Monday, November 9, 2009

On-line Community Reacts to Budget Cuts

by: Amber Losey

“Let us taxpayers be sure to spend a couple million dollars for Ethnic Studies lectures, Chicano, Islamic, Afro-centric, etc., and left wing social ‘justice’ gurus to remind our students how evil is America and Western Civ.” This is just one example of the comments being left on the Orange County Register website regarding the UCI budget cuts. This short article by Ben Young Landis, “Social science lecturers on UCI budget chop block” garnered fourteen responses by anonymous posters.

“Yawn. UCI slackers. Fees go up, such is life, welcome to the REAL WORLD. Not the South County trust fund mentality of television fame. Do something about it instead of protesting. Get a job. Don’t make excuses about there are no jobs, get a manual labor job, or is that too low brow for you UCI types? Heck I held 3 jobs at once at one point to get me through college. So want if it takes longer. It’s the mentality of the “I want it now” crowd that’s going to kill society’s future.” Eighteen comments in two days were recorded on an article, “UCI students to protest fee hikes,” by Gary Robbins.

Another article written by Gary Robbins on September 24 regarding the walkouts on the UCI campus, “Few UCI students join in fee protest” was met with fifty-seven, mostly anonymous, comments arguing about fees, facts and politics. “They are strivers, and they are an important group for the future of the state. The UC is over-funded only if you believe that we have invested too much money in that future and ought instead to watch as our children’s access to public universities dry up.” Not all comments being posted are attacks on the UC system, the state or local politics. However few they are, some community members have stepped up to defend UCI and its students.

Comments such as the ones above are common among the online communities on The Orange County Register’s website. Gary Robbins, science writer-editor and writer of the College Life blog on explains the terms of use, “The policy says: Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreement 1. Keep it civil and stay on topic. 2. No profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks. 3. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked.” The OC Weekly online has very similar terms listed at: Both policies are in place to protect the user as well as the newspaper. On the OC Weekly’s website, as well as The Orange County Register’s, writers are responsible for their own article’s comments. The Los Angeles Times recently moved their online section to a new platform and their commenting function has not been activated. Web editor, Martin Beck, explained that, “[the] current policy is to pre-screen all comments, with the goal of making sure they are free of profanity, obscenity, racism, personal attacks etc.” Continuing on the subject he added that seeing as how the LA Times is currently understaffed, this policy would be difficult to enforce at the moment.

Peruse through any local newspaper’s online section and you’ll find that people tend to comment on issues in bulk. Matt Coker of OC Weekly admits that a writer never knows what issues will be the ones that are commented on. “Sometimes you write things expecting it will hit a nerve and then sometimes you’ll write something totally innocuous and everyone will come out of woodworks and it will take on a life of its own.” Hot topic issues generally include immigration and health care, now that heat has turned to the UC budgets.

Dr. Elizabeth Losh, author of Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes and Writing Director of HCC at UCI, has a few recommendations for not only UC students but for community members as well. She suggests that prominent UC graduates or businesses that depend on UC students should be more vocal. The UCs are treating the issue as a series of press releases, which are not persuasive. “What is most persuasive is how people are recruited to particular political causes by other people that they know and that’s the power of online organizing. If you really figure out how to activate people's social networks then it would be possible to persuade large numbers of people.” If the UC system wants the public support they need to start using the media as a tool. Mark Yudof’s Twitter feed (Mark G. Yudof) is not being used effectively nor is any form of social media.

Overall, the community feels no need to support the UC system because they’re not being shown how important the system is. Students, graduates or businesses employing UC graduates need to step up and do their part to save the UC. Clearly the community doesn’t feel the system is doing the job.

Dr. Elizabeth Losh’s writing can be found on her blog.


  1. Excellent post, Amber. There was a time, some decades ago, when the UC system was recognized as the best university system in the country, with Berkeley being considered better than Harvard. That's been systematically dismantled ever since Reagan was governor. Until students do something about it, by getting involved, nothing is going to change.

  2. It does seem as though most UCI students are sitting around passively watching their fees go up (myself included). Any suggestions as to how social networking could be used to generate activism?