Friday, November 21, 2014

A Letter of Fire from Egypt

Reposted from: A Letter from Egypt:

Dear Santa Cruz and Berkeley Occupiers,

We are students and faculty from Cairo writing to you from within the folds and dust of an ongoing revolution. Many of our own universities are now occupied by the military, and we now find ourselves fighting against a regime that grows worse than the one that our revolution had initially rose up against only 3 years ago. When we first heard that you had occupied your universities, we were inspired by and felt close to your revolt that we see as resonating with our own.

We think it is important to say that our struggles arise from distinct histories, but we also know that the problems we all face can only ever be challenged by a cascade of a thousand revolts, revolts like yours that involve both a struggle for your own lives but equally for the lives of others. Our revolts are ultimately attempts to become something together, to become a part of a collectivity that is as much emancipatory as it is diverse. In your occupations against the tuition increases in your universities, we hope you find yourselves fighting alongside new and unanticipated friends and allies, people found in your revolt that have joined you in inhabiting spaces that you have made your own. We hope that you consider us among these new friends as well.

We don’t find it so urgent to distinguish between whether the attacks on our lives come in the name of austerity, security, or civility, but instead recognize that each of these attacks and each of our revolts against them are connected by shared logics: the logic of what you’ve called in your communique the “capitalist economy of accumulation” and the opposing logic of what we’ll call in this letter “creativity and solidarity”. In this spirit, we write in solidarity with all of those who look forward and see a hopeless future, and in return demand a different present and occupy it. We write in solidarity with you who have been ignored by society’s institutions, and in return have seized them. We write in solidarity with you who the global powers hope will suffer injustice alone, and instead have found one another on the barricades of revolt. We write in solidarity with you who were born into a world of fear, and yet have learned to light fires that cast fear away.

With fires against fear,

-Students and Faculty from Cairo’s Universities

Why Humanities 2? or: End the Administration

Reposted from Education Should be Free:
The UC administration wraps its tentacles around all of our lives. And it has established many nodes from which to strangle us; Kerr Hall is only one hub of a much larger amorphous beast.  Given this fact, students had a lot of options when we began considering an occupation. How, then, did we choose this particular administrative base of operations, Humanities 2, for our action?
In fact, it is not a difficult question, and everyone here is clear on the answer: this building houses the office of a particularly smarmy figure, one Dean Sheldon Kamieniecki—a perversely enthusiastic agent of austerity. This person was responsible for slashing whole departments as soon as he got the chance, Community Studies being one notable example. Most recently, he tried to sack five or six Social Science staffers last year, most of whom make roughly $40,000, and who, as any student can tell you, are absolutely indispensable to the day-to-day functioning of the university and central to the academic lives of students. Kamieniecki himself made $206,000 last year, and nobody knows what he does.
A montstous Dean Kamieniecki enjoys a snack.
Last fall, a group of students saw Kamieniecki entering this building and confronted him about the proposed layoffs: “How do you justify firing six workers who we all depend on?”
“It’s simple math. We have to make cuts. What else could you cut?”
“Well, we saw that you make over $200,000 a year.”
“So what? I should just quit my job then, I guess.”
Silence and a stare made clear our agreement with that plan. A scoff was all we got back.
But the point is not merely rhetorical: Imagine a university where the workers and students who make the place run also get to run the place. And where people whose primary job is to make cuts and give “mathematical” defenses of those cuts didn’t have to exist.
That is a university we could live with.
In this sense, this story is not only about Kamieniecki. UC President Janet Napolitano (salary $578,000) was recently quoted citing “arithmetic”  in defense of the need “to look at a whole range of things” to resolve the school’s financial situation. Predictably, in the course of a month, the task went from “looking at” to actually imposing a 27% tuition increase. How quickly a look turns into an act! The Regents’ discerning eyesight is matched only by their own efficiency.
These administration figures hide behind the veneer of mathematics in order to carry out their jobs. It makes things seem very complicated. In reality, it’s very simple: they raise tuition, attack workers, cut student services. In concert with the Regents, they make choices about how this university functions and where its resources go, and they make the wrong choices. Unsurprisingly, a lot of those resources go to admins and Regents themselves via high salaries, debt-vehicles and real-estate deals.
Unfortunately for the administrators, even if we take them at their word, the discussion of math here reveals their own redundancy. I propose, therefore, that as a test we replace all administrators with a very mathematical computer. If everything is dictated by numbers, then this computer can probably do their jobs for a lot less money.
But this will also make our job easier! For then, we can spend less time tracking these people down and denouncing them, and simply smash the computer.
For the time being however, this occupation will serve as a similar sort of test. We will keep Kamieniecki away from the levers that he pulls, and what will become clear is that no one is worse off for his absence. Either the arithmetic of austerity will simply run its course without him, or, if we’re lucky, it will falter, and our lives will surely improve. In short, like all UC administrators, he’s either superfluous or pernicious. Either way, we don’t want him.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Communiqué from the UCSC Occupation of Humanities 2

The University of California was once a tuition-free and public institution. Now the students are facing yet another tuition hike. The most recent attempt to raise tuition in 2009 was successfully frozen by the courageous and necessary action of students, yet this week, the UC Regents have approved a 5% tuition increase each year for the next five years. This is in addition to the numerous increases that have occurred since the new millennium which amount to what will now be a 500% increase by 2020. Governors and legislatures have come and gone, and have continually spouted rhetoric without taking any action.

In addition to tuition increases, students face larger class sizes, fewer classes, cuts to student services, and ultimately, are paying more for less education. Of course, these measures disproportionately affects those already marginalized--women, students of color, queer students, and many more. A private business parades in the mask of a public university.

All of these issues and more are a direct result of the failed leadership of the UC Regents, a ruling junta appointed by the governor—yet rebuked in this move even by him!

Privatization threatens the promise of education for all. With this most recent tuition hike, UC
students are being crushed; this is just one symptom of a global effort to privatize everything. Our
water, lands and studies are being held hostage to further benefit those at the top of a horrifying
capitalist economy of accumulation. It extends far beyond the university, from the extraction of
natural resources, to the oppression and exploitation of laborers. We are saddled with obligations to
work and incur debts at the expense of our humanity and the habitat we depend on. As students,
our future labor is put on lien for the privilege of attending a once free, now mediocre, university.

The hypocrisy we face is astounding: the Regents gave 20% raises to a few campus Chancellors just
weeks before hoisting more debt onto vulnerable students. Regent Bonnie Ress said they were
correcting an “injustice” by bumping people up from $360,000 to $383,000. This would be
laughable if it weren’t so disgusting. Never mind that the chancellors are already in the top half
percent of income earners in the United States. But with ten CEOs, four corporate lawyers, two
investment bankers and merely one student on the board of Regents, it is not surprising that the
priorities of this institution are skewed towards the interests of those at the top.

For all these reasons, we are occupying the Humanities 2 building at UC Santa Cruz. We are using
the space to do many things: to think, to strategize, to finally meet the fellow students we sit next to
every day. Most of all, however, we are simply inhabiting a space that is ours in a world where
nothing seems to be for us.

The students here are fed up, but we have not given up hope on one another, and we have not given
up hope on you. This message is intended for our fellow students here at UCSC, but it is also for
everyone else: we want to hear from alumni; from parents; from the people in our communities;
from our fellow students at other UCs; from our young comrades in elementary, middle and high
schools; from the workers and teachers who make this university run. We may only be in this
building temporarily, but we want to build something bigger, something lasting, and we want all of
you to be a part of it.

The Regents have passed their tuition hike, but this is far from over. We are calling on our allies to
help us grow: more occupations will surely follow (we don’t know who plans them!), and more
strikes, more disrupted meetings, more barricades, more students and allies in the street. All of this
not to return to the past, but to build a new future.

We will be unmanageable until such time as there are no managers—until the Regents, tuition, and privatization are washed away in a wave of democracy.

Who Are the "Legitimate" Occupants of Wheeler Hall?

An internal email sent out this morning by the UCB facilities manager. Very invested in distinguishing "legitimate" occupants from the "suspicious or dangerous" occupants.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Wheeler Hall is Occupied by Protestors [TODAY! - 11-20-14]
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2014 07:19:18 -0800
From: Mark DAVIS

Dear Wheeler Hall Occupants,

UCPD has notified us that Wheeler Hall is occupied by about 70 protestors who are mostly concentrated in the main lobby of level 1.

As of now, UCPD has no plans to disperse these protestors and they have indicated that building operations and classes should take place as scheduled.

UCPD is on site and closely monitoring the activity of these people and will notify us if there are any changes to the status of this occupation.  The LSFO office, in turn, will share this information asap with building occupants.

As I suggested yesterday afternoon, I would recommend occupants (non classrooms) lock their doors and post signs to direct their legitimate visitors.

Beyond that, UCPD has requested that building occupants be vigilant and report suspicious or dangerous activity to UCPD directly.

Occupants can always call me or our office if they are unsure of what to do or if they need help addressing any of these issues.  

Thank you,

Mark Davis
Facilities Manager
College of Letters & Science Facilities Office
150A Barrows Hall

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wheeler Hall Occupied; Mass Convergence Monday at Noon

At the Berkeley general assembly tonight, those gathered voted to call for a mass convergence and walkout this coming Monday at noon in front of Wheeler Hall as well as to immediately begin an open occupation of the Wheeler lobby, which is ongoing.

Reposted from The Berkeley Graduate

“1-2-3-4 tuition fees are class war! 5-6-7-8 students will retaliate!”
Blue and yellow lights on Wheeler Hall illuminated students chanting in the rain this evening, following a vote today in San Francisco that brings the University of California one step closer to a potential 28% tuition increase.
The UC Board of Regents’ Long-Range Planning Committee approved 7-2 a plan to increase tuition by up to 5% for 5 years, yielding a 28 percent tuition hike, in addition to creating quotas to accept more out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition. The two dissenting votescame from Governor Jerry Brown and student Regent Sadia Saifuddin. UC President Janet Napolitano, however, is strongly pushing for this plan, on which the full 24-member Board of Regents will vote tomorrow at UCSF.
A UC Berkeley student was arrested during the UCSF protests today, though campus police stayed several hundred feet away from this evening’s Berkeley event, leaning on a metal blockade near Sather Gate. The highly-organized and collaborative student gathering assembled under the tree on Dwinelle Plaza to share updates and ideas before regrouping into small circles to plan a Statewide Day of Action this coming Monday.
Speakers used a megaphone to share updates from, draw parallels to, and express solidarity with organizing in Palestine, Ayotzinapa, and Ferguson.
The crowd clapped in frustrated agreement when Rasheed Shabazz pointed out the pattern of militarization across these struggles, as the University naming former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to the UC Presidency epitomizes. Shabazz urged: “education is a right, not a privilege: the machine must be stopped…you have to keep organizing!”
Yvette Felarca reported on the Regents’ meeting with optimism: “This is not the end. Tomorrow is not the end. However they vote, it’s just the beginning.” Felarca reminded the audience that although the Regents will probably pass the plan in tomorrow’s vote, that the plan’s implementation is conditional on the University not receiving an additional $91 Million in the State Budget announced December 1st. The sum is relatively insignificant given the State’s full budget, and Governor Brown has so vociferously opposed the fee hike, that he will hopefully use his full influence to secure the necessary additional funds.
How Brown chooses to support students in preventing the fee increases will indicate his true allegiances. Fee hikes represent privatization, a process Brown has previously supported, for example, encouraging the University to privatize through online classes.
Felarca related how thoroughly the peaceful, if passionate, student protests shook the Regents, one of whom “couldn’t believe that the protestors were so angry that people in suits had to fight their way into the room!”
Attesting to student protests’ importance and power, Jasmine Schatz told this reporter, “student apathy is a huge problem on this campus…if we don’t keep showing up they’ll get comfortable and we’ll lose our opportunity to enact change” The second year undergraduate Italian Studies major took BART and Muni over to UCSF early this morning to be there by 6am to protest.
As small groups strategized for the Statewide Day of Action this coming Monday, Felarca remarked that though teach-ins, walk-outs, rallies, and other gatherings would be valuable, “I think we ought to occupy. It is time.”

Students block UC CFO Brostrom from entering Regents meeting

At least for a time today, students blocked UC CFO Nathan Brostrom, one of the primary architects of UC privatization who used to work at JP Morgan, from entering today's Regents meeting. At the meeting, the Regents ultimately voted on a multi-year plan that could result in 27% tuition hikes. 


Students also turned away from this entrance UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who three years ago justified the police pepper spraying of UC Davis students -- students who were acting in part against a proposed 81% tuition hike. Three years ago, students blocked the proposed tuition hikes through mass strikes, encampments, and mobilizations that lasted through the spring. This year, with only two weeks of mobilization, over three hundred students travelled from around the state to take action against the tuition hikes at today's Regents meeting. It is only beginning. 
Having been confronted with her support for police violence, Katehi responded: "You are woefully misinformed."

Sunday, November 16, 2014


by Rei Terada

Having previously agreed with Governor Brown not to raise tuition for three years ending in spring 2016, the UC Regents have now unilaterally broken the agreement. Give UC more funds, the Regents say, or we'll raise tuition 5% in 2015--and another 5% a year for at least four years after that. While the Regents claim to negotiate on behalf of those who use the university--students, staff and faculty--their new gambit instead shows the difference between the Regents and higher Administration, on one hand, and "those who use" the university on the other. For organizations like the unions and faculty associations would of course like more funds from the legislature, too. But those groups aren't demanding that students pay up if the legislature doesn't. To them, it's obvious that another tuition increase wouldn't help California students, and that it's counterproductive to threaten to do something counterproductive. Contrary to UCOP's PR campaigns in favor of a "return to aid funding model" (high tuition, high aid), student debt has been rising during this period of "high aid." It's been shown that when working class students have to use up their Pell grants on high tuition, they wind up working longer hours and going into tens of thousands of dollars of debt for housing and living expenses. Yet this is what the Regents are willing to bring about. And Mary Gilly, the chair of the Faculty Senate, lines the Senate up behind the administration more plainly than ever by calling the tuition increase an "unfortunate" but "good option."

In many ways the tuition increase proposal looks more like an intent than a coercion tactic. More state funding "is probably not likely," Gilly notes (ibid.). UCOP has already developed a strategy for justifying the increases regardless of their pressure-value: (1) they could be worse, being "not . . . more than 5%" a year; (2) they would feed the "return to aid funding model" (according to an email sent to staff on Friday by Michelle Whittingham, Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management at UCSC); and (3) they would offer "predictability."  UCOP's press release euphemizes the raise by calling it a "stability plan." But stability, predictability and not-being-more than 27% (at the end of the period, tuition would be 27% over its current base) are all empty qualities that drain the increase of its positive content, which is, obviously, revenue on the backs of students. A 5% increase will pay more than 4% a year from the legislature, even after return-to-aid. If that wasn't so the increase could not be proposed at all. At the same time, as Michael Meranze observes, "UCOP's proposal actually leaves open the possibility of up to a 9% tuition increase" if Governor Brown is uncooperative--and that would have the most point of all. Technically, no ceiling for this scenario is mentioned in UCOP's announcement. Its language is: "tuition would not increase by more than 5 percent annually for five years, provided the state maintains its current investment commitment" (my italics). And so finally, even "predictability" is erased, since UCOP's statement merely says that it will be there unless it's not.

In other words, the Regents' proposal is indeed predictable. It repeats the logic of their moves against the most vulnerable segments of the University in 2009--the 32% increase and layoff of 2000 workers--only now that logic is actually cast as a form of support. Their threat reveals that the Administration does not represent the University to the legislature. It's rather a third force, willing to sell out parties on either side of it so long as it gets paid. Maybe it will be useful for people in the University to point out to the state that the Administration is now treating the legislature in the way it has treated its own community up to this point. In the past five years the Administration has been an antagonist, not a bargaining partner--willing to break and disavow agreements, we see now, obscure data, and target the vulnerable while making no sacrifices of its own. For in the same period that legislative funding has declined, Administration has expanded, roughly doubling since 2000. The Regents just saw fit to raise the Chancellors' salaries by 20%.  As Meranze notes, in 2013-14 UCOP's budget in 2013-14 was about $587,000,000, while the budget for the whole Santa Cruz campus was $633M. The tenor of the Regents' address to the state government sounds familiar to those who've had to "negotiate" with it during this time: it is of a piece with its unilateral form of governance. You don't have to be a fan of the state government to think toward it something like "See? They're willing to pepper-spray you, too."

The legislature would be justified in demanding a correction of these conditions. This is something it could do rather than never talk to the Regents again, tempting as that must be. Instruction is 21% of the budget. It's always unclear whether funds will be used for education rather than administrator salaries, pet projects like MOOCs, donor-invented capitalist-in-training programs, real estate ventures, and other forms of development enriching an elite class only. The legislature would be within its rights to require that UCOP cut itself back to former levels and that any new funds--from the state or from tuition--go to instruction and student services. More to the point, regardless of what the Academic Council or the legislature will do, people inside the university will keep doing what they can, both to demand such economic justice as is available and to create forms of thought and relation that might support, finally, the unpredictable.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The State Funding Sleight-Of-Hand: Some Thoughts on UC's Proposed Tuition Hike

Now that the UC administration has begun a full-fledged public relations campaign to raise tuition by about 5 percent per year for the next five years (adding up to an over 25 percent hike in total—if you calculate it out, it’s a 27.6 percent hike by 2019), it’s worth taking a second to think about how money moves through the university. As always, administrators justify the tuition hike by talking about how funding from the state has decreased. In a joint statement last Thursday, the chancellors of the ten UC campuses wrote the following: “State funding for the University is still $460 million below what it was in 2007-08, even though we are educating thousands more California students.” The proposed tuition hikes, they suggest, are necessary to make up for the difference.

This argument about the decline in state funding is a reasonable one, made by neoliberal university administrators and many defenders of public education alike. But the argument also has some pretty significant blind spots. The point isn't that state funding hasn't declined, but that this real decline doesn't actually do all the work UC administrators are suggesting it does. Let’s see what’s really going on.

These data come from the UC’s publicly available financial reports, one from 2007-2008 and the other from 2012-2013 (for some reason, that’s the most recent report available on the site). Let’s start with the data on state funding. One thing that’s interesting to note here is that state funding is not continuously declining—in fact, it actually increased by about $400 million from 2006-2008 and again by about $200 million from 2012-2013 (as a result of Proposition 30). Furthermore, as the text below the graph notes, “[t]he last year that educational appropriations were above $2.9 billion was 2003.” So we could argue that between 2003 and 2008 state funding remained more or less constant. Obviously, the financial crisis, which hit the following year, interrupted this trend. Still, from 2011-2012, there’s a big drop in state funding, but the following year it begins to rise again.

In any case, the actual decline of state funding from 2008-2013 is $821 million ($1.06 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars).

So where are UC administrators getting that $460 million figure from? It probably has to do with the fact that state funding has actually continued to increase since the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012. Anyway, we’re just using the financial report data here because it’s the most easily accessible and has these convenient three-year comparisons. Either way, we're more than giving them the benefit of the doubt here on the question of state disinvestment.

Now let’s look at the change in tuition revenue (the 2013 numbers are above).

The first thing we notice is that, unlike fluctuating state appropriations, tuition revenue has steadily and consistently increased over this entire period. This is due in part to rising enrollment and in part to tuition hikes. Recall that state funding was actually increasing between 2006 and 2008, but nevertheless the regents were still raising tuition by at least 5 percent per year.

The actual increase in tuition revenue from 2008-2013 is $1.48 billion ($1.32 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars).

Over the period in question, tuition revenue grew significantly more than state funding fell. That extra $300 million in inflation-adjusted dollars is nearly three times as much as the proposed tuition hike will bring in. In spite of the story that administrators continue to tell, the UC’s own data show that tuition revenue has more than made up for the decline in state funding. If this were all that was going on, there should be no deficit. Of course, if you compare current levels of funding to the 1970s or 1980s, you’ll find a big difference. But you’ll also find that expenditures have increased a lot as well—among other things, the administration is spending a lot more money on itself. (Just the latest example: the Regents recently agreed to give chancellors a 20 percent raise.) This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive explanation, but to point out that when administrators talk about declining state funds what we should be asking them is what are they doing with all that extra money that’s rolling in.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

They want to raise tuition again

The UC Regents want to hike tuition again. At their upcoming meeting, they are planning to vote on a new policy that, if ratified, would make 5% annual tuition increases the default for the next five years. According to Napolitano, the tuition hikes (as much as $3,400 over five years) would go forward unless the state government increases UC's budget by amounts to be named later.

The Regents are trying to preempt what was supposed to be a four-year tuition freeze (spanning 2012/13 through 2015/16). They are threatening to end what has been a brief span without tuition increases and to again make annual tuition hikes the new normal.

The Regents' strategy is fairly evident. In announcing the new tuition policy only two weeks before their meeting, they are hoping to establish the policy before mass student and worker opposition can materialize. And in making the decision to hike tuition contingent upon state inaction, they are trying to redirect students' focus to Sacramento, and to create some ambiguity about when a tuition hike ultimately would happen, so as to prevent students from establishing a clear calendar of protest.

More broadly, the Regents are trying to set themselves up for a win-win situation. Either students, workers, and our allies, through our collective actions and power, will be able to compel the state to increase UC's budget and to stave off hikes; or we won't, and the Regents will get their money anyway in the form of higher undergrad tuitions.

We know from recent experience what higher tuitions would mean:
More debt, which falls especially heavily on women and people of color.
Fewer working class students and students of color enrolling at the UCs.
More students exhausted from second, third, and fourth jobs.
Fewer low-income students finishing college.
A ripple effect throughout the higher education system, pushing more working class students and students of color into fraudulent for-profit colleges.

These are the stakes. This is why it is critical that each of us does what we can to prevent these tuition hikes from happening. And while the Regents are trying to surprise and disorient us, their plans to hike tuition will not succeed if students, workers, and our allies take sufficiently powerful collective actions in the coming weeks and months. We have the necessary capacities, political experience, and social bonds. We just have to use them.

It starts with us showing up at the Regents' meeting in San Francisco on November 19th and 20th and calling against tuition hikes. Regardless of what happens at the meeting, and whether we are able to prevent the Regents from voting, a strong turnout, combined with actions and mass education on the campuses, will set the tone for the coming months and will give us confidence.

A potential tuition hike is something that all students deserve to know about. Graduate student instructors and professors have a responsibility to discuss the potential hike in our classes, to give students time to talk together about how they would be affected by tuition hikes, to assure students that their participation in any actions will be seen favorably, and to provide students with relevant information and resources, including potentially the UC Student Association's petition against fee hikes or some of the documents linked above. Students, for their part, can organize teach-ins in dorms, co-ops, and meetings, and can ask professors to make time for announcements about upcoming political actions at the beginning of classes.

This kind of mass education is critically important. But it isn't enough. Only by acting collectively to interrupt business as usual on our campuses and throughout the state will we have the power to block tuition hikes. In taking collective action, students and workers can draw from past experiences. We might plan mass assemblies for the days surrounding the Regents' vote, as well as cascading building take-overs in the days after. We might take the opportunity at these assemblies to call for a student strike against tuition hikes for the winter quarter / spring semester.

UCSA has already taken a strong position demanding tuition rollbacks; will they endorse and help build for the kinds of collective actions that will be required to realize this demand? Will our unions, co-ops, dorms, cultural organizations, student government parties, and other groups rise to the challenge to stop another round of proposed tuition hikes? It is up to each of us to push our organizations beyond where they've gone in the past, and to build bonds of struggle that are broad, powerful, and enduring enough to win.

Here are some of the immediate next steps at Berkeley:

-- Tuesday the 18th, mass rally and forum to challenge the fee hikes: 12:30 on Sproul.
-- Wednesday the 19th, students and workers from all the UCs are going to UCSF to protest at the Regents meeting. We're encouraging people to go early in the morning, so that we can set up picket lines and potentially delay or cancel the meeting. You can sign up for space on a bus here.
-- Also on Wednesday the 19th, there will be a general assembly / update / planning next steps meeting at 5pm on Sproul.

See you at the Regents' meeting.