30 November 2009

UC Academic Council on student protests

The UC Academic Council, finally awaken from its dogmatic slumber, issued a somehwhat disingenuous statement concerning the recent student protests. The Council tries to strike a position equidistant between the acknowledgment of the sudents' reasons for their protest and their right to express those reason in a peaceful but vocal way and the Administration's reactions. Amid much mumbo-jumbo, the Council is
especially concerned about group protests in which a number of individuals attempted to move past police barricades, physically threaten and throw objects at police, and surround vehicles to trap those within.
This is disengenuous because, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no attempts by students to "physically threaten" or "throw objects" at the police. Students did surround a van in which the Regents were attempting a quick getaway at UCLA after voting to increase the fees, but they limited themselves to a sit-in around the vehicle, a well-established form of peaceful protest.

The Academic Council also "insists that uses of force by police will be subject to inquiry and review, as well as the policies that govern crowd control." Better late than never.

Here is a bit of advice: please go look at any collection of pictures from the protests that were published in any number of sites, and check out the faces of the police officers, wielding tasers and looking down with contempt bordering on hatred on students who could well have been their own sons and daughters. Clearly something is wrong.

What higher-ed cuts really look like

An LA Times piece by Carla Rivera on Sunday highlighted what cuts in higher ed really look like from the point of view of the students and the faculty. It's compelling reading. As much as we decry the situation at UC, it's useful to be reminded that it's much worse at Cal State schools, without a $20B budget and the power to borrow against future revenue (that such a power is misused at UC is another story).

27 November 2009

Statement in support of the UC Mobilisation

Here is a statement in support of mobilization at UC, started by Peter Hallward (Middlesex University, London), which is currently gathering signatures:
We the undersigned declare our solidarity with University of California students, workers and staff as they defend, in the face of powerful and aggressive intimidation, the fundamental principles upon which a truly inclusive and egalitarian public-sector education system depends. We affirm their determination to confront university administrators who seem willing to exploit the current financial crisis to introduce disastrous and reactionary 'reforms' (fee-increases, lay-offs, salary cuts) to the UC system. We support their readiness to take direct action in order to block these changes.  We recognise that in times of crisis, only assertive collective action – walkouts, boycotts, strikes, occupations... – offers any meaningful prospect of democratic participation. We deplore the recent militarization of the UC campuses, and call on the UC administration to acknowledge rather than discourage the resolution of their students to struggle, against the imperatives of privatization, to protect the future of their university.

•    Dina Al-Kassim, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine
•    Alison Hope Alkon, Sociology, University of the Pacific
•    Eyal Amiran, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine
•    Susan Antebi, Spanish and Portuguese, University of Toronto
•    Aldo Antonelli, Philosophy, UC Davis
•    Emily Apter, Comparative Literature, NYU
•    Kiran Asher, International Development and Social Change and Women's Studies, Clark University
•    Jennifer Bajorek, Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College
•    Mona Baker, Translation Studies, University of Manchester
•    Mieke Bal, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam
•    Gopal Balakrishnan, History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz
•    Karyn Ball, English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
•    Stephen Barker, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, UC Irvine
•    Tani E. Barlow, History, Rice University
•    LeGrace Benson, Emerita, SUNY Empire State
•    Leo Bersani, French, UC Berkeley
•    Bruce Braun, Geography, University of Minnesota
•    Nathan Brown, English, UC Davis
•    Darcy C. Buerkle, History, Smith College
•    Craig Calhoun, Sociology, NYU
•    Emma Campbell, French, University of Warwick
•    Julie Carlson, English, UC Santa Barbara
•    Anthony Carrigan, English, University of Keele
•    Amy Sara Carroll, Latina/o Studies, American Culture, English, University of Michigan
•    Allison Carruth, English, University of Oregon
•    Mari Castaneda, Communication, University of Massachusetts Amherst
•    Paula Chakravartty, Department of Communication, UMass Amherst
•    Piya Chatterjee, Women’s Studies, UC Riverside
•    Chris Chiappari, Sociology, Anthropology, St. Olaf College
•    Kyeong-Hee Choi, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
•    Noam Chomsky, Linguistics, MIT
•    Joshua Clover, English, UC Davis
•    Lin Chun, Department of Government, The London School of Economics and Political Science
•    Drucilla Cornell, Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies, Comparative Literature, Rutgers University
•    Maria E. Cotera, Latina/o Studies, American Culture, Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
•    Whitney Cox, Languages and Cultures of South Asia, School of Oriental and African Studies
•    Daniela Daniele, Anglo-American Literatures, University of Udine
•    Eva von Dassow, Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota
•    Jodi Dean, Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
•    Richard Dienst, English, Rutgers University
•    Jackie DiSalvo, English, Baruch College, CUNY
•    Elizabeth DeLoughrey, English, UCLA
•    Sergio de la Mora, Chicana and Chicano Studies, UC Davis
•    Mattanjah S. de Vries, Chemistry and Biochemistry, UC Santa Barbara
•    Hent de Vries, Humanities Center, Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University
•    Lisa Disch, Political Science and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
•    Ariel Dorfman, Literature, Duke University
•    Robert Dudley, Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley
•    Alexander Garcia Düttmann, Philosophy and Visual Culture, Goldsmiths University
•    Raymond Duvall, Political Science, University of Minnesota
•    Ken Ehrlich, Art Department, UC Riverside
•    Norma Field, East Asian Languages & Civilizations
•    Gail Finney, Comparative Literature and German, UC Davis
•    Paul Fleming, German, NYU
•    Aranye Fradenburg, English, UC Santa Barbara
•    Anne-Lise François, English and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley
•    James Fujii, East Asian Language and Literatures, UC Irvine
•    John Funchion, English, University of Miami
•    Alexander Galloway, Media, Culture, Communication, NYU
•    Alexander Gelley, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine
•    Bishnupriya Ghosh, English, UC Santa Barbara
•    Rich Gibson, Education, San Diego State University
•    Jill Giegerich, Art, UC Riverside
•    Rachel Giora, Linguistics, Tel Aviv University
•    Shai Ginsburg, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University
•    Ruthann Godollei, Art, Macalester College
•    Marcial Gonzales, English, UC Berkeley
•    Manu Goswami, History, NYU
•    Yogita Goyal, English, UCLA
•    Greg Grandin, History, NYU
•    Ronald Walter Greene, Communication Studies, University of Minnesota
•    Martin Hägglund, Society of Fellows, Harvard University
•    Peter Hallward, Philosophy, Middlesex University
•    Werner Hamacher, Literature, Goethe University
•    Kristin Hanson, English, UC Berkeley
•    Harry Harootunian, History, Columbia University and Duke University
•    Michael Hardt, Literature, Duke University
•    Ulla Haselstein, American Literature, Free University of Berlin
•    Rebeca Helfer, English, UC Irvine
•    Cressida J. Heyes, Philosophy, University of Alberta
•    Katsuya Hirano, History, Cornell University
•    Dirk Hoerder, History, Arizona State University
•    Jennifer Holt, Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
•    Grace Kyungwon Hong, Asian American Studies and Women’s Studies, UCLA
•    Eugene W. Holland, Comparative Studies, Ohio State University
•    Ashley Hunt, Photography and Media, California Institute for the Arts
•    Adrienne Hurley, East Asian Studies, McGill University
•    Natasha Hurley, English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
•    Patricia Ingham, English, Indiana University
•    Peter Jackson, English, Birmingham City University
•    Fredric Jameson, Comparative Literature and Romance Studies, Duke University
•    Micaela Janan, Classical Studies, Duke University
•    Priya Jha, English, University of Redlands
•    Adrian Johnston, Philosophy, University of New Mexico
•    Richard Kahn, Educational Foundations and Research, University of North Dakota
•    Peggy Kamuf, French and Comparative Literature, UCS
•    Ken C. Kawashima, East Asian Studies, University of Toronto
•    Sarah Kay, French and Italian, Princeton University
•    Paul Kelemen, Sociology, University of Manchester
•    Rosanne Kennedy, School of Humanities, Australian National University
•    Susan Blakeley Klein, East Asian Languages and Literatures, UC Irvine
•    Suk-Young Kim, Theater and Dance, UC Santa Barbara
•    Anna Klosowska, French, Miami University
•    A. Kiarina Kordela, German Studies, Macalester College
•    David Farrell Krell, Philosophy, DePaul University, University of Freiburg
•    Ernesto Laclau, Politics, University of Essex
•    Bradley Lafortune, English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
•    Neil Larson, Comparative Literature, UC Davis
•    Michaeal G. Levine, German and Comparative Literature, Rutgers University
•    Suzanne Jill Levine, Spanish and Portuguese, UC Santa Barbara
•    Ann-Elise Lewallen, East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, UC Santa Barbara
•    Jacques Lezra, Comparative Literature and Spanish and Portuguese, NYU
•    Pei-te Lien, Political Science, UC Santa Barbara
•    Akira Mizuta Lippit, Critical Studies, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Cultures, USC
•    Michèle Longino, French, Duke University
•    Silvia L. López, Spanish, Carleton College
•    Heather Love, English, University of Pennsylvania
•    Stephanie Luce, Labor Center, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
•    G. Akito Maehara, History, Asian American Studies, African American Studies, Chicano Studies, Native American Studies, East Los Angeles College
•    Sharon Marcus, English and Comparative Literature, Columbia
•    Lyle Massey, Art History, UC Irvine
•    Robert May, Philosophy and Linguistics, UC Davis
•    Todd May, Philosophy, Clemson University
•    Christina McMahon, Theater and Dance, UC Santa Barbara
•    Bob Meister, Political and Social Thought, UC Santa Cruz
•    Walter Mignolo, Literature, Duke University
•    Laura J. Mitchell, History, UC Irvine
•    Claudia Moatti, Classics, USC
•    Santiago Morales-Rivera, Spanish and Portuguese, UC Irvine
•    Patricia Morton, History of Art, UC Riverside
•    Fred Moten, English, Duke University
•    John Mowitt, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota
•    Julian Myers, Visual Studies and Curatorial Practice, California College of the Arts
•    Janet Neary, English, Hunter College
•    Vasuki Nesiah, International Affairs, Brown University
•    Sianne Ngai, English, UCLA
•    Joel Nickels, English, University of Miami
•    Julia Olbert, English, UC Irvine
•    Bob Ostertag, Technocultural Studies, Music, UC Davis
•    Thomas Pepper, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota
•    Amy Pederson, Art History, Woodbury University
•    Kavita Philip, Women’s Studies, UC Irvine
•    John Protevi, French, LSU
•    Jack Linchuan Qiu, Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong
•    Paula Rabinowitz, English, University of Minnesota
•    Francois Raffoul, Philosophy, LSU
•    Eve Allegra Raimon, Arts and Humanities, American and New England Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Southern Maine
•    Jacques Rancière, Philosophy, University of Paris (St. Denis)
•    Jason Reid, Philosophy, University of Southern Maine
•    Joseph Rezek, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania
•    Gerhard Richter, German, UC Davis
•    Denise Riley, Cogut Center for the Humanities, Brown University
•    Corey Robin, Political Science, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center
•    William I. Robinson, Sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara
•    Avital Ronell, Comparative Literature, Germanic Languages and Literatures, NYU
•    Sven-Erik Rose, French and Italian, Miami University
•    Andrew Ross, Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU
•    Kristin Ross, Comparative Literature, NYU
•    Matthew Rowlinson, English, Center for Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario
•    G.S. Sahota, Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota
•    Simona Sawhney, South Asian Literature and Critical Theory, University of Minnesota
•    Martha Saxton, History and Women's and Gender Studies, Amherst College
•    Annette Schlichter, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine
•    Andre Schmid, East Asian Studies, University of Toronto
•    Ronald J. Schmidt Jr., Political Science, University of Southern Maine
•    Gabriele Schwab, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine
•    Louis-George Schwartz, Film, Ohio University
•    Joan W. Scott, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
•    Louis Segal, History, UC Davis
•    Susan Seizer, Communication and Culture, Indiana University
•    Jared Sexton, African American Studies, Film and Media Studies, UC Irvine
•    Katherine Sherwood, Art Practice and Disability Studies
•    Scott C. Shershow, English, UC Davis
•    Lewis Siegelbaum, History, Michigan State University
•    Brenda R. Silver, English, Dartmouth College
•    David Slater, Geography, Loughborough University
•    Gavin Smith, Anthropology, University of Toronto
•    Zrinka Stahuljak, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UCLA
•    Haim Steinbach, Visual Arts, UC San Diego
•    Clay Steinman, Humanities, Media, Cultural Studies, Macalester College
•    Christine A. Stewart, English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
•    Matthew Stratton, English, UC Davis
•    Imre Szeman, English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
•    Rei Terada, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine
•    Soraya Tlatli, French, UC Berkeley
•    Sasha Torres, Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario
•    Alberto Toscano, Sociology, Goldsmiths University of London
•    Dimitris Vardoulakis, School of Humanities and Languages, University of Western Sydney
•    Geoff Waite, German Studies, Comparative Literature, and Art History, Cornell University
•    Elizabeth Walden, Philosophy and Cultural Studies, Bryant University
•    Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, English and Postcolonial Studies, University of North Dakota
•    Kathi Weeks, Women's Studies, Duke University
•    Silke-Maria Weineck, German and Comparative Literature, University of Michigan
•    Leonard Wilcox, American Studies, University of Canterbury
•    Julia Bryan-Wilson, Contemporary Art, Visual Studies, UC Irvine
•    Michael W. Wilson, Art, UC Riverside
•    Mirko Wischke, Philosophy, National University of Kiev
•    David Wittenberg, English & Comparative Literature, University of Iowa
•    Mayfair Yang, Religious Studies, East Asian Cultural Studies, UC Santa Barbara
•    Hu Yong, Journalism and Communication, Peking University
•    Slavoj Zizek, Philosophy, University of Ljubljana
•    Jack Zipes, German, University of Minnesota

To endorse the statement and add your name to the list, email Nathan Brown (UCD) at ntbrown@ucdavis.edu.

24 November 2009

Police brutality

I have been meaning to comment on the way the UC administration has chosen to respond to student protest these past few days at Berkeley (as well as at UCLA and Davis), but I have found such events too deeply disturbing to do so in a timely manner. Especially at Berkeley, police over-reacted to students peacefully protesting the recent fee hike decided by the Regents. Students (and in at least one occasion, faculty) were beaten and tasered in a show of force that was totally disproportionate and unwarranted. At UCB, the university police requested support from the Oakland Police and Alameda County Sheriff Departments, a decision that could only have come from Chancellor Birgeneau and that certainly contributed to the escalation of violence. All the more disappointing as Birgeneau had been, until now, one of the more rational voices in the crisis at UC. And especially incomprehensible at a campus that, like Berkeley, has such a strong free speech tradition. The events were widely covered by the national and international press, and condemned in a growing tide of protest letters and eyewitness accounts. But few have pointed out how incredibly stupid it was, on the part of the administration, to decide to escalate the violence on campus. What on earth made these people think that this was the most effective way to respond to the students? Is this the best way to handle the financial and political crisis at UC? If there was any lingering doubt it is now painfully clear that the crisis at UC is not just financial and political, it is also, and perhaps foremost, a crisis of leadership.

20 November 2009

And if there was not reason enough to worry ...

As pointed out by Daniel Mitchell (UCLA), buried in a document of the Legislative Analyst's Office, is the recommendation that the state not resume its share of payments into the UC retirement system when employee contributions resume this coming April. It is left up to the Regents to replace the state's contributions with other "non-state funds." As Prof. Mitchell points out, "non-state funds" can only mean tuition and fees (as if the 32% fee hike passed yesterday was not enough), and it is tantamount to the de facto complete privatization of UC. For all practical purposes, the state is telling UC faculty and staff that they are no longer state employees.

19 November 2009

Not an unexpected outcome, but ...

It comes as no surprise that, in spite of widespread protests, the Regents approved the proposed 32% fee hike in committee yesterday and will in all likelihood pass it today in the general meeting.

A prominent question we need to ask is, where is the academic senate in all this? Have they taken a position, one way or the other, or do the senate leaders prefer to leave such matters up to UCOP and the Regents?

The sad truth is that, as it was already clear, the senate leadership is in bed with the President and the Regents. It's a big comfy bed, with a portrait of Governor Reagan Schwarzenegger hanging above it.

17 November 2009

Regents meet at UCLA

The UC Regents are scheduled to meet at UCLA today. Prominent on the agenda, of course, is the proposed 32% fee increase, a cornerstone of the privatization strategy. Will they or won't they? Of course they will.

11 November 2009

The decline and fall of the UC system

"It's always difficult to make predictions," Yogi Berra used to say, "especially about the future." But in the case of the UC system, all the information is there, for anyone who cares to look:

The furloughs will be extended at least another year. There is no reason to think that the budgetary situation at UC will be significantly different in 2010-11. In fact it will be worse, as the federal stimulus funds expire and the state shows no signs of economic recovery (also thanks to layoffs and furloughs at the various state agencies and universities). The only options that would avoid extended furloughs at UC is if the state were to re-examine his priorities and shift some resources from, say, the Department of Corrections to higher ed, or if UC took seriously the idea of sharing revenue from the Medical Centers and other profitable units. Fat chance.

The privatization process will accelerate. This will mean higher fees for students, higher student/faculty ratios, increased reliance on private donors and industry partnerships, renewed efforts to recruit from a dwindling supply of affluent out-of-state students.  Emphasis will be on the revenue-producing units, such as the Medical Centers (which already have been spared the brunt of the budget crisis). At the same time, there will be increased erosion of shared governance, as a bloated and arrogant administration decides to keep ignoring the voice of the faculty (and staff, and students, and parents, ...). We have already commented on the issues facing such a "hybrid" model and the inherent tensions that would prevent its implementation across the board at all the ten campuses.

UCRP will switch from the DB to the DC model. One of the reasons why faculty were willing to put up with salaries hovering around 85% of those at comparable institutions was the outstanding UC Retirement Plan with its defined benefit model. (Never mind that private brokers had been circling in the water for a long time.) With the wave of upcoming retirements the defined benefit model will be more and more costly to the university, and there is increasing talk of switching to a defined contribution model. The most senior faculty, of course, will know this and will anticipate any planned retirement not to see their benefits slashed, thereby contributing to the accelerated decline of the university.

UC will get smaller. Smaller in faculty and students. Students will be driven away by the higher fees, especially middle class students with limited access to financial aid. Already Cal State schools and Community Colleges are seeing significant upticks in applications. Similarly the faculty will be driven away by extended furloughs, a less attractive defined contribution retirement system, and the general loss of prestige of UC. Central administration is said to welcome a reduction of 10% to 15% in the number of faculty system-wide, with peaks if 20% in some units. They might just get their way.

The UC system will break up. Ultimately the different campus will not be able to undergo these processes at the same rate. Berkeley and UCLA will be allowed to set their own tuition, and will increasingly rely on the alumni base and their limited endowments. They will fully embrace the Michigan model, but will have to compete with the privates (USC, Stanford) and each other for a limited number of tuition paying students. The remaining eight campuses, unable to raise tuition (for market reasons) will gradually be assimilated, whether de jure or de facto, into the Cal State system.

10 November 2009

Senior managment explosion

According to a study by the Council of California Faculty Associations, the University of California has been engaged in a veritable hiring spree when it comes to senior management, to the point that there are now almost as many senior managers at UC as faculty members.

There were 2.5 faculty member for each senior manager at UC in 1993, today it's virtually one to one. If the 2.5 ratio had been enforced, UC would save about $800M — which is, by coincidence, the very same amount of the current budget shortfall over last year.

It would seem irresponsible to furlough and lay off people often making a fraction of what senior manager make — the janitorial and service staff, the lecturers and other temporary faculty as well as many of the regular faculty  — the people who make the university run — when there is such a glut at the managerial feeding trough. It is also worth mentioning that while there might be some doubt as to whether UC uses student fees to pay for debt service on construction bonds, executive salaries unquestionably come out of core funds.

04 November 2009

Senate rejects fee increases for graduate students

In a letter signed by Chair Powell, The UC System-wide senate has advised Pres. Yudof to request that the Regents reconsider fee increases for graduate students, in view of the impact that such fees would have on graduate education and research at the University of California. Will the Regents be listening?

03 November 2009

What Future?

When the UC Commission on the Future (aka the "Gould" Commission) was announced last July, we predicted that it would turn out to be mostly ineffectual. But that assessment was based on a misunderstanding of the real function of the Gould Commission. As it's becoming increasingly clear, its real task is not to find ways to preserve and protect the unique combination of quality and access that characterizes the UC — in other words, to save the UC in these difficult econonomic times. Rather, the main function of the Gould Commission is to promote acceptance  — gently if possible, more robustly if necessary — of the new "privitized" or "hybridized" model of the University. In a word, propaganda.

01 November 2009

UC's own construction bubble

One has to wonder why UC administrators have such a fixation with big, expensive construction projects, be they stadiums or administrative buildings. Yes, we know that they add to the clout and prestige of the campuses and keep alumni happy by providing fancy settings for home football games, but in these difficult times a little restraint would have seemed in order.

Berkeley is in the process of building the new state-of-the-art California Memorial Stadium, including the Student-Athlete High Performance Center, at a projected cost of $312M and $136M respectively. This is close to half a billion dollars in construction costs. All such projects at UC are supposed to be self-supporting, but Berkeley's Intercollegiate Athletics has been losing around $10M year for the past few years, money which is supposedly being re-paid from core campus funds, so it's not clear how Berkeley's IA plan to repay that additional debt (unless they are relying on a hare-brained scheme to "sell" stadium seats at $220,000 each).

And this is just an example. How's UC planning to pay for all this? As pointed in Bob Meister's Open Letter and in the relative follow ups, since 2003 UC has been going on a veritable borrowing spree on the private financial markets, made possible by their pledging students' fees as collateral, a fact that raises a number of questions and helps explain UC's mad rush to raise student fees. It's precisely those fee increases that allow UC to maintain its high credit rating, which in turn allows it to obtain on the private market the funds it needs to feed its construction addiction.

But now Bob Meister has uncovered a discrepancy between the Regents' "ed fee" policy, which does not allow student fees to be used except for services for the students' benefit, and Peter Taylor's  (UC Executive Vice-President and CFO) presentation to UCPB listing student fees among (and in fact the prominent of ) UC's "sources of debt repayment." So let us reiterate the question Bob Meister posed to the Regents:
Are student fees, besides being pledged as collateral for construction bonds, actually being used to pay for debt service on those bonds?
It's a simple question, which should have a simple answer.

NY Times on the privatization of the public university

Today's NYT has a long piece on the privatization trend at public universities across the country, pointing out that some, like Michigan, have been at it for a long time, while other are just setting out on that path. The UC is catching up pretty fast it seems.

The new, privatized or semi-privatized university will be smaller: fewer students will be able to afford it, and faculty numbers will be reduced through attrition. Students will be, by and large, wealthier, smarter, and less diverse.

One problem pointed out in the article is that there is a finite, and in fact small, supply of such wealthier smarter students, and as more and more public universities compete to attract them there might not be enough to go around.