Submission: A Senior’s Open Letter to Representative John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis speaks to MBA students. Photo courtesy of Joshua Richards. Link to photo license

Dear Representative John Lewis,

I am a graduating senior at UC San Diego who heard that you will be boycotting UCSD’s graduation commencement ceremony in solidarity with UC workers, who recently organized a strike for better wages, benefits, and racial/gender equity. I (and many other students) support the union in their strike and negotiations, but I was very much looking forward to seeing you speak. Needless to say, I feel conflicted about your decision.

Granted, the precise reason that I hold you in such high regard, Mr. Lewis, is that you have no qualms with protesting for what’s right; from your role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the ongoing battle against gun violence, you have brought the strength of your voice and your convictions every step of the way. It was that voice I hoped to hear at commencement, and I do wonder if your absence will actually speak louder than your words could have.

Indeed, the vacuum created by your absence will be filled by UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, a man who is the human embodiment of the administration you have sought to protest. Graduating students will now hear Khosla speak instead: Khosla, who has been conspicuously silent on workers’ rights; Khosla, who has to this day provided no public response to the study that found the UC system underpays women of color. Instead of receiving an address from you, a man who stands with the UC workers, the 2018 graduating class will receive an address from a man who, at best, does not care about them, and at worst, stands firmly against them. Will the UC administration change their position because of your (and Senator Kamala Harris’s) boycott? I do hope so, but I fear that you may be punishing students instead of the administration itself (which has already collected non-refundable money from soon-to-be-graduates through the use of your name); I fear that you may be forsaking an opportunity to impart unto myself and my fellow students the importance of workers’ rights and racial/gender equity.

In conclusion, Mr. Lewis, I want to say I understand that my personal disappointment at not being able to see you speak weighs but a feather in comparison to the heavy issue of the UC’s exploitation of its workers—I hope your protest achieves its intended result. That being said, I do feel that you owe graduating students here at UCSD—many of whom have supported UC workers in their strike in one capacity or another—some sort of statement. It would be a shame to feel that you have scorned us right along with the UC institution. If you let us know what this boycott means to you, what you hope to achieve, and what we can learn from it, perhaps that would make an even greater impact than an address would have.

Pravin Wilkins

Pravin Wilkins is a San Diego native (and sad Chargers fan) and a fourth year Literature/Writing & Political Science double major. After graduation, he will be moving to Pittsburgh to pursue an MFA in dramatic writing at Carnegie Mellon University.

The positions stated here do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Triton, any of its members, or any of its affiliates. We welcome responses to opinion pieces. If you’d like to submit a response, or comment on a different issue affecting the UC community, please submit here.

  • California Defender

    This open letter is nothing but a humorous display of teeth-gnashing and tail-chasing, so no need to address it.

    But I do find it curious that Pravin is listed as a San Diego “native”. His political ideology places him far outside the local community and no true native is sad about the Chargers leaving. So I find the claim suspect, at best.

    Nevertheless, Pravin, you’ll be far happier in Pittsburgh where you’ll find a like-minded mob there to endlessly regurgitate leftist identity politics with.

    Waive that one-way ticket and never look back! A “native” Pittsburgher, you will soon be!

  • JohnJStanton

    Pravin sounds right at home in San Diego to me. If he says he is a San Diego native, I believe him. I thank Pravin for his letter because I did not know the situation with John L Lewis. Maybe his boycott will work.

    As for the Chargers. I am glad to see that conservative bum Spanos finally leave San Diego, good riddance! The Chargers though, the team I followed and loved for 40 years, I am sad to see them leave.

    Speaking of conservatives, I remember when conservatives made sure no Jews could live in La Jolla. Roger Revelle twisted arms and arranged for Jewish Nobel laureates and other professors to be allowed to live near UCSD. A welcoming atmosphere for Jewish academics opened the door for Professors Jacobs and Viterbi to work at UCSD. They eventually founded Qualcomm and made billions for people in San Diego.

    When I started at UCSD in 1979, tuition was $225/quarter and the UC Regents paid for all of my expenses because I had been a good student in high school. The vision of free higher education in California was developed by Gov. Pat Brown in 1960. Pat was the father of our current governor, Jerry Brown. Free college education paid major dividends for California.

    Conservatives, like Reagan and Trump, have a history of taking resources from the young & poor and giving it to the old & wealthy. My UCSD peers graduated with little to no debt. Current UCSD students graduate with an average debt of ~$25,000. That debt students owe subsidizes low property taxes for old rich people. Prop 13 has been great for old homeowners and horrible for college students who pay for their tax cuts.

    Educate yourself, do some research, question your assumptions. If you are not angry, you are probably not paying attention. As a freshman at UCSD Provost John Stewart told my class, “You don’t come to UCSD to learn things, you come to UCSD to learn how to think.”