Friday, September 12, 2014

Dirks Just Won't Shut Up About Civility, Seems Surprised We Care

From: Nicholas Dirks Chancellor
Date: Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 12:08 PM
Subject: Civility and Free Speech
To: "Faculty; Staff; Students"


Every fall for the last many years, we have issued statements concerning the virtue of civility on campus. This principle is one of several that Berkeley staff, students, faculty, and alumni themselves developed and today regard as “fundamental to our mission of teaching, research and public service.”  To quote further from our “principles of community”: “We are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities. We respect the differences as well as the commonalities that bring us together and call for civility and respect in our personal interactions.” For a full list of these stated principles, please see http://berkeley.edu/about/principles.shtml.
 
In this year’s email, I extended this notion of civility to another crucial element of Berkeley’s identity, namely our unflinching commitment to free speech — a principle this campus will spend much of this fall celebrating in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement.
 
My message was intended to re-affirm values that have for years been understood as foundational to this campus community. As I also noted in my message, these values can exist in tension with each other, and there are continuing and serious debates about fundamental issues related to them. In invoking my hope that commitments to civility and to freedom of speech can complement each other, I did not mean to suggest any constraint on freedom of speech, nor did I mean to compromise in any way our commitment to academic freedom, as defined both by this campus and the American Association of University Professors. (For the AAUP’s Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, please see http://www.aaup.org/issues/academic-freedom.)
 
I did, however, express my conviction that in the ongoing debates on campus about these and other issues we might collectively see the value of real engagement on divisive issues across different perspectives and opinions. By “real engagement” I mean openness to, and respect for, the different viewpoints that make up our campus community. I remain hopeful that our debates will be both productive and robust not only to further mutual understanding but also for the sake of our overriding intellectual mission.
 
Sincerely,
 
Nicholas B. Dirks
Chancellor
 
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The End of Free Speech: On the Civility of Nicholas Dirks

Nick Dirks took the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement to maneuver for control of the campus as political space. His “civility letter,” as incoherent and historically inept a document as one could imagine, has already been well-diagnosed by various sources including Remaking the University, Counterpunch, and here at ReclaimUC. That lattermost assessment was particularly clear-minded in showing that free speech has been not an ideal but a site of political struggle. While paying it lip-service in the abstract, university administrations (and not these alone) have as a matter of custom and practice sought to curtail the concrete use of free speech, and further concrete struggles have been required to preserve it.

Dirks sets up a series of oppositions the boundaries of which we must attend with vigor and zeal, including — in the most bizarre moment — that “between free speech and political advocacy.” It’s one of the great spit-take moments of administrative palaver, splitting the difference between non sequitur and nonsense. It makes your brain freeze. My anonymous colleague here offers a pretty sensible explication of a pretty crazy sentence: to understand it as a rhetorical strategy, not a truth claim.
I don’t think he’s stupid. I think he wants to create a campus climate where we accept that “free speech and political advocacy” are two different things, and where we fight over the difference. I think he’s smart enough to understand that political advocacy is explicitly protected speech—that it’s very specifically the form of protected speech which both the Free Speech Movement and the First Amendment specifically defend—and that this rhetorical gesture nudges his audience towards accepting indefensible trade-offs…to make it seem natural that free speech means the freedom to say things that are not prohibited.
I think this is largely correct. If I take any distance from it herein, it is only because I wish to take some distance from free speech itself — or, rather, from free speech as such. The extant rebukes to Dirks’ absurdity are quite effective at setting forth how the civility standard serves to undermine the very free speech it purports to buttress. The risk of these accounts is that, taking up an immanent critique of the letter’s logic (and by extension the logic of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and all the other mongers of repressive civility), the critiques leave free speech as the ultimate horizon of debate and struggle. I worry that this plays into what is for Dirks et al. a broader and more pernicious strategy, both rhetorical and practical — regarding not only what counts as free speech, but what free speech itself is, both within and without the university.

The strategy is to treat free speech as an absolute end. In this understanding, free speech is itself both fruit and proof of freedom tout court. Consequently, we must at all times contemplate what might be necessary as means to preserve free speech as end. It turns out, via the peculiar pseudologic of power, that the means to this end include prohibiting certain speech. And this turns out to be a doubly desirable role for the university administration: not only is it authorized to curtail expression, but it gets to do so in the name of an abstract principle, a general ideal of social existence, divorced from any particular antagonism. In this vision the defense of free speech is a neutral and noble pursuit; it is the very opposite of taking a side, and thus of any sort of advocacy. Even if they are doing it wrong, Dirks et al. are still endeavoring to do the right thing.

This is the world stood on its head. Free speech is side-taking. The very reason we value free speech is because it is a means: an instrument and a condition of possibility for political struggle. Free speech is not a virtue in and of itself any more than is an umbrella. Or perhaps we might come to enjoy umbrellas for themselves, as an aesthetic or sensuous matter, were there to be no more inclement weather. Alas, it continues to rain, and worse.

Which is to say that there is an underlying fantasy to the position fomented by Nick Dirks. The only situation in which one would treat free speech as an end would be one in which there were no fundamental problems: no iniquities, immiseration, exploitation. No need for free speech as means. So we might say Dirks is speaking from the position of campus-as-utopia, a campus of nothing but speech, where the sun always shines and all other issues have been resolved happily for all. A campus wherein there was no privatized public education, no massive debt- and labor-loads for students, no shitty working conditions for campus workers, no cops being called in to beat or pepper-spray students and faculty into the hospital. No struggle over BDS, no systematic racism, no burying of rape statistics and accompanying leniency for perpetrators — struggles in which the administration is an aggressive antagonist, a side.

In this Panglossian vision, the absolute deference to civility makes perfect sense. Except, in one of those funny turns, there would be no need for such deference. There would be nothing about which to be uncivil.

This paradox is an expression of, among other things, the character of our moment. For most of history, it has been perfectly well understood that “free speech” and “political advocacy” offer not an opposition but an identity: they are names for side-taking in real antagonisms. In what situation, then, do they seem to stand apart from each other? Necessarily in a situation where there is something at stake, something that power needs urgently to dissimulate. It is when side-taking lurches toward political crisis that power will endeavor to sequester free speech from that taking of sides.

In this regard, the Dirks letter is not a historian’s betrayal of history, but a sign of the present as one of political possibility — and, in particular, a sign of the significance of the confrontation over Palestine, Israel, and the fissure on campuses and elsewhere between fundraising practices and liberation struggles. In this and accompanying fights, free speech will be only one of the means we will need at our disposal.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Policing Civility

This guest post is an uncivil retort which demeans a viewpoint, written by an academic whose desire to remain anonymous is a function of the free speech climate that people like Nicholas Dirks and Phyllis Wise have created.

“Until 1959 Telegraph Avenue extended through the campus up to Sather Gate. Tables were stationed there, rallies assembled, and all types of literature sold and distributed. With the construction of the Student Union building, however, Telegraph Avenue ended at Bancroft Way. At this new gate to the campus, the traditional activities continued. The Bancroft and Telegraph sidewalk was generally regarded as being city property. Groups received table permits from the city of Berkeley authorities. In fact, the Dean's Office referred questions on the use of the area to the city police department. On September 14, Dean Towle informed the heads of all student organizations that the Bancroft and Telegraph sidewalk was in fact University property and that all University rules would henceforth be applied. No tables or speeches would be allowed. Only informational literature could be distributed; no advocacy was allowed”

From the beginning, an interpellation, a hail:

Dear Campus Community,

Of course, addressing the “campus community” is simply what he is doing, just a very formulaic opening, but that formula reflects the framework through which everything that comes after it is implied. For there to be a “campus community,” there also has to be a not-campus community, people who are outside the campus. But how a public university comes to have an outside to itself is an interesting question; how does a Californian become a outsider to a public Californian university? As the university becomes less and less “Californian,” in fact—turning to out-of-state students as cash cows—the terms on which the university is construed a community also changes: you have to buy your way in. Instead of getting a free education as a function of being a Californian (as it was, in the 1960s), you become a member of the community by purchasing your place. And one can be expelled from a community; if it’s a body of people, it’s also a place.

This Fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, which made the right to free expression of ideas a signature issue for our campus, and indeed for universities around the world. Free speech is the cornerstone of our nation and society – which is precisely why the founders of the country made it the First Amendment to the Constitution. For a half century now, our University has been a symbol and embodiment of that ideal.

Between the beginning and end of this paragraph, Dirks transforms a bitter, festering sore of an unresolved conflict into a unifying principle, using the power of intellectual dishonesty and bad faith. To be blunt: fifty years ago, the university administration censored its students, unreservedly and without hesitation. Student groups had begun to take part in civil rights agitation, and when the campus threatened to become a site where students and the community at large would do politics together—and when segregated businesses told the university to keep its students in line—the university told its students to sit down and shut up. Students who disobeyed were “suspended indefinitely”—a punishment which the university had to invent on the spot—and people like Jack Weinberg, who had recently graduated, were turned over to the police.

“At about 11:45 a.m., Dean Van Houten and a campus policeman approach one of the tables (CORE) at which about a dozen persons are sitting. Jack Weinberg, a recent Cal graduate, is told he is violating University rules and is placed under arrest when he refuses to leave the table. Students spontaneously sit down around the police car which has arrived on the plaza and block the car from removing Mr. Weinberg. Mario Savio, head of Friends of SNCC, removes his shoes and begins to address a crowd of over a thousand, from atop the police car. He discusses the position of the united front and the injustice of the Administration's response to their free speech demands. Many others also make speeches. The protest is extended by sitting-in in Sproul Hall.”

The founding event of the Free Speech Movement, the reason we remember it, and the reason Nicholas Dirks’ predecessors were prevented from censoring their students—as they had wanted to—is that students said no. They prevented the cops from expelling the “outside agitators” by putting their bodies on the machine, etc. They refused to allow the police to patrol the borders of their “campus community”; they made clear that the cops were the outsiders, and that Jack Weinberg—and other civil rights organizers—were part of the campus community. They won. Their disobedience prevented Nicholas Dirks’ predecessors from stifling the kinds of political activism that the local business community objected to: anti-segregation activism.

Let me underscore this with bulletpoints:
  • The Free Speech Movement began with students organizing to oppose segregation, being aggressively blocked by the administration, rejecting its authority to censor them, and winning.
  • The university administration was on the wrong side of history, and got taught a lesson by its students.
  • That lesson is this: when power tells you to sit down and shut up, the best answer is to tell power to go fuck itself.

The problem with Dirks’ letter, up to this point, is that the university has been a consistent site of politicized repression. To the extent that the victories of the Free Speech Movement have been maintained, it has always been by students pushing back against administration efforts to police and control.

This letter is also an effort to police and control.

As we honor this turning point in our history, it is important that we recognize the broader social context required in order for free speech to thrive. For free speech to have meaning it must not just be tolerated, it must also be heard, listened to, engaged and debated.

“Free Speech” is not a delicate flower that needs compost and sunlight and watering; “free speech” needs the absence of repression. That’s it. For “free speech to thrive,” you need the administrators not to call the police on its students. You need people to know that having an opinion about an unpopular social issue—say, opposing the Israeli occupation, or opposing racial segregation in Mississippi, or for that matter the privatization of public universities—will not result in their being punished for their wrong-think. And if “free speech” can only thrive when it is “heard, listened to, engaged and debated,” Dirks and his administration have some soul-searching to do about how they will hear, listen, engage, and debate their students.

“Representatives of the Free Speech Movement have requested time to speak before the Regents Friday to present their side of the controversy. The Regents will decide today whether the "quite crowded" agenda will permit time for such a presentation, according to a University spokesman. The Free Speech Movement announced yesterday it has sent a telegram to Governor Edmund Brown requesting an appointment with the Board of Regents at their meeting tomorrow. "If this request is denied we must consider alternate action," the telegram states.”

The next passage is where Dirks transitions from bad-faith concern trolling towards his ultimate destination, incoherence masking a threat:

Yet this is easier said than done, for the boundaries between protected and unprotected speech, between free speech and political advocacy, between the campus and the classroom, between debate and demagoguery, between freedom and responsibility, have never been fully settled. As a consequence, when issues are inherently divisive, controversial and capable of arousing strong feelings, the commitment to free speech and expression can lead to division and divisiveness that undermine a community’s foundation.

In this passage, Dirks asserts that “division and divisiveness” are threats to “a community’s foundation,” a rhetorical snake-pit that we will need to backtrack to understand. In the first paragraph he described how

“Free speech is the cornerstone of our nation and society – which is precisely why the founders of the country made it the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

At best, he’s constructed a tautology: free speech can lead to divisiveness which can undermine the cornerstone of our society, a society whose founders founded on free speech. Which, er, so wait: free speech is the foundation but free speech can put free speech in peril, so that’s why free speech can’t be free. Some kinds of free speech are more free than others and freedom isn’t free, I guess.

At best, then, this is just tautological nonsense. At worst, it’s an effort to define what kinds of speech are allowed to be free, and which kinds of speech have to be suppressed, in the name of free speech. Which one it is depends on how stupid you think Nicholas Dirks is.

I don’t think he’s stupid. I think he wants to create a campus climate where we accept that “free speech and political advocacy” are two different things, and where we fight over the difference. I think he’s smart enough to understand that political advocacy is explicitly protected speech—that it’s very specifically the form of protected speech which both the Free Speech Movement and the First Amendment specifically defend—and that this rhetorical gesture nudges his audience towards accepting indefensible trade-offs, to make it seem natural that you free speech means the freedom to say things that are not prohibited (because they’re political advocacy, demagoguery, irresponsible, or something else). It’s the same slight of hand as when National Security hawks tell us that there is a trade-off between freedom and security: what they mean is that we have to have less freedom, because security. Don’t you know there’s a war on?

Dirks seems to think there is a war on:

This fall, like every fall, there will be no shortage of issues to animate and engage us all. Our capacity to maintain that delicate balance between communal interests and free expression, between openness of thought and the requirements and disciplines of academic knowledge, will be tested anew.

The community needs you to express yourself less freely. The disciplines of academic knowledge require you to be less open in your thought.

Issues will arise to engage and animate you; remember, your ability to dis-engage and dis-animate will be on the test, so study hard.

Specifically, we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility. Simply put, courteousness and respect in words and deeds are basic preconditions to any meaningful exchange of ideas. In this sense, free speech and civility are two sides of a single coin – the coin of open, democratic society.

Is there anything more disrespectful than a letter from the chancellor expressing such a raft of poorly thought-through, nakedly dishonest, and intellectually bankrupt ideas? Does this make you feel respected?

A few years ago, students gathered on the Mario Savio Steps of Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, and were told to disperse, and then beaten by police when they did not. At UC Davis, of course, they were pepper sprayed. At UC Riverside, they were shot with rubber bullets. Does this make you feel safe?

Insofar as we wish to honor the ideal of Free Speech, therefore, we should do so by exercising it graciously. This is true not just of political speech on Sproul Plaza, but also in our everyday interactions with each other – in the classroom, in the office, and in the lab.

On its own, this letter is just an obnoxiously whiggish mis-telling of campus history. One would have expected that a historian would be reluctant to put his name on this garbage, but of course he’s not really a historian anymore—he’s a university chancellor. His job is not to say things that make a damned bit of sense; his job is to keep the people who matter happy.

This letter also does not happen in a vacuum. When he talks about the importance of civility, we recall that Steven Salaita has been fired for failing to be civil, gracious, and respectful. Nicholas Dirks’ predecessor defended police violence against student protesters by saying they were “not non-violent” and Dirks still hasn’t quite reached that level of dishonest ingenuity. But this letter demonstrates that he’s working on it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

From the Free Speech Movement to the Reign of Civility

From: Nicholas Dirks Chancellor
Date: Fri, Sep 5, 2014 at 5:11 PM
Subject: Civility and Free Speech
To: "Faculty; Staff; Students"

Dear Campus Community,

This Fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, which made the right to free expression of ideas a signature issue for our campus, and indeed for universities around the world. Free speech is the cornerstone of our nation and society – which is precisely why the founders of the country made it the First Amendment to the Constitution. For a half century now, our University has been a symbol and embodiment of that ideal

As we honor this turning point in our history, it is important that we recognize the broader social context required in order for free speech to thrive. For free speech to have meaning it must not just be tolerated, it must also be heard, listened to, engaged and debated.  Yet this is easier said than done, for the boundaries between protected and unprotected speech, between free speech and political advocacy, between the campus and the classroom, between debate and demagoguery, between freedom and responsibility, have never been fully settled.  As a consequence, when issues are inherently divisive, controversial and capable of arousing strong feelings, the commitment to free speech and expression can lead to division and divisiveness that undermine a community’s foundation. This fall, like every fall, there will be no shortage of issues to animate and engage us all. Our capacity to maintain that delicate balance between communal interests and free expression, between openness of thought and the requirements and disciplines of academic knowledge, will be tested anew.

Specifically, we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility. Simply put, courteousness and respect in words and deeds are basic preconditions to any meaningful exchange of ideas. In this sense, free speech and civility are two sides of a single coin – the coin of open, democratic society.

Insofar as we wish to honor the ideal of Free Speech, therefore, we should do so by exercising it graciously. This is true not just of political speech on Sproul Plaza, but also in our everyday interactions with each other – in the classroom, in the office, and in the lab.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Dirks
Chancellor

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Invention of the "Outside Agitator" in Three Graphs




Methodological note: The three words have to be graphed separately because they appear with significantly different frequencies. "Civil rights," for obvious reasons, appears much more often than "black power" or "outside agitator." When graphed together, the scale of the vertical axis makes it difficult to see the relative increase of the less prevalent terms. Still, what's important and revealing is the almost exact correspondence in the relative rise of each of the three terms over the course of the 1960s, through the civil rights movement and urban rebellions, and the subsequent decline over the course of the 1970s.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Donald Sterling, "Elegant Racism," and the Restructuring of the Public University


















You may have seen this advertisement, which ran in the LA Times on Sunday, April 27, two days after the original story broke. The ad was most striking not because of its design (awful) or timing (even worse) but because of what it tells us about the current state of the University of California. Not only, it proclaimed, was $3 million of Donald Sterling’s money being funneled into the UCLA School of Medicine but the school was planning to name a lab after him: “The UCLA Donald T. Sterling Structural Biology Kidney Research Laboratory.”

UCLA scrambled its PR teams to declare that the donation had been refused:
Mr. Sterling’s divisive and hurtful comments demonstrate that he does not share UCLA’s core values as a public university that fosters diversity, inclusion and respect. For those reasons, UCLA has decided to return Mr. Sterling’s initial payment of $425,000 and reject the remainder of a $3-million pledge he recently made to support basic kidney research by the UCLA Division of Nephrology.
The university’s spokesperson made clear that it was Sterling who had taken out the advertisement, and claimed that there had never been an agreement to name the lab after Sterling. Still, the UC’s vigilant protection of its brand (“Pioneering. Curious. Vibrant. Thoughtful. Even beautiful.”) suggests that at the very least the use of the university’s name had been approved.

But UCLA’s press release does more than what it appears to do on the surface—while attempting to perform a rejection of racism, it implicitly reveals how racism continues to shape the public university in an age of austerity and economic restructuring. It constitutes not only a statement about the university's response to the Sterling scandal but also a definition of racism: “divisive and hurtful comments.” That’s it. It’s KKK racism—old school racism, Jim Crow racism, explicit racism, over the top racism, easy to see racism. Ta-Nehisi Coates calls it “oafish racism,” which he contrasts with “elegant racism”:
Like Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling confirms our comfortable view of racists. Donald Sterling is a "bad person." He's mean to women. He carouses with prostitutes. He uses the word "nigger." He fits our idea of what an actual racist must look like: snarling, villainous, immoral, ignorant, gauche. The actual racism that Sterling long practiced, that this society has long practiced (and is still practicing) must attract significantly less note. That is because to see racism in all its elegance is to implicate not just its active practitioners, but to implicate ourselves.
The point is not so much to contrast “words” with “actions.” After all, speech is an action, and one that can have material consequences. Remember Christian Head? Last July, Dr. Head, a surgeon at UCLA’s medical school, was awarded $4.5 million in a racial discrimination suit that he’d brought against the UC Regents:
The agreement settles the lawsuit, filed in April, that accused the university of failing to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation against Head. The head and neck surgeon alleged that he was retaliated against for filing complaints through normal channels and was denied teaching opportunities.

Head, 51, also alleged that he was routinely publicly humiliated and once was depicted as a gorilla being sodomized in a slide show presentation during a resident graduation event.
So the point is not to dismiss words, but to consider just how easily racist structures can coexist with the language of liberal diversity, inclusivity, and multiculturalism. Back in 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a housing discrimination case brought by the Justice Department which claimed that he discriminated against Black and Latin@ tenants in his Los Angeles apartment buildings. It was the largest monetary settlement on a housing discrimination case ever. But racist business practices are one thing, “divisive” comments another. If only Sterling had kept his mouth shut!

All of these things have already been said. But there’s another question that hasn’t quite been addressed—what does this tell us about UCLA, the UC, and more generally the public university? One thing it might tell us is that the university is not only implicated in but also profits directly off of dirty money. And it's not just Sterling. In 2011, to take one egregious example, Bank of America paid a $335 million settlement concerning the bank’s predatory lending practices against Black and Latin@ borrowers. From 2004-2008, the bank had intentionally charged Blacks and Latin@s higher rates on their mortgages than they did for similarly qualified white borrowers. Much like Sterling’s housing discrimination settlement, this was the largest fair lending settlement in history. And yet, when you go to the quad at UCSF-Mission Bay—yes, right there, just north of Genentech Hall—this is what you find:





That's right, the Bank of America Terrace.

Why do some expressions of racism appear as shocking and outrageous, while others tend to fade into the background? For the privatizing public university, always seeking to maximize its revenue streams, materially racist practices that shape the lives of real people are not only an insufficient reason to turn down a donation—they do not even appear as a problem. And this is just a single, particularly obvious example. The UC increasingly runs on this kind of money—all universities with endowments do. They profit off dirty money, from fossil fuel extraction and the military occupation of Palestine, as divestment advocates have been pointing out for years, to land grabs in Africa, biotechnology (that's you, Genentech), and racist banks and slumlords. As the UC becomes increasingly dependent on these revenue streams, it will necessarily become more and more reluctant to refuse such donations. This is not because UC administrators are "oafish racists" but because racism is part and parcel of how business is done under capitalist white supremacy. An “elegant racism” increasingly flows through the UC’s books and registers in the changing composition of the student body and the capital projects and research centers that increasingly occupy these campuses. The university is not only complicit with but actively participates in and profits from this racism, and will continue to do so until the structural racism of "business as usual" is made as visible and tangible to the administration as the comments of scumbags like Sterling.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why we are striking -- an Open Letter to UC Grad Students

Reposted from some strikers

AN OPEN LETTER TO UC GRAD STUDENTS—

This coming week, our union—United Auto Workers Local 2865—has called a system-wide strike in protest of unfair labor practices (ULPs) by the university. Although particular grievances differ from campus to campus, in aggregate, they concern the university’s unwillingness to bargain over key aspects of our employment, including class size and the length of our workweek. Also at issue is the university’s history of illegal intimidation of student workers. For example, this past November, an administrator at UCLA threatened overseas students with the loss of their visas for participating in a sympathy strike—a claim as insulting as it was untrue.

The reasons for striking are serious, but also banal. By any measure, our labor is appallingly undervalued by the managers of the UC, its remuneration calibrated neither to the ballooning costs of living in present-day California nor to the wages of our peers at equivalent out-of-state universities. Nonetheless, many of us persist in believing that, no matter how untenable or degrading, our working conditions can always be tolerated, since they are only temporary, lasting no longer than our apprenticeships. The ideology of grad school rationalizes this deficit as the price of shelter from the “working world,” of which the academy is surely the opposite. Those who do not support the strike will claim that grad students are not workers at all, but rather professionals in the chrysalis stage of a post-laborious life cycle. Labor is the fate of the unlucky, the futureless, the unspecial—of all who fail admittance to the academy, or who find themselves passed over in the competition for grants, honors, and jobs. Today’s strikers, tomorrow’s adjuncts.

The academy has always warmed to such delusions. To exist, universities depend on the extraction of un- and underpaid labor from students and faculty, exploiting a population convinced of its special intelligence and competitive edge. Fear of imposture, of mere adequacy, is the coin of the academic realm. As minter of this coin, the university holds its subjects in a state of blind dependency: students compete for the attention of a shrinking pool of professionals (part-time instructors currently outnumber tenure-track faculty by a ration of four to one), while the latter scurry to commodify the drippings of a hive-mind on the brink of colony collapse. A population that does not recognize itself as working will not mind working harder, longer, and more obediently, whatever the personal cost. For many grad students, the very idea of a contract governing the limits and conditions of our labor is a source of skepticism, and even derision. This system is not an alternative to the working world; it is the model every employer would eagerly adopt. Far from prefiguring an emancipated society, the university offers a foretaste of the total domination of workers by management.

Perhaps our peers are right: perhaps we strikers are the futureless, the luckless, the unspecial. To which we should reply—Yes, and so are you! Of course, logic dictates that some of us will be retained by the academy as its favored prodigies; that some of us will best our peers on a tightening job market; that odds will always (ever) be in someone’s favor. But this is not a logic, not a system, that we could ever willingly endorse. The university profits by our atomization, our disunity; it encourages our delusions of specialness, our faith in anointment and meritocratic providence; it thrives on our belief, against every shred of evidence, that we are not workers. We are striking because we are workers. We are striking, not to withdraw our labor arbitrarily, but so that we can find each other outside the walls of the academy. We are striking so that we do not to end up like the fortunate ones.

There are no fair labor practices in the academy or anywhere else; there are only the gains we win for ourselves, together, fighting.

Signed,
Some strikers, some friends

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Blum Center Takeover Manifesto

The Blum Center Take-over group calls for:

1) UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks to publicly renounce Janet Napolitano.

2) For all those in solidarity to cancel classes tomorrow (Friday, Feb 14), and for people to build a strike in support of Napolitano’s resignation and for the democratization of the University.

3) Full amnesty for all those reclaiming campus space, including those who have taken the Blum Center.

Why we are taking the Blum Center:

Richard Blum, the primary funder and namesake of the Blum Center, represents and acts as a driving force of privatization and reorganization of the University of California system. As an investment banker, Blum profits from the fact that the UC is no longer funded primarily through the federal government. As a central figure in pushing away from federal subsidization of education, and therefore a completely affordable or free public education, Blum and other bankers and financiers on the board of regents--including Monica Lozano--have compelled the University to take out massive bonds from private banks to compensate for this lack of funding. Public funding is legally allowed to go to only educational resources bonds, and the tuition system that allow this process to happen can be used for whatever the regents want. In many cases, this money is tied to companies that these regents own. For example, Blum owns the equity management firm Blum Capital, which has massive investments in the companies that do all of the construction at the UC. To those who believe in a public and democratic education, this is seen as legalized fraud and corruption.

Blum and Janet Napolitano’s Special Relationship:

UC regent Richard Blum was central in proposing Janet Napolitano. Richard Blum’s record includes firing Robert Dynes in 2007, leading the search for Mark Yudof, and encouraging Yudof's resignation before overseeing the "search" for a new UC president. Although the Regents state that this was done through a headhunting agency, Blum was instrumental in making the final decision. We conclude that central decisions for filling the highest-ranking positions in the UC system continue to be made by those who stand to profit from privatization. Blum’s interest in keeping a business-as-usual that allows for massive profits for companies to which he has ties indicates Napolitano’s appointment as a means to continue this process of implementing policies of social control during her time in DHS.

Blum’s 12 year term as a UC regent ended in January. His reappointment by Jerry Brown for a second 12 year term this past January shows that the regents, like him, will continue to retain power unless there is a social response to this injustice.

The appointment of Napolitano exposes the undemocratic process by which the UC system makes decisions. In order to address this structural problem, we demand a restructuring of this process which includes: a) a campuses-wide election for all future UC regents and presidents; this includes having the ability to nominate, endorse, and campaign for candidates b) the power to impeach both UC presidents and regents c) a general democratization of the regents to include actual participation of students, faculty, and UC workers in the central decision making processes of the University.

We call on all students, faculty, and staff to join us, to take action in the coming days and weeks, and to demand the restructuring of the decision making process in our university system, so that we can make the promise of a public education a reality.