Jennifer Lerner, response to Rubin Navarrette, Jr. “Life’s tough, UC students, get used to it.” SF Chronicle, Nov. 26, 2009

Mr. Navarrette-

I am not going to lie, when I read your article, I was appalled. I thought, you obviously do not get it. You do not get our generation, nor do you get our fight or struggle.

Let me start out by introducing myself. My name is Jenn Lerner, and I am a 4th year at Cal. Almost all of my friends have at least one job to pay for their schooling, some have two. In fact, the majority of people here are working. Some of the working students are doing unpaid internships – while taking a full load – so they can get a better shot at getting a good job, should they be so fortunate enough to graduate from here. Many are also doing volunteer and community service work because they believe in helping to make the world a better place, even if that means sacrificing monetary compensation. Acting as if you are the expert on our generation because you talked to a couple of HR friends is ridiculous. We are not lazy, nor apathetic. We work because, well, even without these fee increases, school is expensive. Many don’t qualify for state grants, yet attending Cal puts a huge dent in our family’s, and our, income.

So, Mr. Navarette, saying that my generation does not work is not only insulting, it’s just straight up wrong.

It is also important to note that when you went to school, tuition was a lot cheaper. For example, just a mere ten years ago, tuition at the UCs was less than $5000; it will now soon be double that.

Not only that, but just focusing on the tuition hikes is not looking at this problem holistically. One of the main problems that I have with journalists reporting on the UC and CSU protests is that they say we are principally protesting the tuition increases, which oversimplifies and hides the totality of the reasons we are fighting.

Tuition hikes are only the tip of the iceberg. We are fighting for the principle of things. We are fighting for the fact that the UC President Yudof and the Regents have unilaterally decided how to re-allocate our money. Yes, we have a problem with Sacramento and its systemic underfunding of our jewel of public education, but they are not the only ones contributing to our “crisis”. Receiving less money from the state does not justify letting the most vulnerable suffer. Yes, Yudof claims that families under $70,000 will receive financial aid, but what about to the rest that do not qualify on paper? And who’s to say that this “Blue & Gold Plan” that we have will continue to exist in the future, even as tuition continues to rise? Nor does systemic underfunding justify laying off dozens of workers, and implementing a 10% cut to those that remain, slashing even more of their already poverty wages. Nor does it justify giving GSIs less pay while making them take on more students. Nor does it justify drastically cutting classes, including ones that are required – yes, REQUIRED – to graduate. Nor does it justify not being able to offer Spanish 1 next semester. We are the #1 public university in the nation and we can’t even offer Spanish 1?? What is this world coming to?!?

We fight in part because we want a say in how the budget is being reorganized, yet the budget remains hidden. If the budget is released and we collectively determine that the way these officials organized the budget was the best way to do so, then fine. But they have not even given us that opportunity.

Yudof, the Regents, and others tell us to go to Sacramento, but their actions demand otherwise. How can we fix the problem from the state when we can’t even accomplish internal reform? What good will a little bit more money from Sacramento do if They continue to re-allocate the money unfairly??

We have our sights set on Sacramento, but our battle starts right here. We are not just fighting for ourselves, we are fighting for OUR (including your) kids, our grandkids, and the generations to come. We are not just fighting against tuition increases, we are fighting for fairness, transparency, accessibility, and equality.

You call us spoiled, I call us fighting for justice. Jenn

Jennifer Lerner

University of California, Berkeley B.A. American Studies ’10


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