“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
November 20, 2014
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 affect 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 ourfellow 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 ourfellow 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.