Sunday, November 16, 2014

Email to my students about fee hikes

Dear Students,

We will not be meeting for section at noon this week. Instead you all should go to the anti-fee hikes rally on the quad at the same time. You will write up a brief reflection (2 paragraphs, less than 1 page) on the event to be passed in to me at our next section meeting, it will count as your grade for this week. This is a class on social problems, and we have been talking quite a bit about understanding how personal troubles relate to a larger social structure. Your reflection should introduce a social problem presented at this event (there will likely be more discussed than just fee hikes) and discuss how it connects to the way in which society is organized.

(Facebook page for the event:

I cannot in good conscience as your teacher and as a fellow student hold section this week at the same time the anti-fee hikes rally is happening. Many of you may already be planning on attending and I don’t think a student should have to choose between fighting for accessible public education and getting an education. I don’t know any of you personally or your background or life story, but I have to consider that there may be some among you whose continued enrollment in the university is already tenuous due to the already high cost of a UC education, and the proposed fee hikes may be causing you stress as you may not be sure if you will be able to afford to finish your education, or if you will even be able to afford to be here next year. It is not good pedagogical practice on my part to not only ignore the possibility that you or one of your peers may find themselves unable to focus on their studies if they feel that it doesn’t matter anyway because they will not be able to afford to complete their degree, but to put up an obstacle by penalizing you for not coming to class because you chose to go to the rally. I also think that as a teacher at this university it is my obligation to be there to support you all, and to fight for accessible public education. I am also a parent and I hope that one day when my son grows up that he will be able to go to college, but that prospect is already looking dim. As it is right now, even though I am TAing the university doesn’t pay me enough for me and my kid to live in Davis so over 3 years of grad school I have had to take out $15,000 in loans just to pay rent-- and this is after being told when I was accepted to this program that I would be “fully funded”.

The Department of Education reports that public higher education tuition in California is the fastest rising in the country (US D. of E. report 6/12/12) and the cost of the UC has more than doubled since 2002 (Sacramento Bee, 1/24/2011). The cost of education has become so unbearable that students rely on huge loans to afford school, making student loan debt exceed credit card debt, now over a trillion dollars (Bloomberg, 3/22/12).

I encourage you all to read up on the particulars of the situation and discover where your tuition dollars are going. I have included some resources that I think provide a more nuanced understanding of the situation than the overly-simple and deceptive narrative of “we need to increase tuition because state funding has decreased”.

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