By: Emily Ma
Kevin Martinez, a twenty-two year old former student of UC Riverside has withdrawn from the UC system as of the 2009 school year. Due to the budget cuts he was no longer able to afford to attend UCR. Had he not withdrawn from UC Riverside, he would be completing his studies as a fifth-year cultural studies and film major. He is actively involved in ISSE, a socialist publication and group, which was present at the UC Irvine budget protests on September 24, 2009.
Q: When and how did you first hear about the UC Budget cuts?
A: I guess I first heard about it, the earliest, 2007. That was through a friend of mine who was working on an article about it. I didn’t realize the implications of the budget cut until I read what he wrote. When Schwarzenegger signed off on the budget compromising the cuts for hospitals so forth, it really started to strike me.
Q: How did you think this came about?
A: The California budget crisis was kinda decades in the making. You could say it’s been kind of emerging since the late 70s, but it’s been put off and put off until the deficit grew into a huge debt.
Q: Why was it that you withdrew? Did UCR take away any grants or financial aid?
A: I just couldn’t afford tuition this semester.
Q: What thoughts went through your mind when you realized you wouldn’t be able to attend school?
A: It was kinda depressing… I kinda look at school differently. Most people I know coast through college and they just wanna get through and look good on paper. I thought of college as a place where you had a free expression of ideas, where you could nourish your brain with as much knowledge as possible. I knew that I would be missing out a lot on that and it was just a bummer. I think the overall crisis made me appreciate teachers so much more. But it also made me think kinda how the situation is for working class kids and people across the country. Education is basically becoming segregated between those who can afford school and those who can’t. Not even that but most students work or have some form of financial aid. It was discouraging at first, but in the grander picture I was just another person.
Q: How did your family react or cope with your withdrawal from school?
A: I asked my family for tuition money, but they just couldn’t afford it this time. They are somewhat disappointed that I didn’t have everything in order before I asked, and now expect me to do a lot better in the future.
Q: Were you already working a job while you were enrolled in school to pay for your tuition?
A: I worked part-time at my school’s cafeteria, but that just paid for rent and gas.
Q: Did you receive Cal grants, or other forms of financial aid, not including loans?
A: No, I wasn’t “poor” (air-quotes) enough to qualify.
Q: How have plans changed for you since you withdrew from school?
A: I’m just working more. I work as an insurance sales man. It’s a lot of boring work, it’s not really fun. I’m thinking of going to another cheaper school.
Q: Oh, which school were you planning on attending?
A: Probably a state college.
Q: When do you plan to go back to school?
A: Next semester.
Q: How do you plan to pay for school when you decide to re-enroll?
A: My dad says if I work for him at his insurance office for free, then he will pay for 2 semesters of school. I also need to find a job once enrolled.
Q: How were you struggling to pay tuition, and how much were you struggling?
A: My mom had to take out another credit card just to pay for the tuition, which may not sound like a big deal but it’s just piling on more debt than we need. Loans are something I want to do as a last option, but the way things are I really don’t have a choice. I want to keep going to school, but I don’t want to take any more loans and sink into debt.
Q: How much have you personally taken out in loans so far?
A: About two grand.
Q: What alternatives do you think UC system could have taken?
A: Yeah um, for starters there shouldn’t be a single cut to education or for that matter any other social services in the state. Multi-national banks started the crisis on Wall Street and they’re making working class people pay for it. Look into it— just research how much the UC program from Irvine is. These people are literally millionaires. The alternative is socialism, not bleeding the schools dry on behalf of the banks.
Q: What brought you out or what motivated you to come to the UC budget protest?
A: I heard about the UC budget protest from the internet, and thought about going to the one at UCR, but UCI was closer and some comrades of mine live close to the school so it was more convenient from an organizational standpoint.
Q: Why not UCR if you are a student there?
A: I am a student at UCR, but I didn’t want to cover that event by myself.
Q: How did you hear about ISSE, and how did you get involved?
A: Well the ISSE is the youth socialist equality party. They publish Internet publications. They are very consistent and they are published daily. Check out the website, it’s great. Not just political, but science and art. There comes a point where you have to shut off the apathy and make a choice. You can call yourself a socialist but that doesn’t really mean anything unless you put your money where your mouth is and do something about it. I realized that the working class needs its own party, and it needs to be based on socialism.