue is that one part of the university (the ‘leaders) are not listening to the faculty/students.
Goodman: Would you say the state is at fault for the large funding gap in UC education?
Heaney: It’s impossible to separate the two. The governor appointed President Yudof so that automatically intertwines the state and the UC system. There are two major components of this fiscal crisis: Proposition 13, and the failure of legislatures to speak up and propose higher taxes. The capping of property taxes means a huge amount of capital that the state is not receiving. Proposing increased taxes also poses an issue because the state needs a huge majority in order to increase the taxes, but Republicans are the minority and not proportional to the vote. So the state does hold some responsibility, California could repeal Prop 13.
Goodman: How do you feel about President Yudof?
Heaney: I’m not interested in vilifying, but I do think Yudof is bad at his job. My idea of an effective president is one who is an advocate for students, and takes on the responsibility to exert political pressure when the UC system is struggling. Yudof is not listening to the proposed solutions of the people who are actually involved in the UC system (the faculty and students). I think Yudof is ignorant to the fact that the increase in fees can seriously affect a student’s life and attendance. Yudof was even quoted on the fee hikes as being “not great, but not a big deal.” I think Yudof betrays his position as president, he has created feelings of antagonism between students, faculty, and administration. He needs to start being part of the solution or there is going to be more pressure from the faculty and student..
At the conclusion of our interview I chicken-scratched my final notes and took a last glance into Heaney’s eyes. I was taken aback. These eyes held progress, conviction, compassion, and a desire for change. While Heaney will graduate from UCI relatively unscathed from the budget crisis, her concerns lie in the future of the UC system and public education entirely. Emma’s activism and desire to inform embody her selfless character; she is a vital component to the student and worker movement in the UC.