Fil-Ams join tremendous crowds protesting UC budget cuts
BERKELEY, CA—There are only 1,000 Filipinos among 37,000 students in University of California at Berkeley, but their voices were loud and clear during the system-wide walkout yesterday. Fil-ams led a rally with tinikling, spoken word, and tagalog poetry.
Five thousand students, faculty and employees staged the largest walkout at UC Berkeley in more than four decades. They protested the layoffs of hundreds of workers and the unpaid furloughs on non-union employees, meant to close a system-wide budget gap of more than $750 million.
UC employee Krsytle Pasco had to apply to thirty different positions before getting a job on campus. Now she could lose her job.
“It feels horrible. It feels like there’s so much uncertainty. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Pasco said.
The cuts also mean reduced courses, which impacts the ethnic studies program. Joi Barrios, the only Tagalog instructor on campus, could also lose her job.
“Paano yung estudyante ng gustong matuto ng Pilipino? Yun ang mas malaking isyu para sa akin,” Barrios said.
UC's Board of Regents also plans to raise next year's tuition to over ten $10,000, a 45 percent increase from last year.
Lean de Leon, a student senator at UC Berkeley, said, “As much as we talk, they can still vote on how they want to. They’re trying to privatize the university, so that it can’t be accessible to the public anymore.”
Filipino students say the tuition increase will impact their families not just in the U.S. but also in the Philippines.
“My family in the Philippines is struggling,” said Matthew Yagyagan, president of the Pilipino American Alliance of UC Berkeley. “It’s hard enough for my family to send them money. Now my tuition is increasing, so there’s no way we can support our family in the Philippines anymore.”
UC Berkeley administration says the cuts are necessary to survive the recession. But officials say they are doing what it takes to become more self-sufficient.
“We understand that we need to do more private philanthropy,” said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. “We’re in the middle of a very large fundraising campaign. One of the primary focuses is to raise funds for student financial aid. It’s just going to take a lot of work.”
Protesters say the walkout is just the beginning of a larger campaign to convince California legislators to put more value in public education. Protesters also say it is not the budget crisis, but a leadership crisis that is causing damage to the UC system. Protesters hope unity across the UC system will bring back quality, and affordable, higher education for the next generation of students.