Saturday, April 30, 2011

Corrupt Administration Caucus Trying to Steal UAW Election [Update: FRAUD]

Again. Thosewhouseit has the press release. Here's the key paragraph:
In the wake of a hotly contested election for leadership UAW local 2865, reports from inside the vote count indicate UAW officials may be trying to steal the election. The count is unfolding currently in Los Angeles, where one member has challenged every box of ballots from UC Berkeley on fabricated grounds. The ballots being challenged represent 25% of all votes cast: about 800 of approximately 3,200 total votes in this election. The challenge threatens to disenfranchise every voter on the campus with the union’s largest membership. UAW local 2865 represents over 12,000 Academic Student Employees across the UC system.
Here's another update from last night:
Des Harmon, someone who is not a graduate student, not a teaching assistant, and not a member in good standing has challenged hundreds of ballots from Berkeley on grounds that are completely fabricated. And the current UAW administration has the votes on the elections committee here to let this farce stand.
Des Harmon is the Los Angeles Recording Secretary for UAW local 2865. Where does he stand on the election, you ask?
Note: Within 10 minutes of campaigning at the polls for AWDU on the first day of the election, I met Des Harmon. He tore the AWDU leaflet in front of my face – I’m sure this gives you a sense of where he stands. – Renee Hudson
Members of AWDU Berkeley left late last night to go down to LA to try to monitor the vote count and prevent this fraud from taking place. It's hard to say with complete accuracy at this point, but the word is that AWDU folks have responded by making some of their own challenges. We'll try to keep the updates coming. Regardless, if fraud were to happen, it would be the second fraudulent vote in the union in the last six months. Last December, you remember, there was a vote about whether to approve the shitty contract that our negotiators were telling us -- falsely -- was actually pure gold. (And look where that got us.) AWDU and others organized a "NO!" campaign, which quickly generated an astonishing amount of support. It's impossible to say for sure, simply because there weren't enough safeguards in place to keep track of what's happening, but it seems likely that the count was fraudulent. And this one is starting to look the same way.

Tragedy, meet farce.

[Update Sunday 9:20am]: Once again, it's fraud:
This just in: After leaving the counting for 3 hours, Admin Caucus members Jorge Cabrera and Travis Knowles, the latter of whom is the chair of the Elections Committee, certified the results without counting ballots from UCLA or Berkeley. We’ll post developments as they come in. As things stand, they are trying to postpone the count for a full two months until the next Joint Council meeting. Why else would they do this unless they were certain they lost?
The following is an open letter that's just come through the email:
May 1, 2011

Open letter from an outraged member of UAW and AWDU supporter.

This message goes out to everyone on the USEJ slate, everyone on the Elections Committee, and everyone who voted in the election.

I am hugely appalled by the incumbent caucus’ decision to prevent the counting of votes at UCLA and UC Berkeley. I have just read the official UAW email claiming that the election has been “partially certified.” AWDU members present at the Los Angeles UAW office have informed me that “At 8 pm after a break begun at 5pm in which election committee chair Travis Knowles was absent with opposition candidate Jorge Cabrera for 3 hours, the election committee returned and certified the election without counting Berkeley or UCLA ballots.” What, I wonder, could “partial certification” mean, and according to what definition of democracy? To be clear about what’s happened: imagine a U.S. Presidential election in which, in the eleventh hour of vote counting, the incumbent party—lets make them Republicans, for the sake of argument—decided not to count the remaining votes from, say, California, New York, Ohio and Tennessee. Let’s say that the incumbent party’s spokesperson went on air with the message, “Because there were challenges from both sides, and because things have been contentious, and because we’ve been counting for so long—48 hours!—we decided to call it a day.” What would you think? Would you believe the principles of democracy were being upheld?

I am even more appalled because today is May 1st, the one day of the year devoted to working men and women, not only in American, but in all nations. This is not the day to trample on the democratic rights of workers, but that is what the power-holders in USEJ have chosen to do. This is not the day to communicate to the honest workers of our local that their votes were not even counted for fear of the results. This is not the day to pretend that the “contentiousness” of an election is grounds for the nullification of the democratic process. On any other day, this behavior would be shameful and intolerable. But today, it is a gross insult and a travesty of the values of “social and economic justice” for which the incumbent caucus claims to stand. It is an insult to all of us, on both sides of the election campaign. This is not the day to defile the honor of public-sector workers; this is a day to stand together, and to cherish one of the few rights afforded us as workers in this country: the right to participate in collective bargaining. Recent events in Michigan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere have shown that this right is under serious threat from the political Right. For too many American workers, May Day has already been tarred by political defeats and betrayals. Still, I did not expect I would be spending my May Day contemplating my own union’s betrayal of my rights as a worker.

Let me pose a question to the supporters of USEJ. When you cast your vote in the election, what image of democracy did you have in mind? Would you have felt comfortable voting for the incumbent caucus knowing that they would try to tilt the election in their favor by whatever means necessary? Are you aware, for instance, that the photograph touted in a recent USEJ email as evidence of voter fraud at Berkeley--it shows a man reaching into the ballot box--was taken prior to voting, while the polling station was still being set up? (Which is precisely what the photograph depicts: a volunteer, not an AWDU member, preparing the polling station for voting.) If you had known to what lengths the incumbents were willing to go to ensure victory, would you have voted for USEJ or for AWDU? As for candidates on the USEJ slate, I cannot understand what you mean by the phrase “social and economic justice.” Is it socially and economically just to shut out voters at UCLA and Berkeley? What should we call justice that exempts itself from judgment? What would you propose? Or are you as appalled as I am? If so, I strongly urge you to condemn your caucus’ leadership for making a mockery of the election, a mockery of union democracy, and a mockery of justice. Moreover, I urge you to join AWDU. The stakes of our caucus are real: union democracy urgently needs defenders. We want to fight with you, not against you, to build a stronger union for all of us.

Make no mistake: infamy is at work in the union. It has draped itself in the costume of “partial certification” and the legitimacy of the Joint Council of the Union, but it is infamy nonetheless. We have all been stained by this insult, and we ought all to fight it—today, tomorrow, and every day until our union is again worthy of that title. Otherwise there will be no union, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar and a fraud.

If you share this opinion, send a message or email to have your name added to the list of signatories.

Daniel Marcus
UC Berkeley

Friday, April 29, 2011

Support the Hunger Strike

Rally Friday Noon California Hall!

(thanks to bearcardo for the video)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Student Conduct Update / Solidarity with the Sac State 4! [Updated]
Last night, what may have been the last conduct hearing regarding the fall 2009 occupations at UC Berkeley took place. Josh Wolf, a graduate student in journalism as well as a press pass-carrying journalist, was in Wheeler Hall during the occupation to report on the action from the inside. The extended hearing involved the university's attempt to prohibit the use of Twitter and, more importantly, turned on the administration's inability to understand what journalism means. Jeff Woods, the prosecutor from the Office of Student Conduct (OSC), argued that Wolf should have physically intervened, attacking and overpowering the other students involved in the occupation instead of observing, taking notes, and filming. (How's that for health and safety?)

During this hearing, unlike the last two, Wolf was denied the right to have his adviser represent him, which many believe (including the ACLU of Northern California) constitutes a fundamental violation of the constitutional right to due process. In the last two hearings, in which advisers were allowed to speak for their clients, the defendants were found not guilty of any of the charges. Wolf, on the other hand, did pretty damn well for having to defend himself -- not guilty on the charges of endangering health and safety and unlawful assembly, but guilty on the charges of failure to comply, trespassing, and obstructing teaching. Fortunately, his performance was good enough to make the hearing panel recommend a sanction of... nothing! Not even a warning, which is the lowest possible sanction. (Maybe it had to do with the fact that he played this video during the hearing.) If you're interested in checking out line by line coverage, use this Twitter list (thanks to @callie_hoo).

It looks like Jeff Woods, perhaps the most incompetent bureaucrat to ever work for UC Berkeley, has lost another one.

Even if this round of conduct charges has concluded at UC Berkeley, that doesn't mean we can let our guard down. Student conduct -- as well as criminal charges -- are still being leveraged against student protesters at other campuses. Today, the Sacramento State administration is coming down hard against the protesters who launched the sit-in that would last four days before being evicted in the middle of the night by riot cops. Here's their call for support:
The Sac State 4 are four students who are being singled out by administration, and facing disciplinary action for their supposed involvement in the April 13th day of action and sit in.

They have a meeting today (4/28) with the administration to discuss what will be done. There will be a silent protest outside of Lassen Hall in support of these sudents. What the administration is doing to these students is unacceptable. Please show your support!!
Solidarity with the Sac State 4! Drop the charges! Abolish the Code of Conduct!

[Updated Thursday 7:22pm]: This just came over the Twitter:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sit-In at Rutgers

Rutgers Students Stage Tuition Sit-In
About 20 students at Rutgers University have taken over the administration building to protest tuition hikes and the anti-democratic decision-making of the Board of Governors (like the UC Regents). They've released the following demands:
1. We want President McCormick to FREEZE tuition so Rutgers students do not have to take out excessive loans to pay for a PUBLIC education.

2. We want SCHOLARSHIPS for underprivileged / first generation college students.

3. We want Rutgers to provide FREE transcripts for its undergraduate students.

4. We want support for the rights of ALL University affiliated workers.

5. We want the Rutgers University population to have a voice in decisions made by the Board of Governors—INCLUDING TUITION COST! THREE voting Student Members, ONE voting Staff Member, ONE voting Faculty Member—all elected by their respective constituencies: NO APPOINTEES!
Police are in the building and are apparently preventing friends and supporters from sending food and water into the building, but protesters say that at least nobody will be arrested tonight. Follow their Twitter feed here and send solidarity messages to their email address:

[Update Wednesday 9:56 pm]: Protesters are still in the building. The New York Times has an article up. Here's the key quote:
Last year, a cap limited the increase in tuition to 4 percent, but this year, public colleges are likely to have the ability to set their own rates, meaning the rise could be higher. At a recent legislative budget hearing, [Rutgers President Richard L.] McCormick predicted that tuition increases at the state’s public colleges would be less than 10 percent.

The Rutgers University Board of Governors typically sets tuition and fee rates in July, after the State Legislature has determined the state budget and financial support for higher education.

Contextualizing the Hunger Strike: Operational Excellence

We wanted to post a couple quick thoughts and links in order to provide some context for the ongoing hunger strike at UC Berkeley right now. As we mentioned yesterday, protesters began the action in response to the administration's attempts to consolidate three departments -- Gender and Women's Studies, Ethnic Studies, and African American Studies -- as part of an restructuring initiative called "Operational Excellence" (OE). OE, which has been the target of previous actions, is basically an austerity program developed by the UC Berkeley administration in collaboration with an outside consulting firm called Bain & Company (which was paid $7.5 million for its efforts) to cut campus costs. As the Daily Cal reported yesterday, this model has been exported to other UC campuses, complete with their own ridiculously bureaucratic variations on the OE acronym like "Operational Effectiveness" (at UC Santa Barbara) and "Organizational Excellence" (at UC Davis). UCSF couldn't come up with another OE name, so they just adopted Berkeley's.

The UC Berkeley Faculty Association has a set of documents about OE here. But we wanted to quote Chris Newfield's thoughts from last fall on Bain & Company's OE report, because he treats OE as an administrative apparatus instead of getting mired in the details:
The image is the bureaucratic version of the alien ship in Independence Day, a looming, inverted pyramid in which top dwarfs bottom and threatens to swallow it whole. Everything flows top-down, and the administrative content takes the form of goals-metrics-evaluation which are communicated to units (metrics -- assessment of performance), on down to supervisors (accountability functions) and then finally to individuals (performance metrics tied to unit goals.) Relationships are reduced to the abstract modalities of compliance embodied in assessment procedures. Management is not support for the university’s necessarily diverse creative functions but is a state of permanent evaluation. There is no respect here for the autonomy of the units -- departmental staff, student services, and technical staff for laboratories -- that are close to the “customer” (cf. “autonomous culture” as a source of inefficiency in procurement, slide 35). The tone is of control through communication, through finance, through even more of the endless audit and evaluations to which UC employees are already subject. The implicit diagnosis is that Berkeley’s employees are inefficient because they are insufficiently assessed, measured, and financially incentivized. The diagnosis is anti-humanist, at odds with current literature about both human motivation (intrinsic) and effective organizational behavior (collaboratively organized). It is also ungrounded in evidence from the Berkeley campus. The predictable effect, as I noted at the start, is that the model contained in the report is already making staff efficiency worse.

I don’t have first-hand knowledge of how the Berkeley campus process is unfolding this week or this month, but the public documents are not promising. There is the OE czar, central process managers, hand-picked committees making implementation decisions in smoke-free rooms, and roving HR bands hired from the outside. There is nothing there about collaborative implementation, protections for productive autonomy, bottom-up integration, non-intrusive coordination of the decentralization on which organizational creativity depends.
In an op-ed published last week in the Daily Cal, Robert Connell, a PhD student in Ethnic Studies, frames OE in terms of diversity and specifically the departmental consolidation that provoked the hunger strike. Like Newfield, he makes the point that instead of "wrangling over statistics" we should be paying attention to the broader context and the process through which OE has been formulated and is being implemented. But Connell also brings up another important point, one that is often left out of these discussions -- the centrality of staff for thinking about campus diversity:
What rarely gets acknowledged, however, is that staffers within these departments play a significant role in cultivating campus diversity. They mentor marginalized students from various departments, assist in recruitment efforts and generally help to build a diverse sense of community, doing much of this outside of their regular paid duties. Students from many departments, both undergraduate and graduate, can attest that the terminated staffers have been vital supports to them throughout their time at Berkeley.

Therefore, OE, whatever its successes, deals a heavy blow to campus diversity, equity and inclusion because of the loss of individuals who are key to actually maintaining those realities. Nowhere does our coalition see evidence that OE planners took this into account.
This is important in terms of building solidarity between students, faculty, and workers -- something that the administration hopes to prevent at all costs. This is one reason, for example, they don't want union members to accompany students in negotiations, that they literally slam the door in their faces. It is notable that this happened during last year's hunger strike, when two members of AFSCME actually joined the student protesters in refusing to eat. Diversity, in other words, isn't just a question of how many students of color are admitted, as it is often treated. It's also a question of solidarity with those workers and students especially whose lives are made increasingly precarious through the administration's top-down imposition of austerity measures.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hunger Strike for Ethnic Studies Begins at UC Berkeley

This afternoon, after a joint teach-in on the administration's plans to consolidate Gender and Women's Studies, Ethnic Studies, and African American Studies, a group of nine students began a hunger strike in front of California Hall. Some of the strikers are veterans of last year's hunger strike as well. Their demands are the following:
1. Reinstate the FTE staff positions in Ethnic Studies cut by organizational simplification under Operational Excellence
2. End the current process of Operational Excellence
3. Publicly support the Legislative Resolution ACR 34, co-authored by Ricardo Lara and Luis A. Alejo in Support of Ethnic Studies in California.
4. We demand that the administration publicly acknowledge the unfulfilled promise of the creation of a Third World College at UC Berkeley.
The administration has released an official response, which is available here. As expected, it not only treats the strikers like irrational children, but furthermore completely fails to respond to their demands. Instead, it tries to make them disappear by asserting that, despite all available evidence, the administration in fact shares the same goals: "Our hope is to understand one another better, given that we have the same ultimate goals for equity and inclusion." Oh really. Flashback to Yudof's recent comments on what he called the UC's "compass points":
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."
But we don't need to pick over the statements of UC administrators -- we have enough evidence right before our eyes. The fact is that through "Operational Excellence" UC Berkeley paid millions of dollars to the consulting firm Bain & Company to identify areas to "streamline" (that is, cut). As thosewhouseit reported earlier today from the hunger strike:
This afternoon, over 100 members of a coalition in defense of Ethnic Studies gathered at Sather Gate against the impending consolidation of their departments as part of Operational Excellence. OE, it should be noted, has now been exported to UCSB, UCSF, UC Davis, and UCLA.  We now have “Organizational Excellence,” “Operational Efficiency,” and God knows how many other variants. If Berkeley shelled out a cool $7 million to Bain, UCLA is using Huron, Davis ScottMadden Management, and Santa Barbara an “individual consultant.” Against this affront to Ethnic Studies under the guise of austerity, the 100-200 students and their faculty allies marched to California Hall after announcing the inauguration of a hunger strike. Eight students are now on hunger strike and stationed in front of California Hall.
There's one more piece of the administration's response that's worth noting. The concluding paragraph reads:
We are concerned that some students would endanger their health [or safety!!?!] by a hunger strike, and/or negatively impact their academic performance at the end of the semester. We have offered to meet with a small representative group, and this offer remains on the table. In the meantime, you are able to exercise free speech and protest, but are also bound by the campus rules on time, place, and manner ( These rules preclude overnight lodging or camping.
Behind austerity measures, the threat of riot cops. But the administration's discourse is inherently paternalistic, even when it's actively engaged in threatening its students. This is reflected, to begin with, in the concern over "health [and safety]," a keyword that's been deployed frequently against student protest over the last year and a half. It also appears in the notion of "time, place, and manner" regulations, which proclaim the importance of free speech while relegating it to geographically isolated and temporally restricted areas. This is the logic of the "free speech" or "first amendment zone." Time, place, and manner -- a subject for a future post.

Vote AWDU In UAW Elections

From thosewhouseit:
[Today, Tuesday] through Thursday -- April 26, 27, and 28 -- is the election we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s make sure that these Administration Caucus/USEJ bureaucrats -- many of whom aren’t active GSIs, readers, or even students -- are no longer allowed to represent those of use who actually do have interests as workers on UC campuses across the state. We’ve already reported on the way these incumbents pursue a strategy of astroturfing, and nothing has changed since. They haven’t updated their blog in over a week, and the last update was a piddling attack on AWDU for engaging in “dirty tricks” . . . such as questioning the candidacy of a non-member who is not even eligible to run in the first place. If that’s dirty, we no longer know what it means to be clean. Similarly, their Twitter feed has a grand total of 6 followers and hasn’t been updated since “dirty tricks” was released. Same deal for their Facebook page. Then last week, after two different UCLA grad students -- an AWDU member and an independent -- wrote scathing critiques of the AC/USEJ leadership, four of their candidates actually defected from their slate.

So tomorrow is the big day, or at least the first of three. The campus chapters of AWDU at UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Davis, and UC Irvine have made polling times and locations available on their own sites; for a full schedule, check the official UAW 2865 site’s listing here. Let’s get these bureaucrats out of office once and for all and take back our union.  All power to the rank-and-file! Vote AWDU!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Update from Glen Cove Occupation
Despite threats from the police and the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD), the body responsible for the development plans, the occupation continues, drawing support from communities around the Bay Area and beyond. This update is from day 10, which was last Saturday:
Over 300 people attended today’s Indigenous Peoples Earth Day celebration, in support of the ongoing struggle to protect the Glen Cove sacred burial ground from desecration. Many races and creeds were represented in the attendees, who included Alcatraz Occupation veterans. Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis received a guided tour of the land. News media on the scene were KPFA, KCBS, KPIX, KTVU, Indybay, and the DC Radio Coop.

Speakers included Jimbo Simmons (Choctaw), Fred Short (Ojibwa), Mark Anquoe (Kiowa), Bradley Angel of Greenaction, and a Seneca man who spoke about the Great Law of Peace. Songs and dances were offered by Pomo, Rumsien Ohlone, Miwok, and Aztec people.

It was a beautiful day. We are inspired and encouraged that even with short notice and minimal outreach, so many came from near and far in support of this work of honoring and protecting our indigenous ancestors. We send a heartfelt Thank You to everyone who was present, in body or in spirit.
Also, protesters have written a detailed response to an op-ed published last Thursday in the Vallejo Times Herald. Most striking is the fact that Janet Roberson, the author of the original piece, completely left out the fact that she had not only been on the board of the GVRD for several years, but had also lived in the Harbor Homes development right next to Glen Cove. Must have slipped her mind.

Bad Education

Malcolm Harris looks at the student debt bubble in N+1:
The Project On Student Debt estimates that the average college senior in 2009 graduated with $24,000 in outstanding loans. Last August, student loans surpassed credit cards as the nation’s largest single largest source of debt, edging ever closer to $1 trillion. Yet for all the moralizing about American consumer debt by both parties, no one dares call higher education a bad investment. The nearly axiomatic good of a university degree in American society has allowed a higher education bubble to expand to the point of bursting.

Since 1978, the price of tuition at US colleges has increased over 900 percent, 650 points above inflation. To put that in number in perspective, housing prices, the bubble that nearly burst the US economy, then the global one, increased only fifty points above the Consumer Price Index during those years. But while college applicants’ faith in the value of higher education has only increased, employers’ has declined. According to Richard Rothstein at The Economic Policy Institute, wages for college-educated workers outside of the inflated finance industry have stagnated or diminished. Unemployment has hit recent graduates especially hard, nearly doubling in the post-2007 recession. The result is that the most indebted generation in history is without the dependable jobs it needs to escape debt.

What kind of incentives motivate lenders to continue awarding six-figure sums to teenagers facing both the worst youth unemployment rate in decades and an increasingly competitive global workforce?

During the expansion of the housing bubble, lenders felt protected because they could repackage risky loans as mortgage-backed securities, which sold briskly to a pious market that believed housing prices could only increase. By combining slices of regionally diverse loans and theoretically spreading the risk of default, lenders were able to convince independent rating agencies that the resulting financial products were safe bets. They weren’t. But since this wouldn’t be America if you couldn’t monetize your children’s futures, the education sector still has its equivalent: the Student Loan Asset-Backed Security (or, as they’re known in the industry, SLABS).

SLABS were invented by then-semi-public Sallie Mae in the early ’90s, and their trading grew as part of the larger asset-backed security wave that peaked in 2007. In 1990, there were $75.6 million of these securities in circulation; at their apex, the total stood at $2.67 trillion. The number of SLABS traded on the market grew from $200,000 in 1991 to near $250 billion by the fourth quarter of 2010. But while trading in securities backed by credit cards, auto loans, and home equity is down 50 percent or more across the board, SLABS have not suffered the same sort of drop. SLABS are still considered safe investments—the kind financial advisors market to pension funds and the elderly.

With the secondary market in such good shape, primary lenders have been eager to help students with out-of-control costs. In addition to the knowledge that they can move these loans off their balance sheets quickly, they have had another reason not to worry: federal guarantees. Under the just-ended Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the US Treasury backed private loans to college students. This meant that even if the secondary market collapsed and there were an anomalous wave of defaults, the federal government had already built a lender bailout into the law. And if that weren’t enough, in May 2008 President Bush signed the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act, which authorized the Department of Education to purchase FFELP loans outright if secondary demand dipped. In 2010, as a cost-offset attached to health reform legislation, President Obama ended the FFELP, but not before it had grown to a $60 billion-a-year operation.

Even with the Treasury no longer acting as co-signer on private loans, the flow of SLABS won’t end any time soon. What analysts at Barclay’s Capital wrote of the securities in 2006 still rings true: “For this sector, we expect sustainable growth in new issuance volume as the growth in education costs continues to outpace increases in family incomes, grants, and federal loans.” The loans and costs are caught in the kind of dangerous loop that occurs when lending becomes both profitable and seemingly risk-free: high and increasing college costs mean students need to take out more loans, more loans mean more securities lenders can package and sell, more selling means lenders can offer more loans with the capital they raise, which means colleges can continue to raise costs. The result is over $800 billion in outstanding student debt, over 30 percent of it securitized, and the federal government directly or indirectly on the hook for almost all of it.
Read the whole thing here or below the fold, if you want to see UC Regent Richard Blum's special cameo appearance... [Update Tuesday 8:56 am]: Now there's a version with links here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Public" [Updated]

The sit-in at the administration building of CSU Fullerton, which began on Monday evening, continues and is currently in its fourth day. Protesters are demanding that CSUF President Milton Gordon sign a "Declaration to Defend Public Education." Gordon's response: "I won't be able to sign this agreement." According to the CSUF paper, the Daily Titan, CSUF administrators justified their stubborn refusal with reference to the language in the statement relating to fair contracts and union negotiations:
Questions arose over the California Faculty Association’s involvement in the meeting and in the drafting of the declaration. Both President Gordon and acting Vice President for Student Affairs Silas Abrego suggested that the meeting itself was a CFA function.

“The declaration makes reference to the CFA,” said Abrego. “There are ongoing negotiations going on right now. There is representatives for the CFA and the CSU in negotiations, we can’t have anyone else intervene in those negotiations.”

Abrego added that the document was a way to generate support for the CFA and attendees were commingling two issues ­-- for a better contract and better education.

After the issue was discussed, two CFA members who were present removed themselves from the room.

Gordon continued to stress that he would not sign the statement or any agreement at all despite the pleas of students and faculty.
The union issue is clearly an important one. At the UC we've seen administrators literally slam the door in the face of union members. But Gordon's continued rejection to sign anything at all -- he refused to "sign the statement or any agreement at all" -- even after the CFA members had left voluntarily suggests that there's something more at stake in the standoff.

It's the word "public."

First take a look at the Declaration, written by students, faculty and staff from CSUF, CSU Long Beach, CSU Los Angeles, Compton College, Fullerton College, and Mt. San Antonio College. The first part of the statement is a sort of general preamble:
“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

We, the students, staff, and educators of California’s public schools,colleges, and universities, call upon the people of the state to recommit to and reinvest in public education as the principal foundation of a democratic society.

Public education is a sacred trust and needs to be protected from those who would see the state divest even further from its constitutional obligations.

Public education is a public good and needs to be protected from the for profit interests of the private sector.

We call upon the people of California to recognize that, though an educated workforce is essential to our prosperity, education itself has a social value that cannot be reduced to monetary considerations alone.

Public education brings together diverse communities of educators, staff and students in ways that prepare learners for a productive yet socially responsible life.

Public education creates spaces that promote the intellectual and emotional development of tolerant, critically-engaged citizens.

Public education is by definition open to all Californians, regardless of geographic location or socio-economic status, and is thus the very cornerstone of a vibrant, principled, and fundamentally compassionate democracy.
This is not, whatever these administrators might mistakenly think, a particularly radical statement. Even apart from the fact that a statement is all it is -- it's not legislation or a policy decision, it doesn't lock Gordon into doing anything at all -- it amounts to a simple acknowledgment of the value of public education. And its public character is heavily emphasized: every paragraph but one (notably, the one that talks about economics and "monetary considerations") includes the word.

Now compare the Declaration to the statement that President Gordon made in a follow-up letter to the editor that was published yesterday in the Daily Titan:
I commend students for their active engagement in critical issues facing our university and the CSU during these challenging fiscal times. I agree with and support many of the points of the Declaration to Defend Public Education and encourage all students to ensure that their voices are heard.

Your amplified demands for quality education are timely and provide a significant opportunity to maximize the importance of this message to the people and government leaders in the state of California. In your recent call for action through peaceful demonstration April 13 and during our meeting that day, students exemplified the values we embrace at Cal State Fullerton -- civic engagement, positive interaction and dialogue with faculty, staff and administration, as well as civility and respect for those whose opinions differ from your own.

The state budget crisis is at the heart of the fiscal challenges we face. Lessening its effect on the CSU continues to be the highest priority of the CSU chancellor, the CSU presidents and other leaders of our system. Despite this year’s increase in tuition fees, the cost of a CSU education remains the lowest of comparable institutions around the nation. At the same time, one-third of these tuition fees are set aside for the neediest of students, which serves to preserve access to higher education for those who can least afford it.

I am committed to continuing to work toward access to a high quality university education and to keeping the lines of communication open as we work through these difficult times together. Please continue to take an active role in support of providing quality public education for all deserving students.

Dr. Milton A. Gordon
California State University, Fullerton
The word "public" appears once, aside from the place where he mentions the name of the document that he's refusing to sign. Just once. And take a careful look at that sentence: "Please continue to take an active role in support of providing quality public education for all deserving students." It is only students who must "continue" to support public education -- he's most definitely not saying anything about himself or his administration. This is an incredibly revealing statement.

In place of "public," Gordon seems very comfortable with the word "quality." Not a public education, but a "quality education" is what he wants his CSU to provide. What comes to our mind is the recent statement by UC President Mark Yudof regarding what he called the UC's "compass points":
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."
What Gordon, Yudof, and other administrators are talking about with their vague, bureaucratic language is privatization. Yudof says it outright, marginalizing and putting up for negotiation the categories of access and affordability. Gordon, on the other hand, continues to speak of "access," but does so in the context of a sort of generalized resignation, a complete acceptance of the talking point that this sort of thing is "inevitable." Budget cuts at the state level cannot and will not be fought. He says it outright: the job of the CSU administration is not to combat these cuts but rather to "lessen their effects." University administration has become a task of restructuring, of imposing austerity, of privatizing, of moving the financial burden onto the backs of students and workers. It has become a corporation, with corporate salaries and perks from foundations.

Why doesn't Gordon want to sign the Declaration? Not because of the CFA, or ongoing negotiations. It's because he doesn't want to use the word "public." At best, he believes it's outdated or obsolete; at worst, he thinks it doesn't work, that is, that education shouldn't be public. Regardless, we can now say that it's become official: CSUF President Gordon does not support public education, period. It's that simple.

[Update Thursday 1:34 pm]: This op-ed by Peter Cornett in the Daily Titan is pretty on point and seems to be the source of the data in the above tweets.

[Update Friday 11 am]: The sit-in has finally ended, after President Gordon gave in and agreed to sign a statement. Note that he did not sign the original "Declaration to Defend Public Education" that we looked at above but rather a revised "Statement in Defense of Public Education." At first glance, the changes seem fairly minor. But that doesn't mean they're not significant. Check out, for example, the one part where the text refers to administrators. Here's the original Declaration:
A commitment from administrators, school boards, teachers unions, staff unions, student organizations, parent groups, professional associations, community-based organizations, and postsecondary institutions to work together with the State to provide quality education for all people regardless of gender, economic, social, ethnic, or racial status.
And the revised Statement:
A commitment from administrators, school boards, teachers unions, staff unions, student organizations, parent groups, professional associations, community-based organizations, postsecondary institutions and state leadership to provide quality education for all people regardless of gender, economic, social, ethnic, or racial status.
What strikes us here is the way the revisions enable a shift of responsibility away from administrators et al. While the original Declaration makes it clear that administrators must commit to working "with the State" (e.g. lobbying), in the revised Statement the state is incorporated into those actors that directly "provide quality education" (there's that word again). Administrators are, to some extent, off the hook. The revised statement thus fits with our earlier analysis of Gordon's letter to the editor (which, it should be noted, remains the clearest example of his own position on "public" [read "quality"] education), inasmuch as the responsibility can now be laid at the feet of the "state leadership" and budget cuts remain out of reach, inevitable.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Overnight Sit-In at CSU Fullerton

The LA Weekly reports:
​A group of 50-odd CSU Fullerton students and staff become the latest media darlings of California's public-education crisis this partly cloudy Tuesday morning, having just spent one valiant night staked out in the chilly corridors of Langsdorf Hall.

The sit-in was in reaction to a major snub by CSUF President Milton Gordon, who -- to add insult to rising student fees and dwindling course offerings -- currently makes $300,000 per year. When asked to add his signature to a feel-good "Declaration to Defend Public Education" last night, Gordon refused, and instead offered his own declaration, according to City News Service.
The video above documents the meeting between President Gordon and the students who asked him to sign their declaration. Two takeaways: first, even the student government guy recognizes that the president was uncomfortable because "he wanted to be in a position where he could be more in control of the situation"; and second, the narrator from the Daily Titan notes that Gordon refused to sign because of the involvement of the California Faculty association and called the declaration "radical." (Here's the declaration, which was written collaboratively by students, faculty and staff from CSU Fullerton, CSU Long Beach, CSU Los Angeles, Compton College, Fullerton College, and Mt. San Antonio College.)

OSC and Censorship

There's an op-ed in the Daily Cal today from Josh Wolf, a graduate student of journalism whose recent conduct hearing gave rise to what we have labeled "the new censorship" -- the attempt by UC officials to prohibit students from using Twitter at inopportune moments. In the article, Wolf deals with a different form of censorship, one that mediates the relationship between the UC and journalism. (It is worth noting that Wolf previously served 226 days in federal prison for protecting a source -- longer than any other US journalist.)
On Nov. 20, 2009, a group of students occupied Wheeler Hall in protest of the impending fee hike and the way the UC spends what money it has. It was my first semester at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, and although we aren't exactly encouraged to focus our reporting on the campus, I knew this was a story I wouldn't want to miss.


For more than a year now, the Center for Student Conduct has acknowledged that my role was that of a journalist and not a participant. But the campus still insists that I face sanctions for simply being inside the building.

Their position is that I'm a student first and a journalist second. When those responsibilities conflict, student conduct insists my role as a student takes precedence. In other words, when the police ordered the protesters to take down their barricade, it became my responsibility to overpower the protesters and open the door.

In fact, during the first part of my hearing, UCPD Lieutenant DeColoude said that it would've been acceptable for me to physically interfere with the students in order to help the police, provided I used "reasonable force."

I'm not sure how he defines "reasonable force," but in the two years I've spent studying journalism at UC Berkeley, I haven't heard any of my professors talk about when it's appropriate to beat up your subjects.

While I've never believed in objectivity, I do believe that it is my job to remain independent and avoid interfering as much as possible. After all, if journalists are forced to work as agents of the police, then their sources won't trust them and the entire campus community will suffer.

Similarly, if student journalists fear conduct charges for aggressively covering contentious issues on campus, they will become much more cautious, and our community will again suffer. The Supreme Court has ruled that government has a duty to inoculate against such a chilling effect.
That quote from Lt. Decoloude is priceless.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not Guilty! Or, Jeff Woods is Incompetent

Another Wheeler occupier found not guilty after a long and drawn out disciplinary process. We've already talked in great detail about the numerous procedural violations that the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) has committed while attempting to pursue these cases against student protesters. Most of the time, the administration doesn't pay any attention to students when we call foul, when we file grievances, when we appeal these flawed decisions -- when we try, in other words, to hold them to their own rules.

But sometimes, every so often, things get so absurd that even a corrupt administrative apparatus can't abide by them. Absurd and incompetent. Jeff Woods, sitting at the right in the above image, is both.

Harsh but true. There's a good summary at thosewhouseit:
Once again, one of the 3 Wheeler occupiers arrested on the first floor of the building on the morning of November 20, 2009 was acquitted of all charges by the hearing panel convened by the Office of Student Conduct (OSC).  And once again, founding Campus Rights Project (CRP) member Thomas Frampton ripped both “Student Conduct Specialist” Jeff Woods and UCPD Corporal [Timothy] Zuniga, catching the latter in so many baldfaced lies that the Twitter feed reads like a satire – though of course it’s not.  Oh God, and Woods: despite the fact that Zuniga lied in a nearly identical case early last month, Woods still brought him in as OSC’s main witness. Moreover, Woods wanted to hold it against our comrade that he invoked his right to remain silent and have his adviser (Frampton) speak on his behalf, and he wanted to hold him accountable for barricading Wheeler without providing a shred of evidence that he did so. Even the arresting officers couldn’t remember if they saw him violate any provision of the Code of Conduct! The only substantial difference between the cases was the degree of exculpatory evidence in our comrade’s favor this time around. We urge you to read the meticulously documented proceedings here, guest-Tweeted by a number of our comrades from CRP. Congrats to our comrade and CRP, still fuck everyone at OSC and UCPD, and above all, abolish OSC!

With this victory in mind, it's important to remember, as @santacruztacean points out, that students have only been found guilty when they have been denied the right to counsel, that is, when their advisers have not been able to speak for them. Let us state that again: in every case where the adviser has been allowed to speak for the defendant, the defendant has been found not guilty. What does that say about the conduct procedures? And what does it say about the other students who have been convicted?

We too want to recommend a quick look through the live-tweeted record of the hearing. It's a pretty amazing indictment of the credibility of OSC in general and of Jeff Woods in particular. (And also of UCPD cops like Officer Zuniga, who seems to have absolutely no problem with lying his ass off. Though it's not only Zuniga, of course -- cops lie.) Maybe he'll go the way of his former colleague, Laura Bennett, and quit in the wake of his disastrous performance. (Indeed, Bennett quit soon after Frampton crushed her in a previous hearing for another Wheeler occupier.) Though with his record, we honestly don't know if he'd be able to find another job...

Glen Cove Occupation Faces Eviction Today [Updated]

Today is the fifth day of the ongoing occupation of the sacred burial site at Glen Cove, Vallejo, to prevent a major construction project from going forward. From Indybay:
For Immediate Release: Monday, April 18, 2011
Contact: Morning Star Gali (510) 827 6719 * Mark Anquoe (415) 680 0110 * Corrina Gould 510-575-8408 * Norman “Wounded Knee” Deocampo 707-373-7195

Steve Presley of GVRD threatens spiritual encampment of removal tonight after agreements to meet tomorrow!

* Native Americans Continue Spiritual Ceremonies and Occupation of Burial Site
* Dozens of local residents visit and express support for protecting the sacred land
* GVRD’s Public Relations Fails to Mention Plans to Bulldoze Hill That Likely Contains Human Remains
* Participants Conduct Glen Cove Beach Cleanup & Remove Graffiti on Abandoned Mansion

Vallejo, California - The occupation of the ancient burial site at Glen Cove in Vallejo by Native Americans and supporters entered its fifth day on Monday, April 18, 2011 as dozens remain at the site to guard it against desecration by bulldozers.

On Sunday, Native Americans and their supporters conducted a cleanup of the beach at Glen Cove, and also painted over Nazi graffiti that the City had allowed to remain on the old Mansion at the site. Dozens of local residents visited the occupation over the weekend and expressed their support for protecting the burial site. Many expressed outrage that the City was wasting money fighting the Native Americans over this site when other City parks are dilapidated due to budget problems. Supporters brought food and supplies.

The Native Americans are highlighting the fact that public statements by the Greater Vallejo Recreation District in the last few days is very misleading, with GVRD representatives claiming they want to protect the burial site but failing to mention their plans to dig into a hill that likely contains human remains with bulldozers.

The U.S. Department of Justice met with the Native American leadership on Saturday to lay the groundwork for a possible mediation meeting with Greater Vallejo Recreation District on Monday or Tuesday.

The history and cultural value of the site has never been disputed. Native Americans continue to hold ceremonies at Sogorea Te just as they have for thousands of years. The Glen Cove Shell Mound spans fifteen acres along the Carquinez Strait. It is the final resting place of many Indigenous People dating back more than 3,500 years, and has served as a traditional meeting place for dozens of California Indian tribes. The site continues to be spiritually important to California tribes. The Glen Cove site is acknowledged by GVRD and the City to have many burials and to be an important cultural site, yet they are attempting to build a toilet and parking lot on this sacred site and to grade a hill that likely contains human remains and important cultural artifacts. SSP&RIT have asked GVRD to reconsider their plans to grade the hill and build toilets and a parking lot at the site.
[Update Monday 8:24 pm]: We just received the following news on the email:
A temporary agreement has been reached with GVRD, which allows the spiritual gathering at Glen Cove to continue for the next 24 hours without threat of arrest. More than 150 people responded to the call for support.

GVRD's plans to desecrate the sacred burial site have not been called off and we ask all our supporters to please remain on alert. We continue to invite all who will join us in prayer to stand with us at Glen Cove as we continue to work on all levels to protect the ancestors from further desecration.

UCPD Officer Brendan Tinney [Updated]

Is the asshole who, as thosewhouseit has discovered, smashed our compañera's hand so hard with his baton that he literally severed her fingers. For no reason. She was resting her hand on a metal barricade. The image above comes from this video, taken outside Wheeler Hall during the occupation (the important part starts around 1:35). It was filmed just before Tinney's attack:

What did the police review board say about this? After doing an investigation, they declared it a "reasonable" use of force. It was "proper, lawful, and appropriate under the circumstances." Here's the key paragraph from the review board's report:
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.
Which makes sense. In the end, cops will never indict other cops, just as UC administrators will never indict other administrators -- as long as they can get away with it. Within the structures they have created to facilitate their rule (internal review boards, specially-appointed task forces, and so on), no challenge to that rule can possibly emerge. The only possible line of attack evades their attempts at capture, going outside the bureaucratic procedures laid out precisely by those responsible for the violence. That's why this lawsuit is so important.

The lawsuit names UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya and second in command Captain Margo Bennett. Why them and not Officer Tinney? Because they refused to disclose the name of the officer responsible for the brutal attack. This is to be expected. But now we've figured it out on our own.

Special bonus: Officer Brendan Tinney's LawOfficer Connect page, which seems to be something like LinkedIn for pigs:

Why does Brendan love being in Law Enforcement? "No day is the same as the day before (usually)." True! Yesterday you were being protected -- and today you've been exposed!

[Update Monday 3:17 pm]: We've just learned that Officer Brendan Tinney has a twin brother named Sean, who is also a member of UCPD. No, we're not making this up. It's possible, then, that the Tinney in the picture above is actually Sean Tinney and not Brendan. Word on the street, though, is that Brendan is more of an asshole than Sean is. (The tree-sitters referred to the Tinney brothers as "B for bad" and "S for so-so.") In any case, this development certainly gives the story an interesting twist.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wheeler Conduct Hearing Continues Tomorrow

The conduct hearing for a student protester arrested early in the morning on November 20, 2009 during the occupation of Wheeler Hall, which began in early March, will continue tomorrow. (Originally it was scheduled to continue on April 1, but they must have realized that doing so would be the only possible way to make the conduct procedures even more of a joke.) This hearing is public -- which presumably means no censorship of Twitter -- and it will feature what is likely to be yet another masterful performance from UC Berkeley law student (and adviser to the defendant) Thomas Frampton, last seen kicking the shit out of the charges alleged against another Wheeler occupier. In the other corner, representing the Office of Student Conduct, is Jeff Woods -- the only one left, after his former colleague quit her job soon after getting destroyed by Frampton.

This will be quite a show. Come one, come all! The hearing will take place at the usual location, Clark Kerr campus, building 14, and will begin Monday, April 18 at 2:30 pm. Hopefully there will be some tweeting happening for those who can't make it -- we'll update here or on twitter as we get more info.

And we wanted to leave you with a quote from the Associate Dean of Students, Christina Gonzalez, who has herself been implicated in some of the most significant procedural violations of the Code of Conduct on the part of the UC Berkeley administration (namely the illicit extension of the timeline). Here's what she told the Daily Cal recently about the Code:
She added that sometimes issues arise because of a panel chair's interpretation of the idea of a closed hearing as well as the "poorly written" nature of the campus code.

"Honestly, part of the issue is that panel chairs also don't always know what is acceptable and what's not," she said. "That doesn't mean that it's OK, but it's probably a good reason why we're doing a revision of the code."
[Update Monday 12:06 pm]: If you're interested in following the hearing, @reclaimuc and @sgnfr will be live-tweeting it.

Occupation of Glen Cove Continues

640_sogorate_005_1.jpg original image ( 1200x800)
The occupation of Glen Cove, Vallejo that began last Thursday continues. Press release published on Indybay:
Vallejo, California (April 15, 2011) – 150 Native Americans and supporters have successfully occupied the ancient burial site at Glen Cove, Vallejo, preventing the Greater Vallejo Recreation District from beginning work that would desecrate the sacred site. Beginning with an early morning spiritual ceremony, protesters vowed to block bulldozers and prevent any work that would desecrate the site from taking place. The occupation will continue until there is an agreement to protect the burial site. Dozens of people will camp at the site tonight.

At 11:30 am today the protesters held a peaceful rally and ceremony at Vallejo City Hall and then marched to the offices of the Greater Vallejo Recreation District.

Last night the United States Department of Justice sent a senior conciliation specialist to Glen Cove to meet with Native American leaders. The Native Americans asked the DOJ to help facilitate a meeting with the GVRD to try to reach an agreement to protect the sacred burial site. It is possible a meeting between the sides, mediated by the US Department of Justice, may occur Monday.

The State Attorney General’s office has also become involved after the organization SSP&RIT filed an administrative civil rights complaint against the City and GVRD on Wednesday.

Native American activists and supporters have begun the occupation of Glen Cove as an escalation of their struggle that has been going on for over a decade, since the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD) first proposed plans for a “fully featured public park” including construction of a paved parking lot, paved hiking trails, 1000 pound picnic tables and a public restroom on top of the 3500 year old burial site.

On Wednesday, April 13th, Sacred Site Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSP&RIT), a Vallejo-based community organization, filed an administrative civil rights complaint to the State of California alleging that the City and GVRD are discriminating on the basis of race in threatening to destroy and desecrate significant parts of the Glen Cove Shellmound and burial site, for harming Native Americans’ religious and spiritual well-being, and effectively excluding Native Americans from their right to full participation in decision-making regarding the site.

The history and cultural value of the site has never been disputed. Human remains have been consistently unearthed as the area around the site has been developed. Native Americans continue to hold ceremonies at Sogorea Te just as they have for thousands of years. The Glen Cove Shell Mound spans fifteen acres along the Carquinez Strait. It is the final resting place of many Indigenous People dating back more than 3,500 years, and has served as a traditional meeting place for dozens of California Indian tribes.

The site continues to be spiritually important to California tribes. The Glen Cove site is acknowledged by GVRD and the City to have many burials and to be an important cultural site, yet they are moving forward as early as Friday with plans to build a toilet and parking lot on this sacred site and to grade a hill that likely contains human remains and important cultural artifacts.

SSP&RIT have asked GVRD to reconsider their plans to grade the hill and build toilets and a parking lot at the site.
Glen Cove is located near the intersection of South Regatta and Whitesides Drive in Vallejo.

For more information and directions:
Photos here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sacramento State Occupation Evicted

riot police
riot police
In the early hours of the morning, police from both the CSU and SFPD, dressed in full riot gear entered the administration at Sacramento State -- which was going into the fourth day of occupation by student protesters -- advanced on sleeping students in attack formation and from multiple directions, and ordered them to leave. Occupiers left voluntarily, with no arrests. Here's part of their statement of the eviction:
This morning on the fourth day, April 16 at 3:24 A.M. we were met with the administration’s opposition expressed through a riot taskforce.

Earlier that morning at approximately 12:30 A.M CSUS police entered the building for the first time accompanied with San Francisco State police. We were told that the new forces were needed, and that our own police were showing them the layout of our building. At this time we asked to be updated about the situation and we were refused that request.

Our police liaison Yeimi Lopez, again approached CSUS police with questions and she was told that they could no longer release information, and that they were following the orders given to them.

At 3:24 AM there was a police officer at the front doors unlocking the entrance, when asked what was happening and why, we were told that he could not answer that question. At the same time police were assembling in a militant formation with full riot gear, batons, and a large amount of zip ties. They were approaching sleeping students from multiple directions within the building. They threatened with force that if we did not leave we would face arrest. Our police liaison met with Lieutenant Christine Lofthouse that if we did not leave the peaceful demonstration that we would face arrest.
This is to be expected. In the end, these administrations don't care whether student action, especially direct action like occupation, is "peaceful" -- in any form it constitutes a threat to their ability to impose whatever measures they deem appropriate. At UC Berkeley, for example, we experienced something similar in December 2009 during Live Week, when riot police descended at 3 am on sleeping students and arrested 66 of them. We scare them. As our compañeros at Anti-Capital Projects wrote,

From this perspective, the bottom line is: fuck yeah Sac State! Solidarity with occupiers everywhere!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sacramento State Occupation Continues

Sit in
The occupation at Sacramento State continues into its second night, after 18 students slept there last night and kept the building open. Check em out on the blog and the twitter. Here's the demands, as of this morning:
1. A moratorium on managerial raises and salaries; Funding must be focused on instruction and student services.

2. Publicly support AB 1326. The oil extraction fee for higher ed bill.

3. Publicly support SB 8. The transparency bill.
Their full communiqué is after the jump:

Glen Cove Occupied

With bulldozers scheduled to begin work on a construction project tomorrow morning at 8 am, protesters, including many from the Native American community, have occupied the sacred burial site at Glen Cove, Vallejo (known in Ohlone as Sogorea Te). They plan to spend the night there and prevent work from going forward tomorrow:
Native American activists consider this to be the last stand in a struggle that has been going on for over a decade, since the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD) first proposed plans for a “fully featured public park” including construction of a paved parking lot, paved hiking trails, 1000 pound picnic tables and a public restroom on top of the 3500 year old burial site.

On Wednesday, April 13th, Sacred Site Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSP&RIT), a Vallejo-based community organization, filed an administrative civil rights complaint to the State of California alleging that the City and GVRD are discriminating on the basis of race in threatening to destroy and desecrate significant parts of the Glen Cove Shellmound and burial site, for harming Native Americans’ religious and spiritual well-being, and effectively excluding Native Americans from their right to full participation in decision-making regarding the site.

The history and cultural value of the site has never been disputed. Human remains have been consistently unearthed as the area around the site has been developed. Native Americans continue to hold ceremonies at Sogorea Te just as they have for thousands of years. The Glen Cove Shell Mound spans fifteen acres along the Carquinez Strait. It is the final resting place of many Indigenous People dating back more than 3,500 years, and has served as a traditional meeting place for dozens of California Indian tribes. The site continues to be spiritually important to California tribes. The Glen Cove site is acknowledged by GVRD and the City to have many burials and to be an important cultural site, yet they are moving forward as early as Friday with plans to build a toilet and parking lot on this sacred site and to grade a hill that likely contains human remains and important cultural artifacts.
For more information on the site check out (that's where the photos are from). Also, there will be updates tomorrow on Indybay.

CSU Steps Up

From occupyca:
Students and faculty at around 4 California State University campuses held sit-ins today in administration buildings. Sit-ins and marches to administrative offices took place at: CSU Fresno, Monterey, Sacramento, East Bay, Long Beach, Pomona, Northridge, San Francisco State University, and San Jose State University. Rallies, marches and teach-ins were scheduled at all 23 CSU campuses today as a part of a day of action. AP estimates more than 10,000 participated.

According to AP, around 1000 students and faculty at CSU Sacramento marched from the library quad to an administrative building to deliver a set of petitions, and around 100 demonstrators staged a sit-in demanding the resignation of the CSU Chancellor. Around 800 demonstrators at CSU Long Beach marched to the student services administrative building, but the building was already shut down. These actions take place in the face of the $500 million budget cut to the CSU system (out of a total of $1.4 billion in cuts to CA higher education).

UPDATE 7:30pm: Reportedly, Sac state students inside their administrative building are staying overnight.
(map from thosewhouseit)

[Update 1:38 am Thursday morning]: Sounds like the occupation at Sacramento State is going all night. They're calling for support at 7 am:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Student Protest

Our compañeros over at thosewhouseit mentioned this interview the other day, but we hadn't seen the video. For some reason, the whole interview didn't make it into the transcript. Anyway, we've been meaning to write something about it for awhile, but today there's an op-ed by English postdoc Brendan Prawdzik in the Daily Cal that beat us to it. The piece does a good job of taking down the language used both by Newsom and by Chancellor Bobby Birgeneau on the day of the protest, which, if you'll remember, was coded in typical administrative bureaucracy-speak. Anyway, here's a chunk of the piece:
When on the afternoon of March 3 student protesters took to the roof of Wheeler Hall to challenge repeated cuts to their education coupled with repeated "fee" increases (in "Truespeak," don't we really mean "tuition"?) Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who, in my experience, has never appeared afraid of email prolixity, issued to students and faculty the following two-sentence pronouncement: "The campus is dealing with a health and safety issue in Wheeler Hall and the building is closed. All classes and events scheduled in Wheeler Hall for this afternoon/evening are cancelled until further notice."

The email is both deceptive and insulting. It is a clear sign of the disconnect between the university's privileged administrators, answerable to no democratic process, and the university's students, upon whose backs our bloody budgets continue to be carved.

The email is inaccurate because administrators and police, and not students, made the choice to close down Wheeler Hall. When there was a real threat to public safety, this came from the police themselves, who (we all know) have upon several recent occasions beaten students taking action against the administration. We are all familiar with their barricades and batons: ironic symbols of "free speech" at Berkeley these days. (I say nothing about the UCPD officer who pointed a loaded gun at protesters in November.) I must assume that Birgeneau is an intelligent man with a strong command of the English language. As such, I must also assume that he was intent on deceiving the Berkeley community by sparsely referring to a "health and safety issue." For those unaware of the protests, the email works against awareness. For those aware, it implies that the protesters were solely responsible for the "health and safety" issue, for classes being cancelled and office hours cut short (as were mine, by a bevy of officers).

Regent Gavin Newsom certainly comprehends the situation this way, as evidenced by an interview published March 31, in The Daily Californian. Therein, Newsom declares that he "completely understand(s)" student frustration but that "when people start locking themselves in and denying other people access that are innocent in terms of the debate and when people start to incite behavior that can actually start tipping and losing support, that's when I just want to pause and say, 'Hey guys, you don't need to go this far.'"

Thanks for the fatherly advice, Regent Newsom. But you see, it was the police who locked everybody out, not the protesters. It was the police who "den(ied) other ('innocent') people access." Moreover, it was certainly the police who "start(ed) to incite behavior ... tipping" students not against the protesters but rather against the police and the administration. From widespread local and national news reports, it was clear to me that the administration embarrassed itself that day: the protesters held the high ground at night, and were celebrated by their fellow students. The victory proudly adorned the front page of the next morning's Daily Californian. With such extensive coverage, I expected more words from our Chancellor. I guess that he was content with his two-line, absurdly euphemistic dismissal.
Read the rest here. As for the "health and safety issue," we'd like to once again recommend our piece "Health and Safety on the Wheeler Ledge."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More Union Machinations

We really couldn't hope to clarify things as well as thosewhouseit, so if you're interested in the union check out their post on union machinations and astroturfing in light of the upcoming election in the local. The picture above features Daraka Larimore-Hall, the president of UAW Local 2865, on the far left, campaigning for the asshole who's working overtime to cut $1.4 billion from public higher education -- at a minimum. Thanks, Administration Caucus!

(The Daily Cal also published an article on the contested election today.)

Two Brief Notes on Student Debt

The New York Times reports today:
Student loan debt outpaced credit card debt for the first time last year and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year as more students go to college and a growing share borrow money to do so.

While many economists say student debt should be seen in a more favorable light, the rising loan bills nevertheless mean that many graduates will be paying them for a longer time.

“In the coming years, a lot of people will still be paying off their student loans when it’s time for their kids to go to college,” said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of and, who has compiled the estimates of student debt, including federal and private loans.

Two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with debt in 2008, compared with less than half in 1993. Last year, graduates who took out loans left college with an average of $24,000 in debt. Default rates are rising, especially among those who attended for-profit colleges.

The mountain of debt is likely to grow more quickly with the coming round of budget-slashing. Pell grants for low-income students are expected to be cut and tuition at public universities will probably increase as states with pinched budgets cut back on the money they give to colleges.
From Annie McClanahan's article "Coming Due: Accounting for Debt, Counting on Crisis" in Against the Day:
[W]hy do fee increases feel "intangible"? The reason is expressed in the shrugging student's description of buying on credit: it is real, but "not real yet." Debt is a promise of future realization, not a present fact. As historian J. G. A. Pocock famously observed, the very notion of the "historical future" -- a future available to human action yet driven by social forces larger than the individual agent -- is the effect of the emergence of large-scale credit mechanisms. For the student buying education on credit, the future of debt repayment is at once deferred and inexorable: 2014, when today's first-year students will be asked to start paying back their loans, may seem unimaginable distant to some but nothing will prevent its arrival. Many students are already becoming aware of the cruel certainty of debt repayment. In the summer of 2009, two of my students had to miss classes to help parents who were being evicted from their homes; they did so in the besieged Central Valley of a state whose own drastic debt forced it to give public employees IOUs rather than paychecks. The student's shrug is thus a gesture expressing both repayment's postponement and debt's inevitability, and this experience of an ineluctable but distant day of future settlement sustains a feeling of resignation far colder than what is often dismissed as generational apathy. Creating a sense of critical urgency among students around the issue of fee increases requires that we bring the indebted future into the present, that we make the cost of an education bought on layaway visible -- and transformable -- here and now.