TWO NIGHT CAMPOUT
your sleeping bag
food and water,
and each other
+ ALL NIGHT DANCE PARTY @ the quad May 18-20
MARCH 4th at UC DAVIS
connect the elements: a public education happening
performances by Sick Spits & KDVS DJs
silk screening (bring a tshirt!)
bike forth bike repair station
testimonio space: share your experiences at UCD!
student co-ops & the domes
mapping project: document the changes at UCD!
chalking: make your mark on our campus!
info about the UC budget & the future of public ed
+ many more interactive stations by campus orgs & projects…
* PROFESSORS & TAs: BRING YOUR CLASSES *
***MARCH at 3pm!***
updates & more info at: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=351985153798
This article was written by Francesca de la Fuente and was published on The Daily Bruin. The original article can be found here: UC Board of Regents should be held accountable to students, faculty
Back in November, the word on everybody’s lips was ‘regent’. “The regents are raising our fees!” “The regents don’t care for students!” “The regents changed the date to avoid students and protests!” There was a lot of talk about what they were doing, but barely any talk about who the members of the UC Board of Regents are. Who are they? How did they become regents? And who told them they could run the University of California, and all of its 220,000 students?
The reality about the regents is that the governor of California appoints the majority, arbitrarily, to 12-year terms, without factoring in the opinion of faculty, staff, alumni or students – as it should be done. The regents are currently unaccountable to the very people they are supposed to be supporting through four years of college: students. The fact that the governor chooses who gets to be on the Board of Regents insulates them and their decisions, however unpopular, from student and faculty opinions. If someone has the ability to make decisions for somebody else, without repercussions from that person, they have the freedom to do anything they want – literally. This is and always will be a dangerous way to run an administration.
The UC undoubtedly has earned its place as the best public school system in the country, so it appears the appointing system works. But there has to be a way to hold regents accountable to students and faculty. The governor could submit regent nominees to be approved by a university-wide referendum, at which point they could also be vetted by our student governments, people who were actually elected to represent the universities. Or, students and faculty could have the power to impeach regents they find substandard. Right now, the regents are protected from backlash by their set terms and appointments. The board should be democratized, in the interest of the entire University.
Democracy has a highly consistent track record in this country because we select our leaders ourselves – no one imposes them on us without our consent. In this way, elected government officials are held accountable to the people who chose them. If found unsatisfactory, they can be recalled (as Gov. Gray Davis was), and they can be voted out at the end of their terms (like former President George H.W. Bush).
This is your Board of Regents crash course: Back in 1878, appointing regents as opposed to electing them democratically seemed like a very good idea. The California Constitution explicitly states that ensuring that the university stays independent from the vagaries and hair-pin turns of politics is the intention behind appointing regents to the board (found in Article IX, Section 9 for those curious to know the rules). Appointments typically act as buffers, shielding board members from the winds of political change, and theoretically, allowing them to make decisions independently. Unlike elected officials, appointees don’t have to pander to constituents to keep their positions.
Out of 26 regents total, 18 are appointed by the current governor of California, one is a one-year-term student delegate, and seven are ex-officio regents by virtue of their elected positions in the California government or status as alumni. These seven are the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the assembly, superintendent of public instruction, the president and vice president of the Alumni Association of UC and the University of California president. They all stay on the board based on their terms in office.
The fact that the majority of regents are appointed to the board opens up a barrel of worms. Part of the problem with appointed positions is that the people who nominate regents grant these positions as gifts for campaign donations or for years of public service. Even though there is no salary for being a regent, the positions shouldn’t be treated as hobbies. Former Regent John G. Davies was appointed after he told Gov. Pete Wilson (for whom he was personal attorney) that being a regent “was something I would really like to do.” Accountability is not entirely present among the regents, both because of their appointments and their lack of in-depth information on university concerns. According to a report on the regents by The California Higher Education Policy Center several years ago, “The regents are part-timers who often cannot know enough about complicated university policy issues to make intelligent decisions.” As the regents only meet once every two months, for two days, they only have a limited time to delve into complicated issues all together.
Finally, there is the fact that students and faculty have almost no say in what the regents decide to do. Students are basically limited to standing up and giving brief speeches that the regents might consider in their discussions on certain issues, and faculty members are represented by two non-voting faculty regents. Back in November, the only thing we students could do to voice our displeasure with the regents and the fee hikes, was literally to voice our displeasure through protesting and demonstrating. Democratize the regents; students and faculty should have more influence on the system. We can’t afford to be without the power to control our own fates.
E-mail de la Fuente at email@example.com. Send general comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Bob Samuels and was published in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here: When Students Strike Back: The New Social Movement at the University of California
On November 20th, a group of Berkeley students held Wheeler Hall hostage, and their first demand was to rehire 38 custodians. The administration and the media were confused by this request; they asked themselves, why do the students care about janitors? From the perspective of the UC administration, students should only be protesting against the escalating fees they are being forced to pay; however, students, unions, and workers have begun to form a new type of coalition that cuts across traditional class and employment divisions. By uniting around a group of diverse demands representing different social groups, the UC activists have pointed to the future of progressive social movements.
While many pundits and politicians have been arguing that the only political movement on the ground these days is the loose band of right-leaning tea partiers, the protests at the University of California offer an alternative political force. On the one side, we have the libertarian anti-government tax revolt that often takes its marching orders from conservative talk show hosts and Fox News, and on the other side, a coalition of university students, faculty, and unionized workers supporting equitable taxes and a defense of public institutions. This battle demonstrates the real fight for the future of the country, and like so many other things, it all starts in California.
The California Tax Revolt
We can trace the origin of the current tea party movement to the late 1970s when California led the way to a new form of tax rebellion by passing Proposition 13, which capped property taxes and required that new taxes could only be raised if 2/3rds of the state legislators voted for the increase. Since this time, not only has the limit on taxes reduced the available money for education and other public programs, but this proposition has determined the structure of Californian politics. Republicans in the state have learned that they can be elected to office by simply attacking any hint of raising taxes, and not only are they able to label opponents as “tax and spend” Democrats, but Republicans, who represent a small minority of the voters, have also paved the way for tax breaks for the wealthy and the deregulation of several industries. This anti-tax, pro-business ideology helped to land Ronald Reagan the governorship and later the presidency, and of course, Reagan, gained his conservative credentials by opposing the Berkeley student movement as governor; we are now witnessing a similar opposition between a conservative governor and a progressive student body.
Even though most people consider California to be a liberal state, the left coast has helped to create the current libertarian culture dominating American politics. Central to this libertarian mindset is the idea that the ultimate values are free speech and the free market, and anything that stands in the way between a person and his freedom is the enemy. One reason, then, why radio talk shows in California are the natural allies of the tea party movement is that these programs celebrate free speech by giving average Joes the ability to vent their populist rage to an encouraging audience. Moreover, since the hosts of these shows do not have to present any positive policies or support any specific politicians, they are free to attack everything and everyone.
The power of these radio talk shows should not be underestimated. In fact, in Southern California, politicians shake in their boots with just the mention of the “John and Ken Show.” These two libertarian attack dogs will start a public campaign against any politician who endorses raising taxes or regulating businesses. By calling for radio Fatwas on Republicans who dare to even mention the possibility of raising revenues, John and Ken have been able to channel SoCal’s libertarian rage.
A New Progressive Coaliton
In opposition to this anti-tax, anti-government populism, the students, faculty, and unions have been calling for the need to change the way the state votes on taxes and budgets. Led by the Berkeley professor George Lakoff and his California Democracy Act, the UC coalition has been arguing that the state should not be held hostage by the Republican legislative minority that has taken a pledge to never raise any taxes. While no one wants to pay more taxes, students have understood that the recent increase of student fees (tuition) by over 41% in one year is the same as a tax hike. In fact, while the wealth in California has become concentrated at the top, the richest Californians have seen their tax rates lowered. Meanwhile, since the state cannot raise taxes, and it must pass a balanced budget by a 2/3rds vote in both houses of the legislature, the only thing the Democrats can do currently is to cut the funding for education and other vital social services.
While pushing for higher taxes and more state funding may not seem like a radical gesture, the UC coalition has extended its political actions by tying the legislative stalemate to the larger issues of privatization and corporatization. Although the UC President Mark Yudof and the Board of Regents would like the students and the faculty to blame the state for all of the university’s problems, the coalition has directed its anger in multiple directions and has effectively criticized both the state and the UC administration. For instance, when students protested the most recent move to raise students fees, they not only called for the legislature to restore the system’s funding, but they also protested the regents decision to support compensation increases for top administrators.
The broader message of the UC coalition is that they do not think a public university should be run like a private corporation, and they also do not think that the most diverse and prestigious public university system in the world should be transformed into a boarding school for the super wealthy. What students fear the most, perhaps, is that their beloved university will simply give up on state funding, and instead will decide to increase its enrollment of high-paying out-of-state students and thus shut its door on Californians and the non-wealthy.
To understand what it means to privatize a public university and move to a high fee, high aid model, we san simply look at what has recently happened to other flagship public universities. As Peter Sacks has documented in his book, Tearing Down the Gates, in 1992, a third of University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) students were from lower-income families, but by 2002, only 13% were eligible for Pell grants. This precipitous loss of lower-income students also occurred at the flagship public universities of Virginia, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Between 1992 and 2002, the percentage of students receiving Pell grants at the University of Wisconsin at Madison went down 28%, while University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign went down 15%. Furthermore, after reducing its reliance on state funding by rapidly increasing its tuition, the University of Virginia saw its percentage of students eligible for Pell grants drop to just 8%.
This protest against the privatization of the university is fundamentally a rejection of the replacement of public values with corporate values. For instance, the students and many of the progressive faculty bristle when Yudof talks about the university as a group of buisnesses, and they do not think that the “fiscal emergency” should be used as a pretext to eliminate programs, lay off teachers, attack unions, and shrink the non-profit oriented programs.
Ultimately what has united this coalition is a shared dislike for an abrasive administration that continues to reward itself with bonuses and salary increases, while everyone else is asked to do more for less. Moreover, students, faculty, and unions are taking a stand against a thirty-year war on public workers, public institutions, and public spaces. This defense of the public is the only hope for our collective future.
March on March 4th
The next big move of the UC coalition is to hold a series of protests, rallies, and strikes throughout the state on March 4th. Under the general banner of “Defending Public Education, Defending Public Workers,” this day of action will bring together teachers, students, and workers from K-PhD. The central demands are to stop the fee hikes, rehire layed off workers, increase enrollments, and bargain in good faith with the unions. The coalition is also asking to stop the re-segregation of education by protecting the educational opportunities of underrepresented students.
Not only is the UC coalition fighting to save public higher education in the state of California, but, this group of students, faculty, and workers is giving hope to all of the people who are not happy with the status quo. Recent protests and rallies in the UC system have spread throughout the country, and a new social movement is being born. While it is hard to sum up the goals and strategies of this political and social force, we are witnessing a rebirth of the idea that people can change history and improve the lives of others.