Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Can Make a Difference: UCLA Fights Back!

As we come to the end of this academic year, it is important to look back at some of the accomplishments of the student-faculty-union movement in the UC system. Since I am most familiar with the UCLA situation, I want to highlight some of our recent success, and what we might want to do in the future.

First of all, it is clear that our protests have had a profound effect not only in California but around the world. According to the governor’s chief of staff, it was the protests at UCLA during the November regents meeting that persuaded him to increase the funding for higher education. These protests were covered all over the globe, and many students have written to us saying that our actions helped to motivate them to get involved in fighting their own systems.

One of the targets of the UCLA actions was to reverse the layoffs of 67 continuing appointment lecturers at the College of Arts and Sciences. After several protests, union grievances, and private negotiations, all of these lecturers have been rehired. This means that many classes will not be cancelled next year, and students will be able to get the courses they need to graduate in a timely fashion.

Another important victory is that our coalition of students, faculty, and unions helped to put together a slate of graduate students to run for student government, and all of our candidates won. The new Public Education Party (PEP) will be a strong advocate for access, affordability, and quality at UCLA. In fact, the new GSA president has been an active participant in our protests, and he has used his legal expertise to make sure that students were protected during our actions.

While our protests did not result in stopping the fee increases, we are confident that we can build on our other successes to push for a freezing of fee increases next year. We also intend to keep the pressure on the university to increase student diversity and to provide funding for undocumented students.

In order to help shape our agenda for next year, we held an open Alternative Commission on the Future of the University at UCLA. One of the results of this meeting was to formulate a new vision for a more democratic university. We plan to continue to work on our vision and present it to the public. So far, we have concentrated on asking students if they endorse the Commission’s recommendations to move classes online and to create three-year degrees. We have also surveyed students to see what they think about multi-year fee increases, accepting more out-of-state students, differential fees, and eliminating majors. We hope to continue these research efforts and report our findings in the future.

Perhaps the biggest lesson of the year is that people can make a difference, and it is important to fight for the system you want. Please join us this week at the regents meeting in San Francisco as we make our voices heard again.


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