Sunday, May 29, 2011

Update on the Irvine 11: Gag Orders and Free Speech

Via UC Rebel Radio, we wanted to update folks on the prosecution of the Irvine 11. As you know, these students from UC Irvine and UC Riverside are currently facing criminal charges -- not just the bullshit charges associated with the arbitrary student conduct process -- for participating in a protest during a speech given by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. They are accused of conspiring to interrupt and then interrupting Oren's speech, charges which could carry a sentence of up to six months in jail if they are convicted. The trial is scheduled to begin on August 15.

This kind of protest happens all the time, and to political figures who are far more significant than Ambassador Oren. For something like this to lead to a criminal prosecution -- let alone the convening of a grand jury! -- is stunning.

In any case, the recent update is that the judge has issued a gag order in order to prevent "potential jurors [from having] preconceived ideas about the case." The gag order applies to both prosecution and defense, but oddly is not retroactive:
Attorneys for the defendants objected to a protective order against them, with one attorney saying their clients "are not similarly situated" with the district attorney's office and therefore should not be subjected to the same limitations.

Attorneys for the 11 also requested that the court mandate the D.A.'s office remove other information relating to the case from its website, including removal of press releases and emails among the defendants that could be submitted to the court later as evidence. The judge denied the request, saying that there is no need to "go back and sanitize" what has already been released.
Obviously, it's impossible to go back and erase what people have already heard. But there is nevertheless something strange about the disproportionate effects of the gag order -- it silences the present while entirely overlooking the past. There's also something interesting here about the way that "free speech" operates. In a case where college students are facing half a year of jail time for allegedly violating the right to free speech of an Israeli politician, the logic of "free speech" demands that (some) speech be silenced, and (other) speech effectively reinforced. It redistributes speech, spatially and temporally. This is where technologies like "free speech zones" and "time, place, and manner restrictions" come into play.

It's also interesting how the politics of free speech often turns on or the legitimation of racism, with regard to both speech and practice. The LA Times article cited above takes a weird turn toward the end:
The defendants also have critics, including prominent Jewish leaders who say they support free speech but believe the students' behavior crossed a line.

Among those who were in the Santa Ana courtroom Friday was Jim Gilchrist, founder and president of the Minuteman Project. Gilchrist, whose organization places civilian patrols on the U.S. border, said he was interested in the case because it related to 1st Amendment free speech rights.

"We need to set ground rules," Gilchrist said, adding that he was "victimized" by people interrupting speeches he's given across the country.

"Louis Farrakhan could speak [to me]," Gilchrist said. "You don't stop people from speaking. I want to talk to the accused and see their point of view."
There's so much going on here. Even if we totally leave aside the claims of white victimization and the odd tokenization of Louis Farrakhan, what's interesting is how the politics of free speech renders some utterances speech and others non-speech. Apparently, Gilchrist recognizes that the protesters have a "point of view," a political argument they want to express. In reality, Oren's speech wasn't prevented, blocked, or suppressed (in other words, the protest was less "effective," in absolute material terms, than the gag order) -- rather, it was delayed, or temporally displaced. And, insofar as all speech is contextual and situated, the protesters' can only make that particular argument in the way they did. It is a fundamentally different speech act to denounce the Israeli occupation while the Israeli ambassador is speaking than it is to denounce it outside the building, or the following day.

Now compare the argument Gilchrist lays out above with this interview he did on Democracy Now. The interview -- well, partial interview -- took place following a speech he tried to give at Columbia University that was interrupted when a group of students rushed the stage and unfurled a banner denouncing anti-immigrant racism. This, it seems, is the sort of thing he calls victimization. (Notably, at one point in the video a minuteman kicks one of the students in the head.) Anyway, what happens in the interview is a sort of back and forth between Gilchrist and student organizer Karina Garcia, except it ends abruptly when Gilchrist bails after Garcia begins to confront him. He just gets up, pulls out his earpiece, and walks off camera.

In this case, of course, Gilchrist doesn't want to talk with the other side and "see their point of view." The point here is obviously not that the head of the Minutemen is an asshole -- it sort of goes without saying -- but rather that the tension in his militant desire to simultaneously hear and silence speech precisely mirrors the logic of free speech more broadly.

One final image: this is what pops up on the screen after Gilchrist cuts the camera in his studio (which is located, notably, in Irvine, CA). Somehow, it's extremely appropriate.

[this post has been edited for clarity]

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Anticut 1: Friday, June 3

From Bay of Rage, a new anti-capitalist initiative in the Bay Area:
This is the first in a series of counterausterity marches and events we have planned for this summer, in order to begin assembling an anticapitalist force capable of combating the current age of budget cuts and economic violence. This initial event -- a roving street party ending in a guerrilla film-screening -- coincides with First Friday and Art Murmur because we want to draw attention to the fact that while the gentrification of certain areas of Oakland continues via mechanisms like First Friday, the majority of Oakland residents will face a new round of punishing budgets cuts, staggering levels of unemployment and an increasingly militarized police force. This is no accident. Just as on a national level the money cut from education and public assistance reappears as bank bailouts and tax cuts for the rich, the wealth squeezed out of certain parts of Oakland reappears in other parts of the city, in the form of art galleries and expensive restaurants, new condominiums and police weapons. So come take the streets with us on Friday night as we show our power.

We expect this to be a disruptive but relatively low-risk event. Our intent is to build up momentum, energy and intensity over the course of the summer.

Get your flyers for Anticut #1 here

Also, mark your calendars now. Anticut #2 will be taking the streets on the afternoon of June 17 at the same location. More info to come.
Also, check out these thoughts from Socialism and/or Barbarism and this killer analysis of austerity:
The only possible response to the antinomies of anti-austerity politics -- which breakdown all too often into a fight between anti-tax and pro-welfare populisms -- is to say that if we had direct, immediate access to such things, we would need neither state provision nor its powers of taxation. Only when capital is a natural, unsurpassable horizon does this appear as a real problem.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Police Attack Occupied Plaza in Barcelona

After last Sunday's elections, plazas and public spaces across Spain have continued to be occupied by tens of thousands of protesters. Now, about two weeks after the protests began, the police are finally starting to attack. These images are from the Plaça Catalunya, where riot cops were sent in to evict the occupation, striking with batons and firing blanks and rubber bullets, at about 7 am local time. El país reports that two people were arrested and 121 lightly injured, including 37 cops. Authorities justified the eviction, saying it was for "reasons of hygiene" (motivos de salubridad). After clearing the plaza, the police withdrew. Soon the protesters had returned and retaken the space.

(photo above via)

[Update 12:49 pm]: Retaking the plaza...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Whose University? On Yudof and "Us"

On May 17, UC President Mark Yudof delivered the keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Law Institute (ALI) in San Francisco (via). His talk, titled "Whose University? The Decline of the Commonwealth and Its Meaning for Higher Education," is available both in text form as well as in the video above. Those of us willing to subject ourselves to the torture of watching the full speech in the video, however, will discover that what Yudof actually said diverged in some fairly significant ways from the original script. What we want to do here is think through and analyze Yudof's invocation and mobilization of this highly specific language of protest, on which, as the title of the talk suggests, his entire argument turns.

Consider the following passage, which sets up the rest of the talk. We've edited the passage based on the video, striking out the words that were not said and adding in italics those that were inserted. It begins at about 11:05 in the video:
Now, during the many demonstrations against fee increases, students and their allies have consistently taken up the chant: "Whose university? Our University!" In my day, and admittedly when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, the battle cry was "make love, not war," a call to arms which I personally find more alluring. [Laughter]

But I do get the point the current students are trying to make -- that is, that they have a stake in the administration's decisions administration, they have a stake in the university, they have a stake in the decisions the legislature, the board of regents, and others make.

Still, the more I ruminate over the question "Whose university," the more I realize that this chant actually frames a more profound societal question, one with implications far beyond the University of California, or even public education in general.

It's a question for American society as a whole -- how to distinguish between the "public good" versus the "private good," and how to strike a balance between the two. A balance that navigates at least in my judgment a course between JFK's noble call and the rhetorical stance of some politicians that government is never the solution, only the problem.
Apart from his stale jokes, there are a couple things to notice here in the way Yudof frames the meaning of the rhetorical question and answer "Whose university? Our university!" As in the case of the protesters who chant these words, the question for Yudof is a rhetorical one -- the speaker already knows what the answer is. Tensions emerge at the seams, that is, over the path of the lines that we, with these words, attempt to trace between friends and enemies. What is at stake, in other words, is the meaning of the word "our" and, by extension, of its opposite, "them." Solidarity is how we define friends and enemies.

With this in mind, take a look at the gap between the prepared speech and the actual remarks. Yudof invokes the slogan, and goes on to claim that he understands where the students are coming from: "I do get the point the current students are trying to make." What they want is to have a stake in -- and here the speech diverges from the text -- not the "administration's decisions" but the decisions of the administration, the university, the legislature, the board of regents, and so on. In moving away from the prepared text, Yudof expands the political horizon of the students' supposed demands. How do we read this expansion? A generous reading might suppose that Yudof is acknowledging the call, for example, to "democratize the regents," that is, situating the protests within a broad political context and recognizing just how far-reaching these demands can be. (But we know what Yudof actually thinks about democratizing the regents: "I don't like it much personally speaking.")

Notably, one of the institutions that students supposedly want to have a stake in is not like the others: the administration, the university, and the board of regents constitute the governing apparatus of the UC, but to invoke the legislature is to shift the domain of struggle away from the space of the university. While seemingly expanding the political horizon of possibility, this move at the same time attempts to close the door on a set of tactics and strategies that have proven useful to students, workers, and faculty who see the UC administration as a necessary target in the struggle over public education and against austerity.

It is this move, furthermore, that enables the rest of Yudof's speech. The co-optation of the protest slogan allows him to push "far beyond the University of California, or even public education in general" to "American society as a whole." What he's driving at, in other words, is a more general question of political economy that focuses on the relationship between public and private goods. For Yudof, this argument serves a useful purpose because it situates politics firmly within the realm of the state and within the strategy of the vote. Politics is thus reduced to little more than a question of persuasion, of campaigning, of donations -- similarly, it is isolated within the relatively homogeneous field of political parties, all of which, it turns out, are down with austerity.

Yudof has other reasons for abstracting the conflict to an oversimplified discussion of public and private goods -- because his proposal is to sketch out a "balanced" approach or middle ground. This "hybrid university," as he calls it, occupies an uncomfortable position between the two poles. Uncomfortable because of its instability, oscillating from private to public and back again throughout the talk. But these are rhetorical hues -- the hybrid university that Yudof outlines ends up resembling a corporation more than anything else. He declares, for example, that universities must "look at their operations with a 'private' sensibility. They should establish realistic priorities, eliminate weak programs, adopt money-saving IT services, and aggressively reduce waste." Not only must it adopt corporate practices, but it must also be seen and imagined through a corporate, economistic lens:
[T]he university maintains a critical role in this state's wealth creation. Because if the pie doesn't grow, it's difficult to realize the ambition of bridging the divide between our private and public sectors.

So, in order to preserve these missions, public universities must be able to depend on a three-part funding base -- one of student-family contribution, private support and state funding.
The equilibrium of the "hybrid university," balanced between private and public funding, is undone: the "three-part funding base" has overturned the dual foundations that Yudof originally seemed to propose. It is now two parts private (the student-family debt burden along with corporate investment) to one part public (state funding). As Bob Meister has observed, however, the UC administration has a vested interest in shifting away from state funding, which comes with certain restrictions regarding how it can be used:
[A]lthough tuition can be used for the same purposes as state educational funds, it can also be used for other purposes including construction, the collateral for construction bonds, and paying interest on those bonds. None of the latter uses is permissible for state funds, so the gradual substitution of tuition for state funds gives UC a growing opportunity to break free of the state in its capital funding.
In attempting to shift the location of "Our university!" to the broad terrain of democracy and the "American public in general," Yudof constructs a unified "we" that seeks to conjoin the administration with the protesters, blurring and diffusing the tensions between these structurally opposed positions. Against this "we," presumably, stands the "them" of the state. But we know that those who run the UC are the state: Yudof himself was appointed by the Board of Regents, each of whom was directly appointed by the governor, commonly in return for political favors. Sacramento is everywhere. Yudof's "we" thus serves to confuse and disrupt our lines of solidarity. In the end, it is the UC administration that is to be held responsible for the tuition increases, for the layoffs, for programs eliminated, at the same time as they increase their own ranks and salaries. They are austerity; they are our enemies.

Austerity, of course, is implemented at the barrel of a gun. Behind every fee increase stands a line of riot cops. It goes without saying that Yudof is well aware of this. Returning to his speech at ALI, we find the following paragraph early in his prepared remarks:
I've been forced to preside over the furlough of employees, myself included, and a 40 percent increase in tuition. I've faced a variety of demonstrations -- a rich cornucopia of folks exercising their free speech rights. It's certainly given me a new perspective on my First Amendment course.
But what he actually says is this (starting at 9:10):
I've been forced to do some things which I daresay have not been popular with the faculty, the staff, and the students. I've presided over furloughs of virtually all of our employees, including me -- that really hurt, they celebrated my furlough days at the office; a 40 percent increase in tuition in three years; and I've found . . . that I always had an enthusiasm for the First Amendment. I taught a course on it, Constitutional Law. What can I say: California is a rich cornucopia of folks exercising their free speech rights. [Laughter] It's certainly given me a certain perspective on the Constitution: if I ever go back to law teaching, which I expect, I'm going to start with the Second Amendment, that's my plan. [Laughter] And I may deal with quartering of soldiers, I don't know, Letters of Marque and Reprisal, there are all sorts of things I could deal with. [Laughter]
This is lawyerly humor of the pathological variety -- it's no wonder the lawyers in the audience crack up. Yudof's response to the protests is not, as he suggests in the earlier passage, to "ruminate" on the students' demands, but to rhetorically draw his gun and quarter his soldiers (UCPD) on university grounds. This is the kind of leadership that ends in Jared Kemper pulling his gun on unarmed students at the UC Regents' meeting in November 2010; and police surveillance and infiltration of student groups across the UC system.

And those Letters of Marque and Reprisal?
In the days of fighting sail, a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was a government license authorizing a private vessel to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale.
What we have here, in other words, is a declaration of war. But this war takes a very specific form: the state-sponsored and -authorized expropriation and privatization of enemy (in this case public) goods. In this little bit of improvisation, Yudof reveals, if not the administration's strategy of counterinsurgency, then certainly the violent logic of austerity in its clearest form. Behind heavily-armed and militarized agents vested with the full juridical authority of the state, austerity advances slowly but steadily.

* * *

What we mean when we shout "Whose university? Our university!" has little to do with the legislature or the American public in general. It has to do, as one might expect, with the university. It is our demand that those work at and use the university, those who make it run, those who schedule, teach, and take the classes, those who advise and provide support, those who maintain its spaces -- in short, everything but the bloated administration -- are the ones who should run the university. "We" face off against "them"; they are the management, the administrators. In the end, they will be abolished, as we have no need for their dismal cutbacks, their prefabricated capital projects, their rules of conduct, or their police. They are useless to us.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Musical Interlude in Solidarity with the #SpanishRevolution

Pienso Luego Estorbo: Massive Mobilizations, Public Spaces Occupied Across Spain

["I think, therefore I obstruct"]

Since May 15, massive mobilizations have taken place across Spain in the lead-up to regional and municipal elections scheduled for Sunday, May 22. In Madrid, the main plaza, called the Puerta del Sol, has been occupied by tens of thousands of protesters, holding general assemblies and even spending the night, in an action that is being compared to the protests in Egypt's Tahrir Square.

The demonstrations have been compared to the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt...
Protesters have specifically singled out the PP (Partido Popular, the more right-wing party) and the PSOE (the "socialists," which occupies the supposed center-left) for their fundamental agreement regarding the economic austerity measures and structural adjustment that are currently being imposed. The political classes have run the country into the ground -- currently, unemployment is 21 percent in general and a stunning 45 percent for people under 25. Some are calling for a complete boycott of the elections; while others are calling for a "voto nulo," that is, to vote with a "null" ballot that can't be counted; others call for blank ballots, in other words, that will be included in the final count (full explanation here, in Spanish). Because the protests are so large, spontaneous, and apparently horizontal, there aren't clear, overarching demands -- nothing is being filtered through major political parties or organizing structures. They want everything. (We've copied below the fold a list of some of the concrete demands that have come out of the popular assemblies held in the plaza in Madrid, to get an idea of their diversity. One of the key demands has to do with the Plan Bolonia, an austerity program that targets the public education system and re-structures it in the image of the U.S. Obviously, youth and students are playing a major role in the mobilization.)

Today, Spain's electoral committee officially declared the protests illegal, arguing that the right to vote outweighed the freedom of assembly. It remains to be seen whether the government will actually send in the riot police to evict the occupation in Madrid -- a deputy prime minister has now stated that it will not use force. However, at least 500 riot cops are currently stationed around the square. We'll try to keep the updates coming as the election approaches.

Many protesters stayed overnight on the square despite a ban on the protests in...
Around 500 riot police were present at the  Puerta del Sol square but did not...

Check out more photos here, here, and here, and some of the demands below the fold.

[Update Saturday 12:07am]: An interesting take on the #spanishrevolution from an anarchist in Barcelona here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meet Sherry Lansing, the New Chair of the UC Regents

At the most recent UC Regents' meeting, which took place over the past two days, Sherry Lansing was elected to be the new chair of the board, replacing outgoing and two-time chair Russell Gould. So who is Sherry Lansing? The Daily Cal reports:
Prior to her appointment to the board, Lansing was a high school math and science teacher in Los Angeles.
Aw, that's so sweet. She's really just like one of us. She's truly the "middle-class" regent we've been looking for to protect us from these budget cuts!
She also ran her own production company and most recently was the chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures.
... oh. Well, okay, she was the CEO, but movies are fun though, right? Everybody loves movies. She was involved in the production of Forrest Gump! Maybe she's not one of these corporate assholes who make up the rest of the board. Why don't we check in with our good friend and investigative reporter Peter Byrne, to see what he has to say about Regent Lansing:
Since September 2006, Regent Lansing (who is not on the investment committee) has been a member of the board of directors of Qualcomm Inc., for which she receives an annual director’s fee of $135,000, plus stock options. According to her economic disclosure statement, Ms. Lansing owns “more than $1 million” in Qualcomm stock options (no upper limit is specified). In 2009, Qualcomm paid her $485,252. Documents released by the UC Treasurer show that, after Ms. Lansing joined the Qualcomm board, UC quadrupled its investment in Qualcomm to $397 million. Ms. Lansing told us that she did not instruct the treasurer or members of the investment committee to buy Qualcomm stock.
Hmmmm. Okay, well, at least we should give Lansing a chance to explain herself and her positions to us, you know, in her own words:
"I'm honored to serve as chairman during these difficult economic times," Lansing said in a statement. "To meet our challenges, we have to look for cost savings as well as other sources of revenue. But as we face these financial struggles, one thing we will never, ever sacrifice is the quality of a UC education."
Two quick thoughts on the commitment to "never, ever sacrifice . . . the quality of a UC education." First, online education. Nuf said. Second, we keep coming back to this quote from Mark Yudof (not only UC President but also himself a member of the board of regents), which does a nice job of contextualizing what this talk about "quality" really refers to. In a statement after the January Regents' meeting, Yudof made the following comment:
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."
If "quality" and "excellence" are as commensurable as they sound, then Lansing's statement suggests that Yudof's "compass points" continue to shrink: the plan is no longer to pick two of the three, but to focus on one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


And these tuition hikes could be implemented as of winter 2012:
SAN FRANCISCO -- University of California tuition could soar next year if Gov. Jerry Brown's state budget plan doesn't pan out.

School administrators told the UC Board of Regents Wednesday the university would likely have to raise tuition 32 percent for the winter 2012 [on top of the 8 percent already programmed for fall 2011] term if the state doesn't extend temporary tax increases as Brown proposes.

Under that scenario, California residents would pay nearly $15,000 in tuition to attend one of UC's nine undergraduate campuses.

The governor has already signed legislation reducing support for UC by $500 million to roughly $2.5 billion for the coming fiscal year.

When Brown issued his revised budget proposal Monday, he warned that UC could lose another $500 million if the state does not extend the taxes. So far he doesn't have enough Republican support for his plan.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

UC Regents Meeting, May 17-18

Today and tomorrow the UC Regents are meeting once again at UCSF Mission Bay, certainly the most out-of-the-way and at the same time one of the most heavily policed of all the UC campuses, to discuss cuts in funding from the state in light of the May revision of Governor Brown's original budget proposal, which was released yesterday. While the budget revision is largely being touted in the media as good news due to the fact that revenues have so far been unexpectedly high, a closer look reveals that the crisis remains basically unchanged. $500 million worth of cuts for the UC system, and another $500 million for the CSU system, have already passed the California legislature, and will not be recovered. Furthermore, the budget revision continues to rely on the successful passage of several tax extensions -- an outcome that is far from guaranteed and indeed looks increasingly unlikely.

UC President Mark Yudof released a statement yesterday on the budget revision. In it, he once again stakes out a position not against budget cuts but against more budget cuts:
Today, in issuing a May revision of his budget proposal, the governor also described reductions that would be proposed should the state adopt an "all-cuts" budget in lieu of extending certain temporary taxes.

The governor in his budget document asserted that, in an all-cuts budget, reductions in state funding for the University of California would be doubled, to $1 billion in cuts.

A cut of this magnitude would be unconscionable -- to the university, its students and families, and to the state that it has served for nearly a century and a half.

Doubling the cut would reduce the state's contribution to the university's core funds -- monies that pay professors and staff members, light the libraries, maintain the campuses, and all the rest -- to roughly $2 billion. State funding of UC at this diminished level has not been seen since the early 1990s, a time when the university enrolled 80,000 fewer students.
Yudof's entire argument is based on the premise that the first $500 million is no big deal. It's gone, disappeared, vanished, erased, like it never happened. Let bygones be bygones. What matters, in other words, is not the cut but only the possibility of "doubling the cut." One way of reading this argument is that Yudof is being proactive -- he's getting out there ahead of the curve, to denounce budget cuts before they happen. To a certain extent, that's true. But the problem is that once the budget cuts actually happen -- and they always happen, sooner or later -- they are automatically taken off the table in the name of "being pragmatic." The new budget, with $500 million less, becomes the new baseline against which all future arguments about the budget are framed. Clearly, this is not the way to defend public education. On the other hand, it's a great way to continue to push tuition increases on the public, transferring the burden of debt from the university to the individual student and enabling the university to sell highly rated construction bonds for further infrastructure development.

Yudof goes on to declare that "What this reduction most likely would mean . . . is the need to yet again raise tuition." This statement ignores the fact, to begin with, that an 8 percent tuition increase is already programmed for next fall. Yudof loves to gloss over that increase. In an interview back in March, for example, he asserted that "I’m not planning on recommending a fee hike beyond what is already on the books, which is 8 percent in September." The structure of his claim mirrors that of the statement on the budget revision -- once something happens, it's like it never happened.

The corrupt, unaccountable, millionaire UC Regents aren't going to make any decisions at this meeting. But they've made clear that, in addition to the 8 percent fee hike that will go into effect however much they try to talk around it, they're liable to raise tuition by another 32 percent if the tax extensions in the new budget aren't approved. In that situation, furthermore, the CSU trustees will raise tuition by another 32 percent over and above the 10 percent increase they've already programmed in for the fall. 32 percent, it seems, is the magic number.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Three News Updates on University Governance

We wanted to note a few important news items that were brought to our attention today, all of which pertain in some way or another to general questions of university governance. First and foremost, as we noted several days ago, today was what the California Professor called "the Ides of May" in that Governor Jerry Brown revealed the revisions to his original budget proposal. There really was no question about whether or not Brown would change his approach and drop the austerity model that has characterized his politics since the 1970s. For Brown, it's all austerity, all the time.

Now, current revenues are unexpectedly high, coming in at $2.8 billion above what was predicted. But Brown, despite some minor changes, is basically sticking to his guns:
I only have a few minutes today to look at the Governor's May budget revision, and here's what I see. Current-year revenues are up $2.8 billion over forecasts, and $6.6 billion over two years. Governor Brown, true to his turnscrew austerity vision of a Hooverite unstimulus for all Californians, increases allocations to no one except K-12 and the community colleges "pursuant to Proposition 98," and, unbelievably, prisons, with a drop for mental health (page 4).

The Regents' strategy of saying that state funding is never coming back has paid off big-time: UC and CSU get exactly zero -- not even a $10 million or $50 million booby prize for not fighting the $500 million cuts. The crappy squeezing of health services is intact (page 3), as is the closing of 70 state parks to save a whopping $11 million this year. There is no wavering of Gov Brown's vision in which the government's one and only priority is reducing the deficit.
Even worse, as Michael Meranze observes, the budget revision still assumes that almost all of the tax extensions proposed by Brown in the original budget will be approved. "In other words, it is still possible that he will end up with an 'all-cuts' budget with even more fierce slashing of the budget for education, health, etc."

Second, as you will no doubt remember, over the last month we've been watching an internal election build up and take place in the UAW local 2865, which represents graduate students in the UC system. Inspired by the generalized protests against budget cuts and the current leadership's absolute failure to provide any sort of resistance to the university administration, the AWDU caucus emerged to challenge the incumbents (calling themselves USEJ, but also known as the Administration Caucus) in the triennial election which took place at the end of April. An attempt at fraud on the part of the incumbents led to a sit-in/occupation of the UAW office in downtown Berkeley; eventually all the votes were counted and AWDU emerged the winners, taking control of every single seat on the Executive Board and almost 60 percent of the positions on the Joint Council. This is a major victory.

USEJ, as you might imagine, is not happy with the results. And now they're trying to challenge them by leveling allegations of fraud against AWDU and demanding what is essentially a do-over! As thosewhouseit points out:
So if you can’t actually win an election with the popular vote, declare it invalid and hope you win the next time around? Look at how ridiculous some of these allegations are.

This is why it is a very serious violation of the Election Committee protocol that one slate’s supporters (AWDU) was left alone with the ballot boxes for 4-5 days, after the elections committee felt compelled to suspend counting on April 30.

The Admin Caucus dominated elections committee suspended the election unilaterally and without quorum. AWDU supporters locked the ballots in a room at UCLA and set up a webcam monitoring the ballots for the duration of the time they were left unattended. There were no AWDU members in there with the ballot boxes. Another crazy allegation:

[A] poll worker at the Sather Gate voting location at UC Berkeley was reaching into a wide-open ballot box during polling hours on April 27

We can’t believe they have the audacity to try to get this photo clearly taken before the polls opened to qualify as an impropriety. Preposterous. The poll worker is setting up the ballot box before the polls opened for the day. As we’ve explained before, this is pretty obvious if you look at the sunlight coming from the east in the picture. There’s no basis for counting this out of context photograph as evidence of anything, tampering or otherwise. If AC/USEJ can point to any more specific evidence of fraud on display in the photograph that we’re just too dense to comprehend, we’d be happy to hear it. We’re waiting.
We can't hope to cover this issue with the same attention to detail as our compañeros at thosewhouseit, so for the continuing struggle in the union we recommend you check out their blog.

Finally, we wanted to bring your attention to one final update: student-regent Jesse Cheng, who was found "responsible" (i.e. guilty) for sexual battery by the Office of Student Conduct at UC Irvine back in March, has officially resigned from the Board of Regents. (Here is the statement he released.) Note that, as far as we can tell, Cheng was not forced out, but rather resigned of his own accord. Now, we have long argued on this blog that the student conduct process is a disciplinary process that, together with UCPD, constitutes the repressive apparatus of the university. We have seen OSC operate in violation of its own rules and protocols, and furthermore have come to realize that even when it acts according to these rules, its actions are governed by what one critic has called "the rule of the arbitrary." But we have also noted OSC's striking lack of follow-through regarding cases of violence against women, rape, and sexual assault. To us, this confirms our suspicion that the student conduct process operates primarily as a machine for suppressing political dissent, and only secondarily (if at all) to uphold some vague standard of student safety. (Indeed, their standard is not safety at all, but the bureaucratic construct of "health-and-safety.") It is in this sense that the official conduct process for Cheng ended, effectively, without sanction. It is only by extra-official means -- that is, by protest action -- that he was pushed out.

[Update Tuesday 9:49am]: Further thoughts on Jesse Cheng's resignation from Angus Johnston, who compares the leniency in his case with the exorbitant sanctions meted out against the "Irvine 11," who were arrested and punished for speaking out during a public lecture given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren:
That Cheng received probation, and was allowed to keep his seat on the UC Regents until he himself chose to give it up, while the Irvine 11 saw the student organization to which they belong suspended and now each face the possibility of six months in jail? That’s not right. That’s not proportionate. That’s not legitimate.

And that disproportion, that illegitimacy, casts the whole University of California judicial system, as well as the UC’s relationship with law enforcement, into question.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Chair-a-pillar action against the proposed sit-lie law in Berkeley will take place next Sunday, May 22, 12-2pm.

The Culture of Helplessness at the Top

From Chris Newfield:
The supposed impossibility of that version of California is not a fact of nature. It has been and is continually created by the decisions the major players make on a daily basis. This includes UC’s Regents and Office of the President. In these cases, their agency is regularly concealed behind a consistent strategy of blame-shifting onto the state legislature and, behind them, the voting public and their alleged universal rejection of the very concept of a public good. The university's decline has been accelerated by a culture of helplessness at the top, one which assigns blame elsewhere and helps to demobilize its own community.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ethnic Studies Struggle Continues in Tucson

We're a little late here, but on April 26, students took over a Tucson school board meeting and chained themselves to the seats of the board members to prevent the meeting from going forward. They were protesting a resolution that would remove ethnic studies from the core curriculum of the schools in the Tucson Unified School District as a result of a bill passed by the anti-immigrant legislature at the state level (HB 2281). Despite differences in terms of the political context, there is a certain resonance with the restructuring happening at UC Berkeley, where the administration has decided to consolidate three departments -- Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and African American Studies -- as part of the austerity program "Operational Excellence." Then, on May 3, when students and allies returned to the follow-up board meeting, they found that had been effectively militarized with over 100 riot cops and a canine unit. Nevertheless, they were able to intervene effectively and shut down the meeting. The Arizona Daily Star reports that the school board decided that the vote would be delayed until a public forum could be held on the issue:
The TUSD Governing Board decided Tuesday night to delay making changes to the ethnic studies program until it holds a public forum on the controversial proposal.

Board President Mark Stegeman made the recommendation to hold off on the vote on his proposal to make some ethnic studies courses electives, capping a tumultuous four-hour meeting that included numerous interruptions, the removal of at least seven audience members and an armed police presence.

After the forum is held, Stegeman said he plans to bring the proposal back to the board. Details on when and where the forum will be were not announced.
Wonder why they're not saying when the forum will be...

(video via the Real News).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Ides of May

From the California Professor (via dettman):
Governor Brown will release his revised budget on Monday the 16th, just after the Ides of May (May is one of those months -- including March -- when the Ides fall on the 15th as opposed to the 13th). That is when we'll know if the University will bear the full brunt of the "all-cuts" budget, i.e., $1 billion, or whether it will be cut "only" $500 million.  It's a sad testimony to the state of UC that we are all sitting here hoping for a $500 million cut.

Some have surmised that the Governor is pursuing a "reverse Norquist." The Norquist doctrine contemplates implementing popular tax cuts in order to shrink the government, to the point where you can "drown it in the bathtub." A reverse Norquist, supposedly, pursues ruthless cuts to build up support for necessary tax collection. Both doctrines are, of course, flawed. The Norquist doctrine ignores that big corporations and the financial oligarchy have way too much to gain from their control of our supposedly democratic government to actually want to drown in the bathtub. It will never happen. Government might well get meaner towards the poor and the middle class, but it's way too useful to the oligarchy to disappear. And Brown's supposed reverse Norquist presupposes that people still value the services they are receiving -- including the affordable quality education traditionally provided at UC. But California is no longer willing to pay for it. UC is not necessary for the upbringing of our very own jeunesse dorée (never was), and it no longer affords the middle class the means for upwards mobility, simply because social mobility increasingly works only one way in this country, i.e., down. So there you have it.
We agree. Here's what we wrote yesterday regarding Mark Yudof's testimony to the California senate budget committee:
[T]his isn't about speaking out against cuts. It's about positioning. Yudof testified to the state senate's budget committee that "the system can absorb the initial $500 million cut" -- the one that has already been programmed into the UC budget for this year -- "but if the state increases the size of the cuts the university will have little choice but to raise tuition 'geometrically' and cut services." . . . In addition to erasing the violence of austerity ("Don't worry about it, we'll be fine... as long as you only cut $500 million" Um, really?), this strategy charts a path of rhetorical retreat. Obviously this isn't a rousing defense of public education. But it leads to another danger: every time the budget is cut, it's a "disaster"... until the cuts go through. At that point it becomes the new normal. In effect, it represents an attempt to limit political struggle to a relatively minor question about what's currently on the table -- everything else simply disappears.

Update on the Hunger Strike: Day 14

Today marks two full weeks since the hunger strike at UC Berkeley officially began. Yesterday, the Daily Cal published an article on the protest action, but for some reason claimed that the strikers were only in their tenth day without food. What, weekends don't count? The least they can do is get the numbers right! [Update: Our bad -- we got confused because the article was published on Monday with the headline that said the strike was in its tenth day, but in fact it was referring to the rally last Friday. Sorry about that.]

As we've reported here, the strikers' demands revolve around the UC administration's decision to consolidate three departments -- Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and African American Studies -- under the umbrella of their austerity program "Operational Excellence." In this case, "consolidation" means cuts, including staff layoffs and what looks like it could turn into something like speed-up for faculty. While the administration has struck all the right rhetorical tones (equality, inclusion, diversity, etc), they refuse to do anything material to respond to the demands. And this when the university is selling billions of dollars worth of construction bonds to engage in massive and secretive building projects that, in at least some cases, have gone millions of dollars over budget.

The above video was filmed on May 6, the actual tenth day of the hunger strike. In addition to giving an update on the (almost) current state of the strike, some of the speakers provide some really helpful context about the history of ethnic studies. This is useful for those folks who don't know much about the Third World Liberation Front and the story of student strikes and protests (and, of course, police repression) at SF State and Berkeley that led to the establishment of Ethnic Studies as a department. Here's a pretty detailed timeline of the protests of 1968-69 at SF State.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Construction, Collateral, and Crisis [Updated]

We wanted to draw your attention to a few recent articles from the Daily Cal that caught our eye as they were published but together offer an insight into the priorities of the UC administration. Not that we need any help at this point -- we've read our Meister. But what the hell.

First, this article from last Friday that our compañeros at thosewhouseit caught as well. In it, UC President Mark Yudof declares that tuition could double if no tax increases are incorporated into Governor Jerry Brown's budget:
UC President Mark Yudof had a simple message to deliver Friday morning when he testified before the state senate's budget committee: If the legislature opts for an all-cuts budget to fill its remaining $15.4 billion deficit, "all bets are off" at the University of California.

If the $500 million cut already made to the university earlier this spring were to double to $1 billion under an all-cuts budget, Yudof said the 10 campus system would be put on a path that could lead to a mid-year tuition increase next January, employee layoffs, program closures throughout the university and -- ultimately -- a doubling of tuition to $20,000 a year.


Friday's committee meeting marked the first time Yudof has publicly acknowledged what the consequences of a $1 billion cut could look like, though Gov. Jerry Brown had predicted in April that tuition could rise to $20,000 or $25,000 under an all-cuts plan. Yudof agreed, saying to the committee that he had looked at the numbers until he was "blue in the face" and that "the governor is not far off in his prediction."
At this point, it's hardly news that the state has cut funding for higher education -- they've been doing it for decades. But this isn't about speaking out against cuts. It's about positioning. Yudof testified to the state senate's budget committee that "the system can absorb the initial $500 million cut" -- the one that has already been programmed into the UC budget for this year -- "but if the state increases the size of the cuts the university will have little choice but to raise tuition 'geometrically' and cut services." In addition to erasing the violence of austerity ("Don't worry about it, we'll be fine... as long as you only cut $500 million." Um, really?), this strategy charts a path of rhetorical retreat. Obviously this isn't a rousing defense of public education. But it leads to another danger: every time the budget is cut, it's a "disaster"... until the cuts go through. At that point it becomes the new normal. In effect, it represents an attempt to limit political struggle to a relatively minor question about what's currently on the table -- everything else simply disappears.

Now take a look at this article published in today's paper. It reports on the results of an audit of UC finances that shows the system's increasing liabilities relative to its assets. Of course, the UC administration isn't having any of it. UC spokesperson Steve Montiel, always ready for a vapid soundbite, tells the paper that "financially, the university is pretty strong." Thanks, Steve. But then we get this:
The report also states that capital spending -- funding that goes towards long-term assets that help in the production of future goods and services -- throughout the UC continues at a "brisk pace" in order to provide the facilities necessary to support the university's teaching, research and public service mission and for patient care.

Facilities include academic buildings, libraries, student services, housing and auxiliary enterprises, health science centers, utility plants and infrastructure and remote centers for educational outreach, research and public service.


Additionally, in 2010, $2.8 billion of debt was issued to finance and refinance facilities and projects at various UC campuses, though the report did not specify those projects.
Wherever there's a budget crisis, there's capital projects. The Daily Cal does an interesting job of translation here, with that little clause to tell us what "capital spending" is: it's spending, they say, that leads to accumulation. Another way of saying it would be it's spending that transfers the burden of debt from the university to the student. As Bob Samuels recently wrote, "In this modified credit swap, students are forced to take out subprime student loans, often charging 6 per cent interest, so that the university can borrow money at a reduced rate." And then there's that short sentence at the bottom on construction bonds, the debt issued by the UC to engage in further construction projects. Another $2.8 billion. And as usual there's little transparency -- no mention of where that money is going. Will it be used to pay for important renovations? Or new stadiums and laboratories? All we can do is guess, but at this point we have little reason to trust the UC administration's word on any of this. [Update Wednesday 5/11: The Chronicle just published a relevant article on the UC's maintenance backlog: "the university predicts it will need nearly $2 billion over the next five years to address capital renewal and deferred maintenance." There's not much analysis in the article about why this is the case, but it does note: "Money for capital projects at UC or CSU is often earmarked for specific projects, such as the $321 million bond for renovation of Cal's Memorial Stadium. None of that money can be used, for example, to repair the stairwell at the life sciences building." But presumably the administration could sell bonds dedicated to repairs -- the real question is why they don't. But in reality it's not much of a question at all.]

Once again, Steve Montiel: "'We've got great ratings services. The university has really high ratings from many ratings services,' Montiel said. 'I don't know there is any need to reduce liability.'" What ratings is he talking about? Bond ratings. As Bob Meister wrote back in October 2009,
Why haven’t you been told that UC has been using your tuition as collateral to borrow billions of dollars? The obvious reason is that tuition increases are justified (to you) as a way to pay instructional expenses that taxpayers refuse to pay. If that’s why they’re being imposed, it’s natural to assume that tuition increase will be used to minimize cuts to education. But when UC pledges your tuition to its bond trustee (Bank of NY Mellon Trust), it’s really (legally) saying that your tuition doesn’t have to be used for education, or anything in particular. That’s why it can be used to back UC construction bonds, and why the growth in tuition revenue, as such, is enough to satisfy UC’s bond rating agencies (S&P and Moody’s), whether or not UC can pay its bills. The effect of UC’s pledge is to place a new legal restriction on the use of funds that it must first say it could have used for anything, including education. Thereafter, construction comes ahead of instruction.

Some of UC’s new, and self-imposed, constructions costs will come off the top of its annual budget, despite this year’s “extreme financial emergency.” When UC chose t0 take on $1.35B in new construction debt for 70 projects in August 2009 -- one month after imposing employee furloughs that “saved” $170M -- it committed to spending $70-80M in extra interest payments for years into the future -- they’ve just released the interest rates for each new bond series. Earlier in the year, UC had already issued $.8B in tuition-backed bonds in spring 2009, only some of which were for refinancing older projects at lower interest rate. It’s thus likely that the interest due on new projects funded during 2009 alone will have eaten up more than half of UC’s “savings” from the furloughs. Would the furloughs have been “unavoidable” if UC were not secretly planning to incur additional interest expenses for new bond-funded construction?
Note that the graphic above shows that $2.5 billion of the UC's short-term liabilities are classed as "securities lending collateral." We're not entirely sure what this means, but it might refer to the $2.8 billion in construction bonds mentioned by Montiel. Why the $300 million difference?

Now that we once again have the UC administration's obsession with construction over instruction in mind, take a look at another article out of today's Daily Cal. This one is about the ongoing process of developing a plan for renovating and redesigning Lower Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, a project that's budgeted at $223 million. And guess what:
As the exact design of the new Lower Sproul Plaza continues to form, an estimate of the cost for the current design is over budget by about $10 million.
The money for the project comes from a number of sources: "contributions from the campus, the UC Office of the President and student fees approved . . . in the 2010 ASUC General Election." In other words, not only are students paying directly for the project -- after all, we voted for it! Democracy in action! -- we're paying for it indirectly as well, through tuition increases that have already taken place (that money goes into the general fund) and the promise of future tuition increases that the UC now owes the bond raters.

This isn't about budget cuts -- it's about priorities.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Update from the Hunger Strike: Day 8

On Wednesday hunger strike in defense of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley has concluded its eighth day -- Thursday will be the ninth day without food for the six remaining strikers. Yesterday, after basically ignoring the strikers for a full week, the administration finally agreed to meet with them. The strikers met with two members of the UC Berkeley administration, Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri and Dean of Social Science Carla Hesse, and once again presented their demands. Of the four demands, two are more symbolic (basically involving the university making a statement) and two are more material (rehiring several laid-off staff members and ending UC Berkeley's austerity program called "Operational Excellence"). Guess which ones the administrators agreed to? Yes, the purely symbolic ones!

After the meeting, the university issued the following statement:

As usual, the administrators' deploy a sort of rhetorical sleight of hand, hiding behind patently false displays of affect. "We are moved by and are supportive of the concern that students have shown for the consequences of the current budget crisis." They make clear that they "respect" the students and go on to "reassure" them that everything will be alright. They note that talking with the students has helped them to "better appreciate" the negative effects of these budget cuts.

Don't worry about those staff members we just fired, Basri and Hesse declare. We'll take great care of them. Don't even think about them. See, we're working really hard to get them new jobs -- though they might be temporary or part time, that is, without benefits. But don't you worry about it, because did we mention that we really appreciate your concerns? Also, to replace those staff positions we've eliminated, we'll simply create two new faculty advising positions! See, it's easy -- we just shift that work onto the plates of the faculty members! We're sure they won't mind -- what else do they have going on anyway? And of course, in conclusion, we'll be happy to issue a statement about whatever you want, just as long as they don't have to actually do anything about it.

If these administrators actually cared about the protesters, their well-being, and their concerns, why would it take them a week to agree to sit down to discuss their demands? If they were actually moved, they wouldn't have had the sprinkler system system in front of California Hall turned on for the past two nights in order to force the hunger strikers to abandon their position.

The strikers understand that. Today, they participated in a protest in support of AFSCME workers at the International House, where workers earn $22,000 a year, are facing speed-up, and experience intimidation by management. During the protest, they were able to hand deliver the following letter directly to Chancellor Birgeneau himself, who has yet to make a single appearance at the hunger strike.
Dear Chancellor Birgeneau,

It is with steadfast commitment and fearless determination that we write again. We have sacrificed our own bodily nourishment for 193+ hours and counting to move you to reconsider the current cuts made in Gender & Women's, African American, and Ethnic Studies. The pain we continue to endure as marginalized students and students of Color, fighting for our histories to be taught in an institution which claims to foster diversity, is a pain as constant and gnawing as hunger itself. It has been 7 days since the first meeting with Administrators, and the University has yet to show they are concerned about the physical health of the strikers who have put their lives on the line to defend a department historically attacked, marginalized, and discredited. In order for you to reconsider these cuts we would like to restate and clarify our demands.

1. To reinstate the FTE staff positions in Ethnic Studies/Gender & Women's Studies/African American Studies cut by organizational simplification under Operational Excellence (OE). [That is,] 2.5 FTE's in Ethnic Studies, .5 FTE in Gender & Women's Studies, and .1 FTE in African American Studies.

2. To end the process of Operational Excellence, specifically the "organizational simplification of OE that is threatening to cut and marginalizes the Ethnic Studies, Gender & Women's Studies, and African American Studies departments.

3. To publicly support the Legislative Resolution ACR 34, co-authored by Assembly members 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, again.

We acknowledge that you considered the last two demands most feasible, however, to agree to symbolic gestures without solid actions to back up your investment in our departments is to make empty promises.

We will continue striking until we see acknowledgment that all 4 demands which are both well within reach off the UC Berkeley administration and are acted upon in good faith.

In the words of Mario Savio:

"There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all."

Chancellor, Our bodies will continue to grind against this machine until you and your administration take action to stop it. We will not be silenced, we will not allow ourselves to get pushed aside, we will not stop until we are able to study, work and learn as equals to our peers.

We urge you to make a strong material, not just symbolic, offer to our negotiation team.
There will be a rally in front of California Hall on Friday at noon. Come out and support the strikers and their demands!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Update from the UAW Occupation: Votes Will Be Counted!

From AWDU:
We have just learned that the elections committee of our local convened today at 12:30pm and agreed to restart the counting at 9am on Thursday (5/5) -- this is a huge victory for rank-and-file members who joined or supported the sit-in at the statewide offices in Berkeley and LA!! By drawing on the proud tradition of rank-and-file activism and direct action in the US labor movement, the tradition which built the UAW in the first place, members made clear that they would not stand by and allow themselves to be disenfranchised.

AWDU candidates and supporters look forward to the resumption of the count and will be present to help ensure it proceeds without unnecessary delays or suspensions. It has been our position all along that win or lose, AWDU is committed to an elections process that is free and fair, and that allows ordinary members to decide how their union should be run, and by whom. Given the extraordinary and outrageous circumstances in which the count was suspended, we plan to continue the sit-in until the voting process is fully complete and a certified result has been issued.

Hunger Strike Update: Day 7

The hunger strike at UC Berkeley to defend Ethnic Studies is still going strong. After more or less ignoring them for a week, the administration finally agreed to negotiations with the strikers this morning. We'll bring updates as we receive them.

Yesterday, UC Berkeley Professor of Ethnic Studies Carlos Muñoz sent out the following email which lays out some of the immediate stakes and concrete effects of the administration's unilateral decision to merge Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and African American Studies together under the umbrella of its austerity program "Operational Excellence." The email also includes a statement from California Assemblyman Ricardo Lara in solidarity with the hunger strike.
From: Carlos Munoz, Jr. []
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 12:45 PM
Subject: 10 University of California, Berkeley, students are on hunger strike due to Ethnic Studies Department staff layoffs

Dear Friends,

Budget cuts are in the process of being made in most departments on our campus. But, although it cannot be documented at this point, I agree with our students that our Ethnic Studies Department has suffered more than other departments. Last week, we lost 2.5 staff FTE. One full time and one part time (50%) member of our staff were terminated. Two other full time staff members were cut to 50% time. In addition to these recent cuts, the department previously lost two full time staff members to retirement. Those positions were never replaced. Therefore, it can be said that the department has lost a total of 4.5 staff positions.

Last week Ethnic Studies students and faculty protested the staff cuts. Ten students went on hunger strike last Tuesday. Today marks the 6th day of their strike.

I am pleased to report that Assemblyman Ricardo Lara has sent out a Press Release and a personal letter of solidarity to our students on hunger strike. His letter is attached and his PR is below. Peace, Profe


For Immediate Release
Contact: Julia Juarez
(562) 445-7716


SACRAMENTO -Assembly Concurrent Resolution 34, authored by Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), is at the center of a hunger strike at the University of California Berkeley where students are protesting the university's lack of commitment to Ethnic Studies. ACR 34 highlights the importance of ethnic studies as an academic discipline and recognizes its research, scholarship and programs that study and teach the experiences, history, culture and heritage of African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanas/os and Latinas/os, Native Americans, and other persons of color in the United States.

"At a time when Ethnic Studies programs throughout the nation are under attack, it is imperative that we take a stand and recognize the important contributions of California's Ethnic Studies departments and programs, including their faculty, staff and students," said Assembly Member Lara.

This student led hunger strike is demanding:

1. Reinstate the FTE staff positions in Ethnic Studies cut by organizational simplification under the UC's plan for Operational Excellence
2. End the current process of Operational Excellence which seeks to consolidate Ethnic Studies with Gender and Women's Studies and African American Studies into a single department
3. Publicly support Assembly Member Lara's Legislative Resolution ACR 34
4. Publicly acknowledge the unfulfilled promise of the creation of a Third World College at the University of California Berkeley

Monday, May 2, 2011

Open Occupation at UAW Statewide Office [Updated]

There are currently about 15 union members in the UAW statewide office, located at 2070 Allston way, suite 205 in Berkeley. A rally is scheduled for 11:30 on Sproul Plaza, and will turn into a march over to the union office to support and/or join the occupation. We will continue to provide updates as the day goes on.

Here's an email from Mandy Cohen, current head steward for UAW 2865 and running for recording secretary on the AWDU slate, announcing and explaining the action:
This weekend I witnessed one of the craziest things I've ever seen in my life. On Friday the counting of votes in our union leadership election began in LA. I drove down with other Berkeley and Santa Cruz AWDU members when we heard that all of Berkeley's votes had been challenged (meaning they might be invalidated). We arrived in the early hours Saturday morning and were able to help count the votes for Santa Cruz, Davis, Irvine, San Diego, Riverside and Santa Barbara. by 5pm all of those campuses were almost complete--and AWDU actually seemed to be breaking even.

The elections committee called an hour recess--and three hours later came back to say that the count was suspended, the results so far calculated were certified, and the rest of the count (including all 1500+ votes from LA and Berkeley) and all of the challenges were passed on to the Joint Council--which doesn't meet until July! The elections committee then immediately fled the building and abandoned the ballots.

All the members at LA sat down in the union office to make sure the votes were secured and to start lodging our protests with media, union officials, etc.

Late last night we drove back to Berkeley, had a meeting, and are now sitting down (in good UAW fashion) in the statewide union office until the elections committee agrees to resume the vote count. We have one demand: COUNT OUR VOTES.

We cannot let our votes be thrown out! This is exactly why we were forced to form the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union more than a year ago, though these actions are almost incomprehensible in their disregard for union democracy and members rights. Please join us at the office as soon as possible (2070 Allston Way, Suite 205) or come to the rally at Sather Gate at 11:30 and march to the office.

A call is planned at 1pm today between incumbent leadership, AWDU members, the elections committee chair and our international representative from UAW. We need to show that our members will not allow their votes to be thrown out, that the count must be finished and new leadership instated.

For more info, including our responses to the attacks that have been emailed by Daraka Larimore-Hall, see: and
[Update Monday 1:49pm]: Occupiers just voted unanimously to remain in the office indefinitely until their demand -- that all the votes be counted -- is met.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Update on the UAW Election: Rally Tomorrow

Here's our take on the whole story with the election fraud perpetrated by the Administration Caucus/USEJ. On one hand, we're so skeptical of these corporate hack careerist bureaucrats that at some level we're really not that surprised by their decision to exclude the ballots from Berkeley and UCLA and "partially certify" the results of the vote. On the other hand, it's so over-the-top, absurd to the point of being a cliche, that it's really difficult to understand how they could do something so obvious. It's like they're following a script written by third-rate union-hating conservative propagandists.

At any rate, we wanted to reference a couple of updates that our compañeros over at thosewhouseit have been posting. First, the hilarious claims made by Daraka Larimore-Hall, the Admin Caucus/USEJ’s candidate for President and the current President of UAW 2865, that in reality it's AWDU that's trying to steal the election. The evidence he presents is the above photo, which supposedly shows a member of AWDU tampering with a ballot box. There's just one small problem -- it was taken before the voting even began. "If it’s the end of the day," writes thosewhouseit, "then why is the sun shining from the east?" He's assembling the box.

Also, we wanted to post some info about the rally tomorrow (Monday) at UC Berkeley to demand that all the votes be counted:
I want to give you all a personal update on what has happened with the UC grad student union elections over the weekend. Most importantly, I am asking for everyone -- students and non-students -- to come out to Sather Gate TOMORROW (Monday) at 11:30am to demand our union count every vote. I know this sounds absurd, especially during finals week when we’re all stressed, but at this point we have to fight for our votes to be counted!

Here’s what happened:

Elections for UAW Local 2865 -- representing 12,000 graduate student workers UC-wide -- ended on Thursday afternoon. All ballot boxes were taken to UCLA to be counted on Friday. There were many challenges concerning the boxes, their seals etc, but on Saturday morning the elections committee decided to go on with the count and then deal with each challenge afterward, as according to our bylaws.

Halfway through the count on Saturday, it became possible that AWDU (the reform slate I’m affiliated with) had won the elections. Rather than continue the count, the chair of the elections committee decided that the elections were “partially certified” and that the more than 1,500 ballots from Berkeley and UCLA (nearly half of all ballots cast) will not counted till the next meeting in July.

To put this in perspective: This is as if, in the 2008 national elections, the Republicans had decided to not count the votes of California and Hawaii, and to let a Republican-controlled congress decide how to deal with those ballots later. Would you find such a process fair? I didn’t think so. Would you do something about it?!? Hell yeah!

We need YOUR help to make sure all votes are counted!

1. Gather for a rally TOMORROW at 11:30 at Sather Gate. Then we will march to the union office in downtown Berkeley to demand that our votes are counted (meet us there at 12:30 if you can’t make it to Sather -- 2070 Allston Way). We really need everyone to come out to put the political pressure on!

2. Email the current UAW President Daraka Larimore-Hall and demand that all the votes are counted! Please bcc me [] so we can keep track of how many emails are getting sent.

3. Tell your friends! Please forward this email far and wide -- we need all the support we can get, from students and non-students alike!

Thank you to those of you who voted in this last election and showed your support in so many tremendous ways. In some terrible twist, if it hadn’t had been for all of your efforts, our current union leadership would not be acting so scared right now. But right now, this isn’t about which side will win or lose the elections -- this is about upholding democracy and our right to vote. Please come out and show your support.
[Update Monday 9:45am]: Here's a statement from the guy in the photo:
I am the person in the picture. I would estimate that it was taken around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27. It could be a little before or after; I wasn't keeping track of the exact time. I was setting up the polling place at Sather Gate on Wednesday morning. This is a picture from just before I opened up the poll. I had tested the ballot box, and the way the slot had been cut, you could not get ballots to go in because the second layer of flaps blocked the opening. So I opened the box to tape those flaps down, then closed it again. After doing that, I finished arranging the materials on the table and opened the polling place. My solution to the ballot box design flaw didn't work particularly well, because the flaps inside came un-taped and the ballots got a bit gummed up inside. But I didn't open it again, because by that point voting had started.