Tuition Hikes and the Future of California

I just returned from speaking at Merrill College of the University of California, Santa Cruz. My public event had more than 400 people in attendance. This talk came as students protested the recent 32 percent increase in tuition. Protests are going on around the state. I support the students, and the many professors and administrators who have also decried the tuition hike. I also denounce the use of police—in UC Berkeley and other campuses there was violence and beatings—to go after the students. This is uncalled for. The UC system needs an ongoing statewide dialogue with students that will work to keep students in the system, but to also help the coming generations make it to college. Most of these hikes will hurt the poorest communities, which have little or no resources to meet the tuition increases. Eventually there will be no students from poor areas, the very people who must now be given the means, knowledge, and connections to help rise above the disparites. Yes, the state of California is on the verge of bankruptcy. But the higher education needs of our young people should not be sacrificed due to the vagaries of the capitalist system and a state government that has betrayed the public trust. There are still billions of dollars in our massive prison system—the largest state prison system in the country. The vast majority of prisoners are behind bars due to drugs and nonviolent crimes. They should be released in imaginative and effective alternative sentencing structures—including home monitoring, reentry housing, real community services including re-training, and restorative justice. Real drug and alcohol treatment should be available to all who need it. And any remaining prisoners should be given proper rehabilitation, healing, and education. I also advocate the state legalize marijuana—which is now the number one cash crop in California. Marijuana in turn could be taxed, bringing in billions of revenues. We also need to remove the stranglehold of the two-thirds majority rule in the legislature that gives the minority party (in this case the Republicans) the actual power to move or not move legislation. This is “minority” rule and it has been used against taxing corporations and the wealthiest community, against social services, and for more prison building. The UC students at the Merrill College Cultural Center were spirited and engaged during my talk. A long line of students stood up at the public mic to ask questions. Afterwards I had many students lined up who wanted me to sign their books. I trust these youth are capable of shaping the state into the abundant, equitable and just place it can be. The current leaders have abandoned our essential values and needs. We can do better—we deserve better. Tomorrow, my wife Trini and I go to Mexico to take part in the largest Spanish-language book fair in the world—the International Book Fair of Guadalajara. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural is coordinating, along with California State University at Northridge professor Denise Sandoval, a lowrider show of two cars and two bikes for the LA Pavilion called “La Vida Lowrider—Cruising the City of Angels.” Featured are “Orgullo Mexicano” and “Twilight Zone” show cars, amazing examples of the art form and lifestyle called Lowriding. The owners of these cars and bikes—Alejandro Vega, Mike Lopez, and Roger McGraw—will also be on hand. And an original film by Estevan Oriol and Denise Sandoval will be shown next to the cars and bikes during the two weeks of the book fair. In addition, Trini and I will be at the Small Press area selling hundreds of Tia Chucha Press books, this being our 20th anniversary. And I’ll be on panels as part of the book fair honoring the City of Los Angeles, and in an “Encuentro Chicano” with other Chicano writers such as Ruben Martinez, Marisela Norte, and Michael Jaime-Becerra. Other acts include Los Lobos, Cheech Marin, and various other writers, museums, dance groups, theater, filmmakers, and more. c/s

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