At both the California State University and University of California multi-campus systems, tuition hikes in recent years have far exceeded the national average. Meanwhile, universities slash classes, cut key research, and rely even more on exploited and poorly paid part-time lecturers and graduate-student teaching assistants.
Yet against whom, exactly, are these cash-strapped students demonstrating? After all, their college faculties are unionized, largely liberal and sympathetic to their plight.
Campus administrators likewise want more state money for universities. But, unlike the beleaguered faculty, their numbers by some calculations have increased 221 percent between 1975 and 2008. At CSU, there may be one administrator for every full-time faculty member. Why, then, were not the students calling for their administrators to return to the classroom, and thereby provide additional classes at reduced cost?
Do the students fault the governor and the legislature for unwise spending priorities that have led to funding cuts and tuition hikes? Not really. Gov. Jerry Brown is a liberal Democrat. Both the state senate and assembly are also overwhelmingly Democratic -- and have been for years. In fact, state officials largely spoke in favor of the student protests.
Are the students instead angry at the state's public employees, who on average make more and are better pensioned than their counterparts in other states? Or do protestors connect the state's escalating costs that divert money from universities with California's massive number of illegal aliens -- whether in terms of the soaring costs of social services, billions of dollars sent as remittances to Mexico, or the incarceration costs of 30,000 Mexican nationals in the state prison system?
Does state money allotted to other discretionary areas, from things like preliminary funding for envisioned high-speed rail to restoring salmon in the state rivers, come at the expense of students?
The cash-strapped protestors would probably not think so. Instead, they seem to believe that the causes of all their troubles are the proverbial "rich" who are not "paying their fair share."