Dear Community Studies,
I want to start off by thanking each of you three wonderful women for all of the work you do. Each of you have inspired me in different ways to continue on my path towards helping make the world a better and more peaceful place. I am disappointed, but also excited, to announce that I will be taking a Leave of Absence from the University of California, Santa Cruz this Fall. I have put 3 weeks of critical thinking into this decision, and it has received support from 3 people—two UCSC affiliates and one activist—whose work in and for this world I greatly admire. I consider them my friends and mentors and they have ensured their continued support for my decision and path even if I am not a student of this institution.
I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock since I have recently shown discontent for the UCSC institution. The last two times I have thought about withdrawing from the University I would get excited; and both times I was convinced to stay back in I got sad. This ushered me to really think about what it was that bothered me about being a student of UCSC. While I was never quite able to put my finger on what it was that haunted me on campus, I knew there was something evil working around me. Learning about neoliberalism in Mary-Beth’s Economic Justice class in Fall 2014 was terrifying (you may recall this, Mary Beth). I learned how many of the systems and markets running through our society are inextricably linked—big business, research institutions, the government, higher education, prisons, etc.—and that all of them are more prone to destroy a person’s humanity than enlighten them. At that point, I decided to learn and work from within the system and try to effect change that way.
Recently, though, I have been struggling internally trying to figure out why it is so hard for me to be a student of UCSC. Some said I have ‘senioritis’ while others said ‘I just like to rebel against everything.’ Both of those might be true, but surely, I thought to myself, that can’t be the cause of constant heart burn, panic attacks, and night terrors. I knew it wasn’t from the work I do with the Inside Out Writing Project, because I always look forward to seeing my friends inside the Santa Cruz County jail each week and hearing them read their poetry aloud. It wasn’t from the work I do with the women I protest the war with, because I always have this feeling that I am where I’m supposed to be when holding a sign with my fellow friends who care about strangers. It wasn’t from the time I spend with my friends in the homeless community, because I am always inspired by their sense of community and sharing economy despite the hardships they must endure. When I was writing my last paper for field study, it all clicked into place. I cannot morally continue as a student of UCSC while the institution is benefiting from the war; benefiting from the death of the very people I work so hard to help protect, save, and heal. The University of California’s intimate relationship with Lockheed Martin morally prevents me from continuing as a student of the institution.
I cannot get the thought out of my mind that every assignment I turn in feels like a ‘yes’ vote for military action in the Middle East; every sentence I type reminds me of the thousands of innocent people, especially the children, American military weapons are killing; weapons that UCSC helps create. I can feel the pain of Muslims in my wakefulness. I can see their fear in my dreams. This is how deeply I feel the war on campus, to the point of physical and emotional pain.
People tell me it is a privilege to be able to attend a University, and denying that privilege is an insult to those who can’t afford higher education. I disagree. I have come to realize that my privilege is not being able to attend University, but being able to deny that “privilege”. I am privileged in the sense that I see the world and systems for what they are, not what they want us to see. Is a student who doesn’t take their education seriously, doesn’t get a job relating to their major, and ends up tens of thousands of dollars in debt privileged? I don’t think so. According to Forbes magazine, there are only 4 college degrees that score higher than 50% in job placement for graduates; none are over 70%. Most, however, especially those in the social sciences and visual and performing arts, range between 27% and 40%. What that tells me is that higher education is not working in the way students and their families expect it to. What is working, though, are the profiteers building wealth off of student debt; the weapon manufacturers and research institutions who make money off of death; and all the other corrupt systems and institutions that don’t give a shit about you, me, or any other student on campus. If our systems didn’t control society, we wouldn’t be in this terrible position. But, unfortunately, that is not the case. We are controlled by systems run by hateful, greedy, manipulative elites. It is not fair that their pockets fill with dirty wealth while my eyes sting from tears of stress, despair, and grief.
It is both a blessing and burden to look at the University of California system and see the other side of its coin; that which is corrupt, immoral, and damaging. A blessing because I can honestly say that I am not blind nor indifferent; a burden because the flooding of critical understanding of a corrupt system is overwhelming, confusing, and damaging when remaining a part of it. It does not suffice anymore when people tell me “but there are good people working at UC who don’t agree with the politics of it.” While I am incredibly appreciative of what the good, moral people at UCSC do, and the students who are truly working towards effecting change, their good graces can no longer overpower what the institution represents for me. I can no longer remain in bed with an institution that benefits from the death of innocent women, children, men, and babies. I denounce the University system. It is my hope that in my absence from UCSC I can begin to heal my own wounds caused by this place so I can think clearly and critically on what I am meant to do to help change the current state of our society; and to find more people like myself who cannot and will not remain within the corrupt confines of our current dominating systems without risking pieces of their humanity.
Thank you again you three strong, brilliant women for all that you are and all that you do. My denouncement of the institution is not meant to be an insult towards any individual person working or learning from the institution. I am making this decision to ensure that I do not lose myself while trying to help others, and in doing so I hope I will be able to find peace within so I can really begin to help bring peace to the rest of the world. People say peace is utopian, but that does not mean it isn’t achievable. I imagine a future of laughing children, smiling parents, and an economy of happiness. My decision to leave UCSC is me working towards that.