Soapbox

UC is on the brink of disaster for students

University of California students and supporters yell during a UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco in March.
University of California students and supporters yell during a UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco in March. The Associated Press

The political battle being waged between the state government and our university is warping the University of California and corroding its very mission. In times of hardship, speaking truth, even to power, is imperative.

As the incoming student regent of the university system, I am obligated to speak the truth, no matter how ugly. The Board of Regents struggles to oversee a fiscally starved institution in urgent need of state support.

To tackle the university’s ever-increasing financial problems, we need to assess the bigger picture. California funds its prisons at nine times the level it funds UC. According to the California Budget Project, the state is expected to spend more than $62,000 on each inmate in 2014-15, compared to $7,090 it will spend on each in-state student.

It falls on Gov. Jerry Brown to lead in these troubled times – to push back the tide of ever-growing investment in the prison system and reinvest in higher education.

Brown’s proposed solutions to UC’s funding shortfall do not properly address the needs of our institution and, as a consequence, the state of California as a whole. The governor would have UC enroll more students while simultaneously decreasing resources and shortchanging the educational process to get as many students out of the university as quickly as possible.

Those “remedial measures” – such as reducing time to degree to three years and increasing online courses – are reckless, with long-term consequences that have not been properly assessed. They will lower the quality of a UC education and run contrary to the spirit and mission of this world-class research university. It is time for Brown to demonstrate to students – his constituents – that he stands with us.

This university is not a factory or a corporation. It is first and foremost an institution of higher learning.

When speaking truth to power, I cannot neglect my fellow regents. They wield tremendous political power. I call upon them to put personal politics aside and act befitting their position. We need them to lead.

Excellent education, groundbreaking research and overall affordability are being placed at risk for political gain, campaign contributions and favorable polling numbers. I cannot in good conscience sit idly by while our university starves. My student peers are being forced to bear the brunt of financial pressure that the state can lift from their shoulders.

I am committed to speaking the truth as I see it, from my desk in the classroom to my chair in the boardroom. I cannot ignore the facts about the state’s fraught relationship with its university. These problems will not fail to exist simply because they are being ignored. As student regent, I will do everything in my capacity to hold our university accountable to my peers.

Avi Oved, a UCLA undergraduate, takes office as UC student regent on July 1.

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