Once upon a time, The San Francisco Board of Education established the first publically funded post-secondary school in the state. Weekly Normal School, as it was called at the time, was the first of its kind on the west coast, and was the first school that would eventually become the California State University.
But alas, boys and girls, this is not a rags-to-riches story resembling that of Cinderella. This is a tale of good ideas gone bad, of honest intentions gone awry, of things breaking and falling apart. This is more of a humpty-dumpty story, if you will.
Humpty-dumpty, in this case, would be the California State University. Most people would say that humpty-dumpty broke when the first of the budget cuts hit the system in 2009. Those of us at Fresno State who have been here for a while remember the class walk-outs, the protests, the sit-ins, the marches down Shaw, all in response to declining numbers of classes being offered and postponed graduation dates.
Those budget cuts were not the first to hit the university. During the administration of Gray Davis in the early 2000s, cuts were made to public universities in favor of funding the state prison system. His decision resulted in more than half a billion dollars being cut from the CSU, 21.1 million of which was cut from Fresno State’s budget.
Not to beat a dead horse (pardon the phrase, those of you who read my last column), but the budget cuts through the years, with the worst of them culminating in 2009 and 2010, is only the tip of the iceberg. The deeper issue doesn’t involve the money we’re not getting. It involves the public system through which it flows.
Humpty-dumpty may have been broken long ago, before the budget cuts of 2003 and 2004 were implemented, maybe even before Fresno State was founded. Maybe public education was not meant to exist in the first place, because there’s no way for it to work effectively. When you’re talking about one little teacher’s college in San Francisco, maybe. A 23-campus university that spans the length of the state and costs billions of dollars a year to maintain, while simultaneously cutting the monetary and intellectual value of each student’s education is an entirely different story.
But, boys and girls, do not despair! There is a way to put humpty-dumpty back together again. All the governor’s horses and all the governor’s men may not be able to, but maybe we can. Gaining control of the university, or rather individual campuses, is the only way to ensure that we get the education we want, the way we want it. Taking the personal initiative to ensure that kind of privatization would take the effort of many individuals who realize that the government can no longer provide for its students, who perhaps has never been able to provide for its students. Let’s hope that someday, all the boys and all the girls will grow up into men and women who no longer depend on the daddy state, and take the responsibility of educating themselves.
Maddie Shannon is a former columnist and Arts & Entertainment editor for The Collegian, and will be a biweekly columnist throughout the semester.