Monday, August 29, 2011

Privatization: A Very Short Introduction

A 2 page pamphlet from members of UAW 2865, which represents graduate students in the UC system, outlining the impact of budget cuts on California higher education, the failure of university leadership, and skewed UCOP budgeting priorities. The document also proposes a strategy and set of demands for mobilization during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Intro to Privatization Pamphlet

Friday, August 26, 2011

#OCCUPYFDSF Occupy The San Francisco Financial District

While we at Reclaim UC remain skeptical about Adbusters' anti-consumerist, electoral pressure politics, the financial services industry is at the forefront of today's privatization of California public education - setting university priorities and profiting massively off of student debt.

We encourage everyone to participate in the upcoming coordinated September 17th occupations of Wall Street in NY and the financial district in SF.


Saturday, September 17 at 5:00pm
- December 24 at 5:00pm

555 California/Bank Of America Building
555 California Street
San Francisco, CA


Occupy Financial District: Peaceful Occupation on California St, San Francisco

San Francisco, California – September 17th, 2011 – Plans for a peaceful occupation in San Francisco are under way after the #occupywallstreet campaign has gone viral.

Activists and citizens on the West Coast who cannot venture to New York City are gathering to display a sister movement in San Francisco to protest against fiscal irresponsibility, corporatocracy, and general dissent with the United States leadership. Occupy Financial District SF is partnering with the California chapter of US Day of Rage to combine numbers and media attention. The peaceful rally is set to take place on September 17th, 2011, at 555 California Street in San Francisco at 2 p.m.

Occupy Financial District San Francisco is looking for interested persons to discuss logistics. Additional tasks are also in need of fulfillment, particularly PR and marketing. Please direct all questions and suggestions to the contact information provided below.

IRC Freenode: #OWSWestCoast

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

DeCal on Educational Privatization

This fall at UC Berkeley. Everybody's welcome, not just those enrolled at Berkeley. The first class is September 7, 4pm in Moffitt 103.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Map of Power -- UC Berkeley

Chart of the Day: Student Loans Have Grown 511% Since 1999

By Daniel Indiviglio

You think the housing bubble was enormous? Meet the education bubble. On Wednesday, an article here by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus explained the debt crisis at American colleges. But some startling statistics will help to make their analysis a little more tangible. The growth in student loans over the past decade has been truly staggering.

Here's a chart based on New York Federal Reserve data for household debt. The red line shows the cumulative growth in student loans since 1999. The blue line shows the growth of all other household debt except for student loans over the same period.

crazy student loans 2011-q2.pngLink

This chart looks like a mistake, but it's correct. Student loan debt has grown by 511% over this period. In the first quarter of 1999, just $90 billion in student loans were outstanding. As of the second quarter of 2011, that balance had ballooned to $550 billion.

The chart above is striking for another reason. See that blue line for all other debt but student loans? This wasn't just any average period in history for household debt. This period included the inflation of a housing bubble so gigantic that it caused the financial sector to collapse and led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. But that other debt growth? It's dwarfed by student loan growth.

How does the housing bubble debt compare? If you add together mortgages and revolving home equity, then from the first quarter of 1999 to when housing-related debt peaked in the third quarter of 2008, the sum increased from $3.28 trillion to $9.98 trillion. Over this period, housing-related debt had increased threefold. Meanwhile, over the entire period shown on the chart, the balance of student loans grew by more than 6x. The growth of student loans has been twice as steep -- and it's showing no signs of slowing.*

Obviously the number of students didn't grow by 511%. So why are education loans growing so rapidly? One reason could be availability. The government's backing lets credit to students flow very freely. And as the article from yesterday noted, universities are raising tuition aggressively since students are willing to pay more through those loans.

This student loan growth sure looks unsustainable. But it's hard to see how this bubble's inevitable pop might look. Ultimately, it might look more like a balloon slowly deflating, if a large portion of college graduates decide to strategically default on their debt over time.

All this college debt could put the U.S. on a slower growth path in the years to come. As Americans grapple with high student loan payments for the first few decades of their adult lives, they'll have less money to spend and invest. All that money flowing into colleges and universities is being funneled away from other industries where it would have been spent in future years. Of course, this would be a rather unfortunate irony: higher education is supposed to enhance a nation's growth, but with such an enormous debt burden, graduates might not be able to spend and invest enough to allow that growth to occur.

* You might notice that student loan growth was actually flat in the second quarter. The same thing happened in the second quarter of last year, so this is likely a seasonal effect. We should expect growth to resume this quarter.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

You Are Doing Your Best

Summer's over. Back to school.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mobilization in Support of Pelican Bay Hunger Strike -- Aug. 23

Reposted from:

Join & Support the Statewide Mobilization to Sacramento: August 23rd
Posted on August 8, 2011 by prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity

On August 23rd, San Francisco Representative Tom Ammiano and the Public Safety Committee in the State Assembly of CA will hold an informational hearing on conditions and policies of the Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay. This is a major opportunity for supporters outside of prison to support the hunger strike and to pressure state legislators and the CDCR to make substantial changes.

More Info on Statewide Mobilization & Logistics

Support families & community members to give testimony on the conditions of the SHUs and amplify the voices of the thousands of prisoners across California!


If you’re in California or on the West Coast:

1. Join the Statewide Mobilization to Sacramento! Come to Sacramento on August 23rd for a day of action to support the hunger strike! If you need a ride, contact as soon as possible.
2. Pressure your Legislators! Call and/or visit your legislators and urge them to attend the hearing on August 23rd, as well as visit the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and other prisons
3. Make Some Noise! Organize demonstrations, events, rallies in a city near you targeting your legislators’ local offices leading up to the hearing or during (if you’re legislators are not attending)!
4. Support Transportation for supporters across the state!

* Contact if you can drive a car from where ever you are in CA to Sacramento and have room for more passengers.
* You can also donate funds to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity so that families and community members across CA can get to Sacramento on August 23rd. Donate by going to California Prison Focus’ website, on the left-hand side there’s a donate button that will link you to CPF’s paypal account. Or, write a check and mail it to California Prison Focus/ 1904 Franklin Suit 507/ Oakland CA 94612. Make sure to put a note on your check or paypal transaction “hunger strike” or “coalition.”

If you’re outside of California:

1. Support transportation for supporters across the state! Donate funds to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity so that families and communities members across CA can get to Sacramento on August 23rd. Donate by going to California Prison Focus’ website, on the left-hand side there’s a donate button that will link you to CPF’s paypal account. Or, write a check and mail it to California Prison Focus/ 1904 Franklin Suit 507/ Oakland CA 94612. Make sure to put a note on your check or paypal transaction “hunger strike” or “coalition”
2. Pressure your Legislators! Contact your state legislators and urge them to get every CA state legislator they know to attend the Legislative Hearing on the 23rd, as well as visit hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and other prisons.
3. Make some Noise! Organize local rallies, demonstrations and events in solidarity with the hunger strike near or on August 23rd to help spread awareness about the strike, the hearing, and local struggles against imprisonment.

**For Supporters Everywhere: We encourage all supporters to continue spreading the word about the strike and the upcoming hearing, through emails, facebook, text-messages, twitter–all tools of social media and communication. We also encourage supports to continue writing prisoners and sharing words of support, encouragement, and updates on the strike and statewide mobilization to Sacramento for the hearing. Click here for more info to write to the hunger strike leaders.

Benefit for Modesto Anarcho -- Saturday at 7

A show/ party/ open mic night will occur on Saturday August 20th at the Long Haul info Shop at 3124 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley to benefit Modesto Anarcho. The music begins at 7pm with an open mic following at 10. Free vegan/ vegetarian food. Donations welcome, no cover fee. Bring poems, zines, or psa's to share.

Modesto Anarcho is a quarterly journal produced in Modesto, California. This publication is free to all. Modesto Anarcho exists to create combative working class propaganda and participate and encourage working class and community based struggles in our area. We also run a social center in Downtown Modesto, Firehouse 51.

Call for Submissions: Pamphlet on Student Debt

reposted from:

Call for Submissions: Pamphlet on financial services industries, student debt and default

[Issue 4 is coming soon!]

We are preparing a pamphlet on student debt for distribution in early September, to coincide with the online-release of Reclamations Journal: Issue 4. We envision the pamphlet being distributed during orientation activities (especially in front of financial industry tables) and at early political actions. Our aim with this pamphlet is to interrupt the normalization of indebtedness and predatory lending on our campuses and to articulate, for incoming and continuing students alike, how colleges and universities are being restructured by the imperatives of the financial services industry.

We are soliciting short pieces (1000-3000 words) that consider some aspect of student debt and its relation to issues of: accessibility, racial exclusion or forms of predatory, financialized “inclusion,” unemployment, and the for-proft education industry. We’d also like to publish pieces that take up the question of debt default as both a mechanism by which class, race, and gender inequalities are intensified and also a possible, and likely inevitable, site for mass political resistance. We welcome theoretical, descriptive, creative, as well as personal accounts of indebtedness and its effects on students, teachers, families, and futures.

The pamphlet will ask how our identities as students and political subjects are being shaped by the experience of debt and indebtedness, as well as a looming horizon of mass default.

Deadline for submissions: Sunday, August 28, 2011.
Send submissions and queries to editors[at]

Monday, August 15, 2011

Debt Abolition

Here's a new flyer for organizing around debt at the UC (and, with a little adaptation, at CSUs and CCs. But how does one go about abolishing something like debt? Well, for starters, by engaging in a politics of mass default. This is, of course, already happening. Whether we do anything about it or not, people are defaulting on their student loans in greater and greater numbers. . . But because student loans are guaranteed by the Federal government and its police powers -- meaning that the Treasury will pay back bank lenders if we default -- the State treats this as essentially akin to failing to pay taxes, and uses its full powers to recoup the money: wage garnishment, bank account seizures, even repossessions.

Therefore, to keep this from becoming the expression of individualized despair, we need a manner of rendering default not only visible but also offensive -- an attack, an act of expropriation, rather than a choice one is forced into after many insults and injuries. This means more than a website advertising a campaign of debt default. It means networks of mutual aid which we can use to help each other out in the event that we become the victims of the state's attention. But it probably also involves a politics of attack, targeting the institutions responsible for our increasing indebtedness.

Universities are, as the above poster indicates, one of these institutions, since they essentially use students as borrowers of last resort. They know that, given the wide availability of student loans, they can always raise money by raising tuition. When they borrow money that they can't possibly expect to pay back, they are essentially making it so that we pay it back for them.


Debt is, of course, the political watchword of our time -- a time when riots in Greece can measure their own power by the effect that they have on Greece's bond rating (that is, the extent to which Greece's lenders think it likely the antagonist forces there will force the country into default). Debt, therefore, is an index of political antagonism.


If you're looking for an interesting, and much more expansive, take on the political economy of debt, see David Graeber's new book -- Debt: The First Five Thousand Years (excerpt here). Drawing on anthopology, ancient history, and all manner of social theory, Graeber attempts to suggest that money, markets and economics originate with debt, rather than the other way around. For Graeber, money was first credit money and then only later cash or coinage. But unlike our current credit economy, these early credit economies had extensive protocols for the erasure and forgiveness of debt, in order to ward off the kinds of inequality that would bring such civilizations into crisis. . . There is a great deal of questionable argument here - as is often the case with Graeber -- but it's a highly provocative, erudite and insightful read. One can learn a great deal from it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Forum on Austerity, Sept. 20 (updated)

Please share around!

Update: The date of this event has changed. It will now be happening on the 20th, rather than the 13th.

No Limit for Student Debt

Two weeks ago, Congress passed an all-cuts deficit reduction bill, which was ostensibly tied to an increase in the federal debt ceiling. While much of the commentary about this bill, including in the left-liberal press, suggested that the 1.7 trillion in cuts was a result of Republican intransigence and Executive fecklessness, in truth, the austerity was driven much more by the bond rating agencies, who were threatening to downgrade US debt unless our federal representatives carried out an initial round of fiscal austerity. The agencies got their cuts, but S&P went ahead with the downgrade anyway. The other two agencies -- Moody's and Fitch -- are holding their fire for now.

If nothing else, this debt ceiling & debt rating debacle should crystallize for a transnational public the fact that the bond rating agencies determine the parameters of our politics -- a lesson that those of us fighting UC privatization have come to learn over the past couple years. What finance capital wants -- whether that be fee hikes or fiscal austerity -- it gets.

Buried in the debt ceiling bill was a measure to essentially end subsidized loans for graduate students. Under the previous federal loan regime, graduate students were not responsible for paying interest on their loans while they were still in school (and struggling to pay the rent). Starting next summer though, we'll be paying that interest. According to the sage coalition, the shift from subsidized to unsubsidized loans will increase the total loan burden of a six-year grad student by over 25%. And, given the current state of the academic job market, this is another few thousand dollars in debt that we'll have little chance of paying off.

Nevertheless, as the journalistic reports on this measure invariably pointed out, 'there was a bit of good news' hidden in the cuts to subsidized loans. Some of the money saved by the federal government on loans to grad students will go to pay for Pell Grants, which otherwise would have suffered further cuts. So it could have been worse. And yet, it's important to remember that Pell Grants are being funded because of effective lobbying efforts by for-profit colleges, much more so than because of a shared commitment on the part of our political class to educational equity. For-profit colleges receive massive amounts of Pell Grant funding, despite abysmal dropout and placement rates for their students. And they have one of the best-funded federal lobbying efforts of any industry. As Bloomberg reported in April:
For-profit colleges, led by Apollo Group Inc. (APOL)’s University of Phoenix, will be disproportionately hurt by cuts in the $30 billion Pell Grant program for low- income students. Pell Grant aid to for-profit-college students grew almost eightfold in the past decade to $7.5 billion in 2009-2010, and now accounts for 25 percent of the funds, according to the U.S. Education Department.

While there is much more to say about for-profit schools, it's important initially to note that these schools are the apotheosis and inevitable outcome of educational privatization. In California, for example, recent tuition hikes at the UCs and CSUs, coupled with class cuts at Community Colleges, are all compelling low income students and students of color to turn toward for-profit colleges, despite the fact that these schools rarely offer the educational experience that they advertise. In other words, regressive reforms at one node of the educational system reverberate throughout this system, affecting all students.

While the UC student movement has not yet adequately recognized how our fight is linked with fights taking place elsewhere in the educational system -- something on the agenda for the coming year -- the UC Regents are quite aware of these interconnections. After voting for the 32% fee increase in the fall of 2009, Regent Richard Blum directed his investment firm to buy stocks in for-profit schools. From an article in Reclamations 2:
As student fees continue to skyrocket, it is well to keep in mind that Blum is a part owner of a pair of for-profit education companies. Blum Capital Partners owns the largest stake in Career Education Corporation, the world's second largest private “diploma mill” corporation, which runs more than one hundred for-profit schools across the country, while also making tens of millions of dollars in sub-prime loans to its students. Blum Capital also owns a 19 per cent stake in ITT Educational Services, Inc., another for-profit school that makes millions off student loan debt. Blum, the UC Board of Regents' resident siphoner-in-chief of public funds, purchased more than 220,000 new shares in the firm soon after the UC Regents approved the University of California's latest fee increase this past November.

This is why we fight the Regents.