Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Holy crap. Guess how Schwarzenegger wants to do that prison privatization thing:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that the state could save $1 billion by building and operating prisons in Mexico to house undocumented felons who are currently imprisoned in California.

The governor floated the idea during an appearance at the Sacramento Press Club in response to a question about controlling state spending. His speech came on the same day that changes in prisoner parole and credits for time served took effect.

"We pay them to build the prisons down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in a prison. ... And all this, it would be half the cost to build the prisons and half the cost to run the prisons," Schwarzenegger said, predicting it would save the state $1 billion that could be spent on higher education.

About 19,000 of the state's 171,000 prisoners are illegal immigrants, according to the most recent statistics available online. The state spends more than $8 billion a year on the prison system.

Aaron McLear, spokesman for the governor, said later that Schwarzenegger's comments did not represent a concrete proposal, but "a concept somebody mentioned to him" and he could not say where the governor came up with the $1 billion figure.

The governor's statements seemed to catch his prisons chief off guard. Matthew Cate, secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said it was not a proposal the department was pursuing and he assumed it was an extension of Schwarzenegger's call to privatize some of the state's prison operations.

Occupation Benefit Party

UC Budget and JP Morgan

The Daily Cal reports that Nathan Brostrom is officially taking over the direction of the UC budget. He's been doing this job on an interim basis since last September, but now it's official. And from the very first paragraph of the article, alarm bells are ringing:
He came to UC Berkeley to shake up the campus's financial strategy. Now, Vice Chancellor of Administration Nathan Brostrom brings his big banking experience to the UC Office of the President.
Big banking experience?
Before coming to campus, Brostrom had been the manager of the Western Region Public Finance Group for J.P. Morgan Securities in San Francisco. During his 10 years at J.P. Morgan, he oversaw a $11.3 billion bond sale for the state of California, the largest municipal deal in U.S. history at that time, according to a university statement.
Not coincidentally, Brostrom's already brought some of that "big banking experience" to the table: he "took a leading role" in pushing the $321 million renovation of the stadium, and has been a "leading campus supporter" of the absurd decision to bring in Bain & Company (at the price of $3 million) to identify and oversee budget cuts over the next two years.

To review, the path to success in the UC administration:
Step 1: Regional manager at JP Morgan
Step 2: Director of UC Budget
Nice priorities.

P.S. Brostrom was one of the administrators who was sent down to meet with protesters at the UCOP sit-in.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UCB Administration's Official Response to Kroeber Makeover

Email sent out this afternoon at 3:15 pm:
With the Spring semester's beginning, we write jointly to remind the university community that use of our common resources -- our classrooms, labs, offices, and public spaces -- is subject to rules aimed at protecting the liberty of each of us to teach, learn, work, live, and engage in political expression. Rights of protest and demonstration are both protected and governed by rules of appropriate time, place, and manner, crafted collaboratively by faculty, students and administration, in accordance with First Amendment law.

In particular, we remind all that the following campus rules are fundamental to our respectful and vigorous life as a community diverse in beliefs, interests, and activities. These rules will be enforced as we embark on a season of renewed discussion and debate concerning the path forward for Berkeley and higher education. We expect the full compliance of faculty, staff, and students.

From the Campus Regulations Concerning the Time, Place, and Manner of Public Expression (http://students.berkeley.edu/uga/regs.stm), Secs. 300ff:

311. The University has a special obligation to protect free inquiry and free expression. On University grounds open to the public generally, all persons may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech and assembly. Such activities must not, however, interfere with the right of the University to conduct its affairs in an orderly manner and to maintain its property, nor may they interfere with the University's obligation to protect the rights of all to teach, study, and freely exchange ideas. These regulations purport to assure the right of free expression and advocacy on the Berkeley campus, to minimize conflict between the form of exercise of that right and the rights of others in the effective use of University facilities, and to minimize possible interference with the University's responsibilities as an educational institution.

312. These regulations provide authorization for certain uses of University facilities, and establish procedures for such authorized uses. Such uses must conform to these regulations, Berkeley campus and University policies, and state and federal laws that may protect or regulate matters of public expression on the Berkeley campus.

321. All individuals on University property or in attendance at an official University function assume an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with the University's responsibilities as an educational institution. This means that all persons are responsible for complying with applicable University and Berkeley campus policies, including but not limited to the listed prohibitions.
No person on University property or at official University functions may:

(a) block entrances to or otherwise interfere with the free flow of traffic into and out of campus buildings;

(b) have unauthorized entry to, possession of, receipt of, or use of any University services; equipment; resources; or properties, including the University's name, insignia, or seal;

(c) engage in physical abuse including but not limited to sexual assault, sex offenses, and other physical assault; threats of violence; or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person;

(d) obstruct or disrupt teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures, or other University activities;

(e) engage in the production of amplified or non-amplified sound that disrupts campus activities;

(f) exhibit disorderly or lewd conduct;

(g) participate in a disturbance of the peace or unlawful assembly;

(j) possess, use, store, or manufacture explosives, firebombs, or other destructive devices;

(k) possess, use, store, or manufacture a firearm or other weapon.;

(l) engage in the theft of, conversion of, destruction of, or damage to any property of the University, or any property of others while on University premises, or possession of any property when the individual had knowledge or reasonably should have had knowledge that it was stolen;

(m) fail to comply with the directions of a University official or other public official acting in the performance of his or her duties while on University property or at official University functions; or resisting or obstructing such University or other public officials in the performance of or the attempt to perform their duties;

(n) camp or lodge on University property other than in authorized facilities;

(o) climb up or rappel down any tree, building, or structure on University property;

331. The Sproul Plaza and Lower Sproul Plaza have traditionally been designated as areas for public expression. These areas are open to the public generally between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight. Between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., these areas are generally closed to all activities except coming and going to a University building or crossing the campus. During open hours, Sproul Plaza and Lower Sproul Plaza may be used without reservation for discussion or public expression which does not require or involve sound amplification equipment. Space in both areas may be reserved through the Center for Student Leadership for use by recognized campus organizations or non-University groups in accordance with facility use regulations and established office procedures. However, use of these areas for discussion or public expression may be limited when such use interferes with the orderly conduct of University business or authorized events.

Christopher Kutz
Chair, Faculty Senate

Fiona M. Doyle
Vice Chair, Faculty Senate

Robert J. Birgeneau

George Breslauer
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Statements from Attempted Occupation of Hibernia Bank, SF

The intended communique tries to explicitly bridge the gap between student protests and other struggles around precariousness:
The actions of students in California have so far been contained in the Universities but it cannot remain that way; the conditions in the schools are inseparably tied to the conditions in our communities, across the state and across the world. The privatization of schools and social services parallels the privatization of our society. Our current social reality tells us it is unacceptable to demand more money and resources for schools as that money must come through the decimation of other social services. We recognize it is futile to demand action from a removed, alien body. We will become that action we want and we will build and create those resources we need. We seek new spaces and unheard of relations. We will begin to create our own realities and our own services. We must find real freedom in thought and action, not this manufactured lie that is spit out to us in every living moment. We seek the creation of new forms of life, built upon common understanding and solidarity instead of competition and alienation.

We seek to overcome the false separation of the student struggle that keeps us from realizing our common reality with all sectors of society. We are all denied a creative life by the global powers, denied the possibility for the exploration and elaboration of new forms of being besides this exploitation and oppression they force us to endure. We now join comrades across the state who have already begun this struggle – the people who fight against the criminalization of life. Our path to liberation is bound with theirs, we all share an absent future and the possibility for a new life. If they take our means of survival, rights to housing, education, welfare, union jobs, and other public services, we will take their banks. It remains for the people of this state to seize what is rightfully theirs.
Unfortunately, the occupiers accidentally tripped a motion sensor and the police arrived quickly -- with their guns drawn. Here's the statement from after the fact. As they openly acknowledge, there's a lot we have to learn from people who are already involved in squatting:
We entered the space earlier in the morning to barricade the doors and with the hope of later creating an open space. The idea of an open and notorious occupation off campus requires a closer examination but should not be abandoned. The creation of liberated spaces in the community is something that we strive and dream for. In our decision to take this particular space as well to publicize it widely we wished to show to the student community the common circumstances that exist between two issues that are normally distant as well as show student support for those dealing with the reality of homelessness and precarious housing. Our failure illustrated to us how much we have to learn from those already involved squatting.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kroeber Makeover

(facebook group, if you're into that sort of thing)

Update I: Kroeber Makeover website

Update II: check out the schedule.

Pitting Students against Prisoners

Some reflections on the Schwarzenegger's recent proposal:
The only possible solution to salvage either of these institutions for capital is to privatize them. It is here that capitalism as the unbridled negation of human existence shows its face; these two sites which are already situated to mold individuals to their social roles will be put under the rule of the most cutthroat calculus—quality will never outstrip quantity within the capitalist mode of existence. Students are merely collateral for construction loans, and a gamble on productive jobs in the future; prisoners are those without a legitimate place in the process, except as a reserve labor force (and object of prison corporations; let’s not forget prison labor as well, the latest form of slavery). And in order to create new forms of value, there must be a simultaneous devaluation of a particular sector of society. The university is thus being redesigned as a glorified vocational school, producer of complex labor powers for a privileged few, and an outsourced research and development division for state and corporate agencies to which it is ultimately the appendage. Its future can only be ever-more null and quantitative existence for its ever-more restricted pool of students: there must necessarily be those who are excluded access from the university, in order for the degrees it produces to be worth anything.

The opposite pole of social reproduction is found in the prison system, where individuals are actively being made useless. The prison is no longer meant to be a place to rehabilitate individuals, but a dead end in which the individual’s nullity in everyday life comes to its logical conclusion. As jobs become scarce, foreclosed homes are left unoccupied, and the prisons become the only place in which the growing number of people without a tenable capacity to produce value can be safely placed. It is this devaluation of living labor—“the crisis of a period in which capitalism no longer needs us as workers”—which underlies the crises of the prison, the university, and so much more. Socially condemned individuals are to simply to be warehoused and contained at all costs, healthcare be damned. Imprisonment is exclusion taking total form, one which marks even those who depart from its walls, still to be denied inclusion in the legitimate economy through the loss of employment, education and housing. (Much like immigrants who are finding themselves increasingly imprisoned and deported.) The prison as a form of mass containment and social control originated as the debtors’ prison; we still speak of prisoners “paying their debt to society.” Now students and workers are facing more debt than ever before: our whole society is a debtors’ prison. Meanwhile, the extension of parole regimes, house arrest, and generalized surveillance may be another means not just of reducing the cost of prisons, but bringing them into ever closer convergence with the rest of daily life (or rather, vice versa).

Friday, January 15, 2010

UC Berkeley Student Conduct Hearings

An email sent out two days ago:
Hey Everyone,

I just got back from Angela Miller’s student conduct hearing. She was one of the Berkeley students randomly detained at the Chancellor’s House. Basically, Alix, Joseph, Laura, and I went for support. Actually, Alix is [Angela’s] friend and went in as her advisor with her while the rest of us waited outside. Alix reported that during her hearing, the police officer called Angela a terrorist and compared her to the Ku Klux Klan. Result: they gave Angela an interim suspension and are kicking her out of her co-op, Cloyne. Angela needs to get her stuff and leave, no joke. Also, they literally told her the words that she “is guilty until proven innocent”. They said this even while knowing that the DA’s office found NO evidence connecting her to the vandalism at the Chancellor’s House. I seriously can not believe that I go to this school. [Angela] could have been anyone of us student protesters. The Student Conduct Office together with the Administration are completely morally bankrupt.
Apparently, Angela was told about the hearing the day before it was going to happen; she didn't have time to arrange for any sort of legal representation. For Zach Bowin, whose case came up in December, he found out a little bit earlier. Because of the lawyer -- Steve Rosenbaum, who actually helped revise the code of conduct 30 years ago -- as well as the large crowd outside the student conduct office, things went better for Zach. Still, here's a video of the lawyer talking to the crowd after being thrown out of the hearing.

UC Berkeley law lecturer discusses the Office of Student Conduct from Josh Wolf on Vimeo.

As Rosenbaum puts it, the hearing is basically a "secret tribunal" where "they make up the rules as you go along." It's actually pretty fitting that you can see the police presence at the protest. They're videotaping the crowd.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Money Laundering

By now we've all seen Bob Meister's work documenting the UC administration's use of student tuition -- and the promise of future tuition increases -- as collateral for construction bonds. But what about the rest of the budget? Here, Bob Samuels takes a close look back at the notes from the Regents' meeting on November 18, 2009:
What I suspect is going on is that the UC is basically laundering its money by placing funds from many different sources, including student fees and state funds, into its investment accounts. By using this structure, the system is able to hide its unrestricted funds and to redirect money from its investment accounts into its chosen priorities, which is mostly increasing the compensation of the star administrators, faculty, and coaches. The end result of this process is that the UC declares that it is broke, while it raises record revenue and redistributes income from the poorest students and workers to the wealthiest employees.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Birgeneau Keeps It Classy

Yesterday, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed a constitutional amendment that would require that the state of California dedicate more money to higher education (specifically the UC and CSU systems) than to prisons. While it sounds nice on face, the shift wouldn't actually alter the state's obsession with prisons or sever its ties to the prison-industrial complex -- indeed, it would strengthen these ties. Prisons won't be eliminated -- they'll be privatized.

The basic points of the plan are here; a good critical analysis, which suggests that even aside from the prisons issue, the amendment won't resolve the budget crisis at the UC and CSU, is here.

But this isn't what I want to talk about here. What I want to talk about is cooptation and the UC administration. About a half hour ago, Chancellor Birgeneau sent out an official statement on Schwarzenegger's proposal to the UC Berkeley community. The Governor, he writes, "has taken a bold and visionary step to reposition support for education among the State's highest priorities." And what made Schwarzenegger take this seemingly incongruous step?
We commend Governor Schwarzenegger for taking this strong stance in response to the efforts of UCOP leadership to restore funding for the university.
As usual, Birgeneau has the UC administration take all the credit. Everything that happens happens because the administration makes it happen. Protests? What protests?

But look at what the governor's chief of staff told the New York Times:
“Those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point,” the governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, said in an interview after the speech. “Our university system is going to get the support it deserves.”
Again and again, the administration has tried to take credit for the effects of direct actions carried out by students, faculty, and workers. Cooptation is the first prong of its political strategy; the second, of course, is violence.

Here's the whole email Birgeneau sent out:
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:

Yesterday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a very important statement of commitment to higher education in his State of the State Address from Sacramento. In acknowledging that "we can no longer afford to cut higher education" and proposing a constitutional amendment to rebalance spending between education and prisons, the Governor has taken a bold and visionary step to reposition support for education among the State's highest priorities.

We commend Governor Schwarzenegger for taking this strong stance in response to the efforts of UCOP leadership to restore funding for the university. Across the UC campuses, including our own, we have all been working hard to convince Sacramento of the critical importance to our State of investment in public higher education. I am sure that you are as uplifted and encouraged as I am by this very positive outcome.

I want to emphasize, however, that this is just a beginning. First, we must remain focused on the near-term and on the budget for the upcoming year. Although the Governor has indicated that he wants no further cuts to higher education, we will need to convince legislators from both parties to support the Governor in this, given the $19.9 billion projected State deficit. Second, passing a constitutional amendment to guarantee that the University of California and the California State University systems receive no less than 10% of the state's operating funds each year will require all our support in ensuring that the Governor's commitment survives the legislative process and succeeds as a ballot initiative. We will need to continue to advocate with our legislators and the California public to secure stable financial support of public higher education.

I look forward to working with you all in the coming weeks and months as we continue our efforts to ensure that the legislature restores funding to the University of California.

The Governor's statement can be read at http://gov.ca.gov/speech/14118/

President Yudof's response to the Governor's announcement is available at http://atyourservice.ucop.edu/news/general/0106-presidentmessage_sos.html

Yours sincerely,

Robert J. Birgeneau