At approximately 11:30 A.M. today, UC Davis broke out in protest. Marchers gathered on the school's Quad, fire alarms in Wellman (one of the school's largest classroom buildings) were pulled, and news cameras affixed themselves indefinitely to the scene. Protesters rallied against student fee increases as well as the homophobic and racially charged vandalism at the other UC campuses. As a UC student, I am frustrated by the budget cuts and 32% student fee increase -- an increase that amounts to about $2,500 for full time students, and thankful to be graduating as soon as possible. At a time when many students and families can hardly maintain their jobs, the 32% student fee increase was a crushing blow to already suffering students.
There is no excuse for making public education less attainable for the students of California. Once upon a time, the University of California truly was a public institution and offered free education. Now, education is a luxury, available only to the upper middle class. Sure, there are student loans, but what good is it to loan already low-income students mass quantities of money? Trapping college graduate in debt for the rest of their adult lives is no solution for providing affordable education.
All that being said, I can't help but wonder whether or not the protests are constructive. What are the protesters accomplishing by pulling fire alarms in lecture halls? Pulling fire alarms or pounding on the walls of classrooms is not a constructive approach to solving the problem. Everyone has the right to protest, but at some point protesters disrupt other students' right to learn. It is unfair to both the teachers and the students of those classrooms who are trying to teach and learn. Education is pricey enough already, and by interrupting fellow students' classes, protesters are only helping those students lose money. In a condensed system like UC, students and teachers already only have ten weeks for classes. To steal already precious classroom time is more of a hindrance than a help to our State's already suffering education system.
Protesting is and has been a powerful means of fighting for what you believe in. Who knows where we would be without the brave efforts of the suffragettes or the civil rights movement. What UC needs is a protesting effort that is constructive, and that law makers will take seriously. A friend of mine told me that her mother took a furlough day at her job at UC Santa Cruz because cars are so frequently overturned during protests on campus.
Overturning the cars of innocent UC employees and disrupting classes surely will get state and probably nationwide attention. Incidences like these inaccurately portray the majority of UC student frustration. The majority of students are angered by the fee increases, and are probably scared by the vandalism. As a university system, we need to represent ourselves as a well thought out movement. We must protest without interrupting those who are still trying to learn. We must protest without overturning cars. Lawmakers will not take us seriously if this is the approach we take. Write to your congressional representatives. Write to Boxer and Feinstein. Write to Schwarzenegger. Don't underestimate the power of social media outlets. Protests against the Iranian election in summer 2009 were organized through Twitter. If thousands of students blogged and tweeted their frustrations on these outlets, and outlets like the Huffington Post, the response could be enormous. We should use our right to protest, but we should not lose sight of the bigger picture: our education.
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