As a peacemaker and proud graduate of UCLA, I am appalled at the level of violence and horrific images plastered all over YouTube, Facebook, and other media outlets.
As a former UCLA Student Body President, I understand the frustration and anger that students, particularly working-class students and students of color, feel right now as their once affordable education becomes all but a distant memory.
As a father, I am saddened that the UC System, one of the top public university systems in the country, could raise fees by over 32%, thereby guaranteeing that our public education system reverts back to pre-Brown vs. Board of Education days when the university systematically denied access to countless students through discriminatory admission policies and practices.
To put this into context, when I graduated from UCLA in 2000, my annual student fees were approximately $3,500 a year. With the increase in student fees, students will now be paying $11,287 a year, excluding the cost of housing, books, and food.
To put this into perspective, three years ago only 96 African-American students were admitted in UCLA’s freshman class of over 4800 students, the smallest African-American freshman class in more than 30 years.
To put this into perspective, California leads the world in incarceration rates with more than 175,000 people incarcerated, mostly African Americans and Latinos, in our state prisons and county jails.
As a result, California now spends over 10 billion dollars a year in incarceration costs exceeding the 7.1 billion that the state spends on both the UC and the Cal State University system combined.
Like the students, I am angry.
Like the students, I am frustrated.
Like the students, I am determined to do all that I can to ensure that every child has the same educational opportunities that I and many others have had.
For me, UCLA was always more than just academics; it was about the experiences that I got outside of the classroom.
Those organizing experiences that gave me a progressive world view that helped me accept the fact that we all share the same heartbeat and desire for love and community.
Those organizing experiences that taught me and thousands of other student organizers skills that we’re now using to impact federal and local legislation, thereby changing the political landscape of America.
You see, watching the police tear gas and use taser guns on peaceful students at the same college campus that changed my life forced me to write something.
Talking to the current student leadership and hearing desperation in their voices forced me to say something.
Knowing that I am a proud product of an organizing legacy at UCLA that continues to build programs and campaigns aimed at bringing our communities together forced me to do something.
Although I saw the pain and frustration in the students’ eyes, I also saw the tide of history and activism.