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‘Dead’ to keep funds alive

UCI students and faculty act like the living dead to protest a state budget they fear will harm education.

October 29, 2009|By Candice Baker

Dragging their limbs, zombies with slack-jawed, pale faces paraded across the UC Irvine campus Thursday, protesting cuts to higher education.

The demonstration by students and faculty had more than a Halloween connotation.

In a now-infamous interview, University of California President Mark Yudof told writer Deborah Solomon of the New York Times Magazine last month that “being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: There are many people under you, but no one is listening.”

Yudof also told Solomon that the “shine is off” education, which is being crowded out in the state budget process.

Students, faculty and staff protested proposed fee hikes, cuts in academic services and furloughs and layoffs across campus.

“It’s really undermining the promise of what public education is supposed to be,” anthropology professor Victoria Bernal said.

She opted to go teach her next class with her zombie makeup still on, so she could teach the 400 students in her classroom about the proposed cuts.

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Other students and faculty held a simultaneous event they called “Be A Hero. Take Action. Save Cal Grants,” where they educated students about a proposed scheme by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut the Cal Grant student financial aid system, a discretionary budget item, by nearly $88 million — and other rumors that the entire program could be phased out by 2011.

A constitutional amendment is being discussed to secure continued funding for the Cal Grant system, event organizers said.

Members of the UC Student Assn. are trying to persuade California Sens. Denise Ducheny and Fran Pavley to author the amendment, which would guarantee its funding.

Students at UC campuses across the state held the events at all of their respective campuses. Students who receive the Cal Grants spoke passionately about their need for the program.

Student Sarah Bana noted that fees have increased more than 130% for students since 2001.

“We depend on the Cal Grant to be here,” student Jesse Cheng said. “They can readjust it, they can decrease it, and they can eliminate it. … When you cut the Cal Grant, it’s game over for the University of California.”

He and his colleagues sought to receive 1,000 signatures to give to California Sen. Lou Correa of Orange County.


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