Vote No on Every Fee

Decision time is here, but decisions have already been made. As every year, essential services are dangled in front of us on condition that we vote increase our own fees. “Shall the students of UCSC provide funding for…” The health center? Tutoring services? Sports? As Karl Marx once said: “To formulate a question is already to solve it.” The unstated solution here is that if the students of UCSC won’t provide funding, no one will.

Because we each already send the Regents $30,000+ a year to learn and live here, we might expect that the basic pedagogical, physical, and emotional needs associated with a university education would be included in the deal. The attempts to fleece us for yet greater amounts of cash are thus both less surprising and more perverse. In a system of privatized education (which we reject in the first place), it’s no wonder they charge us by the item, yet given that we’ve already paid, these small surcharges to actualize our purchase amount only to extortion. It’s as if, after negotiating the release of a hostage for a cool $1,000,000, the crooks demand an extra $2,500 when we show up for the swap. The relative softness of the additional blow is only hardened by the pettiness it reveals.

Particularly petty is the $36 a year fee for LSS tutoring. The ballot proposal itself, Measure 63, states that increased usage has led to “rationing” of learning support services, including “fewer MSI [tutor] positions available, insufficient MSI support to meet student demand in large lower division required courses, and limiting the number of courses with tutoring services.” If only someone could have predicted that increasing lecture and section sizes would send students looking for support! Then again, such foresight would suppose that administrators care about supporting students.

More financially substantial are the proposed fees for intercollegiate athletics and health center access. Combined, they would amount to a $681 increase per year, or 5% of existing tuition. This, of course, is on top of the 5% fee increase that the Regents will soon impose statewide. One could continue such calculations, and we could tear each other apart about the merits of this or that measure. But whether it’s $36 or $700, we must reject these measures on principle, because we repudiate even the possibility of charging ourselves more for something that ought to be ours for free.

And yet it might appear that we should be thankful for the option. You may ask, “What else is meant by the student calls for university democracy?” This is an essential question, and one that, once posed, demands its own answer in practice. For now, we say that what is not meant by university democracy is the option of succumbing to our guilt (“Access 4 all!”) or collapsing in division (Access 4 some?). The narrow choices before us show the extent to which we have already been left out of the real decision-making.

But what does this strange spectacular form of democracy reveal? On the one hand, it is clear that administrators would like to cynically rely on vote counts in order to relieve themselves of the most minor managerial responsibility. Whatever the outcome, they can rest assured that it is not their fault. Yet on the other hand, doesn’t the appeal to even the cold, lumbering, zombie-corpse of democratic legitimacy speak to a recognition of the force of student opinion? Doesn’t the administration’s search for consent, however mangled, simply reveal what we already know? That everything works here only insofar as we allow it!

Thus, if we want to jettison the whole premise of the ballot measures, we vote “No!” together.  But we also demand that the administration fund all of these things anyway. And if, in the end, they won’t change the rules of the game, we storm the field and expel the referees.


Cops Off Campus

The pungent scent of tear gas once again wafts through the Berkeley campus.

Last night, after hours of chasing protesters through Berkeley, militarized police blockaded entrances to campus and prepared to assault a swelling crowd of protesters. They eagerly fingered their “less than lethal” ordinances (tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, bean-bag rounds, flash bang and smoke grenades), enthusiastic to try out their toys – supplied by the Department of Homeland Security – on the youth of America.

In light of this most recent development it is time for us to restate the connectedness of our struggles. The people of Ferguson, New York, Chicago, Oakland and Berkeley, Ayotzinapa, Mexico City, Athens, and many others have risen up and declared that enough is enough. They announce that there will be no more killings of black and brown people by the police and other forces of the neoliberal state. It is time that the students and people of Santa Cruz join these movements, rise up and cast police off of our campus and out of our communities.

cops off campus

There is a long history UCPD malfeasance and violence. In 2005, in response to the erection of a tent university at the base of campus protesting fee hikes and cuts to services, UCPD violently beat dozens of student protesters and arrested 19 people. In 2011, there was a rash of police violence against students: UCPD violently attacked and arrested dozens of protesters at UC Berkeley, a UC police officer drew a pistol on student protesters at a UC Regents meeting, and in a famous incident, Lt. John Pike callously pepper-sprayed seated protesters at UC Davis. Last spring the UCPD deployed over 50 riot police to break up a peaceful strike at UCSC, forcibly arresting over 20 students. In the rare case that a police officer follows their conscience and does not attack students, they are disciplined. Recently, a Cal State Monterey Bay Police officer who failed to assault a student of color with a taser when ordered to is facing dismissal; fellow officers followed through on that order and hospitalized the student.

What is the connection between the anti-austerity movement and the anti-police movement?

Most directly, the University of California Police Department (UCPD) siphons millions of dollars away from our education. High-paying police jobs have proliferated while class sizes and tuition rise, and essential services and scholarships are cut. Graduate students and adjunct professors barely survive on their salaries while high ranking UC police officers grow fat off of our tuitions. These same police are often deployed against protestors all across the state of California, and they have been very active in the attempted suppression of the current movements against police brutality. Recently, UCPD riot police were spotted in Oakland at protests against the non-indictment of Michael Brown’s killer Darren Wilson. The police clearly see the connection. Do we?

Moreover, the University of California has long been at the forefront of the development of military technologies, specifically, aerospace chemical and biological weapons. Some of these same weapons, developed in UC labs and funded by our tuition, are now being deployed against protesters on UC campuses.

BerkeleyCops

Many expressed wonder when the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was appointed president of the UC System. Given that the other two candidates for the position were Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, and former Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell, it is evident that Napolitano was appointed to be the president of the largest University System in the U.S. at least in part because of her capacity to guarantee lucrative government military contracts for the University of California.

Visitors from other universities and countries are regularly horrified to see the cops on our campuses. The presence of police turns every youthful infraction into a potential legal matter. Every time we bike through a badly placed stop sign, when we bring our dogs to school with us, when we skate through campus, we face legal charges that could follow us our whole lives. Because of the presence of cops on campus, at every demonstration we face the potential of assault by a heavily armed phalanx of riot police. Simply put, the police create an environment in which it is unsafe to produce knowledge and express political opinions – the liberal university is a sham.

We want to emphasize in the strongest terms that police misconduct on our campus is nothing compared to the brutal and consistent repression faced in working-class black and brown neighborhoods, where the police amount to an invading army. Every day residents of neighborhoods living under the invasion are at risk of outright murder by the cops just for stepping onto the sidewalk. We know this firsthand because many students now involved in the anti-tuition hike struggle come from these neighborhoods.

We oppose this violent and racist institution on principle, in every one of its manifestations – we call for opening this struggle on every front by throwing cops off campus and opposing racist violence everywhere. When we say we want a truly free university, we are saying we will no longer financially support racist police murderers and their cohorts in the UCPD. We are prepared to follow the inspiring lead of the people of Ferguson, New York, Chicago, Oakland and Berkeley, Ayotzinapa, Mexico City, and Athens – and to back up our words with action.


In Defense of Disruption: Outlines of a Strategy

We’ve said again and again over the last two weeks that Humanities 2 was only the beginning. Now we can ask: The beginning of what? Where is this movement going? What’s the end game?

It may be too soon to talk about the end. That horizon still eludes us. But the next concrete step has already been planned, and if we begin with that, we can identify an important line of flight. At 12:45 this Monday, students will walk out of their classes and meet at Quarry Plaza. From there we will march on the administration (which of its tentacles will we prod this time?) and loudly deliver to them a pledge: We will do whatever is necessary to prevent these hikes.

Implicit in this pledge, and in the action itself, we see the outlines of a strategy (not just a tactic) of disruption. We are switching things up; making a ruckus; getting loud and getting unruly. But we’re doing it with a purpose.  We’re doing it because only a pattern of insubordination will force the hand of those who hope to placate us. We won’t permit the “normal” operation of this institution until the Regents and administrators back off this voracious swipe at our livelihoods. In this strategy, we follow the heroic disruptive efforts of those comrades who are in the streets nationwide to oppose racism and state violence today.

the power of disruption

Yet some friends are bound to ask, “Why so much noise and trouble? Why not show up and state our case with eloquence? If we are clear, articulate, and open to dialogue, won’t we have more credibility?”

The flaw in these questions is the assumption that our message has not been heard. In fact, administrators and Regents already know what we have to say. And they knew before we even said anything.

What student would relish the idea of paying more money and going deeper into debt to stay in school? Who wants to pick up more hours at their job only to have the wages fly from their boss’s hand straight into the coffers at Hahn, where they sit as collateral for financial products? It doesn’t take any administrative experience in higher education – which is good, since Napolitano and most Regents have none – to predict that students will be angry about a $3,000 tuition hike.

The only contingency that matters for the Regents is not whether we’re unhappy, but rather, how we show it. Our ideas and feelings are only relevant if we impose them as a necessity. The UC administration is banking (literally) on the hope that we will eloquently make our case and then leave them alone – that we will open an inconsequential dialogue and wait quietly for a response. Our plan must be the opposite: forget speaking and remember how to scream. Forget treading lightly and remember how to stomp. Walk out of class, walk into the offices of those who have chosen to be our adversaries, and make their jobs impossible.

One way or the other, we will walk out of class. Either we walk out on Monday, or we walk out defeated when the bill collectors come to our doors. Rarely is a choice so simple.


California Won’t Be Happy Until the Last Regent is Strangled with the Entrails of the Last Democrat

previous communiqué announced our opposition to both the UC Regents and Governor Brown: “Fuck the Regents, and Fuck Jerry Brown Too.” It is now necessary for us to declare our opposition to the latest plan for privatization put forward by the California Democratic Party.

The cowardly California Democrats, fearing the retribution of the students and people of California, have announced a new plan to avoid fee hikes. But their plan proposes cutting scholarship programs for middle-class Californian students and raising tuition for out-of-state students by over $4,000. Let’s be clear about the strategy they’re employing: instead of imposing cuts on all students, the Democrats intend to attack certain constituencies, middle-class and out-of-state students, the classic imperial maneuver of “divide and conquer.” They want to divide us, leave us to fight over the scraps left by the state.

sorbonne occupied

What’s more, in a crude and grotesque application of their neoliberal ideology, the Democrats propose offering “completion incentive grants” to create “financial incentives” for students in the CSU system to graduate faster. Underlying this move is a frank acknowledgement that the education system has completely failed us: standardized test-based public education has not prepared students for college, and the university does not provide students the resources they need to finish according the administration’s schedule.

Despite their awareness of the fact that students often need to work full-time to keep up with the cost of living while they go to school, the Democrats are proposing the use of incentives to impose a form of factory speed-up: encouraging students to drive themselves into the ground and cut corners in their education, just to win a bonus that isn’t even worth a week of a Chancellor’s income.

Of course, they claim they will help speed students along by throwing money into more classes, as well as more advising and support. But don’t mistake this for a concern with your education. “If we invest more, we expect better efficiencies,” the Senate Leader shamelessly confessed to the Sacramento Bee. Students are being reduced to pure financial flows, to sources of income that can be manipulated and controlled by the unholy alliance of big capital and Homeland Security. No wonder they want to admit more students.

The California Democrats’ plan is not a plan to create better, more accessible, or more democratic university. It is an insidious form of privatization and financialization that converts your education into a flow of money, and your life into endless work. It represents another form of class warfare waged against the people of California. They can be sure that the people of California will respond in kind.


A Response to Admin’s Sexual Assault Bulletin by Feminists of Hum2

Those of us who are occupying Humanities 2 express our solidarity and commitment in struggle to our comrade who was sexually assaulted in a lecture hall adjacent to our occupation. We are deeply affected that our comrade experienced sexualized violence and we vehemently oppose and refuse to tolerate patriarchal expressions in our space – be them physical or otherwise. The CruzAlert purposefully pretends that the sexual assault itself was a natural outcome of the occupation movement, and that when we attempt to imagine and create spaces that are beyond the university’s reach of control, we have naively put ourselves in danger and opened ourselves up to violence.

It is an attack on the survivor to attack the movement with which she is associated. It is unfair to imply that the survivors participation in this occupation has brought on this violence against her. The closing statement of this email utilizes victim blaming language by implying the survivor experienced sexual assault because of the environment she was in. The language in the email from the UC police misrepresented the condition of the occupation as a way to legitimize an eviction and discredit the student movement. We are disgusted that the Cruz Alert has co-opted issues of sexual violence as a mechanism to gain support for police repression against the occupation, considering the university nor the police have historically cared to punish perpetrators of sexual violence. We say this out of our overwhelming compassion for survivors and our rage against perpetrators.

There are many instances of sexual assault that occur on campus, the majority of which go unreported in this way (via Cruz Alert) to the campus community. These issues are pressing student concerns and need to be addressed appropriately in every instance, may that be through adequate support services for survivors (which the UCPD failed to include in their email) or following through on prosecuting perpetrators We are prepared in this space to extend support to survivors.

To all women: Your struggles against patriarchal violence are our struggles.

To all survivors of sexual violence: We stand in solidarity with you.

To perpetrators: Our movement is against you.

In solidarity,

Feminists of Hum2


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.


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