Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Open Letter to President Yudof on UC Logo Fiasco

December 15, 2012

Mark Yudof, President
University of California Office of the President
1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607

Dear President Yudof:

The enormous public backlash to the UC logo change evidences a major problem at your office. Open communication between the Office of the President and your faculty, students, and alumni is being ignored. Whether this was intentional for this rebranding project or an oversight, it is unacceptable.

I write you as a senior professor of Art at UCSB, where I have taught since 1992. I have also taught at UC Berkeley, and have served as a visiting assistant at the Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and San Diego campuses. I attended UCLA and received my BA and MFA degrees from UC San Diego. In short, I am both intimately familiar with and acutely invested in the University of California.

How an in-house design team can operate for three+ years rebranding the university's visual identity without the university's own Art faculty knowing is beyond me. Our campuses boast internationally renowned experts in the visual arts, design, and criticism. We educate scores of cutting edge MFA candidates each year. My top undergraduate art students are the best in the country. Why were none of us consulted? In this time of budget cuts and clustering, why weren't our own resources tapped? What happened to the UC's esteemed history of self-governance and openness? And who, exactly, oversaw these decisions? My colleagues and I are dumbfounded.

My problem is actually less with the final campaign logo and video (which I find vapid and derivative), and more with the way this entire process came to light. The UC sits at a critical crossroads in the public eye and can no longer rely on our historical reputation and prestige to see us through. Yes, the California electorate passed Prop 30, but debate continues on tuition hikes, state pensions, administrative accountability, and the role of state funds in higher education. I know firsthand how important state support is and how valuable and life-changing a UC education can be. We need to present these stories to the public, not get entangled in critical and emotionally charged mistakes like this. I urge you to immediately implement a more open dialogue between your office and UC faculty, students, and alumni. I ask you to implement the type of communication that would have steered this rebranding program from the beginning.

On a related note, I was not previously familiar with any members of this UCOP in-house design team, but I am appalled by the public immaturity and lack of professionalism being tweeted by the Creative Director. Again, I ask -- who hired these people and oversaw these decisions?


Kip Fulbeck

Monday, December 17, 2012

Progressive Labor Party Defends Rapists

reposted from Necessary Means:

In 2006 Progressive Labor Party member Seth Miller raped an anarchist activist who had been his close friend and a fellow organizer for many years in the Los Angeles area. The activist found no recourse in the legal system but hoped that PLP leadership would intervene and do something to hold Seth accountable for being a rapist. The party leadership did nothing despite the activist reaching out multiple times.

Early in 2012 the activist found renewed support for holding Seth accountable after learning that he had recently been part of some organizing spaces with the activist’s allies. The activist, along with a small collective of allies, approached PLP again in May 2012 to remind them of the rape and demand a process of accountability. After several weeks and a meeting between the activist, her allies, and a member of PLP leadership, the party seemed to acknowledge it was harboring a rapist but refused to act unless the activist provided “conclusive evidence” that Seth had raped her. Instead, the party leadership engaged in victim-blaming and insinuated that the activist was merely feeling guilty about consensual sex. While party leadership agreed to take up the issue, they opposed any process that didn't conform to their terms and obstructed progress on holding Seth accountable by canceling meetings at the last minute and issuing unreasonable expectations for rescheduling.

It is now several months after those initial conversations with PLP’s new leadership, and Seth remains an operating member of PLP, though he is now based in New York City. Recently the activist found through her own investigation that the party held a secret meeting in New York in July or August during which they agreed that while there was no “conclusive evidence” to their standards proving that Seth is a rapist, they would require him to drink with a buddy from now on and write a self-criticism about his relationship to women and patriarchy. These so-called solutions do nothing to protect our communities from a known rapist.

PLP leadership has failed to acknowledge this meeting just as they have failed to protect our communities from this predator. The party has, however, asked that the activist and her allies stop spreading “gossip” about Seth because they see the activist’s rape as a private matter rather than a political matter.

PLP is incapable of promoting truly revolutionary politics because it refuses to acknowledge individual and systemic sexual violence. In response, we ask a few things of you. The first is to exclude PLP from all activism and organizing spaces. The second is to warn your allies of the fact that PLP is defending and harboring at least one known rapist. The third is to examine and address the patriarchal behavior throughout all of our activist communities that protects and promotes sexual violence. The fourth is to actively support and defend the many individuals in our community that have suffered sexual violence. Finally, we ask you to address these matters in the best way you see fit - you do not need our permission to act.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Update: Eshleman Hall Barricaded in Defense of Multicultural Student Spaces

Update, 10:50 Tuesday, Nov. 27: The Occupation has ended, following a negotiation with UCB Administrators.  Everyone was allowed to leave the building, without having IDs checked.  The Administration conceded to the demand for amnesty; they agreed to let the Bridges community vote on whether their rooms would be on the 2nd floor, 4th floor, or in the basement of the future student center (whereas previously the administration had decided unilaterally to move the Bridges community's rooms to the basement); and they agreed to have a task force (rather than review board) on the Multicultural Student Development Offices and Recruitment and Retention Center, which will include six members chosen by the Bridges community who will present demands directly to the chancellor.   

This afternoon, a group of students barricaded themselves on the sixth floor of Eshleman Hall at UC Berkeley, reclaiming a building that has been designated for demolition and demanding that the Administration abandon plans to cut support for the recruitment and retention of students of color.  At this point, a couple hundred supporters have gathered in lower Sproul Plaza, while the police have closed off the building.  Those barricading the building are calling on supporters to gather at Eshleman in order to protect those inside and intensify the force of their resistance. 

The demands:

We Demand that the Multicultural Student Development Offices be restored to their former structure by Vice Chancellor Gibor Basri.  Countless students and the ASUC as an entity have voiced this opinion and received no changes.

We demand that the budget allocation of the multicultural student development offices be increased to meet the needs of their work.

We demand that none of the peaceful protesters in this occupation receive any punishment or repercussions for this activity.

We demand an increase in funding for the Recruitment and Retention Center to assist in their mission of increasing the enrollment of underrepresented minorities on campus.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Until we have more than speech and linked arms at our disposal...

The following speech was given by Professor Geoffrey O'Brian on Sproul Plaza, during the walkout on November 8.

Sophia Elia/Staff 

It feels good to be with you.

I could write that sentence ahead of time because I remember what it feels like from other moments when we’ve come together to risk saying what the Regents and the administration would rather we didn’t even think, let alone shout. Most sharply, I remember this feeling from last November 9th, when we gathered to protest what we still have before us to protest. I remember what it’s like to protect strangers like they are the only people you know; to establish a line and hold that line while the Alameda Sheriff’s Dept. wades in with batons in obedience to an absent Chancellor. Our line didn’t last very long that day, but it lasted longer than a police line would last if it didn’t have guns and gas, shinguards and faceplates, sound cannons and an afterlife in false charges and malicious prosecution.

The powers that would like to take the public out of public education don’t have our conviction, they have greed plus an arsenal; they don’t have community, they have closed-door meetings and staging areas. And as their cops hit us last year they were also striking at what we expressed in the linkages of our arms. They were jealous of our resolve and unhappy to be reminded it’s possible. They were unhappy we didn’t have names and serial numbers on our chests. Which is why we felt good even then and can feel good now as we gather (despite their having tried to turn on the rain machine and the cold). This feels like living. This feels like not being in debt.

The Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, in a poem about the necessary bravery and the certain vulnerability of the protestor, wrote a line that has stayed with me for years: “Come today in fetters to the marketplace.” That is, bring your problems back to their source, bring them as part of what you offer and are, bring your discomfort with leaving privacy behind. Because doing so might make the marketplace simply a place, a place where a public can dream itself back into being and out of the prison of only private lives. In our current struggle here, for “fetters” read debt, for “marketplace” read the rapidly privatizing university, pricing out the poor, and turning as ghostly as an online education pilot program. But for “today” still read today, the only day available to us again and again, the only day between us and the wrong future, the day wherein we gather to see the first person break its fetters and go plural. We need to strengthen and populate that plural until we can do more than protest, can instead refuse things and have our refusals be more than symbolic. Until we can claim and keep the Gill Tract. Until we have more than speech and linked arms at our disposal.

That we are not that many yet is hard, but it isn’t as hard as not trying would be. This is what we have -- after Proposition 30 has passed, which I’m glad of, but which is a bandaid, written by the governor to tax the rich less than the proposed Millionaire’s Tax would have and which swaps some of the burden to the working class through a sales tax increase. This is what we have, with a new Chancellor and UC Police Chief on the horizon from whom we can expect nothing but more of the same; while intellectual property is sold to British Petroleum and campus child care is outsourced to a Bain subsidiary named Bright Horizons, and staff are laid off and furloughed, this is what we have. We have each other, now, today, in the rain. But this is living rather than seeking not to. This feeling, as solidarity becomes purpose and it runs through us, is what we have, and it has to be enough. Keep coming, and bring your fetters with you.

(Photo from the Daily Cal)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Third Debtors' Assembly at UCB

In anticipation of tomorrow's walkout at UC Berkeley, we will be holding the third Debtors' Assembly tonight on the east lawn of California Hall, from 5-6PM. Joshua Clover will be among the speakers talking about approaches to resistance. There will also be a a collective discussion.

Debt is a permanent feature of most of our lives. Yet the socialization of risk debt isolates individuals, locking us in the private misery of our dealings with banks and creditors. Medical debt, student debt, consumer debt, foreclosures -- these social forms mark so many personal failings and moral obligations, we are told. Debt, in other words, not only insures our continued servitude to the corporate pursuit of dwindling private profits. It also serves to alienate us from one another and foreclose the possibility of collective resistance.

Debtors’ Assemblies, then, are a first step in fighting back to reclaim our stolen futures. Please join us Wednesday, November 7 at 5pm in front of California Hall for our last Debtors’ Assembly to learn more about the many forms of debt and discuss ways to resist debt’s claim upon our lives.

And remember, tomorrow (November 8) is the walkout and sleepout on campus.

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 8 Walkout

Meet up at Sproul Plaza, Noon. 
Public education in California is facing a severe crisis. State budget cuts and austerity measures have accelerated administrators’ efforts to privatize our public colleges. This November, UC Regents and CSU Trustees plan to submit our universities to radical, privatizing reforms. 
Even if Prop. 30 passes, in the best-case scenario, it would only maintain the status quo; meaning excessive fees, under-funded programs, overcrowded classes, layoffs and pay-cuts for campus workers, and an ongoing process of privatization. And that’s the best-case scenario! This would preserve the UCs as inaccessible for tens of thousands of low- and middle- income students, and for already under-represented students of color. And for those who do make it in, a lifetime of debt awaits. University privatization also involves attacks on public sector workers, from pension raids to mass layoffs.
The future of public education is bleak, unless we act in the present to prevent the indebting of students and the walling off of our public institutions. By taking collective, mass action this fall, we can begin to reverse the waves of fee-hikes, course reductions, budget cuts, and layoffs.
Through collective struggle, we can defend and sustain public education in California, and we can counter state austerity.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Student Debt in a Global Context: Neoliberalism and Crisis

Debt is a permanent feature of most of our lives. Yet the socialization of risk debt represents isolates individuals, locking us in the private misery of our dealings with banks and creditors. Medical debt, student debt, consumer debt, foreclosures -- these social forms mark so many personal failings and moral obligations, we are told. Debt, in other words, not only insures our continued servitude to the corporate pursuit of dwindling private profits. It also serves to alienate us from one another, and foreclose the possibility of collective resistance. Debtors’ Assemblies, then, are a first step in fighting back to reclaim our stolen futures. Please join us Wednesday, October 24th from 5-6 in front of California Hall for the first in a series of weekly Debtors’ Assemblies to learn more about the many forms of debt and discuss ways to resist debt’s claim upon our lives. Robert Meister will speak briefly at the beginning of the first assembly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The UC Administration Pressures Faculty to Join It In Opposing GSR Unionization (SB 259)

Many of you will be familiar with a bill that recently made it through the California state legislature: SB 259, which would allow graduate student researchers (GSRs) at public universities to unionize. It passed the state senate on August 23 and has been sent to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown for a signature. Living up to all of our expectations, the UC administration -- like many other universities across the country -- has come out in public opposition to the bill, urging Brown not to sign it. A number of predictably managerial arguments have been enlisted, such as the fact that this could cost the UC $10-18 million a year, as UC spokesperson Dianne Klein put it, without yielding "significant benefit." It goes without saying that the university's 14,000 GSRs might see things somewhat differently. Notably, the UC Berkeley Faculty Association has also come out in support of the bill, deftly critiquing the administration's arguments and "affirm[ing] the right of all employees to organize and . . . the importance of Graduate Student Researchers helping to shape the contract stipulating conditions of their work." [Update: the Council of UC Faculty Associations has written a letter as well.]

For obvious reasons, the UC administration doesn't want any push back from its faculty. This is because the faculty play a key role in the administration's media strategy to defeat SB 259, according to which it's not really a question of profitability but rather one of maintaining the pleasant relationship between GSRs and the professors they work for: "extending collective bargaining rights to graduate student researchers would change the relationship between these students and their professors from an academic mentee/mentor relationship to a professional employee/employer relationship."

It appears that the administration is doubling down. What follows is an email sent yesterday by Jeff Gibeling, the Dean of Graduate Studies at UC Davis, to the Academic Senate. In it, he lays out the UC administration's case against SB 259 and "suggests" that faculty members write to the governor to voice their opposition. He also attached a document containing the administration's talking points as well as a letter from UC president Mark Yudof to Brown. Toward the end of the email, almost as an afterthought, comes the following line: "you are, of course free to express that position as well - notwithstanding that it is different from the official UC position." Of course, this brings up a series of questions about whether recommending and facilitating your employees taking a specific position of a piece of public legislation is legal, and what constitutes implicit coercion. At the very least, it reveals just how desperate the administration is.
From: "Gibeling, Jeffery"
Subject: Legislation Affecting Graduate Student Researchers
Date: September 7, 2012 11:05:42 AM PDT
To: ""

Dear Academic Senate Colleagues

In the past, the Public Employment Relations Board has interpreted state law in such a way that Graduate Student Researchers were deemed to be students rather than employees, hence ineligible to be represented under a collective bargaining agreement. Recently, legislation that would extend collective bargaining rights to GSRs (SB 259) has moved through the legislative process. It has passed through the State Senate and the State Assembly and has been forwarded to Governor Brown. He has 12 days from last Wednesday to act on the legislation (sign or veto). The text of the bill is available at

The University administration has officially taken a stand in opposition to the bill as described in the attached talking points and letter from President Yudof to the Governor. Last year, the systemwide Academic Senate also took a position to oppose this bill (
Some of the concerns are that under a collective bargaining agreement, compensation for GSR’s could be forced to be the same across all disciplines and all campuses. This change would impact our ability to offer competitive stipends that vary by discipline. A collective bargaining agreement might potentially result in fewer UC graduate researchers being hired due to the additional requirements that will likely be imposed as part of a union contract. Moreover, a union contract may seek limits on working hours during a given period, preventing well-intentioned graduate students from pursuing their research and degree objectives as they see fit. The costs associated with implementing the collective bargaining process will also draw away from UC campuses some resources that could otherwise be devoted to providing direct services to students. While I agree that the cost and workload issues are important, my greatest concern is the potentially damaging effect that this change in relationship between graduate students and their faculty mentors may have on our graduate students and our programs.

I anticipate that some faculty will have concerns about this legislation. If you wish to express your opposition, you may want to visit the website: and consider sending an email or making a phone call to Governor Jerry Brown and asking him to veto SB 259. I also recognize that some faculty colleagues may support this legislation, and you are, of course free to express that position as well - notwithstanding that it is different from the official UC position. Following is the contact information for the Governor and key advisors on this matter:

· Governor Brown: (916) 445-2841
· Nancy McFadden: Executive Secretary to the Governor: (916) 445-2841,
· David Lanier, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary, Office of the Governor: (916) 445-4341,
· Marty Morgenstern, Secretary of Labor & Workforce Development: (916) 327-9064,

If you have an opinion on this matter, you may wish to make your views known to the Governor.


Jeff Gibeling

Jeffery C. Gibeling
Dean--Graduate Studies
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
phone: (530) 752-2050
FAX: (530) 752-6222

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Before the Fall: Possible Futures for Anti-Austerity Movements

This article, by Amanda Armstrong, was originally posted at Viewpoint. We're reposting it here on the eve of the new school year as a point of departure for some much-needed thinking about organizing strategies for the fall, especially with regard to avoiding the recuperation effect of electoral politics.

We’re passing through a low phase in Northern California – a lull that partially parallels those facing organizers from Madison to New York. The rebellious energies so evident recently seem scattered these days, dormant. The universities are quiet. And the forces that had gathered in city parks and squares, most massively at Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza, are largely absent. The encampments are broken up, the assemblies dissolved.

It’s hard to know whether this is simply a period of incubation, from which another, similar wave of class struggle will soon emerge, or if this moment of relative inactivity is allowing for the recomposition of our forces, our alliances, the ways we take action together. If the terrain of struggle we now encounter has been remade by the past year of action – by our effective acts of opposition, by new forms of state repression and co-optation, and by our own missteps – how can we most effectively intervene in the shifting political force fields we’re coming to inhabit?

As we offer ourselves a bit of relief from the intensities of the past year – as we heal, maintain ties, and work through it all – it’s worth collaboratively thinking through these questions. Struggles against austerity in California, which I’ve participated in and tried to think critically about, can provide a concrete context for this kind of reflection.

While many of us have been taking a rest, politicians have been active as ever. The recently passed California state budget is, as in previous years, crushing. It shortens the amount of time people can remain in the workfare program, reduces the program’s work exemptions for people with young children, cuts payments for and limits access to childcare, reduces funding for in-home supportive services, and guts public health care programs. In combination, these cuts constitute a severe attack on working-class women, and therefore on the class as a whole. The undoing of welfare, childcare, and in-home service programs further privatizes and devalues caring labor, and thus imposes increasingly impossible burdens of domestic and waged work on all those, particularly women of color, who have been denied financial reserves.

Austerity is still the order of the day. For all the class struggle that’s been staged in the streets, plazas, and universities this past year, and despite what we’ve accomplished, those who govern and manage capital are still effectively making it harder for working people to survive. And no partial, uncertain victories in the educational sector should allow us to lose sight of this stark reality.

There are a number of ways to make sense of the effects this year’s state budget will have on students and campus workers. The basic story is that, rather than simply cutting once again the budgets of schools and universities, the state has made these cuts contingent upon the potential failure of the compromise tax initiative this November. If the initiative passes, we’ll have a tuition freeze in the Universities of California, and a year without significant cuts in other sectors of public education.

That we may have another year without undergraduate fee hikes in the UCs, and without cuts to schools and colleges, should be understood as an effect of recent rounds of uncompromising student protest, including the cascading strikes and encampments that shook California’s universities last fall. These protests demonstrated to the state and to the UC Regents that further fee increases would come with a cost, and helped build support for the original Millionaires’ Tax, of which the current tax initiative – formed out of a compromise between the governor and the president of the California Federation of Teachers – is a pale copy.

While we might be inclined to consider the possibility of a year without cuts to public education as a victory, albeit an uncertain one, there are other political dynamics shaping the current situation that make for a murkier picture. Governor Jerry Brown, in tying the fate of students to his tax initiative, is working to co-opt and neutralize student movements – movements that otherwise could further delegitimate state institutions enacting and enforcing austerity, and even potentially set off, as in Quebec, a period of generalized social unrest. This fall, it will be incredibly difficult for those active on campuses to resist pressures to put our energies into campaigning for the tax initiative, despite the fact that relatively little of the revenue would go to education (much is slated to “pay down the deficit”); that the initiative includes a temporary, regressive sales tax; and that electoral campaigns force us to engage on a terrain and in a mode of struggle that work to our disadvantage, in comparison to campus-based direct action and mass organizing. As we recently saw in Wisconsin, social movements that allow themselves to be entirely diverted into electoral politics risk massive demoralization, defeat in both electoral and non-electoral domains, and the fraying of bonds forged through collective struggle.

Still, the pressure to participate in the initiative campaign will be intense, since the effects of a defeat would be so severe. In addition to the cuts that would be triggered, the initiative’s defeat would make educational privatization appear all the more inevitable, allowing those pushing fee hikes and pension reductions to invoke the “will of the voters” in support of their efforts. The UC Regents, for instance, are rumored to already be considering a 20% fee hike (approximately $2,500/year), which they’d try to implement in the event that the tax initiative failed. And the initiative very well could fail, especially if, for instance, the European debt crisis intensifies, and the economic depression in the States subsequently deepens.

While we have little control over broader economic dynamics, we can still prevent our movements from being co-opted and neutralized by the governor. We could, for instance, explicitly reject the electoral process as a primary terrain of struggle; along the lines of the movement of the Indignados in Spain, we could organize a series of walkouts and occupations in October tied together by the slogan: “There’s no vote against austerity.” Alternatively, we could prioritize local struggles whose outcomes will not directly be affected by the fate of the tax initiative. At UC Berkeley, for instance, the administration is attempting to move up to six hundred staff members to a building located miles away from campus – a move explicitly designed to spur workers to resign rather than endure degraded and isolating conditions of employment. In solidarity with workers organizing against their displacement, we could hold disruptive actions at the building to which they would be relocated. We could also link up with the movement to defend City College of San Francisco, which appears to be taking shape in response to the threat of dis-accreditation and closure levied by a recent audit – an audit performed by a body with ties to educational privatizers and for-profit colleges. Given how imbricated the various sectors of public education are in California, all students have a stake in the fight at CCSF, which has the potential to generalize struggles against tuition hikes and course reductions.

Even if student movements successfully avoid getting directly caught up in electoral campaigning, it’s conceivable that their more rebellious edges might be worn off by the specter of the November election. There’s a danger that students might be haunted by the imagined judgment of “the voting public,” that we might take on this phantom as a kind of superego, avoiding actions that could upset a projected voter or make them less sympathetic to the cause of public education. And there’s plenty of reason to think that voters in California are inclined to be unsympathetic: in recent decades, they’ve passed a number of reactionary propositions, including 13, 209, 8 and 36.  While Governor Brown may be confident that voters’ presumed classification of students as members of the “deserving” middle class will ensure passage of this year’s tax initiative, student activists ultimately have little to gain from attempting to fill the role of respectable defenders of existing educational institutions.

While higher education has historically been understood, with some validity, as a marker and reproducer of middle class status, college is no longer a guaranteed ticket to a stable, decent paying job. Increasingly, it offers to the degree-holder little more than decades of indebtedness and precarious employment. Our generation of students is facing a process of proletarianization; and rather than clinging to a fantastical “middle class” status, definitively refuted by economic transformations, we should act in solidarity with, and with an eye towards, the working class from which many of us hail and into which we’re headed. As we plan another round of protest, let’s concern ourselves with the perception of the broader class, those facing another devastating round of austerity, rather than with the sanctimonious vision of those who fear and resent the pleasures and possibilities of working class struggle and mutual aid – pleasures that many of us experienced last fall at the Occupy Oakland encampment, and during strikes on our campuses.

While things have been slow this summer, we’re still here; and if the recent past is any indication, another upsurge is likely imminent.  As we attempt to determine the shape coming struggles will take, the experience of the past year can give us confidence that direct actions, coupled with mass organizing, have the potential to generate widespread participation, open up new centers of gravity, and offer us lives less consumed with the anxieties of debt, work, and uncertain futures.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Victor Martinez People's Library / Biblioteca Popular [Update: OPD Raid]

[Update 8/14 3am]: The library was raided by OPD just before midnight. Check back for more info.

[Update 8/14 later]: Some photos and twitter updates from last night's raid are consolidated here. Zunguzungu has a beautiful photo essay: "A Day in the Life of the Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez (People's Library), August 13, 2012, East Oakland." Finally, you can hear the voices of some of the occupiers, participants, and community members in this great radio report put together by Radio Autonomia.

From occupyca:
OAKLAND, California – On Monday morning, the former 23rd Avenue Branch of the Oakland Public Library was occupied and renamed the Victor Martinez People’s Library. The building was shut down as a public library in 1976 and was briefly an alternative school and later a social services facility. The building has been vacant since 2010, located on 1449 Miller Avenue in East Oakland. (Read more about the life of Victor Martinez here.)

Here’s an initial statement from the people’s library:

The building unveiled today as the Victor Martinez Community Library was part of a Carnegie Foundation endowment of four libraries given to the city of Oakland between 1916 and 1918. Oakland’s librarian at the time, Charles S. Greene, believed that the city’s people would benefit most from libraries placed within their communities.

Despite this vision, the building was one of seven branch casualties of budget cuts in the late seventies, severing vital library life-lines in poor and working communities. Since then, the “Latin American Branch” library building located at the corner of Miller and 15th st. has mostly sat empty, despite the fact that the next nearest library is miles away, and increasingly difficult to access in a city like Oakland with an increasingly expensive transit system. With its eroding chain link fence and decaying, armored exterior, the building is much more than an eyesore; the unused, but inaccessible, space creates a life-draining dark vacuum of stability that serves at best as a convenient place for the unscrupulous to dump their old mattresses, couches and assorted garbage.

This morning, a group of activists opened this building again for use as a library. Inside is the modest seed for a library and community center—hundreds of books donated by people who envision the rebirth of local, community-owned libraries and social and political centers throughout Oakland. We’ve named the building after recently deceased author, Victor Martinez, who overcame a young life of hard agricultural work to become a successful writer in the Bay Area. His semi-autobiographical novel, Parrot in the Oven, has become a seminal work of the Latino experience. Martinez died last year at 56 of an illness caused by his work in the fields.

If you live in this community, we only ask that you think about how you can use this building. Name it anything you like. Purpose it to any goal that benefits the community—library, social or political neighborhood center. All we ask is that you consider keeping it out of the hands of a city which will only seal the fence and doors again, turning the space back into an aggregator of the city’s trash and a dark hole in the middle of an embattled community. The doors here are open. And there are many others simply waiting to be.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thoughts on UC Berkeley's Propaganda Faces + More

By friend of the blog Aaron Bady (also known as zunguzungu).

Update below the fold.

Friday, July 13, 2012

undead demands

... in anticipation of wednesday's regents meeting, and of other times.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Privatization is a Killer: Zombie Takeover at the UC Regents’ Meeting

Come out with us to protest the Regents’ most recent plans to consider a 20.3% fee hike for the Fall if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative (Prop 30) is not approved by voters. Let them know enough is enough! We refuse to have the budget balanced on the backs of students and workers, who are already overburdened with debt and facing devastated job markets. Get on your zombie gear (or come as you are!) to collectively tell the Regents: NO FEE HIKES! EDUCATION CAN AND SHOULD BE FREE. More fee hikes are a debt sentence.

WHEN: Wednesday July 18th

WHERE: UCSF Mission Bay Campus Community Center

-We will be leaving from the Downtown Berkeley Bart station at 7:00am

-We will give PUBLIC COMMENT starting at 8:30am

…because WE are the public and won’t let private interests sell out our futures.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Update on Jasper Bernes' Case

Though Jasper was on track to have a probable cause hearing for the May 1 arrest on June 29, one of the officers subpoenaed was on vacation. As a result, the hearing was rescheduled for July 20. He has an intervening court date on July 11, but does not need supporters to show up then. The hearing on the 11th is a routine appearance, designed to give his lawyer a chance to speak with the judge and the DA.

Essentially, Jasper is hoping to resolve the case through an agreement with the DA. Because the case has dragged on so long, and because he has taken a postdoc at Duke University and is scheduled to begin teaching there in August, he is willing to accept a reasonable plea deal. Though all of the charges are spurious, he wants to get this over with and go on with his life, and has indicated to the DA that he is willing to plead guilty to one charge from May 1, as long as the terms offered are not too onerous and will allow him to move to North Carolina with his family in August. So far, the DA has been unwilling to make a reasonable offer, and is insisting on certain terms – such as a stay-away order from UC property – that are unacceptable. Given the fact that Chancellor Birgeneau has already told the DA to withdraw charges for November 9 (thanks to phone calls and pressure from supporters) it is more than ridiculous for the DA to continue to pursue these kinds of punishments.

At this point, the best way to support Jasper is to continue to call the DA and to tell them to drop the charges for Nov. 9 and make a reasonable offer. It’s best to contact the Deputy District Attnorney handling the case directly, Chris Cavagnero, as well as his supervisor, Paul Hora. Call (510) 272-6222 and ask to be put through to them. It would be best if calls happened this Monday and Tuesday (July 9 and July 10), before his appearance on July 11.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Beyond "Police Brutality": Racist State Violence and the University of California

By Dylan Rodríguez, Professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Riverside. This essay is published in the June 2012 issue of American Quarterly.

From UC Davis to UC Riverside, Global Outrage to Conspiracy of Silence

The events of November 18, 2011, at the University of California, Davis, bear the mark of a certain kind of American racial-political spectacle. An eruption of police violence on that afternoon—what most have named an act of “police brutality”—catalyzed a national and international response, focused on the vulnerable bodies of young white people engaged in an act of civil disobedience. (With due respect to the people of color who were also in the line of fire at Davis, my contention is that their bodies were not the ones with which the national and international response was primarily concerned, nor was their vulnerability centrally responsible for inciting this global outrage in the first place.) The political outcry was primarily fueled by the viral circulation of cell phone, Facebook, and YouTube videos depicting riot-geared police officers dousing the UC Davis Occupiers with caustic yellowish fluid (a widely published still image of which appears here as fig. 1 [editor's note: the above picture]). As this scene becomes momentarily enshrined in the political narratives of the U.S. Left as a reference point for exposing the repressive tendencies of a state (and university system) in crisis, it seems that the spectacle of UC Davis has been isolated from the historical context that has enabled it.

As a point of vital contrast, it is worth remarking that two months after the UC Davis pepper spray incident, on January 19, 2012, a far more massive and militarized display of police force/violence occurred at my home campus of UC Riverside, in which students were actually shot with “less than lethal” police pellets during protests of the UC Regents meeting. In the case of the Riverside campus, UC police were mobilized from every UC campus other than Davis and Merced, and were supplemented by officers from the City of Riverside Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Police helicopters periodically circled over the protest, and officers took what seemed to be sniper positions at strategic high points on campus buildings. The climate was thick with police presence, and the pageantry of political intimidation manifested a massive show of force against the students, faculty, staff, and ordinary people who populated crowd. This police demonstration starkly contrasted with the protest’s well-disciplined adherence to tactics of “nonviolence.” (By way of definition, I do not consider loud chants, intense and vitriolic rhetorics of protest, militant refusal to disperse an alleged “unlawful assembly” or sit-down blockades to constitute “violence”; further, even if one wishes to perform the academic gymnastics of labeling such activities as forms of discursive, symbolic, existential, and/or immanent violence, they are certainly not of a kind remotely comparable to the aforementioned marshaling of legitimated state violence.) For reasons I attempt to explain, we should not be surprised that UC Riverside’s scene of police repression—images of which are also easily accessible via e-mail listservs, YouTube videos, Facebook photos, and the like—has not attracted remotely the kind of attention and righteous reaction as the incident at UC Davis.

Rather than stagnate in the discourse of righteous outrage that is almost reflexively spurred by such events, it may be more useful to pose some hard questions: for example, is it possible that the entwined narratives of moral affront and institutional (university/police) accountability surrounding UC Davis and select other police spectacles—and which may largely exclude police violence in other places—are part of a broader, commonsense conspiracy of silence regarding the where/when/why (and not merely the how) of state violence, and racist state violence, writ large?

Beyond “Police Brutality”

We should be clear: the UC Davis police used caustic “nonlethal” spray on those student protestors because they could. The institutional entitlement to use such police force, however ill-advised it may seem in hindsight, is neither incidental nor ad hoc—it is systemic, legally supported, and absolutely normal. As we pass the twentieth anniversary of the acquittal of five Los Angeles Police Department officers in the street torture of Rodney King, it is urgent to once again examine how police violence shapes our everyday realities in different and contradictory ways.

(A note on the prevailing language: police brutality has become a vastly misused term. While the phrase intends to communicate a sharp criticism of state power that has presumably violated its own self-defined laws and regulations, it is often used to refer to violent police practices that are utterly, ritually sanctioned by law.)

The public response to the display of police violence at UC Davis has been predictably characterized by a combination of righteous outrage and institutional shaming, accompanied by somewhat more muted and unconvincing—though equally predictable—defenses of the UC Davis police department and chancellor. Two facts are not in question: first, the campus deployed an armed police force to squash a conventional act of civil disobedience that was, in the recent historical scheme of things, quite institutionally polite and undisruptive; second, that same armed police force was authorized to use nonlethal weapons on nonviolent student protestors. (We must also remember that the spraying of such chemicals has been widely known to cause death and permanent disability in many instances.)

What does remain in question, however, is how and why these facts are being translated into a liberal-progressive political reaction that seems to naturalize—that takes for granted and/or completely obscures—the fundamentally racial and racist structure of U.S. policing, an apparatus that finds its modern roots in slave patrols, U.S. colonial military outfits (in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere), Texas Rangers (killers of Apaches, Cherokees, and Comanches), and white citizens’ militias throughout the post–Civil War era North and South. In other words, is it possible that much of the critical response to the scene at UC Davis is actually condoning racist police violence rather than challenging it, and if so, what is enabling such critically minded people to do so?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

UPDATE: UCPD's getting a tank from Homeland Security

(Cal logo added)

Update (7/6/12): UC Berkeley, along with the Berkeley and Alameda Police Departments, has decided not to purchase the tank after all. So that's good; now to get UCPD off campus...

From Inter Press Service:
The University of California, Berkeley police department is using grant funds from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armoured Response Counter Attack Truck, better known as BearCat. The university will share the BearCat with police from Berkeley and the neighbouring city of Albany, where it will house the vehicle.

Purchasing the vehicle was raised at a Berkeley City Council meeting as part of a larger discussion on the city’s relationship to Homeland Security agencies that award grants and collect information on citizens.


Because the vehicle is being purchased by the university, and not a city governed by elected bodies, and because no matching funds were required – which the council would have had to approve – the Berkeley police department was not required to disclose the grant application.

Berkeley citizens found out about it only when the watchdog organisation, Berkeley Copwatch, discovered the project as a result of a Public Records Act request for general information on police equipment, according to Andrea Prichett of Copwatch.


These armoured vehicles are part of “an alarming increase in militarisation” of the police, said Norm Stamper, former Seattle police chief and author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.

Stamper explained in a phone interview that, in addition to 9/11, the war on drugs has fuelled the drive toward police militarisation, exacerbating conflict between those targeted – people of color, youth and the poor – and law enforcement.

Once targeted, these communities become the enemy. “We start adding the military nomenclature and the military equipment and military tactics and strategies, and we find SWAT units hitting the house of somebody suspected of having half a bag of marijuana,” he said.

Locally, police militarisation was evident at the Nov. 9, 2011 Occupy Cal demonstration at UC Berkeley, where combat-gear clad police injured peaceful protesters with baton strikes, and on Oct. 25, 2011 in Oakland, when similarly armed police nearly killed a young former Marine when they fired a tear-gas canister that hit him in the head.

“There’s this mistaken belief, that if we harden the image of the police officers, that will give the forces of law and order more legitimacy,” Stamper said. “What it does, I think, is precisely the opposite.”

When police carry weapons and use chemical agents on non-violent demonstrators, they “appear to be the repressive arm of an oppressive establishment”, Stamper explained. An armoured personnel carrier would serve to reinforce that impression.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Invisibility of Corporatization: On Sullivan and the Board of Visitors

The firestorm over the firing of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan continues. Yesterday, hours after thousands of students, faculty, and workers held a demonstration in support of Sullivan, the Board of Visitors named Carl P. Zeithaml, head of the McIntire School of Commerce at UVA, interim president. Calling for the resignation of the head of the Board of Visitors, the faculty senate has planned a vigil that will take place this afternoon. And the word "GREEED" was graffitied in red dye on the columns of the Rotunda, the central building on campus.

Most commentators have framed the conflict between President Sullivan and the Board of Visitors as one of "broad philosophical differences," namely a tension between the "university" values of the former and the "business" values of the latter, made up of real estate speculators, hedge fund managers, and investment bankers. One of the earliest articles to publicize what was happening, written by UVA professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, praised Sullivan's leadership skills and vision for the university, while criticizing the language used by members of the Board to describe what they saw as her faults: concepts like "strategic dynamism" imported from the world of business. Vaidhyanathan writes, "The inappropriateness of applying concepts designed for firms . . . to a massive and contemplative institution as a university should be clear to anyone who does not run a hedge fund or make too much money." Similarly, David Silbey ridicules the emphasis on "strategic dynamism" and the "cultural obsession with the market" that exists here in the US, asserting that "If business and academia function exactly as they should, especially if they function exactly as they should, they are antithetical to each other." And David Karpf goes over the same argument once again in a piece published today. After noting the resignation of Vice Rector Mark Kington, one of the plotters involved in the backroom coup against Sullivan, he writes:
Much has been made of the strategic mumblespeak offered by Rector Helen Dragas. After two years on the job, President Sullivan had not demonstrated enough "strategic dynamism." She apparently was forging an incremental path for moving Mr. Jefferson's University into the future. The big donors on the Board of Visitors wanted her to run UVA more like a business.
It is certainly true that the importation of concepts from the business world, the corporatization of the university, the privatization of public education, and the financialization of everything have caused innumerable problems at public universities, none more significant than the $1 trillion of student debt that has placed students in a state of indentured servitude. But there's a serious problem with the way these arguments are being framed. Administrators have been running universities like businesses for decades. For this reason, the conflict between President Sullivan and the Board of Visitors is not a question of running the university "more" or "less" like a business. It is not a conflict between good, old-fashioned "university values" on one hand and nonsensical or inapplicable "business values" on the other. It is rather a conflict between competing business models.

President Sullivan herself has long been applying the language of business to the public universities where she's served as an administrator -- UT Austin, University of Michigan, and University of Virginia -- all sites of intense privatization during Sullivan's time there. Indeed, this is precisely why the Board of Visitors hired her in the first place. In his piece, Vaidhyanathan praises Sullivan's administrative prowess by noting that, once established at UVA, "she had her team and set about reforming and streamlining the budget system, a process that promised to save money and clarify how money flows from one part of the university to another. This was her top priority. It was also the Board of Visitor’s top priority." Initially, at least, all actors were in agreement with regard to the need to rationalize the university's money flows.

Over the course of two pieces at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jack Stripling outlines Sullivan's proposal for a "more decentralized budget model" in a little more detail. "Often described as 'responsibility center management' or 'RCM,' the model allows individual academic units to retain the revenues they generate." In the other article, he continues:
Ms. Sullivan's signature effort over the last year was a reinvention of Virginia's budgeting model. . . . Versions of the model are employed by a number of elite institutions, including Harvard University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where Ms. Sullivan was provost before she came to Virginia.

Ms. Sullivan's faculty supporters say her two-year tenure did not allow enough time to test the model, which is designed to promote creativity and entrepreneurship among departments that will benefit directly from money-making programs.
RCM was pioneered at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s and from there began to spread. By 1997, a survey found that approximately 16 percent of public universities and 31 percent of private universities had fully or partly implemented RCM. Since then, its reach has only continued to grow. Major universities that now use RCM include University of Toronto, University of Michigan, USC,  University of Indiana, University of New Hampshire, Kent State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and University of Iowa. As of fiscal year 2012, University of Arizona and and the University of Washington both have plans to implement RCM.

In his book Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education, David Kirp tracks the rise of RCM, focusing especially on the experience at USC. He writes:
Proponents [of RCM] contend that a university should be run like a firm, in which every academic unit carries its weight financially. In business terms, that means each unit is expected to be a profit center. Whether it's the college of arts and sciences, the dental school, or the business school, the costs -- which include salaries, space, and the like -- cannot exceed the revenues, whether raised through tuition, contracts, grants, or gifts. A school that runs a surplus gets to keep it, while a school with a deficit has to pay it back.


Though this sounds arcane, the stakes are high. The debate over the wisdom of running a university according to the principles of the corporate profit center is in essence a contest of worldviews. It is an argument between those who believe that the citizens of a university are members of a company whose chief mission is to maximize dollar profits and those committed to the idea of the university as a community in which "gift relationships" are the norm. (pp. 115-16)
What's interesting about this formulation is how much it resonates with the standard story about Sullivan's ouster. What appears here as a "contest of worldviews," one essentially corporate and the other essentially academic, is resurrected in a very different context today. Its appearance is the same, but on scratching the surface it becomes clear that the goalposts have shifted, that the worldview that Kirp identified as so clearly corporate and inappropriate to the university context has simply become part of the norm, a principle so obvious that it no longer seems out of place or offends. In a way, this invisibility, the fact that so many critics have missed the fact that Sullivan's leadership, like that of the Board of Visitors, is informed by business practices, is one effect of privatization -- we no longer recognize it even when it's right in front of our eyes.

The structural logic of administration makes it impossible for university administrators today to opt out. No university president, however independent, can hold out for long against the pressures of the academic market. It doesn't make sense to criticize the corporate "mumblespeak" of the strategically dynamic Board of Visitors without at the same time understanding that President Sullivan not only used such language herself but made its implementation at UVA the "signature effort" of her presidency.

Sullivan's ouster was not the result of a clash of worldviews, academic and corporate. It wasn't about running UVA "more" like a business. It was a conflict, rather, between different business models that could not be effectively brought together. That's why bringing Sullivan back, as the faculty senate hopes to do, will not keep the market out of the university. It's not administrators but students and workers that are fighting privatization and austerity at every step of the way. Only by eliminating the administrative class can a new kind of university emerge.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Structural Logic of Administration: Notes on the Ouster of UVA President Teresa Sullivan

Sullivan symposium
The recent ouster of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, engineered by the real estate developers, hedge fund managers, and former Goldman Sachs partners who sit on the Board of Visitors (analogous to the notoriously corrupt UC Regents), has gotten a lot of attention and generated significant outcry over the past few days. The story is clear: as reported yesterday in the Washington Post, Sullivan was forced out because she was seen as resistant to austerity measures:
Leaders of the university’s governing board ousted Sullivan last week largely because of her unwillingness to consider dramatic program cuts in the face of dwindling resources and for her perceived reluctance to approach the school with the bottom-line mentality of a corporate chief executive. . . . Besides broad philosophical differences, they had at least one specific quibble: They felt Sullivan lacked the mettle to trim or shut down programs that couldn’t sustain themselves financially, such as obscure academic departments in classics and German.
This detailed analysis of the situation, by Doctor Cleveland, outlines three specific areas that the Board of Visitors was pushing: 1) online education; 2) high-profile faculty recruitment; and 3) "Program Prioritization," in other words shifting funds from certain unfavored programs to other favored programs that the Board has deemed more valuable -- despite the fact that these programs are actually less profitable. "Program prioritization allows the central administration to take money from profitable units and redirect it to unprofitable units that the administration favors."

All of this, of course, resonates strongly with the policies that the UC administration and the UC Regents have sought to implement since the 1990s and at an accelerated pace over the last decade. Programs like "Operational Excellence" serve as a framework through which the administration can cut salaries and fire workers in the name of "streamlining" and "efficiency," while giving themselves raises and hiring ever more "deans, deanlets, and deanlings" who fill the bloated bureaucratic ranks to the point that senior managers now officially outnumber faculty at the UC. Academic programs have been cut and consolidated, class sizes have increased, out-of-state students are being accepted at higher rates, and everybody's tuition is skyrocketing.

But there's an important point from the experience of anti-privatization struggle at the UC that has so far been missing from the discussion. One of the earliest articles published on the topic, by UVA professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, accurately likened the Board of Visitors to "robber barons" who have "tr[ied] to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris." (These words would do equally well slapped across the foreheads of Dick Blum et al.) But Vaidhyanathan frames his argument as a defense of President Sullivan:
Sullivan is an esteemed sociologist who specialized in class dynamics and the role of debt in society. The author or co-author of six books, she spent most of her career rising through the ranks at the University of Texas, where she served as dean of the graduate school while I was working toward my Ph.D. in the late 1990s. She was known around Texas as a straightforward, competent, and gregarious leader. She carried that reputation from Texas to the University of Michigan, the premier public research university in the world, where she served as the chief academic officer, or provost, for four years.

When the University of Virginia sought a president to lift it from the ranks of an outstanding undergraduate school to a research powerhouse, while retaining its commitment to students and the enlightenment Jeffersonian traditions on which it was founded, the board selected Sullivan in 2010. She became the first woman to serve as president of UVA, a place she could not have attended as an undergraduate in the 1960s because it was all-male at the time.
Sullivan, in other words, is the administrator's administrator. Since the 1990s, she has occupied increasingly senior administrative positions at UT Austin and University of Michigan before being hired by UVA. Vaidhyanathan lists these positions as a way of praising Sullivan's qualifications, but the dark underside of his story is that these flagship universities are precisely the ones that have implemented some of the most wide-ranging privatization policies over the last two decades -- precisely when Sullivan was entering into the administrative ranks. It's no coincidence that Mark Yudof was dean from 1984-1994, then executive vice president and provost from 1994-1997 at UT Austin, before becoming chancellor of the University of Minnesota then president of the UC. And the University of Michigan has become a model for the privatization of public research universities across the country.

Sullivan's own policies may not have been too far out of line with the austerity agenda of our own UC administration. Vaidhyanathan writes, once again intending it as a compliment, that once established at UVA "she had her team and set about reforming and streamlining the budget system, a process that promised to save money and clarify how money flows from one part of the university to another. This was her top priority. It was also the Board of Visitor’s top priority." She may have had different ideas about how to go about making these cuts, but at the end of the day her agenda also turned on its own set of cutbacks.

Furthermore, over the last two years, that is, in each year of her term, President Sullivan has overseen substantial tuition increases: 9.9 percent for in-state students (6 percent for out-of-state) in 2011, and another 8 percent for in-state (6.9 percent for out-of-state) in 2012. In a familiar twist, part of the money raised from the tuition hikes went directly to fund the operation of new buildings. In total, that made eight consecutive years of tuition increases of "somewhere below 10 percent."

No doubt real tensions existed between Sullivan and the Board of Visitors. And it seems clear that, beyond "philosophical differences," these tensions had to do with divergent views regarding what was seen as the appropriate pace of and sites for cuts. But for those of us on the ground at the UC, the public response -- calls to "reopen discussion" about Sullivan's resignation, even votes of no confidence in the Board of Visitors' decision -- seems somewhat misdirected. The removal of the president was sketchy as hell and the Board of Visitors is clearly corrupt, but the answer to the university in crisis is not more or even "better" administrators. "Better" administrators just mean that the implementation of privatization is smoother, if slower. But at the UC we have learned that it is a mistake to think of administrators as individuals: "This struggle against the administration is not about attacking individuals -- or not primarily. It is about the administrative logic of privatization, and the manner in which that logic is enforced." Sometimes this logic is enforced by riot cops, other times by billionaires on the Boards of Visitors. Sullivan's ouster must be read as a necessary result of this administrative logic, the same pressures that push administrators across the country to adopt, implement, and enforce similar policies. Once begun, privatization demands continual blood. But if Sullivan were to return to office, she would face the same economic pressures and would be forced, sooner or later, to accede to them.

The argument is structural; that the administrator plays, and must play, a particular role in the management of the late capitalist university. It's not by chance that across the US all universities (certainly all public universities) are moving in the same directions: massive tuition hikes and corporate fund-raising campaigns, new construction projects to bring in grants and rich students, worker layoffs while adding to the bloated ranks of the administration. If the capitalist is capital personified, the late capitalist administrator is the personification of austerity.

The only way to stop the privatization of the public university is to take it back from the administrative class whose existence depends on its continuation.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shredded Services

(Banner drop at Wheeler Hall today)

It's staff appreciation day today at UC Berkeley.  To highlight the hypocrisy of this day, coming as it does at a moment of outsourcing, layoffs, pension raids, and plans to relocate hundreds of workers to a single facility miles from campus, campus workers (as well as students acting in solidarity with them) are disrupting the day's festivities.  So far, banner drops and chants have broken the atmosphere of the carnival under the Campanile. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Operation Elimination coming soon to you this fall

 by Juan, a rank-and-file member of CUE-Teamsters Local 2010 

OE is austerity, layoffs, and a mechanism for the privatization of public education

Workers and students at UC Berkeley will be facing the next phase in austerity and privatization this Fall semester – Operational Excellence’s (OE) “Shared Services”. The university’s administration is setting the groundwork for much of its plan this summer and students and workers are yet again not being asked for their input on Shared Services’ most glaring proposal - to move hundreds of UCB campus staff to one remotely located building in San Pablo (miles from campus), a one-stop building that would handle IT, Human Resources and other student and staff services. Though this is being done in the guise of efficiency and saving money, if OE - or as some of us call it, Operation Elimination - is anything to show, this latest phase may lead to layoffs, reduced resources, greater workloads, more mismanagement, and a general transformation of the vibe of the campus for the workers and students.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, OE, which has been the target of previous demonstration on campus (i.e. hunger strikes, budget cuts protests, etc.) is, as our friends in ReclaimUC point out:
 “basically an austerity program developed by the UC Berkeley administration in collaboration with an outside consulting firm called Bain & Company (which as of today is being paid more than $11 million for its efforts) to cut campus costs.” Even the the Daily Cal (the main UCB student newspaper) “has reported[1] that this model has been exported to other UC campuses, complete with their own ridiculously bureaucratic variations on the OE acronym like "Operational Effectiveness" (at UC Santa Barbara) and "Organizational Excellence" (at UC Davis). UCSF couldn't come up with another OE name, so they just adopted Berkeley's”[2].
OE is the program of privatization and austerity that the UC regents & administration have been implementing since the major budget “shortfall” of 2009 and it has deeply affected students and workers since its first stages. As has been pointed out by great reports by Bob Meister[3], other faculty[4], the unions and students, the UC has been in a mode of privatization and austerity since the budget shortfall of 2009 and this is an instance of the general offense against public education. I and others argue that this is happening in order to turn the UC school system into a private model that is friendly for the profit-making aspirations of the UC Regents & their allies in the 1% (i.e. corporations and the very rich).

These policies of privatization and austerity mean that students are affected by the raising of fees/tuition; their debts are increased, and services that make their student life easier are cut. Likewise, campus workers have been affected first through imposed layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts in 2009-2010, and now with Operational Excellence, which has resulted in at least 300 layoffs in Berkeley and attacks on workers’ pensions and healthcare benefits. In the meantime, we must point out the fact that the administration has been hiring more and more middle and senior management executives (since 2004, UC’s management has doubled?) and has been awarding generous bonuses to these layers ($1.6 billion in cash compensation in 2009 alone).

The effects of the last phase of OE

During its previous phase, in 2009-2010, OE cut a lot of essential personnel in key departments. For example, departments like ESPM were gutted of their student services people. For a long period of time after this, ESPM were having a hard time advising their people and instead students and ESPM department staff had to rely on other offices/staff due to real human limitations in handling the number of students, staff, and faculty.

Unfortunately, ESPM is not the only department being affected by OE and the austerity measures.  Most of the Humanities and Social Sciences departments are being disproportionately impacted by layoffs in staff and by staff and services restructuring.  This is especially hard for departments that are already under-funded like Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender studies. It is important to point out that the loss of staff in these programs has drastically affected their ability to advise and recruit students.

Shared services: the next phase of operation elimination

It is in this context that the UC administration is making its next move in OE, namely “Shared Services” (SS). Deans, managers and other top-level staff have been making presentations on SS and are selling it as the next phase in efficiency and cost-savings of the Bain group[5]. Staff members will transition into the building in phases — about 170 staff will begin working at the center in 2012, and 500 to 625 staff will eventually work there over the next 24 to 30 months[6].

Nevertheless, the building’s distance from the campus and the impact of reorganization have caused concern for staff members. This is because this next phase in OE could potentially impact the hundreds of staff besides the ones being moved to the campus SS center. Furthermore, even the centers’ savings expectations do not seem enough to justify the millions the administration is paying BAIN & the millions they’re spending to adapt the building and work-area to working conditions[7]. To add on to that, this new shared services building will hire a lot more people but it is projected that the staff will be reduced to 1/3 of its initial size due to attrition: in other words, retirement, and folks leaving due to overwork, unhappy work environment and so on.

In summary, SS will wreak havoc on the campus community. Faculty, students, and UC employees will all suffer.  Students will get less, pay more, and be told that in the name of "efficiency" this must happen.  In fact, while Bain Consultants will get their $11 million for proposing and implementing this corporate-style management, UC Berkeley will be left with poorly functioning administrative services in which turnover will be high, institutional memory at an all-time low, and communication extremely difficult.

(1608 4th Street, the location of the proposed shared services building)

Students and labor must fight back!

This shared services business has got a lot of campus staff, faculty and students talking. For example, a shared services plan in Sproul has caused some commotion. They’re having 10 people who work in student services offices (Financial Aid, Registrar, Residency, etc.) apply for 9 positions in this shared service plan all in the name of efficiency. They are having the workers re-apply for their jobs and opening up applications to the hundreds in the campus. This staff include members of the clerical and allied services union CUE-Teamsters 2010.

Unfortunately, our union has not been part of the decision making of SS and CUEsters and other staff are not receiving the proper and correct information on what’s going on with SS. Staff has had to rely on minimal information and rumors - this has created anxiety and fear. Nevertheless, workers and students should put together more information on the effects of SS on students and staff and call these shared services reorganizations what they are - austerity methods to squeeze out the lower-tiers of staff.

We must join with others who will fight back against this huge step in the privatization of UC and the dismantling of it as a public and affordable institution. Students and labor must educate and organize their members to stop these austerity measures. For labor, this means that we must build bodies and spaces for rank-and-file workers that will promote democratic self-organization within the unions. Rank-and-file unionists must also put pressure on their union leadership to not be silent on OE and SS and to enact a consistent and uncompromising plan to fight back against the layoffs, cuts, and plans of privatization.

In the meantime, there will be a UC Regents meeting July 17-19 and this would be a good opportunity for students and labor to demonstrate against OE, SS, and the 6% proposed fee hike.

Staff jobs and working conditions are students’ living and learning conditions!
No fee hikes, no increased workload, no layoffs! Free Public Education for all!

[1] ALISHA AZEVEDO, "Other UC campuses adopt OE model", 4/25/11,

[2] "Update from the Hunger Strike: Day 8", 4/27/11,

[3] See: Bob Meister, "Debt, Democracy, and the Public University" 12/7/11,

[4] Chris Newfield, "Bain's Blow to Berkeley",9/14/10

[5] This new Campus Shared Services Center will house finance, human resources, information technology and research administration staff from different departments together. Furthermore, the shared services project effort to cut campus costs and save $75 million annually starting in fiscal year 2016. See for more info:

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Addendum to the Police Review Board's report on November 9

The text that follows is an addendum to the report issued by the Police Review Board (PRB), and released today, regarding the police violence which took place at UC Berkeley on November 9, 2011. It was written by Eve Weissman, the graduate student representative who sat on the board. In the response, Weissman identifies a number of critical weaknesses with the report specifically and the PRB's investigation more generally.

Next to the important critiques laid out by Weissman, we want to make a general observation about the report: namely, that it is written from what is essentially an administrative perspective. Consider the discussion of "hair pulling" by the police: "Some members of the committee do not think that pulling protestors by their hair is consistent with campus norms; others believe it is effective and creates little risk of permanent injury" (p. 21). It's worth noting that the two sides of this supposed divide are not actually equivalent; the efficacy of yanking protesters' hair as a pain-compliance technique is not the question. Or rather, it is significant only to the extent that the question is how best to guarantee compliance, through pain or otherwise. The bottom line is that the PRB report, like the Bundy and Brazil reports that preceded it and the more recent reports (Reynoso/Kroll, Robinson-Edley) pertaining to the "Occupy" cycle, is primarily dedicated not to making the police more accountable or reducing the possibility of physical injury to protesters but to making the administrative apparatus more effective at shutting down protests, eliminating disturbances, and removing blockages. In other words, it is about facilitating the implementation of austerity measures and the privatization of public education.


This Report regarding November 9, 2011 is the result of extensive deliberations and significant compromise of five members of the UC Berkeley Police Review Board. With respect and appreciation for the work of my colleagues on the PRB, I sign on to the final Report, but write separately to further articulate my views and note information that is not conveyed in the Report. This is necessary because the Report does not clearly communicate my judgment regarding the response of UC Berkeley campus leadership and law enforcement on November 9.

Given past and recent political activity on UC Berkeley’s campus, the detailed suggestions in prior PRB reports, and advance notice concerning large-scale protest activity on November 9, campus leadership’s preparation for and response to the day’s action was unjustified, inadequate and irresponsible.

First, in preparing for November 9, campus leadership was heavily influenced by their unfounded belief that “non-affiliates” – presumably more prone to disruptive behavior than members of the UC Berkeley community – had a central role in planning and carrying out the day’s actions. Similar beliefs were held by campus leadership during the 2009 Wheeler occupation. Then, as now, such fears proved to be unfounded. It is distressing that campus leadership continues to assume that “outside elements” pose an imminent threat, despite evidence to the contrary. Campus leadership should not prepare for protests based on the faulty assumption that individuals from outside the UC Berkeley community will be present – not without concrete evidence that this is the case and that such individuals will ferment disruption.

Second, and as another threshold matter, the Report does not address whether the campus leadership and police had a legal basis to remove the tents. This is a significant omission. The investigation into the much publicized pepper spray incident at our sister campus UC Davis concluded that “it was not clear what legal authority existed for the campus police to remove the tents and arrest those who opposed them,” and that “if there was no legal basis for deploying the police to take down the tents, the operation should never have taken place.” See Reynoso Task Force Report (March 2012) at 15. Students at UC Davis had camped out for one night when the police used pepper spray to remove protesters. At UC Berkeley, by contrast, students had not camped out a single evening on November 9. If the legal authority to remove tents was lacking or unclear at UC Davis, it was all the more so at UC Berkeley. Just as campus leadership should not respond to protests based on faulty factual assumptions, they should not respond on the basis of unclear or erroneous legal premises.

Third, simply articulating a “no encampment” policy without discussing how that policy would be enforced (beyond instructing law enforcement not to use chemical agents) was insufficient, at best. Given past protests at UC Berkeley and then-recent police confrontations with the Occupy movement across the country, campus leadership could and should have recognized that sending police squads clad in riot gear and armed with batons and bean-bag guns into Sproul plaza to remove tents would escalate tension and likely lead to violence against unarmed and generally peaceful protestors.

Undoubtedly, the seven Protest Response Team principles articulated by campus leadership after November 9 and repeatedly cited in the PRB Report represent an improved approach to campus protests, which emphasizes de-escalation and thoughtful planning. The PRB members generally agree that promulgation of the PRT principles demonstrates that campus leadership believes the response on November 9 did not comport with campus norms. However, even without the PRT principles, it is clear, based on both legal standards and the campus’s own written policies (detailed in the PRB Report), that the responses of campus leadership and law enforcement on November 9 were inconsistent with campus norms existing at that time.

Campus leadership and law enforcement should have known that removing tents from Sproul Plaza in the middle of the day at the height of the protest would require use of force and likely the use of batons. Despite the no-encampment policy, it is unclear why they chose to take such action. Not only did this strategy increase the likelihood that protesters would suffer physical harm, it stifled protected speech. Dispersal orders sometimes declared the entire assembly unlawful, while on other occasions the orders were limited to the actual encampment and interference with police. Additionally, this strategy contained no plan to prevent the further erection of tents after the first encampment was dismantled. Surely, clearing the tents in the middle of the night, rather than in the middle of the day, would have reduced the risk of confrontation, as demonstrated by the prior experiences of other Occupy encampments. It is troubling given the Wheeler occupation in 2009 and attempts to dismantle Occupy encampments across the country that the campus leadership did not anticipate and work more diligently to prevent the use of force.

Fourth, apart from the lack of foresight and planning around the first use of batons on Sproul Plaza earlier in the day, campus leadership’s failure to take steps following the afternoon confrontation to prevent or mitigate a similar occurrence in the evening is inexplicable. Crisis Management Team (CMT) members, informed the PRB that they did not attempt to intervene and/or modify police tactics during the six-hour period between the afternoon and evening confrontations because they had not yet seen the video footage that depicted the use of force by police. In light of the facts uncovered by the PRB during its investigation, that claim seems highly implausible. Internal emails confirm campus leadership was closely tracking social media on November 9. Videos depicting the use of batons were posted online within minutes of the afternoon confrontation. In addition, the Daily Cal’s live blog, which campus leadership also tracked, first reported the use of batons at 3:55 p.m. At 4:04 p.m., the Daily Cal blog quoted UC spokesperson Janet Gilmore as confirming five arrests from the “clash near the Sproul steps.” Also, Vice Chancellor George Breslauer sent Chancellor Robert Birgeneau an email regarding the use of batons at 4:30 p.m. Further, student government leaders met with members of the CMT in Anthony Hall following the afternoon confrontation and described the events that had transpired.

The CMT, as a group, was charged with managing the campus’s response to student protest. This was their primary, if not their only duty, on November 9. It appears the CMT met only once as a group on November 9. During this meeting, at around 3:30 p.m., Chief Celaya informed CMT members that tents had been removed from Sproul plaza and that some “confrontation” had ensued. According to the CMT, they did not request additional information and shortly after disbanded so that some CMT members could meet student leaders in Anthony Hall. It is disconcerting that members of the CMT did not actively seek out more information about the events that transpired on Sproul Plaza.

CMT members acknowledged that had they been fully aware of the afternoon encounter, they would have tried to prevent a similar evening occurrence. But the responsibility for obtaining this information was squarely within their purview and their collective failure to do so was inexcusable. In any case, CMT members knew or should have known about the now-infamous use of batons on Sproul Plaza around 3:30 p.m. Their failure to intervene and prevent a second occurrence is highly problematic.

Remarkably, nearly all members of the CMT went home for the evening by 9:00 p.m. with instructions to Chief Celaya (the only remaining CMT member) to remove the tents without the use of chemical agents. According to the CMT no further discussion regarding tactics or strategy for removing the tents took place. This too seems improbable, given their internal emails and communication. For example, a 7:41 p.m. email from Associate Vice Chancellor Clair Holmes, to Birgeneau and Breslauer states: “Our message is widely distributed, and it is very clear that we will not tolerate any encampments. All media outlets and the protestors know this. Now, for the execution of that strategy which will happen when the sun goes down of course...” Unanswered is the “strategy” Holmes is referring to in this email. Needless to say, the level of planning and the information gathered by CMT members during the day and into the evening on November 9 appear to have been inconsistent with the gravity of the situation confronting them and the breadth of their responsibilities.

Fifth, the PRB Report focuses exclusively on the afternoon and evening confrontations between police and protestors. In my view, at least two other events that transpired on November 9 should also have been investigated and reported by the PRB. First, in the afternoon police detained two Latino students outside of Berkeley Law School, near the intersection of Bancroft and College Avenues. Both students allege that they were improperly stopped pursuant to the UCPD’s campus monitoring policy. In one incident, officers put a law student carrying protest signs into a “stronghold” and asked him for identification. Eventually, the student was allowed to leave. As the student walked away, one of the officers allegedly asked whether he was sure that he spoke English.

The second incident involved another student also returning to the law school from Sproul Plaza. She had a bullhorn borrowed from the law school tucked beneath one arm. An officer approached, stood very close to her, and requested identification. Stepping back from the officer she said that she was a law student but did not have identification on her. When asked to give her name she was at first hesitant and inquired why she was being stopped. The officer stated that she could not have a bullhorn on campus. The student explained it belonged to the law school. Ultimately three more officers arrived on the scene. The student was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car while bystanders contacted law school administrators, who persuaded police to release her.

Additionally, lingering questions about the processing of arrestees and the use of student medical records remain unanswered. For example, a group of individuals who were arrested around 3:45 p.m. and booked by the Berkeley Police Department allegedly were not released after receiving citations. In addition, they were initially informed that they would be required to post bail, even though Penal Code § 853.6 requires misdemeanor arrestees be cited and released on their own recognizance unless unusual circumstances apply. According to the Berkeley Police Department, the decision not to cite and release was made by UCPD. It seems that this decision was ultimately reversed, after numerous complaints and prolonged detention of misdemeanor arrestees. Students have also voiced concern that their medical records have been misused to identify protestors and even assist the Alameda County District Attorney in filing criminal charges months after November 9. Pursuant to state law, the Tang Health Center must turn over medical records involving incidents of assault to law enforcement. The UCPD (and campus leadership) deny using these records in any untoward manner, including assisting the District Attorney. However, the timing and nature of arrests and subsequent charges raise questions that warrant further investigation.

Sixth, the PRB’s investigation was hampered by several factors, including the possibility of criminal charges being filed against participants in the protest. The very individuals most likely to have information relevant to our investigation were also potentially imperiling themselves by assisting our investigation. Students and faculty expressed concern about participating in public hearings given the prospect of criminal charges. While the PRB tried to allow people to anonymously submit evidence and testimony, many members of the campus community did not feel that they had a full and adequate opportunity to participate in the investigation given these concerns. Further, the fact that criminal charges were actually issued against some individuals after they publically testified at PRB hearings, reinforced the belief that there was a connection between the filing of criminal charges and the extent of one’s involvement in (legal) protest activity and the PRB investigation. Regardless of whether there was an actual connection, the criminal prosecutions have fostered distrust and possibly chilled participation by members of the community in future investigations.

Seventh, it is important to recognize that the PRB does not have a clear protocol for conducting effective, timely, and transparent investigations regarding the response of police and campus leadership to protest activity. When the Chancellor requested that the PRB investigate the November 9 incident, the Board Chair, with assistance from Board members, began to design the investigation procedure. Considerable time and energy was spent by PRB members negotiating over the contours of the investigatory process. This prolonged the investigation and ultimately the publication of a final Report. The failure to have an investigatory procedure in place resulted in confusion and miscommunication with faculty members and others asked to participate in the investigation. Additionally, certain hearings and testimony were not recorded or transcribed even though some Board members believed recordings and transcriptions would enhance the investigation. Accordingly, written guidelines for PRB procedures should be developed before the next investigation. Such guidelines should be established through a transparent process that encourages student, faculty, Administration, and police input. The guidelines should specify the role of individual PRB members including the Board Chair.

The lack of protocols was also reflected in the way campus leadership communicated with the Board. On a number of occasions, campus leadership refused to answer questions or speak directly with Board members, other than the Chair. The Board Chair had conversations with UC Berkeley Counsel Chris Patti and perhaps with other members of the Administration, to which members of the Board were not privy, compromising the transparency and reliability of the investigation. Also of concern is the fact that campus leadership paid private outside counsel to prepare testimony on behalf of UCPD, while comparable resources were not available for students or faculty participating in the investigation process. The PRB process was intended as a search for the truth, but the campus leadership assisted only one set of stakeholders in presenting its story to us.

In conclusion, the University’s use of force on November 9 was unjustified because it rested on faulty factual assumptions and questionable legal premises. Establishing a blanket “no encampment” policy days before November 9, while making no attempt to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with students and faculty about the substantive issues underlying the protest, was a thoroughly ineffective approach to the announced protest action. Going forward UC Berkeley campus leaders should carefully consider how to promote and encourage an atmosphere in which free speech and expression is valued and supported. Campus leadership should recognize that they share many of the same goals as the protestors – sustaining and growing a premier public university. Accordingly, the response of the Administration to protests should be crafted with an eye toward collaborating with students and faculty to achieve common ends and not simply to squelch peaceful assembly and speech because it may violate a “no encampment” policy. Further, if campus leadership is serious about curtailing the use of force by law enforcement, an independent, transparent, and sufficiently staffed PRB must be in place, guided by clear written protocols. Most importantly, never again can there be a recurrence of the type of uncalled-for violence by campus police that we witnessed on November 9, 2011.