Monday, January 31, 2011

Home of the Free Speech Movement
From ThoseWhoUseIt:
The plot thickens, coagulating into a repulsive glop.  Roughly an hour after we reported that a UC Berkeley undergrad was threatened with conduct sanctions by the Office of Student Conduct (OSC), we learned of 4 additional students and alumni -- all of whom were undergraduates during the period of the alleged violations -- who received similar charges.  Three of them received notices of possible violation seemingly identical to the one posted in our initial report. However, a fourth student -- a longtime contributor to this blog -- was threatened with charges not only for his alleged involvement in the chalking on November 19 (for which he too received an identical notice of possible violation), but also for his alleged activities at the Regents’ meeting on November 17. Because this author was present for our contributor’s arrest, I can attest to the fact that the arrestee violated no law. In fact, on the very evening of the 17th, CBS aired a video of our comrade being arrested. It clearly showed a line of students and workers linking arms in an attempt to prevent the Regents from leaving the parking deck. Our comrade was not one of these demonstrators. Instead, he walked up and down the line writing the phone number for the SF National Lawyers’ Guild on the forearms of the demonstrators with a permanent marker. In the CBS clip, a cop can be clearly seen pointing out our comrade to two other cops, at which point they walk up to him, violently throw him to the ground, beat him, and cuff him face down on the cement. At this point they hauled him off to a holding cell near the Civic Center. When he appeared for his arraignment a few weeks ago, no charges were filed. Obviously. He didn’t do a thing, and it’s all on video! We will provide the video clip at a later date, but he has asked us to protect his anonymity for the time being. However, we have obtained his notice of possible violation, which includes the following two charges:
102.13. Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures, or other University activities.

102.16. Failure to identify oneself to, or 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.
What a joke. According to the OSC’s own code of conduct -- explicitly referenced in this notice -- cases must be resolved within 75 days of the alleged incident. The fact that 5 of our comrades are receiving initial notices of possible violations 72 days afterward means that they will not even receive their notices of actual charges until well past the 75-day deadline. Of course, we all know that OSC unilaterally suspended their own timeline in a secret email from Associate Dean of Students Cristina Gonzalez to OSC Acting Director Susan Trageser in August of 2009. We have long had a copy of that email, and it explicitly suspends the timeline (which is beyond the scope of Dean Gonzalez’ authority by the way, not that it seems to matter) for a single academic year. That year has long been over. Unless there is another secret email in which an administrator declares a state of exception about which we have not yet heard, these bureaucrats are one-upping even the sovereign: refusing to declare a state of exception, they have decided to simply will it into existence. In other words, we do not need to be informed that the law has been suspended, nor do we even need documentation any longer; the suspension of the law itself no longer needs to remain within the formal bounds of legality!
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again:
Drop all charges against student protesters!
And seriously, if the only reason our comrade received a notice of possible violation for his alleged actions at the Regents’ meeting is because he was arrested; if that arrest appears in a widely available video in which it is quite clearly wrongful; and if no charges were actually filed against him, signaling that the SF DA is cognizant of this fact, on what basis is he being charged by OSC? More to the point, if OSC threatens students on the basis of formal legal sanctions that they receive on or off campus, why does OSC exist at all?
Abolish OSC!
Update: We have just learned that at least one UCSC student has been charged by OSC on he/r campus for an arrest at the Regents’ meeting. More details when we get them.
For a detailed account of the operations of Office of Student Conduct, see "On Administrative Conduct: Procedural Violations and the Rule of the Arbitrary" published in the most recent issue of Reclamations.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Behind Every Fee Increase... A Line of Private Security Guards?

Sometimes it's hard to decide which parts of a UC Regents' meeting to highlight. Everything about these meetings in general is just terrible, pretty much across the board. Right now, the regents are stoked about the state's budget cuts, looking for every opportunity to raise tuition (they're proposing another 6.25 percent hike), fire workers (now they're saying a thousand) and cut pensions -- the whole conflict over Dean Edley's astoundingly self-centered view of the crisis seems to offer UCOP and the regents an beautiful conjuncture in which they can slash worker pensions and come off looking like the good guys. Still, there's a couple of details we wanted to flag from this summary of yesterday's meeting. First, this is kind of amazing:
Yudof said the university has long operated on three "compass points" -- access, affordability and excellence.

"We are moving dangerously close to having to say: pick two of the three. That’s my view, and the excellence is nonnegotiable," he said. "We are going to have to look at access and affordability."
I think that speaks for itself. Also, this:
Relatively few members of the public -- including faculty, staff and students -- attended the meeting. In fact, uniformed and plainclothes UC police and yellow-jacketed private security guards outnumbered the public.
Behind every fee increase, a line of private security guards. The riot cops, of course, are right behind them.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Your Apathy = Your Fees

In light of the UC Berkeley administration's decision to permanently remove the "wall of faces" (otherwise known as the "propaganda wall"), we've put together this retrospective in memory of what the university saw as a "marketing tool" for commodifying people of color -- er, raising funds. Enjoy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Spring 2011 Statement

From Lines of Demarcation [PDF here]:
Many of us are looking back right now at the sets of actions that trace student/worker/faculty opposition to the programmatic final neoliberalizing of the university. We have engaged in various actions over the course of the last two years, some of which we have seen the immediate effects of and some whose effects we have not been able to see or anticipate. Those actions in the second group are the source of much anxiety; we wonder if they have been a waste since they appear not to have advanced anything. We should remember that actions have a dispersed life and bear on our moment in many ways. One way that we can understand this is by the effects that we can see in the actions of our enemies. The administration is shaken. This is evident by the unprecedented police presence on our campuses after the Regents' meeting. They are trying to forcibly enter our meetings, scare us with heavy handed legal consequences. Collectively, we are students, faculty, student-workers, and service workers, we are the classes that make the university, we provide the labor that it uses as capital and cache in its attempt to sell the university as a commodity. They hold us in precarious positions and divide us from one another through bureaucratic distinctions like job titles and degree designations. They pit us against each other, making us think that we have to fight each other for resources. This is a lie. They know that we produce, collectively, the product that they sell and profit from. They keep our wages down and our ability to determine the university by keeping us from aligning with one another. We have learned in the history of our actions that we are already aligned. When we act together, as we have, they cannot stop us. The problem emerges when we are again divided by our fear: fear of sanctions, fear of violence, fear of future retribution. We must not let this be the case. We must remain in solidarity.

It may be easy to feel depressed about the lack of apparent wins, but our actions have had consequences. Now is the time to push those consequences to the conclusions that we want. Let's not let the round of repression from the university, the police, and their allies keep us from reconfiguring the spaces that we live and work in. We are angry at the wave of arrests, home 'visits', police standing guard on our campuses, sending students to jail, and charging them with 'serious' crimes.

The convention of looking backward as one begins something new only reveals what is normally concealed; the past can only exist in the present. We look to the past to get a sense of what to do in the present, but the present is opaque to us too. The present is the name that we give to what has just happened. To be concerned with the present in this way is to think ideologically about what is possible. We can and must think with the conjuncture, not about it. The present that we occupy is under construction at every moment in the sense that we produce the narratives of our actions that give them meaning. We live here. We live now. We act in the relations that we live in if we do this, we move against ideological separation and we move in solidarity. This is to say: they are afraid; if we were not threatening, they would not push back with this force; however, their fear alone isn't a win and it doesn't mean that they can't hurt us. Let's push the situation further. We should begin to disrupt every aspect of business as usual. Engage in every tactic that brings the university to a halt. Solidarity means that we act in concert but not in unification. We should have one demand: the control of the place that we both produce and are produced by. We must do everything we can to disrupt every process that forces us to produce our own debt and hold us accountable for it. Shut down the processes that are mobilized to keep students and workers from controlling the university. Let's realize the relations that capital tries to conceal from us. Categories of hierarchy (graduate students, lecturers, adjuncts, undergraduates, faculty, staff, service workers) though material, conceal the ways in which we are all precariously situated in the institution that we make.

Yudof himself says: "There can be no business as usual." For once, we agree.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Musical Interlude in Solidarity with Tunisian Protesters

Tunisian police have arrested a rap singer who released a song critical of government policies as protests against President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's rule shook the North African nation, his brother said on Friday.

Police arrested 22-year-old Hamada Ben-Amor late on Thursday in the Mediterranean Sea coast city of Sfax, Hamdi Ben-Amor told Reuters.

"Some 30 plainclothes policemen came to our house to arrest Hamada and took him away without ever telling us where to. When we asked why they were arresting him, they said 'he knows why'," he said.

Ben-Amor is known to fans as The General. Last week he released a song on the internet titled 'President, your people are dying' that talks about the problems of the youth and unemployment.
Students have apparently been heavily involved in the protests, and the government has shut down the universities in response. Anywhere from 21 to 50 protesters have been killed so far by police.

[Update Thursday 7:56 am]: Excellent roundup with videos and links. Also, the U.S. government's bullshit response. And some thoughts on the media blackout regarding the Tunisia protests.

Meister Strikes Again

In the Bay Guardian's new article on student debt. First, here's some of the data on debt:
Today, the majority of college students take out loans to finance their education. Around 62 percent of public university students graduate with student loans, as do 72 percent of students attending private nonprofit institutions, and 96 percent of students attending for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix or the Academy of Art University, according to TICAS. Nationally, students graduate owing an average of $24,000, not counting debt associated with advanced degrees.

While young people must invest more than ever before to obtain higher education, the return on investment isn't showing signs of improvement. The expected median income for UC graduates has stayed the same over the last decade, even as the cost of tuition has ballooned.
And now, Meister:
While diminished public funding has been used to explain the need to raise tuition, Meister has published numerous essays suggesting that the root cause of rising tuition costs at UC goes deeper than that, and he has gone so far as to publicly encourage students not to accept higher tuition without first demanding financial information.

Meister previously served on the UC budget committee and has observed the institution's evolving financial policies for years. He doesn't seem surprised that tuition is going up, regardless of what condition the economy is in or what amount of public funding is available because, as he puts it, "the universities will cost as much as they can." UC had long sought to boost revenue by raising tuition, he noted, yet its leaders feared a rollback in state funding in response. But that changed under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who agreed to increase state support only on condition of that UC in turn require students to contribute more.

Around the same time that Schwarzenegger provided this new incentive to raise tuition, UC pooled its various revenue streams into a consolidated general revenue fund, Meister said, a departure from the old way of keeping separate accounts. This new fund, which included all non-state revenue and funding that wasn't legally required to be used for certain purposes, could be pledged entirely as collateral for bonds for new construction projects, greatly increasing the institution's borrowing power and boosting its revenue with the addition of new facilities.

To maintain its stellar bond rating, UC had to ensure an increase in revenues, according to Meister's explanation, and to do that, UC ratcheted up the one source of revenue it had full control over: tuition. Meister laid bare this financial play in a 2009 open letter to students, titled "They Pledged Your Tuition." Since it was published, a small corps of student activists has become deeply engaged in studying campus finance documents and airing criticism of financial policies.

Just before the Nov. 17 protests at UCSF Mission Bay, Meister published another open letter, this one addressed to UC President Mark Yudof. This one contemplated, "Why they think they can increase revenues regardless of how fast the economy grows ... and regardless of whether the income of graduates is stagnant."

His answer is somewhat surprising: "Their ability to raise tuition is a function of the growth of income inequality," he told the Guardian. In the letter, Meister charges, "In the 21st century, when almost all income growth has been in the top 1 to 2 percent of California's population, UC is still marketing income inequality to students as its most important product. It now expects all students to pay more for an ever-shrinking chance of reaping the ever-growing rewards that our economy makes available to the few. Your plan to increase revenue through tuition growth is feasible, of course, only because the federal government still allows students to borrow more for education despite the greater likelihood that they will not be able to repay -- student loans may be the last form of subprime credit available in our economy."

His theory highlights a paradox. "Being in the have-not category is increasingly worse," he explains, "and so they are willing to take on more debt, which actually dampens their prospects for income growth."

The question now is what will happen under Gov. Jerry Brown, who is likely to take a different stance toward rising tuition than Schwarzenegger but nonetheless is expected to unveil harsh cuts to education as a way to address a $26 billion budget deficit.

Monday, January 10, 2011


California's new governor, Jerry Brown, has proposed $1.4 billion worth of cuts to the state's higher education budget. Here's the breakdown: $500 million from both the UC and the CSU systems, and $400 million from community colleges.
* At UC, facing a 16.4 percent reduction in state support, President Mark Yudof said he would resist another fee increase. UC students were handed an 8 percent fee increase last fall and a 32 percent increase the previous fall.

UC might consider reducing the availability of financial aid, cutting enrollment and lifting the caps on out-of-state enrollment, said Yudof. "The physics of the situation cannot be denied -- as the core budget shrinks, so much the university," he said.

For the first time, students and their families will contribute more than the state towards the average cost of enrollment -- moving the system towards a model of "privately-funded public education" like the University of Virginia.

For the average UC student, the state would contribute $7,210; in contrast, $7,930 would be paid by students and their families.

* At CSU, handed an 18 percent reduction in state support, chancellor Charles B. Reed said the university system will likely have to restrict new enrollments as campuses start the admissions process for students who have applied for fall 2011.

"The reality is that we will not be able to admit as many students as we had been planning for this fall," said Reed. "Over the next few months, our 23 campuses will be faced with very difficult admission decisions as they try to manage this reduction. For students and parents, the uncertainty of the situation is even harder."

In addition, the proposed cuts would restrict classes and services for current CSU students, he said.

The proposed $2.2 billion in state support for CSU is equivalent to 1999-2000 levels -- yet the system educates 70,000 more students each year than it did a decade ago, Reed said.

CSU had been in the process of ramping up its enrollment for this spring, thanks to a partial restoration of its budget in 2010-2011, after two years of enrollment cuts totaling 40,000 students.

Reed criticized the budget proposal, saying, "Higher education is the state's main economic driver, and we cannot improve our economy without an educated workforce."

* At the community colleges, faced with a 6.5 percent cut, an estimated 350,000 students could be turned away, predicted Chancellor Jack Scott.

Because California has the lowest-priced community colleges in the nation, Brown suggested raising community college fees, from $26 to $36 per unit, or $300 to $540 per semester, for a full-time student.

He also urged cuts to lower-priority courses, while protecting courses needed for transfer and vocational certificates.
Yudof issued a statement about the cuts on his Facebook page. For the most part, it's the usual story about "difficult choices," about how the cuts that will be enacted are necessary and indeed inevitable, since the "physics of the situation cannot be denied." Surprisingly, though, Yudof also says something we completely agree with:
There can be no business as usual.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Proper, Lawful, and Appropriate"

It's moments like this where concepts like "reasonableness" (also, "proportionality") are rendered so obviously ideological. The language is made to appear so highly rationalized, removed, bureaucratic. The police are trained in the various "levels of force" that are to be deployed in a measured manner:
The Board’s goal was to look at the actions of the officer and determine if they fit within the parameter of reasonableness. The officer clearly communicated several warnings to you with instructions for you to keep your hands off the barricades. In fact, you initially complied with those warnings and temporarily removed your hands from the barricade. It was only after your failure to heed the repeated warnings that the officer increased his level of force from a verbal admonishment to a strike against the rungs of the barricade. When you again returned your hand to the barricade, the officer applied the next level of force by striking you. The Board determined that the officer used a continuum of force that was within reason and within his authority during these circumstances. The Board’s finding of your allegation is exonerated.
It is these "levels" that are responsible for exonerating the cop. But there's a revealing slippage here. In the moment of violence, marked by the smashing of bone against metal, "levels" are abruptly transformed into a "continuum." On the continuum of repression, what begins as dialogue, say, ends in batons, pepper spray, and pistols. Even the police's own "Sufficiency Review Board" understands that "levels" are an illusion: all there is is force.

Full story below the fold, from thosewhouseit: