Hello, everyone. My name is S.M.R., and I’m a graduate student here at UCSC. I’m here representing our campus’ branch of the UAW, the TA union. I’m also a member of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, a reform caucus of our UAW local working to create a more democratically organized TA union.

We are all here today to defend public education. Education is a human right. A real democratic society, a society in which all truly have a voice and a chance to actually pursue happiness, cannot exist without an educated public. Without making possible universal access to higher education, a society cannot call itself truly democratic. The corporate interest-driven assault on public education happening in California, as well as across the country and the world, amounts to an attempt by the ruling classes to recreate a kind of feudalism in a corporate model. As we speak, Gov. Brown is pushing for an extra $1.4 billion in cuts to the UC, the Cal States, and the community colleges. The budget cuts handed down already by the UC Administration and the state have resulted in 40,000 fewer students being admitted to the Cal States, and 250,000 fewer being admitted to the community colleges. The community colleges, which are quickly becoming the last possibility for higher education for people from the working class and many students of color, will lose in the vicinity of 350,000 further admissions slots in the next year. That is seven hundred and forty thousand more people, in California alone, who now cannot attend any college.

Meanwhile, cuts to our own UC system have resulted in the layoffs of thousands of workers, staff members, and lecturers, forced others to take furloughs, led to the destruction of the Community Studies and American studies programs, and have caused the cutting of classes to such an extent that many undergrads are now taking a fifth year they can’t afford because they can’t get into courses required for their majors. Fee hikes have driven undergraduates to drop out. The number of TAships available to graduate students at UCSC have been slashed, TAs were recently refused a real raise by the university, and TA workload protections are under threat. More and more graduate students are dropping out for financial reasons, and many of these are among the most experienced TAs. The more the UC makes the lives of graduate student employees impossible, the more TAships it cuts, the more students it puts in our sections, the harder it becomes to do our jobs. Undergraduates rely on our being able to do our jobs properly; we teach their sections and their labs, we grade their papers and tests. The more our experience as grad students suffer, the more our ability to do our jobs is constrained if not outright made impossible, the more we have to spend time looking for extra work and worrying about funding, the more the quality of education for the undergraduates suffers. The execs raised the fees extravagantly, and meanwhile the undergraduates are getting less and less in return for all that money and the debts most students have to incur to pay it.

This state, and the UC system, once believed what I do: that Education is a human right. That higher education should be free and accessible to all, because education was vital to creating an informed public and a truly democratic society. This state can believe that again. We’ve already forced Mark Yudof to promise no more fee hikes for the time being; now we demand that the hikes be rolled back, that UC employees be given the support and respect they deserve, that graduate student employees be given a living wage and better living conditions, that an Ethnic Studies Department be created, and that the undergraduate student body be given the education it deserves, with that education accessible to all. They tell us the money isn’t there; yes, it is. We live in a state overflowing with the mega-rich, people who pay property takes at 1978 levels, and instead of taxing them, Gov. Brown is proposing regressive taxes that will impact the working and middle classes instead of the people who actually have the money. It is time for the rich to pay up. It is time for the state to get its priorities straight, and it is time for public institutions like the UC to stop behaving like corporations. This is not a corporation; this is a school, and a system, founded for the public good, and these millionaires in charge are supposed to be civil servants, not corporate executives. The privatization of the public university must be fought as hard as we can fight it. Education is a human right.