The UC Regents want to hike tuition again. At their upcoming meeting, they are planning to vote on a new policy that, if ratified, would make 5% annual tuition increases the default for the next five years. According to Napolitano, the tuition hikes (as much as $3,400 over five years) would go forward unless the state government increases UC's budget by amounts to be named later.
The Regents are trying to preempt what was supposed to be a four-year tuition freeze (spanning 2012/13 through 2015/16). They are threatening to end what has been a brief span without tuition increases and to again make annual tuition hikes the new normal.
The Regents' strategy is fairly evident. In announcing the new tuition policy only two weeks before their meeting, they are hoping to establish the policy before mass student and worker opposition can materialize. And in making the decision to hike tuition contingent upon state inaction, they are trying to redirect students' focus to Sacramento, and to create some ambiguity about when a tuition hike ultimately would happen, so as to prevent students from establishing a clear calendar of protest.
More broadly, the Regents are trying to set themselves up for a win-win situation. Either students, workers, and our allies, through our collective actions and power, will be able to compel the state to increase UC's budget and to stave off hikes; or we won't, and the Regents will get their money anyway in the form of higher undergrad tuitions.
We know from recent experience what higher tuitions would mean:
More debt, which falls especially heavily on women and people of color.
Fewer working class students and students of color enrolling at the UCs.
More students exhausted from second, third, and fourth jobs.
Fewer low-income students finishing college.
A ripple effect throughout the higher education system, pushing more working class students and students of color into fraudulent for-profit colleges.
These are the stakes. This is why it is critical that each of us does what we can to prevent these tuition hikes from happening. And while the Regents are trying to surprise and disorient us, their plans to hike tuition will not succeed if students, workers, and our allies take sufficiently powerful collective actions in the coming weeks and months. We have the necessary capacities, political experience, and social bonds. We just have to use them.
It starts with us showing up at the Regents' meeting in San Francisco on November 19th and 20th and calling against tuition hikes. Regardless of what happens at the meeting, and whether we are able to prevent the Regents from voting, a strong turnout, combined with actions and mass education on the campuses, will set the tone for the coming months and will give us confidence.
A potential tuition hike is something that all students deserve to know about. Graduate student instructors and professors have a responsibility to discuss the potential hike in our classes, to give students time to talk together about how they would be affected by tuition hikes, to assure students that their participation in any actions will be seen favorably, and to provide students with relevant information and resources, including potentially the UC Student Association's petition against fee hikes or some of the documents linked above. Students, for their part, can organize teach-ins in dorms, co-ops, and meetings, and can ask professors to make time for announcements about upcoming political actions at the beginning of classes.
This kind of mass education is critically important. But it isn't enough. Only by acting collectively to interrupt business as usual on our campuses and throughout the state will we have the power to block tuition hikes. In taking collective action, students and workers can draw from past experiences. We might plan mass assemblies for the days surrounding the Regents' vote, as well as cascading building take-overs in the days after. We might take the opportunity at these assemblies to call for a student strike against tuition hikes for the winter quarter / spring semester.
UCSA has already taken a strong position demanding tuition rollbacks; will they endorse and help build for the kinds of collective actions that will be required to realize this demand? Will our unions, co-ops, dorms, cultural organizations, student government parties, and other groups rise to the challenge to stop another round of proposed tuition hikes? It is up to each of us to push our organizations beyond where they've gone in the past, and to build bonds of struggle that are broad, powerful, and enduring enough to win.
Here are some of the immediate next steps at Berkeley:
-- Tuesday the 18th, mass rally and forum to challenge the fee hikes: 12:30 on Sproul.
-- Wednesday the 19th, students and workers from all the UCs are going to UCSF to protest at the Regents meeting. We're encouraging people to go early in the morning, so that we can set up picket lines and potentially delay or cancel the meeting. You can sign up for space on a bus here.
-- Also on Wednesday the 19th, there will be a general assembly / update / planning next steps meeting at 5pm on Sproul.
See you at the Regents' meeting.