by Kimberly M. Ford
I interviewed Billy Buster, a student activist who transferred to UC Berkeley this fall after spending two years at MiraCosta Community College.
Q1: What makes you an informed student who knows about the UC Budget Crisis?
A: At MiraCosta College, I was responsible for mobilizing the Associated Student Government. As president, I represented 17,000 students of MiraCosta College in Sacramento for a statewide campaign against the budget cuts for higher education in California. In addition, I represented the students on the Planning and Budgeting council, which is responsible for the allocation of the $105 million appropriation of district funds, which were in jeopardy due to the budget crisis.
Q2: What was this state-wide campaign that you participated in?
A: It was a state wide campaign that I participated in. Community Colleges are separated by regions, there are 10 regions that compose the 111 community colleges in California. As part of region X(10) I worked at the regional level to orchestrate letter signing campaigns to senators and congressman as well as trips to Sacramento to protest the cuts. I also made several trips to Sacramento to participate in conferences that debriefed student leaders on the severity of the budget crisis. These conferences normally followed with a trip to the Capitol building where we would attempt to influence congressmen and senators. Additionally, I brought a group of students to the March in March that occurred last year in Sacramento to protest the budget cuts. Thousands of students from around the state of California marched through the streets to the capitol building to protest the proposed education cuts.
Q3: Who supported you in your efforts to stop the budget cuts (students, professors, etc.)?
A: The entire student body, the Associated Student Government, teachers, administrators, and people who were knowledgeable about the situation were in support of our cause. Most people who have received and education understand the importance of protecting its affordability. Education allows people to determine outcomes in their life regardless of past experiences. The cuts that are proposed will shut the doors to many, and most people would support the disappearance of what should be a fundamental right.
Q4: What were some of your motives for being involved in preventing the budget cuts?
A.: Education should not be a privilege, it should be a right and everyone should be afforded the opportunity to take the paths that they choose in life. Realizing the severity of the current budget crisis, I knew that education would certainly come under fire and that is why I wanted to do whatever I could as ASG President to combat the cuts that we’re currently seeing.
Q5: As far as transferring goes, what were your plans for the future?
A: Ideally, I wanted to transfer to UC Berkeley. I knew the politically active campus was the right choice for me. Even though I had the option for several other prestigious schools, including Ivy League, I wanted UC Berkeley.
Q6: Why didn’t you choose the Ivy League schools if you knew the cost would be nearly the same?
A: I was contemplating going to a school in Ithaca, New York given that the connections of the college runs deep; however, a major factor for me is location and given my major there wasn’t a lot of schools in areas that I desired for my undergrad degree. Ithaca, New York is unbearably cold and the people there probably aren’t as liberal and laid back as the students of Berkeley and the people of the bay area. Cost was also definitely a factor, however I figured the cost of this education coupled with the experiences I would receive would be worth it.
Q7: Did you participate in the walkouts/ protests that took place on August 24th at UC's? If so, what did you do to participate? If not, why did you choose not to participate?
A: Yes, I participated in the walkouts at Berkeley. I walked out of my classes and protests in front of Sproul Hall and then marched in the streets and blocked off Telegraph.
Q8: Why didn’t you consider any school belonging to the California State University system if cost was an issue?
A: I could have gone to California State University of San Marcos and saved a decent amount of money living at home, but I needed the full college experience. College is more than just learning about Accounting, or English. It’s about learning about you, exploring opportunities, and having obscene amounts of fun. I don’t know if I would have been able to receive those experiences at CSUSM.
Q9: How do you think that the UC budget cuts are affecting your “college experience” ?
A: I would say the noticeable affects are seen in the services provided to the students. Instead of offices being opened until 5, they’re now closed at 3:30, and additionally they’re closed on Saturdays. Those services and support that we students were once used to receiving are affecting our overall performance. However, in terms of experience and location, I think I like Berkeley.
Q10: What will bring you back to Berkeley until you receive your degree?
A: I am no quitter. Yes, I may have to take loans out, but I will not give up. Given the cost in mind, I think the price of admission is still well worth it for the payoff. The quality of experience, broadening your intellectual and academic horizons, and the possibility to land a good job makes the overall costs well worth it in my eyes. I just wish that everyone has the opportunity to gain these same experiences.
Q11: What scares you the most about the Budget Crisis?
A: These furloughs are garbage. What self-respecting teacher is going to take days off because the government won’t pay them for that day? What worries me is that top talent at public universities are new going to go to private schools in order to receive fair compensation. Keep in mind that all salaries are public for the UC, CSU and Community College System. Guess who get’s paid the most? That’s right. The athletics’ director for football.
Q12: What should fellow students do about the budget cuts?
A: The students should research on the matter. Regardless of if they are going to protest, write, burn trashcans, or do the famous UC Walkout that happened on September 24th, students should know how this will affect them and the future. The ability for your children, your sisters, your brothers, and your friends to receive financially obtainable education is on the line. If you believe that education is important, then you need to educate yourself on our current budget crisis. Because if these cuts are finalized and continue to get larger, you can guarantee that the quality of the system will fall. And if you are selfish, and you don’t care about others, then think about how it will affect you.