Thursday, June 30, 2011

OSC Loses Another One, Executive Edition

As we've mentioned before, under normal circumstances we're in total solidarity with the workers at the UC. After all, they're getting hit hardest by the university's austerity measures. And in many ways they've been far more reliable allies than the faculty.

But it's like cops. They're workers, but they've picked the wrong line of work. UCPD has one of most important jobs in the UC system right now, at least from the perspective of corporatized UC managers: behind every austerity measure stands a line of riot cops. But UCPD is only part of the story. The Office of Student Conduct (OSC) is its necessary counterpart, the quasi-judicial arm of the university's repressive apparatus.

Right now, seeing as how it's summer and all, we don't feel inspired enough to once again go into all the backstory about how OSC has been a complete failure, violated its own rules of procedure, violated students' privacy and constitutional rights, and generally made a mockery of itself. You can read about some of that here if you're curious.

But we wanted to bring you some pretty juicy news about OSC. Now, to put things in a little bit of context, the Code of Student Conduct has gone through a long process of review and revision, based on all the very clear problems that came up during the university's attempt to railroad student protesters who were active in occupations and direct actions that took place in fall 2009. The Task Force (which, it must be noted, is dominated by administrators like Harry Le Grande who have the final authority over any changes) has finished and submitted its final report to the administrators. We have a copy of the report, and we're hoping to make it public along with some critical analysis soon.

In the meantime, we've just been informed by a very reliable source that Susan Trageser, the head of OSC and Assistant Dean of Students, is no longer working for the university. We were pretty happy when OSC prosecutor Laura Bennett lost her job, because she was the face of OSC for many of the students who were subjected to the absurd pseudo-judicial process. But Trageser, the director of the entire operation, is another story. Her name is peppered throughout pretty much every record regarding student conduct, and she is the object of many of the grievances that have been filed against OSC and the university. She represented OSC during the notorious public forum in February 2010, where she made a fool of herself ("laughter" is sprinkled throughout the transcript) and deployed the bureaucratic excuse of "administrative error" to defend herself from criticism. Trageser was the one running the show, and in the end it's not particularly surprising that she lost her job.

This means that the Campus Rights Project (CRP), which took on the role of defending students in these cases, has at this point successfully eliminated two of the three people running OSC. The only one left is the utterly incompetent Jeff Woods. To be honest, we would have expected Jeff to lose his job before Trageser. We would probably have bet good money on it. But now Jeff is the last one standing, the most senior person at OSC. Will he become the director? Will he collapse under the pressure? Stay tuned to find out...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brown's Austerity Budget and the UC [Updated]

[Updated Wednesday 6/29 10:03am]: The LA Times headline says it all: "Democrats Pass Austerity Budget for California": "The Legislature passed an austerity budget Tuesday night that would cut from universities, courts and the poor, shutter 70 parks and threaten schools but would not -- by officials' own admission -- restore California's long-term financial health." As for public higher ed, the Chronicle reports that tuition hikes at the UC and CSU are a "certainty." Also check out the graphic above: "Trigger Cuts, Chopping Blocks."

* * *

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the austerity budget that was coming through the California state government. It all turned on Governor Brown's call for a special election in mid-September in which voters would decide whether to approve five-year tax extensions as an additional source of revenue to ride out the financial crisis. Today that proposal has been scrapped:
Gov. Jerry Brown relinquished a cornerstone of his budget plan Monday by forfeiting a 2011 tax election and securing a deal with Democratic lawmakers that shortens the school year if tax revenues fall short of optimistic projections.

After months of seeking GOP votes, Brown decided four days before the new fiscal year that a bipartisan deal was impossible. The Democratic governor wanted Republicans to pass a temporary extension of higher sales and vehicle taxes as a "bridge" to a fall election, but Senate Republicans would not vote for taxes.

"I thought we were getting close, but as I look back on it, there is an almost religious reluctance to ever deal with the state budget in a way that requires new revenues," Brown said, sitting at the end of a wooden bench in his office with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.
In that earlier budget plan, Democrats in the California legislature proposed an additional $150 million in cuts to both the UC and CSU systems (that is, $300 million total), on top of the $500 million (again to each) that's already been cut. Brown vetoed that budget, but it's now clear that it wasn't out of a desire to protect public education:
Under the new plan, the University of California and California State University will each absorb additional $150 million reductions, for a total of $650 million apiece. They risk losing another $100 million each if the state falls short of revenues. The university systems already have said they will seek tuition hikes to offset new state reductions.
And it's likely to get even worse:
Based on additional revenues that have come to the state so far this year, the budget assumes a very optimistic revenue scenario for the rest of the year. But if the revenue estimates prove unrealistic then there are triggers for additional cuts. These include an additional $100 Million in cuts for both UC and CSU, the possibility of further cuts to K-12 and a further shortening of the school year [by seven days].
Yesterday, the Daily Bruin published an interview with outgoing chair of the UC regents Russell Gould, in which some pretty decent questions are posed (though there's not a whole lot of follow-up). One of the issues that came up was the recent budget passed by the Democratic legislature (on which today's deal is based). Why, the paper quite reasonably asked, should we believe in the UC administration's commitment to fighting for public education, let alone their strategy for winning that fight, especially when even the Democrats have apparently sold us out? Gould's pathetic answer:
Regrettably I think that Sacramento is listening to lots of voices. We’re among them, and I think we’ve got a stronger effort than we’ve ever had to push legislature and governor to push UC, but we’re fighting a lot of other interest groups that say, ‘We’re more important.’

Yet when I talk to legislators and talk to people in the governor’s office, they seem to understand the link toward building businesses, building opportunity and having (a) kind of society and economy that’s sustainable. But when it comes to the short-term decision they seem to put their resources in other places. And that’s what we’re continuing to fight.
And, right on time, UC president Mark Yudof comes out with a statement on his Facebook page outlining how the UC administration would "continue to fight," as Gould put it: by "fully supporting" Brown's attempt to balance the budget.
I fully support Gov. Brown's plan to bring the state budget into balance. This includes his call for an extension of certain temporary taxes that he believes is needed to act as a bridge until the plan can be placed before California voters.

In my view, what the governor has proposed offers the surest pathway available to a more stable fiscal future for all of California, including its public universities. Reliable state support is crucial to the continued excellence of the University of California and the students and families it serves.
Good to know you have our back, Mark.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Strategic Value of Summer

Summer means no students -- for the UC administration, that means the absence of one of the largest obstacles to their privatizing designs. There's a similar logic in the UC regents' decision to hold their meetings at UCSF Mission Bay. It is a highly strategic space: not only is it extremely out of the way and difficult to get to from Berkeley, but it's also located in what is essentially a post-industrial wasteland, with little else around to provide cover. After thousands protested the meeting at UCLA in November 2009 to approve the original 32 percent tuition hike, it seems the regents decided to retire to less accessible locations.

Summer vacation is the temporal version of UCSF Mission Bay. It's not surprising that it was in July 2009 that the regents voted to give UC president Mark Yudof "emergency powers" due to the "state of financial emergency," which gave the administration unilateral authority to impose austerity measures. Especially as "shared governance" becomes less and less of a reality, we should expect more and more executive decisions to be made and policies to be approved at this time of the year.

The title of this article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel is right on: "During Serenity of Summer, UCSC Implements 'Painful' Cuts."
SANTA CRUZ -- UC Santa Cruz's wooded campus is relatively serene in the early days of the more quiet summer session.

Beneath the tranquility though, the campus is set to execute another round of cuts including laying off roughly 50 non-academic employees in what has become an annual occurrence since 2008.
The layoffs go into effect on Friday, July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. In addition to layoffs, workers are seeing their hours (and pay) cut back. As expected, these cuts will primarily affect non-academic workers. (While there are no layoffs on the academic side of things, 40 more faculty positions that are currently empty, and 120 teaching assistantships for graduate students, will be permanently eliminated.) While UC spokespeople talk about how much much their work is valued, they acknowledge that the student-as-consumer is the primary target.
"After years of reductions in state support, we've gotten to the point where every corner of the campus has been impacted by these cuts," UCSC spokesman Jim Burns said. "It's also true that units farther from the classroom have been particularly hard hit -- not because the campus doesn't value those areas and the people working in them. But because we have tried to the extent possible to reduce cuts to the academic areas in an effort to protect student access to the courses they need."
Much like the tuition increases, however, these poverty wages are not a function of the so-called financial crisis. Rather, it's a function of a class war that's been occurring for decades:
During her two decades at UCSC, [custodian Rosario] Cortez has held several second jobs, including other custodial positions and a job at a bread factory. Currently she works five days a week at UCSC, eight hours a day, where she earns about $2,200 a month after taxes, then makes and sells tamales on the weekends for extra income.

Cortez's sentiments were echoed by Ernesto Encinas, a cook at UCSC who cares for his 86-year-old mother and 14-year-old son.

"Everyone I know has a second job," Encinas said. "There is no rest with the wages we make here. You can't make ends meet with just the one job with the way cost of living keeps rising. Any little change in our income can be devastating."
With these cuts comes not a decrease in the amount of work expected but precisely the opposite: speedup. Custodians, for example, are required to clean more areas during a single shift. Administrators get around this in a curious way -- by telling workers, apparently, to "clean less," that is, to do a worse job at cleaning more areas. It's a recipe for disaster -- especially in the context of ongoing layoffs, this amounts to an incredibly difficult balancing act for the workers. On this note, check out what an asshole Jim Dunne, the director of UCSC's physical plants department, is:
"I have heard [the complaints]," Dunne said. "We often only have a few months to implement changes and rework how we do things. We are making a lot of effort to communicate to custodians what that redesign is, but adjustment takes time. It is a difficult situation for both sides. Custodians take a lot of pride in their work. When you tell them to clean something less, that's hard for them."
Yeah, that's the only thing that's hard for them.

If they ever doubted it before, UC administrators now understand that the best time to implement austerity are the summer months. Summer evacuates much of the potential resistance -- with students and faculty mostly away, the only thing standing in the way are the workers, precisely those hardest hit by the cutbacks. It also functions usefully as a time barrier -- one of the administration's most effective tactics is simply to wait protesters out. (Look at what's happened with the last two hunger strikes at UC Berkeley.) Finally, summer marks the point at which many veteran student protesters graduate and move on. For anti-austerity protesters, it will become increasingly important to incorporate the summer into strategic thinking. This does not necessarily imply a need for stable organizing structures, which contribute their own problems, but it does indicate the need to directly address and even intervene in some way during these months. After all, the success of the walkout on September 24, 2009 depended on the work that was done by students, faculty, and workers before the school year had even begun. This does not necessarily have to take place on campus. It could also mean looking to other organizing bodies outside the spaces of the university that are attempting to build capacity for resistance against austerity.

If fall is the moment of attack, and after the fall the moment of reflection, then before the fall is clearly the moment of preparation. But maybe it's time to rethink this calendar?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

UC Regents and For-Profit Education

The UC regents are, how can we put this, totally corrupt. Take Richard Blum, one of the most prominent regents and the husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Among the shady holdings that he suspiciously directs the UC to invest in are two of the country's largest for-profit universities, Career Education Corporation and ITT Educational Services. As investigative reporter Peter Bryne wrote last year in his detailed exposé,
As someone who oversees investment policy decisions for UC’s $63 billion portfolio, and as the largest shareholder in two for-profit corporate-run universities (in which UC invests), Mr. Blum had a unique perspective to share. He advised public universities to attract business-oriented students with clever advertisements, just as vocational schools do. “It’s like anything else,” he told the crowd. “It’s how you market it.”

Marketing strategy aside, Mr. Blum has taken on two seemingly disparate roles— one as an advocate for a nonprofit university, and the other as an owner of two for-profit educational corporations. As a regent, Mr. Blum has approved cost-cutting policies for UC that appear to have enhanced the profitability of his vocational schools. And in 2007, Mr. Blum’s spouse, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), wrote federal legislation that benefited the for-profit college industry.

For several years, Mr. Blum’s firm, Blum Capital Partners, has been the dominant shareholder in two of the nation’s largest for-profit universities, Career Education Corporation and ITT Educational Services. As of May, firm’s combined holdings in the two chain schools was $923 million—nearly $1 billion. As Blum Capital Partners’ ownership stake has enlarged over time, so have those made by UC investment managers, who have invested a total of $53 million in public funds into the two educational corporations.
Today we hear about another regent venturing into the for-profit arena. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that chairperson Sherry Lansing (who we profiled here) is joining forces with millionaire Republican entrepreneur Steve Poizner and the sports and talent agency Creative Artists Agency in a for-profit project called the Encore Career Institute. Backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalists (full Board of Directors here), Encore will offer a curriculum specially designed for unemployed Baby Boomers to help them "rewire" instead of "retire." (Like that's going to help them find a job in this economy.) And get this -- courses will be designed by and taught through UCLA Extension. The certificate program will cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount Pictures, originated the idea and approached Poizner for help as he left his post as state insurance commissioner this year. Her goal, Poizner said, was to "deliver some of the fantastic intellectual property that UC has" to students in the state and the world, with Boomers as a key market.
The public university is being retooled, quite literally transformed into an appendage of private capital. And the ones responsible for it are managing both.

[Update, Tuesday 6/28 8:39am]: The Chronicle of Higher Education's brief take is here. Key quote comes from Cathy Sandeen, the dean of UCLA Extension: "In order to take what we’re doing and expand it dramatically, we will need to partner with a private entity."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Resilience 2011"

It's comforting to know Homeland Security is on the job at the UC:
From: John Wilton, Vice Chancellor - Administration & Finance
To: "Staff, All Academic Titles, Students,"
Date: Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 6:09 PM

The campus`s annual emergency drill will take place this Friday, June 24, with participants testing their skills in locations across campus, including outdoor areas where mock victims and real emergency responders will be visible to passersby.

The annual exercise is designed to demonstrate the readiness of UC Berkeley to effectively respond to major emergencies on campus, and to test emergency communications, tools and equipment.

Organized by the campus`s Office of Emergency Preparedness, the drill will take place from 8 a.m. to noon. The campus`s emergency sirens and public address system will alert the campus to the start of the drill and its end.

More than 700 campus personnel will participate in the drill including the Chancellor`s Cabinet and representatives from various units, schools and departments including Environmental Health & Safety, University Health Services and the Office of Public Affairs. The UC Police Department, working with the various campus units, will oversee the management of the mock emergency.

Campus emergency officials will send WarnMe test messages to randomly selected 2,500 subscribers. WarnMe is the campus alert system that sends brief email, phone or text messages to alert members of the campus community to major emergencies.

The scenario for this year`s exercise, "Resilience 2011," involves a moderate earthquake that results in an explosion on campus. Passersby will likely see most drill activity taking place around Wurster Hall, Stanley Hall and University Health Services. Mock injured victims, wearing signs that identify them as such, will be in view along with UCPD officers and Berkeley fire department responders. Fire and police officials will be in standard uniform and with standard emergency gear.

All members of the campus community are encouraged to sign up for WarnMe and to view emergency preparedness tips listed on the Office of Emergency Preparedness web site:

Supervisors: Please print and distribute this message to staff who do not use computers or email at work.

For further information, please contact:
Stephen Stoll
Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness/Homeland Security UC Police Department
(510) 642-9036


"Those who have held a book know well enough that it can be a weapon. We are interested in the living society of which libraries are an image: not divided along lines of public and private, but one that is collective, shared."


Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Oakland Book Bloc

A quick write-up on this afternoon's action:
Anticut 2 disrupted downtown Oakland this afternoon in an anticapitalist defense of the libraries. 75 people took the streets of downtown in the face of an ominous police presence. Crowds walking by and waiting for buses cheered on the action as banks locked down in fear of the disruption. At one point, police attacked the crowd and arrested multiple people but failed to halt the movement of the action. The mobile disruption ended at the downtown Oakland Library Branch where it was greeted by local librarians. 14 out 18 libraries in Oakland are facing closure due to the proposed budget by the city.
For context, a genealogy of the book bloc, plus some previous coverage on this blog. More to come soon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Excellence, Access, Affordability

The other day we posted on the legislative operations that have produced a series of austerity budgets for the state of California. Of course, the services that are on the chopping block are both significant and diverse -- the cuts will affect far more than public education. But for obvious reasons public higher education is usually our point of departure. Anyway, in that post we looked at the responses of the UC administration to the Democrats' proposed budget plan, which would have included another $300 million in cuts to the UC and CSU systems (if it hadn't been vetoed by Governor Brown). First came the statement of UC spokesperson Steve Montiel, which noted that "Any further cuts would threaten our ability to provide access, affordability and academic excellence." Then we turned to a statement signed by UC president Mark Yudof and UC regent chair Russell Gould, which asserts that "An additional $150 million in cuts will impair our ability to provide access at an affordable price while preserving academic excellence."

Access, affordability, and excellence. These qualities -- which, it's worth mentioning, are defined only in broad, meaningless strokes -- are what Yudof has called the UC's three "compass points." Here's how Yudof referred to them at the UC regents' meeting in January 2011 (this quote is under pretty heavy rotation these days):
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."
Yesterday, the day after the statements from Montiel, Yudof, and Gould were printed, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau published his own statement, which was emailed to the entire UC Berkeley campus and is posted here. He writes:
As you know, Berkeley already faces extraordinary challenges for the coming year. Our share of the $500 million cut from the Governor’s proposed budget is about $70 million. On top of the proposed cuts, the campus has additional mandatory increased costs such as utilities and health care benefits for which we must find $40 million. Thus, in effect, we are already facing $110 million in cuts for 2011-12 and we cannot sustain any further cuts without placing an intolerable burden on our students and staff. Specifically, the legislature’s budget would have added as much as $25 million to this shortfall, an amount which we simply cannot bear. Not only would this be very painful for our campus, it would ultimately be damaging to the economy and future prospects of California.
As usual, the official response takes a specific form: it once again turns on the logic of the words further/additional. This formulation erases everything that has already happened, removes it entirely from the political horizon. As we wrote here last month,
In addition to erasing the violence of austerity . . ., 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.
That's bad enough. But, to return to Yudof's "compass points," something unexpected goes wrong in the next paragraph of Birgeneau's statement:
I know that the Cal community cares deeply about public higher education and understands the importance to the state and to the nation of the education, research and public service that we provide. I want to assure you that we will not compromise on our principles of Access and Excellence. I urge you to join me in telling your local legislators, leaders in the Assembly and Senate, and Governor Brown himself that they must arrive at a budget agreement that does not require further cuts to the University of California.
Either Birgeneau didn't get the message (shhhhhh!) or the decision that Yudof was alluding to back in January has already been made. Not that we were under any illusions about the UC administration's commitment to "affordability." Tuition has skyrocketed, up 40 percent in the last two years and 300 percent in the last ten.

When even the rhetorical flourishes have disappeared, nothing will hold back the coming wave of tuition increases -- or stop the plodding advance toward privatization.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Anticut 2 Tomorrow!

The latest updates on tomorrow's action from Bay of Rage:
Take the streets of Oakland this Friday, June 17!

• mobile blockade & march against austerity plans in Oakland:
3:00pm @ Telegraph & Broadway in downtown

• ending in a gathering and street party in solidarity with the fight for the Oakland libraries:
5:30pm @ 14th & Oak, in front of main library branch

+ Food Not Bombs will be serving at the 5:30pm street party
so even if you can’t make the 3pm action come join us afterwards!

bring your banners, propaganda and friends to manifest the second in a series of counterausterity marches and events planned for the summer

the statements that will be handed out during this action are now available online! check them out here and here!

“The city itself is a bank, a dazzling accumulation of wealth, increasingly withdrawn from our lives and stashed in broad daylight, policed with public funds for the enrichment of a few. Join us in jamming, temporarily, these circuits of dispossession.”
read the full invite here

“Austerity is not just cutting a school budget. It is not just closing libraries. It’s filling prisons and killing poor people, as the alternative to the libraries, schools, and services they cut. It’s a whole system of “crisis” that makes the poor pay for the problems caused by the rich.”
read the invite handed out during protests against Mehserle’s release

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Brief Primer on the Austerity Budget

We generally rely on other folks to analyze the budget at the state level, especially as it relates to public education but more generally in the current context of austerity. Instead we usually prefer to focus our attention on the UC administration and the UC regents. But so far we haven't found anything that lays out the process and timeline for the austerity measures that are going to be imposed on the UC in the near future. That's what we want to do here.

First of all, there are a couple of upcoming dates that are important. Today, June 15, marks the deadline by which the state legislature has to pass a budget. If they don't pass one by midnight, their salaries will be permanently docked, as stipulated by a new ballot measure that was approved here last November. Without getting into the boring and mostly irrelevant details of the party politics involved in these decisions, the bottom line is that the Democrats have finally produced a budget proposal, one that they can pass without any Republican votes. Included in the proposal are another series of cuts -- surprise surprise! -- including a additional $300 million of cuts to the UC and CSU systems ($150 million to each), on top of the $500 million already cut, as well as the deferment of $540 million already owed to the UC and $750 million from canceling "old school debts" (money owed to public schools?). As thosewhouseit noted this morning, these cuts will devastate K-12 and higher education in California -- both of which, as we well know, have already been decimated by massive cuts.

So, as expected, this is a shitty deal. It's austerity, plain and simple. It's not necessarily going to pass, since Governor Brown could theoretically veto it [Update Thursday 11:13 am: Brown has officially vetoed the budget plan], but what's important is the generalized agreement by pretty much all of the political elites involved in the decision-making process, regardless of their party of affiliation. In broad strokes, they are all in agreement as to what the problems are and as a consequence the solutions as well. Take a look, for example, at Brown's recent video statement on the budget.

What Brown presents in the video -- and remember, of course, the Brown is a Democrat -- is a series of austerity measures. He calls explicitly for "deep and permanent cuts to ongoing state programs" and what he labels "reforms," which refers above all to the reformulation of public sector pensions and, as he puts it, "a cap on ongoing state spending." Furthermore, the taxes that Brown is calling for are temporary.

Which brings us to the next set of important dates. July 1 is the beginning of the new fiscal year, which means (for our purposes here) that the state sales tax will decline by 1 percent and the vehicle registration tax by 1/2 percent. Governor Brown's tax proposal, then, has two parts: first, it postpones the expiration date of these taxes until mid-September; at which point, second, a special election will take place in which California voters will vote on whether or not to extend these same taxes for another five years. At worst, then, the vote will fail, and the taxes will not be extended -- this seems like the most likely outcome at this point. But what's most depressing about the whole thing is the fact that the taxes are at best temporary. In other words, the entire premise of Brown's proposal is that services provided by the state must be eliminated -- the only question is how fast the transition will be. It's not that we didn't know this already, of course. From the beginning, Brown's politics have been characterized by a commitment to austerity.

In some sense, the special election in September will have large consequences for California public education. If it fails, UC spokespeople have stated, tuition will be jacked up by another 32 percent at the beginning of the winter 2012 semester. (And remember, that's on top of the 8 percent hike that's already been programmed for fall 2011.) This would bring in-state tuition in the UC system to $15,000 a year. But at the same time, the UC administration has already made the choices that have condemned the entire UC system to privatization. The regents are incapable of making a case for public education not because they're bad speakers or because they've misunderstood the subtle details of the university system but because they don't give a shit about public education. As in the case of the $500 million already cut from the UC in the first round of budgeting, every defeat becomes the point of departure for the next one. More than just a losing strategy, we could easily read this as purposeful -- it allows the administration to continually deflect blame while moving the university toward a privatized model.

Right on cue, the UC once again trots out the same old arguments. Here's what UC spokesperson Steve Montiel told the Sacramento Bee about the Democrats' new budget, which includes the $150 million cuts mentioned above:
"We are assessing the latest proposal from the state Senate, and it's too soon to say with certainty what the impact would be. But there's no question that additional cuts would not be good news for UC and the Californians it serves. The university already has taken steps to absorb a $500 million cut, and we have been preparing contingencies in the event of an all-cuts budget. Any further cuts would threaten our ability to provide access, affordability and academic excellence."
And now, UC president Mark Yudof and UC regent chairman Russell Gould have released the following statement:
UC, like the California State University, already has taken steps to absorb a $500 million cut with substantial impacts to programs on the campuses. An additional $150 million in cuts will impair our ability to provide access at an affordable price while preserving academic excellence and allowing students to complete their degrees in a timely way. If this budget plan stands, the likely result will be a double-digit tuition increase on top of the 8 percent hike already approved for next year.
It's the usual trope -- both formulations turn on words like further and additional. What's especially revealing here is the way that Montiel, Yudof, and Gould frame the consequences of these further/additional cuts. Because the talking point of the managerial trinity of "access, affordability, and academic excellence" on the proverbial chopping block has been active since early January at the very latest, when Yudof laid out the changing relationship toward what he called the UC's three "compass points":
Yudof said the university has long operated on three "compass points" -- access, affordability and excellence.

"We are moving dangerously close to having to say: pick two of the three. That’s my view, and the excellence is nonnegotiable," he said. "We are going to have to look at access and affordability."
To return to the statement by Yudof and Gould for a second, take a look at the sentences that come right after the above quote:
And to require UC to carry a $500 million "loan" balance into fiscal year 2012-13 because the state can't provide UC with the fully budgeted allocation will only force the university to incur extra costs that are passed on to students and their parents. In addition, this budget plan poses a threat to UC and higher education in future years as it fails to achieve a sustainable, balanced budget. Without a stable, predictable funding base, our long-term quality is seriously threatened.
It's worth noting that the regents haven't had any problem with passing on "extra costs" to students and parents in the past. That's why tuition has increased 40 percent in the past two years, and 300 percent over the past decade. But what's especially interesting here is the tension between the seemingly out of place call for a balanced budget and a "stable, predictable funding base." After all, the requirement of a balanced budget is precisely the reason that these new cuts have been proposed -- according to the new ballot proposal, the Democrats in the legislature must pass a balanced budget or face a pay cut. So what they've done is cut us instead.

In the end, the "stable, predictable funding base" called for by our corporate overseers gives us the key to unraveling their odd statement. They know, as we do, that the state will never provide the kind of financial stability or predictability they seek. Yudof has long called the state an "unreliable partner" and he has been given no reason to think differently. What this statement does is begin to lay the groundwork for a full shift toward the corporate university -- the "stable, predictable funding base" that the state cannot supply will be sought elsewhere. And we all know where that elsewhere is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anticut 2: Let's Block Everything!

From Bay of Rage:
This is the second in a series of counterausterity marches and events we have planned for the summer, in order to begin assembling an anticapitalist force capable of combating the current age of budget cuts and economic violence. This second event is a disruption -- a mobile blockade -- meant to interrupt, temporarily, the business as usual which economic crisis ever more desperately imposes as the public face of private wealth. For every library and school closure, ten ATMs spring up overnight, circulating ever more swiftly the wealth, looted via predatory lending and home foreclosures. This is not news. Just as globally the US seeks to prop up brutal plutocracies and autocrats in order to maintain its grip on oil reserves and military outposts in the face of popular revolts, so, too, in Oakland we daily confront mechanisms meant to insure our passivity in the face of dispossession: pernicious sit-lie laws, skyrocketing tuition, mounting layoffs and rising unemployment. The city itself is a bank, a dazzling accumulation of wealth, increasingly withdrawn from our lives and stashed in broad daylight, policed with public funds for the enrichment of a few. Join us in jamming, temporarily, these circuits of dispossession.
The action will start at the intersection of Broadway and Telegraph in downtown Oakland on Friday, June 17, at 3 pm. Anticut 2 flyer here. Also worth checking out: during last Sunday's protest about the release of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who murdered Oscar Grant, an invitation to Anticut 2 was distributed as well.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interview: Austerity and the Anticut Actions

This interview aired on a pirate radio show called Relatos Zapatistas (via Indybay):
interview with the compañero ilya on the "anticut 1" action which took place in downtown oakland on june 3. conversation includes a working definition of austerity, the relationship between austerity and gentrification, between austerity and the police, and the difficulties of articulating an anti-austerity politics from an anti-state position. (mp3, 23 min)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Message to Occupied Oakland in a Time of Cuts and Crisis

IMG_0567The following statement was distributed last night during the Anticut 1 action last night:
Now that the banks have been bailed out and the rich treated to yet another tax cut, our libraries and schools, already devastated, are once again on the chopping-block, while our elderly and poor are turned out on the street. Heavily armed cops with increased powers roam our city’s streets, threatening anyone who steps out of line. Times have never been better, in other words, for the rich.

It’s not as if things weren’t already pretty bad. Each one of us is a casualty of the economy, in one way or another -- jobs that pay next to nothing or no jobs at all, rent that keeps increasing, gas prices that double overnight, student loans we’ll never be able to pay back. But what is most distressing of all is how little we are able to do about this, how little control we seem to have over these things. Perhaps, though, our lack of control is not so complete. On nights like this, with all of us in the street together, we remember that when people number in the hundreds and the thousands they can do nearly anything. Laws, it seems, apply to individuals, not crowds.

In Oakland, of course, the legacy of Black Panthers remains inescapable. The Panthers, we remember, were not merely indignant. They did something about it. They organized themselves. They did not simply petition the ruling powers for more resources but took what they needed, as necessary. And what the state couldn’t provide, they would. This is the meaning of their Free Breakfast programs for school children, their Free Clothing programs, their libraries and crossing guards. So, we understand that the decision-makers will never give us what we want because it’s not something they can give. And although the street is merely a small portion of what we must reclaim, it’s a crucial start. Without this public space for us to meet each other and organize, outside of our homes and jobs, nothing could even begin to happen.

So, tonight, we are in the streets in resistance. We will be here until we no longer need to be.

Our second march, Anticut 2, meets on June 17th in the afternoon. For more specific info, check out BAYOFRAGE.COM
Here's a halfsheet PDF version for printing.

[Update Sunday 7:34 pm]: For more information about the action, check out this reportback which includes some photos.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Anticut 1 / Downtown Oakland / Tomorrow!

Don't forget:
Oakland: Friday June 3, during Art Murmur

- Gather at 7:30, Broadway @ Telegraph,
- Guerrilla Film Screening at 9:30 following march

*Note: There’s a chance of some scattered showers tomorrow night. We’ll be there either way.