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.
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.