Tuesday, November 24, 2009

UCLA Bruin Feminists Join Hundreds to Protest UC Fee Hikes

Guest Post by Cindy Le, Executive Board Member of the FMF-affiliate group, the UCLA Bruin Feminists for Equality:

Last week, UCLA experienced a flurry of activity in the form of student protests. The events included two days of marching and chanting, the occupation of Campbell Hall, festivities of Crisis Fest and a tent city welcoming students from UCs all over the state, as well as a takeover of one of Los Angeles’ busiest intersections – Wilshire and Westwood. These events – some planned, and some unplanned – were in the combined effort of getting students informed about the University of California Regents meeting in which a 32% fee increase would be decided on, and how that would affect UC students.

Hundreds of students came together on Wednesday morning to join in the peaceful protest that took place in Covel Commons. Among those students were members of the Bruin Feminists for Equality, an FMF-affiliate group. We joined in with the group by holding protest signs, marching around the Commons, and chanting phrases such as “No Hikes! No Fees! Education should be Free!” Check out the video - Bruin Feminists on CNN!

Many people wonder what the effect of this fee increase will be on the student population. In general, there is expected to be a drop in attendance, because fewer students will be able to financially cope with the fee increases.

As Bruin Feminists, the ideals of our student organization are to fight for equality for all in every aspect. Though the term ‘feminism’ is associated with gender equality between men and women, feminism - and Bruin Feminism especially, is the struggle for equality on all levels – including gender, race, sexual orientation, class, socioeconomic status, and the right to education.

This is the first mid-year increase in fees that students of the University of California have faced, and rightly so, the students are angry. The source of our anger comes from the contradiction of these fee increases to the idea of a public university and education as a means of upward mobility.

The raise of UC fees is coupled with many losses to educational services. At UCLA, we have seen cuts in library hours, writing requirements, English composition tutors, faculty and staff furloughs, as well as rumored plans to decrease degree requirements, cut foreign languages and consolidate ethnic studies.

On a larger scale, these fee increases are privatizing the university. Only those who are financially able to afford college will be able to attend. Though the Regents deemed the fee increase necessary and presented it as the only alternative to the lowered financial support of the state budget to the UC, this 32% fee hike affects not only lower-income students whose families are struggling to make ends meet, but also concerns students who do not qualify for financial aid and students who are considered middle-class – well enough off on paper to afford college without financial aid, but realistically without the means to.

Ethnic minority students are straining to continue on as well. A great number of minority students are first-generation college students. Already facing a unique set of difficulties to succeed in college, the financial burden is sometimes the deciding factor in the continuation of one’s education. The majority of the members in Bruin Feminists for Equality are first-generation and/or minority students.

The participation of Bruin Feminists in the protests was to show our unity as students. Furthermore, our continued participation is in opposition to discrimination for any reason. Students should not be funneled out of the college system due to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or lack of financial ability. It is important to voice our opposition to the fee increases - education is a right, not a privilege!

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