Lauren Rabaino

The California State Legislature and the California State University system have let us down.

Since 2000, our student fees have doubled. What that means for those of you who are on the eight-year plan is that you are paying for three college educations with little to no help from Uncle Sam.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a student asking me what it would take for Cal Poly to become part of the University of California system. I spent some time thinking about that and even asked some of the administrators. The answer comes down to a few different things, mainly internal structure and teaching vs. research perspectives, not to mention the fact that UC students pay twice as much as we do to attain an undergraduate degree.

In case you were wondering, the infant stages of the CSU began in the late 1800s at what is now San Jose State University. Nearly 150 years later, 23 campuses and 450,000 students make up today’s California State University system.

To me, the greatest thing about the CSU system is its fundamental belief in providing and promoting access to education for all Californians. But somewhere along the road we lost that ideal to the struggles of the working class and the misinterpretations of financial needs within the state. How is it that we have accepted the fact that the prison system is better funded than the education system?

The issue we are facing is that lack of financial support from the state, and in today’s economy, the trustees are more worried about their holiday trip to Bermuda than re-evaluating line items in the state budget. Not to mention the fact that only 9 percent of Californians see education as a top priority for the state, according to a recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California. Is anyone else worried about getting a job after graduation?

A couple of weeks ago I drove down to Long Beach to meet with the chancellor and my fellow ASI presidents regarding student-led statewide initiatives, organizations and budget issues. During my interactions with Chancellor Charles Reed and a few of the trustees, one thing was made clear: The chancellor’s office blames “it” on the tax payers.

On Nov. 18 a few hundred CSU students and faculty members paid Charlie Reed a visit, shouting, “They say cutbacks, we say fight back!” Is anyone listening? Or did Reed forget to mention the fact that he handed $31 million back to the governor? In case you think that dollar amount isn’t that detrimental in the whole scheme of things, $31 million is half of CSU Monterey Bay’s annual budget and 75 percent of CSU Channel Island’s annual budget. Yikes! Is it possible to make student access to the CSU system more difficult? I bet I can name a few people who are going to try.

Where did we go wrong? Why do we allow state financial struggles to burden the backs of students instead of applying pressure on the state legislature?

The point is that the CSU needs to become more aggressive. We need to stand up to the governor and the state.

The California Faculty Association has developed a new campaign following their “CSU is the Solution” efforts called “Cuts Have Consequences!” Ask any new faculty member about her starting pay rate and she’ll tell you that it’s in the $55,000 range. Factor in the debt that these new Ph.D.s have accumulated, and it’s back to Top Ramen and quarter laundry for them.

It’s time for the students to take a stand and fight along side faculty. Check out the Web site for more information on how we as students can take back the CSU – not only for ourselves but for those who strive to follow in our footsteps.

Angela Kramer is Cal Poly’s Associated Students Inc. president and a political science senior.

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