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Alternative Commission on the Future Weighs Different Options for UC’s Budget Plan


May 6, 2010 at 1:34 a.m.


Concerned about the quality of education and accountability of the UC Board of Regents, the Alternative Commission on the Future held a conference on campus Tuesday to brainstorm student and faculty proposals to counter those recently released by the University of California Commission on the Future.

A collection of five working groups that focus on issues such as the size of the UC system, funding, affordability and curriculum, the UC Commission on the Future is tasked with finding the best solutions for serving California during diminishing state resources.

Among the central proposals by the UC Commission on the Future in its March recommendation were increasing the number of undergraduate students who obtain three-year degrees, supplanting current enrollment with greater numbers of out-of-state students, setting fee schedules, and increasing the number of online courses.

The Alternative Commission on the Future is currently refuting these proposals.

“I think we all want to defend the quality of education and to provide access and affordability,” said Robert Samuels, president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers.

The conference began with an introduction by Samuels on the importance of maintaining the momentum of action and activism that began with the October and November fee protests.

The first hour of the meeting then featured a review of the UC commission’s proposals and speeches representing every group found on the UC campuses: undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, lecturers and union members.

The second hour was an open discussion between the roughly 40 attendants aimed at formulating the core goals of the proposal they will send to the UC Board of Regents, the UC Office of the President and the media.

“The purpose of tonight was to create a forum for discussion to see what we think are the best proposals that we can push for and rally around,” said third-year history student Holly Craig-Wehrle.

Craig-Wehrle, who spoke on behalf of undergraduate students, discussed an ongoing study that involved undergraduate students grading the proposals of the UC Commission on the Future.

Although she admitted to a relatively small pool of respondents, her study demonstrated that students were most critical of fee schedules and the elimination of majors and programs.

While results were more normalized for the institution of three-year degrees and online courses, Craig-Wehrle found that all students were generally uninformed about the UC commission or its proposals.

“We can rally around these top concerns,” Craig-Wehrle said. “Or we can distribute information on other proposals in order to gain more support.”

Among other speakers was University Professional and Technical Employees board member Rita Kern, who spoke of the inadequate staffing and safety hazards resulting from the budget cuts – hazards that led to the death of staff employee Sheri Sangji after she was burned by pyrophoric chemicals last year.

Newly elected Graduate Students Association officials Lincoln Ellis, Cheye-Ann Corona and Luis Limon also spoke, representing the new levels of involvement and activism created by the establishment of their Public Education Party slate.

The discussion allowed all attendees to suggest where they think the UC system should head. Among the key suggestions were the democratization of the Board of Regents to include more student and faculty voters and the establishment of a literacy campaign to inform members of the UC community as well as Californians about the debate over the future of the UC system.

“We need to try and get this administration back down to what it was in the 80s, and that was already getting bad,” said comparative literature Professor Katherine King. “We need to sell this to the people of California because we can’t do anything without them.”

For Rick Tuttle, part-time professor of public policy and former Los Angeles city controller, the solution comes down to four central points, beginning with a shift of fundraising from extraneous purposes such as the renovation of Pauley Pavilion to more critical issues such as student and faculty support.

“The state will lose something if we, as a great public university, begin to price ourselves out of the market for (low- and middle-income families),” Tuttle said.

Tuttle’s other proposals include scaling back the Office of the President – which many attendees said they feel has become bloated – rolling back the office’s growth rate to match that of other UC departments, increasing out-of-state enrollment across the UC system without decreasing in-state enrollment, and working with the legislature to study the potential for fee rollback in case the economy rebounds.

Unable to come to a conclusive list of proposals, the Alternative commission decided to continue its ongoing conversation through online discussions, attend the regents meeting on May 18 and plan another conference for May 25.

“I think we started a conversation and got a lot of different voices heard,” Samuels said. “The next step is to put together a list of proposals and perhaps present them at graduation.”