Delayed fee votes prove student activism matters

This past week has been a bit of a roller coaster when it comes to the CSU’s budget.

Students scored a monumental victory with the passage of Proposition 30, as California voters decided to raise their own taxes to try and salvage our financially beleaguered system. Fresh off the heels of that success, the CSU Board of Trustees was poised to vote on a series of new fee increases meant to give students who were taking too long to graduate incentive to finish school. In the end, the board decided to delay their vote amid mounting pressure from student groups.

So what can we learn from this topsy-turvy week in the CSU system? The main takeaway for us at Xpress is that, despite how it feels sometimes, student voices and actions actually can make a difference.

The proposed fee hikes would have raised costs for students with more than 150 units, those with more than 18 units per semester and those who needed to repeat courses. The fees were misguided and delaying the vote was the right move. While they were meant to encourage students to complete their degrees within the normal four-year span of a college education, they were effectively financial punishments for students who weren’t able to get the classes they needed.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom chalked the decision up to the board’s commitment to student access.

“(The) CSU Board of Trustees are sending a strong message to students and their families that we are serious about protecting access for all,” he said in a statement.

But the delay may have been less about the philanthropic tendencies of the board and more about the actions of California students.

Students for Quality Education, an advocacy group for student rights in public higher education, took a survey of nearly 2,400 CSU students who overwhelmingly decried the fees as the wrong move, saying that additional fees would have made it more difficult to graduate. Nearly 70 percent of respondents to the survey said they have had to delay graduation because they couldn’t get the classes they needed. Charging students more because the classes they need aren’t available strikes us as a ridiculous attempt to solve the problem of overcrowding, and we applaud the board for not moving forward with such a poorly thought out plan.

The board didn’t specify why the vote was delayed, but the announcement came after SQE delivered the results of the survey to the board and made public their plans to hold demonstrations at the meeting, which was scheduled for the morning of Nov. 13.

While it feels good to actually see some tangible results from the actions of student groups, now is no time to relish in our recent victories. The passage of Prop. 30 was a great success for students, but even though it prevented any further cuts, it did nothing to restore the nearly $1 billion that’s been cut from higher education over the last five years.

The delay of the vote is also a win for students, but is only a delay. The board still plans to vote on the fee hikes some time in the future.

If anything, these recent victories should bolster the resolve of students. They should serve as examples to those who would sit idly by while decisions are made that affect our University. They should tell us that if we speak loud enough, our voices will be heard.

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  • A private watchdog organization is needed to oversee the disbursement of Prop 30 funds to ensure that all of the funds are spent on education, and does not go to Wall Street, does not go into the pockets of the Regents and does not go into the general fund, and from there to who knows where. The Governor of California cannot be trusted with Prop 30 funds, because his sister works for Goldman Sachs and Brown is on the Board of Regents for the University of California. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs appear to be the major “vampire quids” in the swaps scam.