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Room for debate: Students in charge of protecting themselves against high tuition

This question is akin to, “If I was Queen of the UW for a day, what would I do?” But our university is not a monarchy. Instead, we have a complex system, a product of tax-paying state residents, tuition-paying students, and thousands of employees in service, faculty, and administration. Somehow, these many different actors come together to run things, to ensure the university obtains grants for innovative research or to make sure the lights turn on when a professor flips the switch of his or her office at 8 a.m.

Those on the Board of Regents assert some pressure on the administration, yet they are also subject to their own constraints. They must maintain various political and business ties, which now may seem like chains; it is these liaisons who are likely responsible for their positions of immense power over the lives of current and future students and other UW staff and faculty.

And so the question remains, who can actually do something? We are all inherent products of our own environments, of our own livelihoods, and so if I was queen of the UW, I, too, would likely stick with the status quo. I would perhaps dodge conflict, employ a spokesperson, and maintain and appease my connections that got me my gold crown and purple robe in the first place.

Yet I am not queen of the UW. I am only a student. As we watch tuition rise and family incomes stagnate, we ourselves are in charge of protecting our ways of life. The greatest power to affect change falls on those for whom this change matters most.

Of course this is not easy. Higher education budgets and politics are dull. Maybe you read the headlines of The Seattle Times online but get bored and open a new window to check your grades or Facebook updates. Maybe your first reaction is to just ignore the news of differential tuition and pray you finish your engineering degree before the changes occur.

But when you realize national student debt is more than $1 trillion, that you are unlikely to get a good job after you graduate, and your tuition will be nearly twice as much as it was when you started college, you may wake up. I know I have.

If students want better livelihoods and experiences from the UW, they must advocate for and defend themselves, and not administrators or others who are already in power, who have naturally already brought their interests to the table.

Reach opinion writer Katherine McKeon at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @OpinionDailyUW

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