We Are Everywhere: A Letter of Arrival from Humanities 2

We are everywhere. Though we leave Humanities 2 today, it does not mean we have disappeared. We are sitting in your classes, riding your buses, serving your coffee, tutoring your children. We leave because we do not respect your violence; unlike the passive resistance of the past, we do not seek to enter your jails. We plan to escape, and keep on digging.

educationwillbefree

But this is not a retreat. Like the spontaneous dancing crowds that animated our action, we move to the music. As we register changes in the temporality and rhythm of the struggle, so our bodies spin and sway. If we spin away from this site today, it is not because we have stopped dancing; every moment demands something new. One leap leads to the next.

Indeed, this takeover has been the first leap in a long series to come. The Regents and the UC administration have attacked our livelihoods as students, and we have shown with our actions that the tuition hikes will not stand. The greatest “threat” to any member of the UC community are the Regents and the police that they use to harass and intimidate those who oppose them. We are the ones who defend each other from such threats – with the wave of actions rolling across the UCs, Jeff Novan, arrested at our disruption of the Regents meeting in San Francisco, has overcome repressive legal charges.

We have used this space to begin the work of dismantling the power of the university.  We have spent this week planning and forging the connections and solidarities that will be required for a longer fight. We have also used this space for learning and teaching—for concretely working out elements of what a university could be outside of the hierarchies and contrived power structures that saturate this space during its normal operation. These experiences are the indispensable base elements of a movement that will not be limited to only one type of action. Expect future direct actions; expect future disruptions and confrontations; expect strikes, but above all, expect surprises.

You can wager, however, that we will only grow. More and more students learn every day about the impact that these new fees will have on their lives, and about the people who have imposed them on us and who enrich themselves with our misfortune. Our indebted futures weigh on us already, but rising tuition makes that load all the heavier. For the most oppressed and excluded among us, it will soon be unbearable. The takeover of Humanities 2 is only one of five such eruptions in the UC to surface this week from under the pressure.

Add to this the pressing mass of deadly state violence and complete marginalization faced by fellow students and workers around the world—a burden we can’t help but share—and we are reaching a critical point. With the events of the last few days from Oakland, to Ferguson, to Mexico, it is not difficult to see that something new has been unleashed. It should be clear enough: with the world as it is, fighting on is the only option.

To students and allies, we say: join us. To Regents and administrators: beware. It is only a matter of time before the scales are tipped.

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A letter from students and workers “of color” in the Takeover of Humanities 2

We have met as students and workers “of color” – a racialized category that we recognize as unstable and ambiguous – in the University of California Santa Cruz Takeover of Humanities 2. We exist, we are out here and we have something to say.

Many of us organize with and for a wide-ranging collective called Autonomous Students (AS). When students of color in AS find it necessary to organize autonomously within the group to advance our political goals, we do so. That is because we believe in the revolutionary potential of people of color (POC) autonomy. Autonomy to us means being not just independent from, but also antagonistic to, white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchal power structures. These centers of power include, but are not limited to: the UC president Janet Napolitano, the UC Regents, every UC campus administration, and the armed repressive force of the state and capital, the police, and those that materially support these institutions.

Time and time again, our autonomous organizing space has been inaccurately referred to as “a white space” for two reasons. First, our politics and our praxis of autonomous organizing for worker and student solidarity has resulted in strong affinities with non-POC students and workers whose anti-authoritarian goals and tactics resonate with ours. Second, we absolutely reject the widespread notion throughout our university that we, as POC, will EVER achieve liberation through the administration and institutionalization of “POC” spaces, which are currently ideologically chained to university authoritarianism. We recognize and honor the work that many of our POC classmates and comrades have been able to achieve within these spaces; and we give thanks for the multiple legacies of revolutionary struggle that forced administrative power structures to concede these spaces. However, we believe that the best way to pay tribute to these legacies is to recognize the limitations that liberal multiculturalism has imposed on our communities, and push forward towards a greater actualization of liberation.

If we do not prioritize the political project of liberation from the co-optation of capitalism and white-supremacy, we will be stuck within a culture that is literally toxic to militant student organizing. We will risk a culture that encourages collaboration with token POC administrators, who will smile to our faces and stab us in the back. We will risk leaving ourselves vulnerable to the police. We will risk losing the opportunity to actually bring these power structures down.

WE CAN NO LONGER AFFORD TO LET THIS TOXIC CULTURE CHIP AWAY AT THE AUTONOMOUS MOVEMENTS AGAINST THE TUITION HIKES. WE CANNOT ALLOW COLLABORATIONIST MULTICULTURALISM TO COMPROMISE THE STRUGGLE AGAINST MULTIPLE SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION THAT DRIVE THESE TUITION HIKES. WE CANNOT ALLOW THE VIOLENT SILENCING OF POC AND ANTI-AUTHORTARIAN VOICES THROUGH THE SKILLFUL DEPLOYMENT OF LIBERAL MULTICULTURALISM.

Students have succeeded in liberating Humanities 2 from the UC administration for 6 days (and counting). A significant portion of these students are POC who have played a major active role in organizing. But now the opportunity to build a movement against capitalist white-supremacy is being attacked by a toxic authoritarian culture, which has created a hostile and unsafe environment for POC autonomous organizers. Accusations of “white supremacy” have been insidiously deployed against POC autonomous organizers and used to silence them. What’s more, overly simplistic narratives about an “unsafe space for POC” have been used to actively defuse our movement, drive other POC away, and invisibilize the POC who continue to work in this space. We refuse to see our movement be destroyed. We are literally and figuratively being choked out of the UCSC community because of this 28% tuition increase spearheaded by Janet Napolitano and the UC Regents, with help from our campus administration, the police, and even some of our own classmates. We, the students of color of Autonomous Student UCSC are speaking out!

We need to dispel some misinformation right now. Autonomous Students is not and has never been “a white space.” And, the original movement to reclaim Humanities 2 was not driven by “white people” but by an authentically diverse group of students. These claims feed the racism of the power structure. It reinforces the lie that POC students cannot take radical action. It reinforces the lie that POC students cannot take leadership in groups with white allies. It reinforces the lie that POC students cannot be at the leading edge of struggles for radical liberation.

AS is a clearing house and affinity group who has come together around common interests and, most importantly, a shared struggle! For example, when, in the Spring of 2014, over a dozen POC autonomous students and workers were arrested during the pickets for basic rights of workers, their actions were repressed and denounced by the police, and administrators. The slander and lies that circulated about students and workers in turn influenced the opinions of many of our classmates on campus. But we knew what we were fighting for, and with commitment to our struggle we have developed respect and love for each other as a result.

So, when some students of color who are in the Student Union Assembly, who are interns for (or have known connections to) the Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) or the UC Police Department, claim that they do not feel safe in our building occupation, we want to call bullshit! What sort of protection can we really expect from EVC Allison Galloway, the Dean of Students, Alma Sifuentes, and the police? What would Huey P. Newton say to the suggestion that we should snitch on our comrades? What would Assata Shakur say to the suggestion that we should work together with administrators? What would Fred Hampton say to the idea that we should abandon our revolutionary politics to collaborate with POC who have sold themselves to the power structure?

“People of Color” are not a homogenous group and shared victimhood is not self-evident. We are indeed aware that many of our friends, family members, and community members find themselves working for oppressive institutions (e.g. the prison and military industrial complex, the university, federal agencies, etc.); and we fully recognize that their complicity is enforced by structures which actively and intentionally recruit their support—knowing that various communities of color often have fewer options of employment and survival.

This is why establishing anti-authoritarian practices and politics among us is crucial, to ensure that we can trust one another. Accordingly, however, we also reserve the right to be antagonistic toward other POC whose interests are aligned with the ruling classes, the logics of white supremacy, and the general mistreatment of others. Racism’s existence can’t be denied, and it is experienced by individuals in different ways. The policing of “true POC identity” in POC spaces is also a form of racism. We refuse to be shamed for drawing lines of demarcation that rightfully separate us from governmental elites, such as Barack Obama, and certain community organizers whose complicity reinforces regimes of social regulation, disciplining and exploitation. We criticize and denounce POC who actively deport immigrants, wage imperialist wars, send youth of color to prison, poison our communities with rape, defend police brutality, and engage in authoritarian silencing of other POC.

We feel that it is because we have taken these principled stands that we are being scapegoated. Throughout the course of this building takeover, Autonomous Students has been blamed for a random collection of events that people do not like. When the students of color in AS are made invisible, when entire organizations are scapegoated, this creates a hostile environment for those students and workers of color who end up marginalized all over again! Playing on liberal white guilt doesn’t help us either; it reduces structural problems to individual ideas and does not help forge comrades in struggle. The University can only react with glee at such a course of events. This is not new. This has been done before.

Many of us in AS are committed to a project of imagining and building a collective future which is fueled by participatory democracy and working affinity groups. This means being accountable to one another, but it does not mean that the sole responsibility rests with any individuals or single affinity groups. What it means is that we have to defend participatory and anti-authoritarian processes that allow us to work through our political situation collectively. We invite all who are interested in building a project for liberation together to join us. The stakes are too high for anything less. 

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” – Assata Shakur


Fuck the Regents and Fuck Jerry Brown Too

“FUCK THE REGENTS!”

Every night this cry rises above the thumping music at Humanities 2. It comes from the collective voices of hundreds of furious but ludic dancers who have come here to retake their university from the forces of privatization and austerity.

Jerry Brown, the governor of California (though for our part, we refuse to be governed) announced his opposition to the tuition hikes several days before the Regents met last week to approve them. Make no mistake though, this was an opportunistic shift: he leapt from a pro-hike to an anti-hike stance when it became clear to him that the people and students of the state of California opposed them.

But we must be clear that Jerry Brown is no friend to the students, or the people, of the state of California. He opposes the tuition hikes even as he supports further cuts to the UC, CSU and community college systems.

Earlier this year, Brown vetoed a bill in the California State Assembly to provide the state’s higher education systems with one hundred million dollars that he had previously promised. That money came from Proposition 30, which raised income taxes in California to fund public education. Students organized a grassroots campaign for that vote. Thousands of us went door-to-door and classroom-to-classroom to raise public support. We passed that proposition because we’re tired of going into debt for overcrowded classrooms, overworked teachers, and overpaid administrators. We passed that proposition because we needed it. That money is ours.

And yet, Brown stabbed us in the back. He diverted huge sums of that money toward the state’s atrocious prison system. The federal government ordered Brown to release non-violent offenders (mostly people of color arrested on petty drug beefs) to ease the horrific overcrowding at California prisons. Instead, he has resisted that order and spent millions of dollars that had been earmarked for education in order to keep millions of California’s people of color locked up in cages.

The alternative to tuition hikes proposed by Brown is to turn the UCs into 3-year degree granting institutions. He wants to fire tenured faculty and lecturers and replace them with chat rooms for the profit of millionaire Stanford graduates in Silicon Valley. Online education may be a fine supplement to classroom learning, but only someone as clueless as Brown, who has never set foot in a classroom as an educator, could think that it might replace the type of learning that goes on here.

We have been betrayed too many times by too many duplicitous politicians. We know that the only one we can trust to build a better university is us. We want the university.

So yes, fuck the Regents, but fuck Jerry Brown too.


Statement of Solidarity from Humanities 2 to Wheeler Hall

Originally posted at The Open UC

Students currently occupying the Humanities 2 building at Santa Cruz, in solidarity with the occupation at Wheeler Hall at UCB, propose to escalate action and carry forth further actions, such as occupying another space or blocking a main road, should there be any police repression towards our fellow students at the Wheeler Occupation or police attacks on other campuses. Let it be known to the administration at UCB that should they send the guard dogs of the Regents and the powers that be, the police, to repress, brutalize, evict, or disrupt the collective occupation at Wheeler Hall, students at Santa Cruz will act in solidarity and take direct action on our own campus. Let it be known to our own administration at UCSC that if the police are sent to repress us, students at UCB have also committed to similar actions in solidarity. We encourage public circulation of this proposal and any further adapting of this proposal for purposes on other campus.

An attack on one is an attack on all.


Some UC Occupiers on Ferguson and the State of Emergency

Many of us in the occupied spaces at the University of California have been anxiously awaiting the news from Ferguson. Some comrades have asked how police repression in Missouri is connected to austerity in California. For us there is no question: the connection is our struggle.

Ferguson in Revolt

As insurgents in Ferguson block traffic in anticipation of the verdict, that act resonates. Its echoes can be heard through the hallways of this vampire university, as students from poor and marginalized communities put their bodies on the line to say no, we will not let you drain every last drop of our blood.

We have watched a reckless governor declare a state of emergency, we have watched the FBI send its agents to Missouri. It is because they, like us, have heard the wind of revolt whistling across the country. When the excluded masses of Ferguson take the opportunity to initiate their process of insurrection, our struggle will join theirs as one fist.

Make no mistake: the UC Regents see this connection very clearly. A rotten bunch of gangsters recruited from banks and corporations, with the former Secretary of Homeland Security at the head, they know that the basis of their power is our participation. When we pay, when we study, when we work, they profit; they count on our obedience, and they back it up with riot cops. Indeed, they pay for those cops— just as in Oakland, in Guerrero, and in Ferguson—with the money they extract from us.

They know that the terminal threat to their odious machine is our refusal. We refuse to allow smug executives to give themselves raises while they destroy the future of an entire generation. We refuse to allow racist police to murder one more person. We refuse to allow state violence to prevent us from taking back our buildings and our streets.

There is already a state of emergency in Ferguson. It is up to us to generalize it.


Why Humanities 2? or: End the Administration

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.