I didn’t see his face, but the anxiety was evident. When a student in my European Literature class confirmed that he wouldn’t be able to transfer without ENGL 246B, Survey of British Literature, many hidden fears, uncaged by vindication, flew from their tiny cells to envelop the room. As we read aloud from Virgil that same class meeting—“so the spawn of Night went diving downward to the earth”—so too was the gloom and anxiety wrought upon those students and other students, as they realized what could happen to them.
If Proposition 30 does not pass, the threat of students not receiving their full education is very real. It is possible not only that classes critical to student paths could be cut, but that certain colleges could be shut down entirely. That includes Cuesta, both in a figurative and quite literal sense. Either way you slice it, as a student whose dream has always been to write for a living, and who is counting on experiences provided by college to elevate him to the status required for this dream, the idea that I could be denied this? That everything I’ve worked so hard for might be gone? That other students likewise could feel the internal shattering of their futures?
This is terrifying and unacceptable.
The discouragement continues. Among many programs suggested to be cut in their entirety are the drama and dance departments. This leaves me rather confused. A great deal of money was fed into the establishing of the CPAC, Cuesta’s own Performing Arts Center. Why not take full advantage of it? I’m fully aware that Cuesta’s Choral and Jazz programs have been very successful—to the point at which they are a staple of the college, seemingly unlikely to be cut any time soon. However, a Performing Arts Center is not merely for music. It seems a shame to buy such a fancy system only to not use half of the buttons you’ve installed. In addition, Cuesta’s drama program has met definite success, gaining several positive reviews, even from this very publication. And with the continued preservation of Cuesta’s Choral program so evident, why cut the other half of what any would-be opera performers require? This is, of course, to say nothing of the fact that it isn’t actually unfeasible that some choral programs could be cut. Voce, the top Vocal Jazz class at the college, renowned far and wide for its quality, is a small class due to its expertise level. Smallness can be rephrased (with different connotation) as “low-enrollment.” Mmm, that smells nice and unnecessary.
In that same vein, audio technology, which includes recording arts, is on the already-proclaimed potential chop list. There are students from out of state who come to Cuesta specifically for audio technology—it isn’t a common class to find. Every semester, the class fills up. Why get rid of a class that is in such demand? Then, of course, there’s emergency medical services, and agriculture technology (a class I’m sure students hoping to transfer to Cal Poly require). It adds up and adds up, and that’s not even including the individual classes that could be removed from other programs not mentioned in the proposed list.
I’ve heard it argued that new taxes are not the way to fix things, that new jobs are required if we want the economy back on track. There is some truth to this, but not going straight forward. We need money now. If Proposition 30 doesn’t pass, colleges will be in great disrepair, even possibly shut down. Thousands of students unable to complete their education toward good jobs is not the answer. Returning students to their homes, students who provide money to businesses near and at their colleges, is not the answer. Shattering hopes and dreams isn’t the answer, either.
It’s true that a lot of work needs to be done, but at this point in time, immediate action needs to be taken. Merely waiting around for the right policy to come your way so you can try to pass it isn’t going to help. It’s actually summoning forth the inevitable more than delaying it. You’ll certainly not be making more jobs appear by shaking college foundations.
Now, taxes are never popular—that’s basically a universal constant. But honestly, given how dangerous our economy is right now, isn’t it possible that they’re necessary? The money has to come from somewhere. At this point, not voting in something like Proposition 30 merely because it’s a tax should be a non-issue. I really hope that in the end, it is.
I’m a college student. At 19 years old, I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I’m proud of it, too. But I’m not in the clear, and neither is the legion of other students still trying to make it in their own fields. We have dreams, intelligence, and new outlooks to help get things back on track, and—especially for a town like San Luis Obispo—we bring in funds to businesses and make up a diverse part of the present population. It seems unfair to throw so much of our hard work down the drain, and it also seems counterproductive. When all has come to pass, hopefully either emotion or reason will lead you to make a good choice.
But please, the future is in your hands. Be careful with it.
Chris White-Sanborn is a New Times intern and San Luis Obispo resident. Send comments to the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.