In an address to the California Chamber of Commerce on May 23, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested that California’s public universities should be more like Chipotle.
“What I like about Chipotle is the limited menu. You stand in the line, get either brown rice or white rice, black beans or pinto beans,” he said. “You put a little cheese, a little this, a little that, and you’re out of there. I think that’s a model some of our universities need to follow.”
Brown’s comparisons do hold some weight. For example, much like Chipotle, at the UC, guac is extra. For the second year running, due to years of insufficient state investment, the UC Regents proposed a tuition increase.
Brown admitted that his argument was neither politically correct, nor intellectually correct. Though we as students are discouraged from making intellectually incorrect arguments, Brown’s comparisons do hold some weight.
For example, much like Chipotle, at the UC, guac is extra. For the second year running, due to years of insufficient state investment, the UC Regents proposed a tuition increase. This year has broken precedent, as student lobbyists like us persuaded them to delay the proposed increase and advocate for more money from the state.
Much like Chipotle, the UC has a problem with the way it treats workers. Chipotle, whose many locations are often in cities with high costs of living, has drawn criticism for its menial wages and is fending off a massive class action alleging wage theft. Strikes from UC workers have shaken the system in the aftermath of a report indicating racial and gender wage gaps in the UC.
And much like Chipotle, the UC makes its customers sick. Alright, that’s probably unfair to both parties, but there have been those E. coli scares at Chipotle, and recent data has shown alarming trends in student wellness across our campuses. Thousands of UC students face severe crises in food insecurity, housing insecurity, and mental health.
Resolving any of these problems, however, requires resources. And Brown’s recipe for higher education is missing the most important ingredient: funding.
The California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960, signed by Gov. Pat Brown, established three pillars for the UC: affordability, accessibility, and quality. A year later, Pat’s son, Jerry, graduated from Berkeley with a degree in classics – when the UC was officially tuition-free.
The UC’s problem is not that it is dissimilar to Chipotle. It is that our principles of affordability, accessibility, and quality have been lost.
As the state continues to grow, so, too, do our campuses expand. However, state support has not kept pace with enrollment growth. It is irresponsible to increase enrollment without sufficiently increasing funding.
Restoring the Master Plan begins here, with the UC’s budget asks: additional funding to buy out the tuition increase, support enrollment growth, and address our crumbling infrastructure. The students of today and tomorrow are as deserving of a quality education as our lawmakers who benefited from California’s higher education system so many years ago.
A legislative conference committee is deciding on a budget, which the governor will have the choice to sign.
Governor Brown wants the UC to be more like Chipotle. We want him to put his money where his mouth is.
Rigel Robinson is the University Affairs chair for the UC Student Association and a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, where he studied political economy. Varsha Sarveshwar is a third-year UC Berkeley student studying political science. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.