By Jennifer Medina
(Note: This feature appeared on the New York Times Web site February 1.)
CLAREMONT, Calif. — The dining hall workers had been at Pomona College for years, some even decades. For a few, it was the only job they had held since moving to the United States.
Then late last year, administrators at the college delivered letters to dozens of the longtime employees asking them to show proof of legal residency, saying that an internal review had turned up problems in their files.
Seventeen workers could not produce documents showing that they were legally able to work in the United States. So on Dec. 2, they lost their jobs.
Now, the campus is deep into a consuming debate over what it means to be a college with liberal ideals, with some students, faculty and alumni accusing the administration and the board of directors of betraying the college’s ideals.
Budget cuts are bleeding the University of California system. Tuition and fees are skyrocketing. Admission rates of California residents declined this year at all but one of the university’s 10 campuses. (California also operates 23 colleges known as state universities.) All this seems a far cry from the university’s trajectory set more than 50 years ago, and it is turning high school students like myself away from the schools that once seemed so appealing.
Now in the heat of college applications season, many seniors are wondering if the U.C.s are worth attending at all. Earlier this week the university’s regents, fearing massive demonstrations, cancelled a San Francisco meeting scheduled to discuss raising U.C. student fees. Today at Cal State University Long Beach, as protesters chanted outside the chancellor’s office, trustees voted to raise state university tuitions yet again.
When tuition hikes are regular news and corresponding student sit-ins and protests are commonplace,
The L.A. Times had two interesting pieces on college football this last season. The second (don’t worry, I’ll get to the first), is an editorial calling on the NCAA to reform the sport by improving conditions for the so-called amateurs who generate millions of dollars every Saturday.
The piece calls for some sensible and straight-forward steps, largely echoing the basic demands of the National College Players Association, a project sponsored by the United Steelworkers.
Its heart, however, comes from a fantastic piece in The Atlantic by Taylor Branch, best known for his trilogy of books about the civil rights movement; if you haven’t read them, your life is incomplete. That gives him a certain moral authority in describing what he calls “The Shame of College Sports.” Go read this piece. It’s long, but worth it.
Okay, it’s long,
Today’s uncertainty is tomorrow’s unemployment. At least that’s the way it seems to most of us who are teens and young adults. And so far, no one’s told us different.
We are growing anxious. The job market is down. College tuition is up. More and more, it feels as though the deck is stacked against us, with government busy looking out for the unemployed of the present, neglecting the unemployed of the future, and the private sector ignoring the unemployed all together.
Beyond that, we face a decision that seems to be lose-lose. If we graduate high school — which, believe me, many of us do not — we have the choice to go to college (if we can get in) or start hunting for work (if we can get an interview). The former situation guarantees us hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt over our next few decades.