Monthly Archives: November 2009

Cochinitos

I was telling a friend about this song a few days ago. I sang the first few lines, but stopped. I never remember the first two verses about the selfish cochinitos even though dad sang the whole song to us.

He’d take breaks from the adult songs (“Camino de Guanajuato,” “Volver, Volver” y “El Rey”) to appease us kids with some classics from Cri Cri. I loved these songs, especially when dad would do silly voices or add in the snoring sound of the sleeping piglets.

These days, when he gets out the guitar, I still ask him to sing “Los Tres Cochinitos” like I did when I was 6 years old. It never gets old.

Some day I’m going to learn to play this song so I can continue the tradition.

I think you’ve got your fees mixed up

I was tapped to write a few paragraphs on why fees at public universities should remain low, well lower. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had low fees.

It was tough to limit myself to 200 words as I can write much more from different perspectives: graduate student in higher education familiar with literature on affordability, accessibility, financial aid and diversity; former board member with the UC Student Association; former chair of the Council on Student Fees and UCLA Registration Fee Advisory Committee; and just plain person concerned about the future (ha!).

I kept my argument focused to concerns that UC is moving to a model similar to the University of Michigan or University of Virginia, two “public Ivies” that enroll only about two-thirds of their students from in-state and have a much lower proportion of low-income students (based on who gets Pell Grants).

I didn’t get into the discussion on why Californians should fund “UC’s gold-plated facilities — the UC Santa Cruz Pilates studio comes to mind.”

Oh, that red herring.

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What once was

Earlier today, the Regents of the University of California approved a 32% fee increase for UC students. Students are once again being asked to make up for the investment from the state which has declined drastically from the goals stated in the Master Plan. I wasn’t surprised that the fee increase was improved, the amount did surprise me. The most recent increases starting in 2003 were usually between 8-10% (not considering the professional students, e.g., law students).

Students protested outside the Regents meeting. Loud. They set up a tent city and even ocuppied a campus building. I didn’t show up to the meeting or protests, but am in solidarity with the students sitting in and disrupting the meeting.

Instead, I did the nerd thing when it comes to fee increases and re-read the Master Plan (1960), or as we higher education scholars like to call it, the Bible:

The Survey Team believes that the traditional policy of nearly a century of tuition-free higher education is in the best interests of the state and should be continued. The team noted with interest an address given in May, 1958, by President James L. Morrill of the University of Minnesota, who commented as follows on the desire of some organizations and individuals to raise tuition and fees to meet the full operating costs of public institutions of higher education:

This notion is, of course, an incomprehensible repudiation of the whole philosophy of a successful democracy premised upon an educated citizenry. It negates the whole concept of wide-spread educational opportunity made possible by the state university idea. It conceives college training as a personal investment for profit instead of a social investment.

No realistic and unrealizable counter-proposal for some vast new resource for scholarship aid and loans can compensate for a betrayal of the “American Dream” of equal opportunity to which our colleges and universities, both private and public, have been generously and far-sightedly committed. But the proposal persists as some kind of panacea, some kind of release from responsibility from the pocketbook burdens of the cherished American idea and tradition.

It is an incredible proposal to turn back from the world-envied American accomplishment of more than a century.

Although the Survey Team endorses tuition-free education, nevertheless, it believes that students should assume greater responsibility for financing their education by paying fees sufficient to cover the operating costs of services not directly related to instruction. Such services would include laboratory fees, health, intercollegiate athletics, and student activities. Moreover, the team believes that ancillary services such as housing, feeding, and parking, should be entirely self-supporting. (p. 173)

El Rosario

I’d just left a Day of the Dead event when I got the news. Lori called me. The moment she said, “I have some sad news” I knew it was about death.

She proceeded to tell me that our cousin Robert’s 18-year old stepson, Joshua, had lost his life the night before. It was tragic and unexpected.

A few days later, I drove out to Orange County to pray the rosario. I was late and I arrived just as the prayer had ended. I greeted Robert with a long, tight hug. It was the same kind of hug I gave him when he showed up at the scene of my car accident exactly a year ago.

“I’m sorry,” I said and truly meant it.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

Robert let me go and I greeted other family members there to pray for Joshua. I looked over the flowers, two dozen prayer candles, photos of Joshua with his mom and brother, and tiny stuffed animals placed at the corner of a yard. I read intensely personal notes left from friends and his mom, but stopped as I felt I was invading someone’s privacy.

I drove for an hour and 45 minutes, but was only at the site for 15 or 20 minutes. I said a temporary goodbye to Robert, he’d be at the house in a few minutes to have dinner with my family.

Robert pressed a rosary with purple beads into my palm and formed my hand into a fist.

“Grandpa says, ‘just ’cause you got here late doesn’t mean you escaped praying the rosary.'”

I smiled and nodded.

“Besides, it’s your mom’s rosary.”

I took the beads and put them in my pocket.

“Whenever we would complain about praying before bed, my dad would bring up Grandpa. He says that Grandpa made them pray the rosary every night… and on their knees! Grandpa didn’t mess around.”

Robert smiled.

It was good to see him smile.

The cousins

I vaguely remember the day dad lined us all up for this photo: Mother’s Day 1984.

It was like a day at Olan Mills, except dad was the photographer and the background was a dark blanket. Dad took photos of all his siblings’ families. And then there was the requisite shot of all the nietos, the cousins.

I don’t know if this was the outtake or if there’s a photo that exists where all 15 of us are actually looking at the camera and smiling. I doubt it. And if it did exist, I wouldn’t want it.