The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.
Budget cuts to higher education are nothing particularly new in California. What changes is the student and faculty response to such cuts. Students and faculty can choose to sit back and take them, or they can exercise their right to free speech, assembly, and protest.
In 1967, with governor Reagan in power in California, higher education took some pretty serious cuts in funding and enrollment. But, it being the late 60s, students and faculty did not accept these cuts quietly. An article from the CSUF student newspaper from January 20, 1967 describes a massive protest at Cal State Fullerton with over 500 attendees. Here are some highlights from the article and the accompanying student editorial:
"An estimated 500 students turned out last Monday to protest Gov. Reagan's proposed 10 percent budget cut and tuition measures at a noon rally."
"Dr. Julian Foster, head of the CSF Faculty Council, told the rally Reagan's proposals were 'incomprehensible.' It is a shortsighted, materialistic policy and would be self-defeating. We will not dilute the quality of education."
"The university and the college has traditionally been, and is on the verge of becoming again, a forum of discussion and ideas…a place to pursue academic freedom and creative excellence. We are here today to protest the attempts of the Reagan administration to interfere with that tradition."
"Dean of Stiudents Ernest Becker said approximately 60 percent of the families in the state earn less than $8,000 a year. 'They would be unable to send children to the state colleges of university if tuition were charged,' he said.
"Out of necessity, the operations of the state college system must be economized. Massive reject of new students is clearly an irrational answer to achieving this economy."
In this same issue is an editorial by a student named Fred Droz called "Reagan and Cutbacks: A Parable for 1967" which gets at the heart of what was and is at stake here:
And the Prophet was elected. His name was exalted throughout the land and his words carved out on the marble steps of the temple. Righteous Ronnie had carved out his first goal.
The prophet was to save the land and the people believed. Cut the budget, he spoke and the people believed. Start with the rebellious young ones, and the people believed. So the prophet cut.
The young ones could not attend the institutions of higher education for the institutions had no room for them, and the people believed.
Rather than wanting to learn, the young ones wanted to get a job and be like their parents, and the people were happy.
The prophet and his people created the elite society, for the elite did not trust the common people, and the common people believed.
The young ones could not reason with the prophet for he was "all knowing." The young ones continued as planned, bowing down to the prophet.