Saturday, October 2, 2010

An Open Letter to UC Berkeley Students

From Mobilize Berkeley:
Over the last school year, we’ve seen tuition increase by 32% and massive cuts to every sector of our campus from academic departments, to maintenance staffing. This is old news.

Just this semester, the Chancellor announced his intention to eliminate 200 campus faculty and staff positions, Chicano Studies and Asian American Studies as majors may disappear, and there’s been a 12% drop in Latino admissions.

Meanwhile, investigative reporter Peter Byrne has uncovered some disturbing facts about the UC Regent’s use of the UC’s investment fund. In 2003, three Regents restructured the UC’s investment fund, investing in risky financial instruments, making students and workers poorer, and making themselves richer in the process. To put it shortly:

many of these deals, while potentially lucrative, have lost significant amounts of money for UC’s retirement and endowment funds, which were worth $63 billion at the end of 2009. (These losses ultimately reduce the amount spent on education, since the endowment supports teaching activities.) And the non-transparency of these private deals enabled multiple conflicts of interest to arise without challenge.

You can rest assured knowing that every time your fees go up UC Regent Richard Blum, with his investments in for-profit private colleges, gets a little bit richer. As if to add insult to injury, at the last Regents meeting the Regents voted unanimously to cut pensions for the UC’s lowest paid workers and to increase the pensions of the UC’s 250 highest paid employees. This news comes only a few short weeks after the New York Times and other major news agencies reported that, before moving to his new mansion in Lafayette, UC President Mark Yudof racked up $70,000 worth of damages to his previous UC mansion.

As students, we are asked to take out more loans that force us into jobs we don’t like to pay off debt we can’t afford for the privilege of getting a lower quality education. We are then told to kindly shut up and move along when we voice our reasonable conclusions: that the crisis of our university is not just a lack of state funding, that UC administrators give the public little reason to believe that new funds will be used in a reasonable or just manner, and that the governance structure of the UC is fundamentally flawed.

Over the last year, tens of thousands of UC students, workers, and faculty stood up, walked out, sat-in, occupied, and disrupted business as usual, forcing the governor to restore funding to public higher education. His chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, stated “those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point. Our university system is going to get the support it deserves.”

And while we await the materialization of those hollow words (the California budget is over 80 days late, the restorations are not enough, and they will come from cuts to essential social services), we again look to ourselves, the students of the U.C., as well as the workers, faculty, and community members with whom we’ve built solidarity over the last year, for the strength to change the status quo.

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