Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spreading Political Consciousness

By Kimberly M. Ford

The following article includes interviews with current UC Irvine student Leandra Ordorica, UC Berkeley student Billy Buster, and graduate students at UC Irvine, Fernando Chirino and Annessa Stagner. Each of these students has been active in the cause to prevent the University of California budget cuts.

After the 15 % tuition increase, which will occur next year, many students and families will no longer be able to afford paying for a University education in California, let alone a private institution there. As a result many students, like Billy Buster and Leandra Oririca result to financial aid. Other students take an alternative route, and don’t enroll in school because they can’t afford it.  Fernando Chirino, who is a fourth year graduate student at UC Irvine states that “The more students have to pay for a public education, the more private that school becomes as it will both be based on tuition and need to cater toward securing contracts that bring in the most money.”

Annessa Stager, who is also a graduate student at Irvine thinks, “Students could be doing more to prevent the budget cuts from taking place.” Stagner is a leader of AGS Council at Irvine.

Regarding the budget cuts, Oririca says, “At first, I tried to fight it.” She passed out fliers to get students involved, joined facebook groups, such as “Defend UCI” and “Save SAAS,” and she spoke with Dean Sallinger, Vice Chancellor Gomez, and Chancellor Drake. Ordorica believes that students are beginning to “calm down” about the budget crisis. When Ordorica was asked if she attended the walkout on September 24th, she replied: “No. Why would I walk out if I am paying for school?” reveals that The University of California system admitted 19,373 transfer applicants to attend school during 2008-2009; however, only 14,059 actually enrolled within the UC system. This means that 5, 214 applicants, who were admitted into the system, chose to enroll elsewhere, didn’t attend school, or chose to attend community college. In conclusion, the population at UC schools is decreasing.

Chirino continues to promote the movement against the budget cuts. He has spent the past three years protesting as a member of the Worker Student Alliance.  Initially, their efforts focused on preventing cuts directed at service workers.  Currently, Chirino is one of the chief organizers working in the Defend UCI coalition: “Besides being one of the 2 MC’s during the September 24th walkout rally at the flagpole, I also helped draft flyers, make and post posters, contracted and confirmed speakers, and helped to organize the mini-rally and the evening panel at the Humanities.”  For the Zombie Protest, Chirino lead the picket, as well as assisted with protestors’ ghost-like make-up. Lastly, he drafted and helped plan the November 17th delivery of the Defend UCI petition, denouncing the budget cuts. The petition accumulated over 1,200 signatures.  

There is reason behind Chirino’s acts. He insists, “We, through our actions, are showing to our families and friends back home that they don’t have to take it. Our struggle is greater than the UC system, greater than public education. It is the struggle of the working class majority taking back from the opportunistic, capitalist minority what is rightfully ours-- power.” Chirino describes the student movement against budget cuts as “static.” He says, “It is unreasonable to think students would act before they fully understand the nature of the problem and feel its impacts. “ Chirino says that “Many of the families and friends of the UC workers and students live in these cities, meaning that the news of these budget cuts are being disseminated through these networks. As the political consciousness spreads so will the movement.”

There is a large sum of people who cannot attend UC schools due to the cost. The budget cuts are not only disabling many students from getting a good education, but they are also affecting the United States education as a whole. Billy Buster, a Community College transfer student now at UC Berkeley explains that students should do research on the matter rather than just accept the fees. He says, “Students should know how the UC budget cuts 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.”

 According to Chirino, over 1,000 people were physically present at the UCLA on November 17th, political consciousness is beginning to spread. However, will it spread fast enough to preserve the adequate and accessible education in which every individual is entitled to? 

1 comment:

  1. I think austerity policies are often used by governments to reduce their deficit spending while sometimes coupled with increases in taxes to pay back creditors to reduce debt