Category Archives: Statements

Repost: When Students Strike Back: The New Social Movement at the University of California

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.

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Repost: PITCH: Investor’s Club: Do the UC Regents Spin Public Funds into Private Profit?

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Repost: Occupy Everything Fight Everywhere Strike March 4!

This post was written by spaceattack and originally posted on occupycalifornia, the original posting can be found here: Occupy Everything Fight Everywhere Strike March 4!

The call has gone out. On March 4th, students, workers and teachers throughout the nation and across the globe will strike. Pre K-12, adult education, community colleges, and state-funded universities will come together in an international Strike and Day of Action to resist the neoliberal destruction of public education in California and beyond.

We stand beside all who wish to transform public education, and we seek to advance the struggle by generalizing the tactic that has, by far, been the strength of the movement: direct action.

In keeping with the spirit of March 4th, we call upon everyone, everywhere, to occupy everything—from collapsing public universities and closed high schools to millions of foreclosed homes. We call on all concerned students and workers to escalate the fight against privatization where they are, in solidarity with the California statewide actions. We envision a network of occupied campuses in multiple states across the nation.

We call upon all Bay Area students, teachers, and workers to unite on March 4 to march from Berkeley into downtown Oakland. We encourage all those in the Bay Area to organize actions alongside and in support of the occupation movement, so that March 4th becomes a day of blockades, sit-ins, mass marches to the streets and freeways, a day for reclaiming public spaces and institutions. In solidarity with hundreds of occupied schools and workplaces across the globe, we seek to make March 4th an international day of action demonstrating our collective resistance.

Why Direct Action?

We understand clearly that decades of rallies and petitions have not and will never be enough. We have already witnessed the violent extremism and radicalism of the other side: behind every fee increase, a line of riot cops. Behind every call for “dialogue,” the threat of prison. Behind calls for “shared public sacrifice,” millions in obscene raises and bonuses.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent proposal to tie public education to privatized prisons has accompanied the authorization of mass student arrests, the labeling of student activists as “terrorists,” and the accelerating militarization of California from its public campuses to its patrolled borders.

The state’s decision has also revealed the power and effectiveness of direct action to turn the tide against the corporate and financial interests, the lobbyists and politicians, who have used the crisis to enrich themselves while destroying or privatizing fundamental public goods like education and health care.

Public Education Versus Private Prisons: A False Choice

As more and more jobs are lost and homes foreclosed, an entire generation has been reminded that those who work do so at the expense of others who are barred from doing so. The availability of scarce future jobs depends upon the forced subtraction of a portion of the population from the work-force. This is the web of relations in which we work and study; this is the truth of a profoundly racist, neoliberal society whose logic education reproduces, alongside prisons, in the name of “meritocracy” or “a better life.”

Prisons and schools are the last remaining spaces in our society where individuals rendered superfluous by contracting job and housing markets gather together for years at a time. Schools and prisons house the “privileged” or the “pathological.” The university produces the wage earner-to-be, with skills financed by a lifetime of debt. Prisons are a home of last resort for those unable to pay the steep price of admission for job training, certification, and the right social networks.

The Governor’s zero-sum proposal pits various sectors of the population against each other for diminishing resources, for the right to die slower or faster. It is a false choice and we reject it. This crisis cannot be solved, only magnified, by distributing violence and misery among scapegoated populations: immigrants, prisoners, the “urban poor,” and now, students and youth in general.

The Crisis Is General. So Too Is The Resistance

To occupy a building, to defend it against the police, to shut down a city, is to subtract ourselves as much as possible from the property relations that govern our relationships to each other—from the enclosure of knowledge and skills within dwindling job markets and hollowed-out institutions; from the enclosure of universities within admissions policies which crowd out students and workers of color through exclusionary logics of race, class and citizenship; from the enclosure of tuition within capital projects financed by student and worker debt; from the enclosure of work within the wage relation which clearly cannot meet the basic human needs of the vast majority of us.

On March 4, ESCALATE—OCCUPY—RECLAIM

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Updates from inside Shields!

SUNDAY:

5:57 p.m. – Knitting circle and discussions around the University of California Annual Financial Report, 2008 – 2009.  Things have been so chill today, studying, drinking tea…

University of California Annual Financial Report, 2008 – 2009

4:49 a.m. – Videos complete! Check out what some students have to say about the extended weekend hours at Shields:

3:30 a.m. – Things are finally winding down for the day, just a few folks still up talking but many have tucked away in various corners of the stacks.  What a day!  We’ve got some really interesting footage to share that was taken by some student organizers who interviewed folks using this wonderful library’s resources after weekend closing hours. Stay posted for more workshops tomorrow and an evening debrief.

SATURDAY:

11:00 p.m. – Dance party plans are under way!  We’ve moved a sounds system into the basement and are getting ready to make things happen! Of course, the whole idea of turning off the lights in this one small room has apparently caused some concern in the administration because The Gong has been called in ….

2:45 p.m. – About 15 people are attending the Civil Disobedience and Violence workshop upstairs.

12:00 p.m. – Coffee and tea urns are set up downstairs and plenty of students are using taking advantage of the free beverages.  We’ve gotten a lot of questions and a lot of intrest from students who weren’t aware of the study-in when they arrived and lots of folks are planning on being able to come in early tomorrow / stay late tonight.  Sleeping over is going to be so nice. I’ve got my nail polish collection at the ready.

10:30 a.m. – Folks are up and about, it’s great to have access to the library before NOON on the weekends!  Students who would have otherwise been forced to study in the 24-hour reading room last night were comfortable, content, and had access to library materials last night.

FRIDAY:

10:07 p.m. – Bob Ostertag is speaking, highlights and video coming soon!

8:47 p.m. – Shields Library sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to Oki!

8:33 p.m. – At this point we’ve all settled in to enjoying some Woodstocks pizza and rice and beans. Folks have been left with a lot of interesting and thought provoking ideas from professor and UC AFT President Bob Samuels and Michelle Villegas and Chris Servera, two undergrad students from MEChA de UC Davis, who spoke from about 6:30 – 8:15.

Villegas and Servera brought up issues faced by students of color, underrepresented, and low-income students. Villegas emphasized the importance of reaching out to and empowering non-college tracked youth in surrounding areas through high school and middle school outreach programs and through incorporating students at all levels of school into the fight for education equity.

With student fees reaching nearly $11,000 next school year, students who already struggle financially to manage the costs of attending a UC will be forced to increase the hours they work jobs, take out additional loans, and be pushed further into debt. Servera explained that financial demands lead to students who spend 80% of their time and energy on being able to afford college with only 20% of their time remaining to spend on course work and grades.

Villegas also highlighted the importance of acknowledging the ways in which undocumented students, who cannot receive financial aid and are pay out-of-state tuition rates, are particularly affected by fee increases.

5:15 p.m. – Banner reading “WE ARE THE CRISIS” goes up above the main staircase, students welcome each other to the library and then continue chants and begin a march around the different floors of the library.

5:00 p.m. – We’re in the library!

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Shields Library Will Be Open All Weekend Because We Have Opened It!

The Study-In at Shields Library this weekend was planned and publicized openly by activist students, staff, faculty and workers at UC Davis. The action was not discussed or negotiated with library or campus administration: it was announced. The following letter–wherein Chancellor Katehi agrees to leave the library “open”  all weekend–is in fact a response to our collective planned action. Her decision to keep the library “open” is in no way a result of negotiation or mutual concession: It is instead a recognition of what will happen this weekend, and that she can not stop it.


Shields Library Will Be Open All Weekend Because We Have Opened It!

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Repost Press Release: Study-In Students Set Library Agenda, Chancellor Forced to Follow

The following press release was sent out by a group of UCD student organizers as a response to Chancellor Linda Katehi’s letter to the UCD community and in anticipation of tomorrows action at Shield’s Library.

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

CONTACT:

Laura Mitchell, 650-714-5318

Adrian Wilson, 919-619-8522

One Day Before UC Davis Library Study-In, Chancellor Makes Partial Concession to Students

Students to Hold Mass Study-In on Friday to Protest Budget Cuts to Student Space on Campus

(Davis, CA) – On the eve of a mass study-in and protest at UC Davis’s Shields Library, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi circulated an email to all University staff and students in which she agreed to keep the library open 24 hours over the weekend of Feb. 5-7. Katehi also acknowledged students’ protests for more student space on campus and proper funding of library services, and conceded that the University had not been able to adequately protect the library from the recent draconian wave of funding cuts. Katehi’s conciliatory announcement was made under pressure from hundreds of student activists, who will be holding a mass study-in at Shields Library over the weekend, starting on Friday at 5:00pm.

In her statement, announcing that the library would be open 24 hours during the weekend of Feb. 5-7, Chancellor Katehi stated that “this weekend’s announced ‘study in’ at Shields Library reflects a shared concern – the need for adequate student study space.” She also said that she can “understand the overall concerns that have been expressed about the Library’s funding,” and acknowledged that “it’s not been possible to completely protect the Library from budget cuts.”

This weekend’s study-in – which an estimated 400-700 students plan to attend – is being held to protest the impact of misguided budget decisions by the UC Administration, which have restricted the amount of study space available to students on the UC Davis campus. Student activists believe that the University’s failure to adequately fund campus libraries – a critical student study space – is a clear example of the Administration’s misplaced budget priorities.

“We’re tired of student services bearing the brunt of the University’s budget cuts,” said Sarah Raridon, a UC Davis senior. “At the study-in tomorrow, we’re going to stand up against student space cuts, and challenge Chancellor Katehi to turn her rhetoric into meaningful changes in how student space is funded and governed on campus.”

UC Davis library spending per student has been slashed by a massive 30% since 2001 – including huge cuts in 2003 and 2004, before the state budget crisis hit. The number of full-time librarians has also been cut, from 280 in 1992 to 203 in 2007. These cuts have had a huge impact on the library’s quality: the ranking of the UC Davis library dropped from 38th in the country in 2001 to 72ndin 2008, and further cuts over the past year will lead to a further decline. Students and staff are upset as many of the budget issues at the library pre-date the current budget crisis, and are seen as symptomatic of the overall mismanagement of vital university resources.

“Two weeks ago, the UC Regents approved a $321 million renovation of UC Berkeley’s football stadium,” said Laura Mitchell, a UC Davis senior. “At the same time, UC campuses are laying off librarians and cutting library funding. UC clearly has enough money to adequately fund student services; it’s a question of how that money’s being distributed.”

Students will gather for the study-in on the Memorial Union patio at 4:00 pm on Friday, Feb. 5; they will then move to Shields Library and begin the study-in at 5:00 pm. Scheduled speakers at the study-in will include Robert Samuels, President of the UC’s American Federation of Teachers union; several UC Davis professors; library staff; and numerous student activists. Almost 700 students have stated that they plan to attend the study-in.

###

For more information, please contact Laura Mitchell at 650-714-5318 or

Adrian Wilson at 919-619-8522, or visit the website at http://ourucdavis.org .

Interview and photo/video opportunities will be available, and interview/photo/video content from inside the study-in will be made available on the website on an ongoing basis.

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A MONTH WITHOUT BARGAINS! — the politics of February, and the three tactics of the administration

The following was written by UC Davis Professor Joshua Clover:

the politics of February, and the three tactics of the administration
a note for friends at UC Davis and elsewhere

PART ONE: someone is afraid
I apologize for beginning with a personal anecdote. I got out of Santa Rita on December 11th to find a voicemail from my acting department chair, checking to make sure I was okay. I called to thank her, and to ask how she already knew I had been arrested along with 65 others early that morning; it hadn’t been on the news, unlike November 19th. She explained that the UCB police had called the UCD police who had called the Dean for the Humanities who had called her; she knew I was in jail almost before I did. I’m not sure everyone burning up the lines that day was equally concerned for my well-being as my chair; it appears more like surveillance. But this was a useful piece of information.

It was a personal note on a public ledger. That ledger includes the 66 arrests in Wheeler Hall. It includes the bargain struck in Mrak Hall during the second occupation of the Fall; just as much, it includes the dogs and riot cops and chopper, the 52 arrests at the first; the denouement of the Wheeler occupation on November 20th; and a number of other events I wasn’t there for. To this list we add the Governor’s January concession (however sleazy his purposes) that the active protests had pushed him to reverse his course on education funding; and the Office of the President’s recent bid to co-opt the March plans, and channel the refusal and resistance of workers and students away from the very administration that is systematically privatizing their campuses.

All these items total up to an evident conclusion: the administration is afraid. Their responses, seemingly varied, are characterized by panicky overreaction; nervous attempts to placate the movement; and rather pathetic misdirections of the kind practiced by third-rate stage magicians. None of the maneuvers suggests a calm certainty in their own course, or in their ability to impose it. They are now afraid of the political cost of their business plan, and how that plan might come undone. They are afraid of us.

PART TWO: you may choose anything but to act
Their fear is dangerous, and that danger is now part of the conditions in which we proceed. We can be honest about this. They seek to export that fear to our quarters, as was shown last month at Davis in the extraordinary force deployed to confront the grave threat posed by banners. Events two nights ago in San Francisco reaffirmed this knowledge. The administration’s tactic of intimidation, designed to paralyze, is well-known; all of us have seen the spectacle of armed and armored militants — the riot police — surrounding unarmed students at Davis, Berkeley, UCLA, Irvine, SFSU…

But we must learn the full lesson. Such intimidation is not their only tactic. All of us recall the sense of dispiritedness and confusion when the Dutton Hall occupation was drawn into empty “discussion,” separated into small groups and lured into the quicksand of chitchat with an administration committed only to dissuading folks from actual protest of actually intolerable policies. And all of us recall the similar feeling of disempowerment when we walked away from the second Mrak occupation. Certainly we departed with a few concessions that were hard-won and important. But as was eloquently pointed out in the aftermath, this negotiation was only a defensive movement on behalf of our comrades arrested on November 19th — an outcome still a huge distance from the actual hopes of the people who courageously stayed in the building that night.

So we can say this about the administration: they will attempt any maneuver that stifles active protest. They will seek to disempower protest via intimidation, misdirection, and via the reduction of real struggle to vague haggling. They will do anything but actually relinquish any of their power — this is why the charges for the Mrak 52 were not dropped but held over, to threaten any of those people should they choose to act again. You may choose anything except to act — that is their rule.

We can in fact summarize the administration’s position, for it is perfectly clear through their actions: the administration is not committed to education, but to preserving their power to decide who does what when.

PART THREE: spring is on its way
I believe this all sets some very clear terms for the next month. It is certain that we will see all three tactics from the administration. There will be applications of excessive force. You will be told you brought it on yourself. This is a lie.

There will be further attempts at co-optation and misdirection, the mirage that “Sacramento” is some white building on a hill, as if the campus actions were somehow invisible to our political class. As we now know from Schwarzeneggar’s speech in January, this too is a lie.

And there will be more attempts to bargain. We know the administration is afraid. We know they are particularly afraid of what might happen around March 4th. We have seen heightened use of force, more and more desperate misdirection. As March 4th approaches, we will also see attempts to bargain — not for the purposes of supporting education, but to confuse, fracture and disempower the coalition of students and workers, to leave us feeling disarrayed and diminished. They bargain not to make things happen but to stop things from happening. They will do this very mindfully as an attempt to avoid any sort of real reckoning in March.

But it is time for a reckoning. It is time to discover the state of this young and growing movement. It is time to reverse the course of privatization, rather than plead that it slow down just a bit. It is time to stand up to the militant threats of the administration. It is time to oppose the centralization of power, the war on campus workers, and the contempt shown for public education.

We cannot stop the administration from jibbering absurdly about being on the same side as they fire us, price us out, cancel our classes, and use our fees as collateral for buildings we won’t be able to afford to visit. We cannot stop them — so anxious to be on our side! — from calling armed police on unarmed students and workers (to which one can only say, that’s not irony, that’s bullshit). But we can stop playing their divisive disempowerment games. We can focus on building constructively for statewide actions on March 4, across the educational system. And this is my proposal, a politics for February: a month without bargains! Let’s not get drawn into that trap. Let’s not internalize their fear as our own. Let’s understand their motivations. And let February build without interruption for March. And then spring is on its way.

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