This piece was written by and posted with permission from UCD Cultural Studies graduate student Sarah McCullough
The Commission for the Future meeting was the epitome of what is wrong with the current UC system.
Thanks to all who spoke, you were all awesome, and I do believe we were heard by the people present. I just wish more people could have also been present to listen and speak, people such as the Regents, the administration, the mass of protesters outside, and the faculty, staff and students who were not there.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted with locked doors and large signs on the doors that said “Closed-Maximum Capacity Reached.” They had quite thoughtfully put loudspeakers outside, enabling a one-way conversation. After sitting for a few minutes, the signs were removed and I was allowed to enter. No less than three people asked me why I was there and moved me quickly in the proper direction. When I entered the infamous Alpha Gamma Rho room, I noticed “Maximum Capacity” meant that the seats were half-full. During the student comments, the protesters arrived. Suddenly, the room apparently reached “Maximum Capacity” again despite the empty seats. They pounded on the door, asking to be let in. Nobody let them in.
I was one of the last to make the public comment list. I talked about the absurdity of the Textiles and Clothing department being shut down. I talked about the need to democratize the system, make it less top-down, provide avenues that give voice to all constituents in a meaningful way. Not so structured, like a bad game of hierarchical telephone, with a sprinkling of student “open mic” nights. Pay administrators less. Yes, we won’t be competitive in “the market” but perhaps we need to start finding our leaders somewhere new. Higher education in this country needs a revolution, and if the UC system can’t make it happen, I’m not sure who can.
In the final comments, the commission essentially said, we’re all working for the same goals, and we welcome your comment (contact info at http://ucfuture.universityofcalifornia.edu/welcome.html), we agree with much of what you said, and we’re trying. It all sounded okay, but something wasn’t quite right.
The kicker came at the end. After the meeting ended, I had to pee. I went toward the bathroom and was told by a smiling police officer that I could not go down that hallway, not even to empty my quite-full bladder. Neither could the two other students next to me. Then, one of the invited student speakers told me that during the meeting, she had been told that she could not drink the water behind the commission. It was for the commission only, not her, a lowly student representative. She could use the water fountain in the hallway. Never mind that she had to begin speaking to said commission in just a few minutes and she was sick with a sore throat.
So there you have it. We all have a voice, but only if we arrive at the right moment, when they decide it’s safe to let people in. Only if you sign the sheet while it’s still there. But you can’t drink our water, and you can’t use our bathrooms.
Cultural Studies graduate student
University of California – Davis
Food & the Body MRP graduate assistant