Vote No on Every Fee

Decision time is here, but decisions have already been made. As every year, essential services are dangled in front of us on condition that we vote increase our own fees. “Shall the students of UCSC provide funding for…” The health center? Tutoring services? Sports? As Karl Marx once said: “To formulate a question is already to solve it.” The unstated solution here is that if the students of UCSC won’t provide funding, no one will.

Because we each already send the Regents $30,000+ a year to learn and live here, we might expect that the basic pedagogical, physical, and emotional needs associated with a university education would be included in the deal. The attempts to fleece us for yet greater amounts of cash are thus both less surprising and more perverse. In a system of privatized education (which we reject in the first place), it’s no wonder they charge us by the item, yet given that we’ve already paid, these small surcharges to actualize our purchase amount only to extortion. It’s as if, after negotiating the release of a hostage for a cool $1,000,000, the crooks demand an extra $2,500 when we show up for the swap. The relative softness of the additional blow is only hardened by the pettiness it reveals.

Particularly petty is the $36 a year fee for LSS tutoring. The ballot proposal itself, Measure 63, states that increased usage has led to “rationing” of learning support services, including “fewer MSI [tutor] positions available, insufficient MSI support to meet student demand in large lower division required courses, and limiting the number of courses with tutoring services.” If only someone could have predicted that increasing lecture and section sizes would send students looking for support! Then again, such foresight would suppose that administrators care about supporting students.

More financially substantial are the proposed fees for intercollegiate athletics and health center access. Combined, they would amount to a $681 increase per year, or 5% of existing tuition. This, of course, is on top of the 5% fee increase that the Regents will soon impose statewide. One could continue such calculations, and we could tear each other apart about the merits of this or that measure. But whether it’s $36 or $700, we must reject these measures on principle, because we repudiate even the possibility of charging ourselves more for something that ought to be ours for free.

And yet it might appear that we should be thankful for the option. You may ask, “What else is meant by the student calls for university democracy?” This is an essential question, and one that, once posed, demands its own answer in practice. For now, we say that what is not meant by university democracy is the option of succumbing to our guilt (“Access 4 all!”) or collapsing in division (Access 4 some?). The narrow choices before us show the extent to which we have already been left out of the real decision-making.

But what does this strange spectacular form of democracy reveal? On the one hand, it is clear that administrators would like to cynically rely on vote counts in order to relieve themselves of the most minor managerial responsibility. Whatever the outcome, they can rest assured that it is not their fault. Yet on the other hand, doesn’t the appeal to even the cold, lumbering, zombie-corpse of democratic legitimacy speak to a recognition of the force of student opinion? Doesn’t the administration’s search for consent, however mangled, simply reveal what we already know? That everything works here only insofar as we allow it!

Thus, if we want to jettison the whole premise of the ballot measures, we vote “No!” together.  But we also demand that the administration fund all of these things anyway. And if, in the end, they won’t change the rules of the game, we storm the field and expel the referees.