Walkout: An Open Letter to UC Berkeley Students
Posted on September 28, 2010
Over the last school year, we’ve seen tuition increase by 32% and massive cuts to every sector of our campus from academic departments, to maintenance staffing. This is old news.
Just this semester, the Chancellor announced his intention to eliminate 200 campus faculty and staff positions, Chicano Studies and Asian American Studies as majors may disappear, and there’s been a 12% drop in Latino admissions.
Meanwhile, investigative reporter Peter Byrne has uncovered some disturbing facts about the UC Regent’s use of the UC’s investment fund. In 2003, three Regents restructured the UC’s investment fund, investing in risky financial instruments, making students and workers poorer, and making themselves richer in the process. To put it shortly:
many of these deals, while potentially lucrative, have lost significant amounts of money for UC’s retirement and endowment funds, which were worth $63 billion at the end of 2009. (These losses ultimately reduce the amount spent on education, since the endowment supports teaching activities.) And the non-transparency of these private deals enabled multiple conflicts of interest to arise without challenge.
You can rest assured knowing that every time your fees go up UC Regent Richard Blum, with his investments in for-profit private colleges, gets a little bit richer. As if to add insult to injury, at the last Regents meeting the Regents voted unanimously to cut pensions for the UC’s lowest paid workers and to increase the pensions of the UC’s 250 highest paid employees. This news comes only a few short weeks after the New York Times and other major news agencies reported that, before moving to his new mansion in Lafayette, UC President Mark Yudof racked up $70,000 worth of damages to his previous UC mansion.
As students, we are asked to take out more loans that force us into jobs we don’t like to pay off debt we can’t afford for the privilege of getting a lower quality education. We are then told to kindly shut up and move along when we voice our reasonable conclusions: that the crisis of our university is not just a lack of state funding, that UC administrators give the public little reason to believe that new funds will be used in a reasonable or just manner, and that the governance structure of the UC is fundamentally flawed.
Over the last year, tens of thousands of UC students, workers, and faculty stood up, walked out, sat-in, occupied, and disrupted business as usual, forcing the governor to restore funding to public higher education. His chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, stated “those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point. Our university system is going to get the support it deserves.”
And while we await the materialization of those hollow words (the California budget is over 80 days late, the restorations are not enough, and they will come from cuts to essential social services), we again look to ourselves, the students of the U.C., as well as the workers, faculty, and community members with whom we’ve built solidarity over the last year, for the strength to change the status quo.
Administrators and legislators need to know that the current order of business cannot stand. The current order of business says that we should stay quiet and obedient, that politics is complicated, that if we vote (and just vote) everything will be better, and that it is natural to spend trillions on war, prisons, and tax breaks and little on education, jobs, and social services. The current order of business stands against direct action and movement-oriented organizing, but only a movement can offer the kind of change we seek.
This is why I urge all UC Berkeley students, faculty, workers, and community members to participate in the October 7th Walkout and Day of Action. On October 7th, we have an opportunity to make ourselves collectively heard, to organize a mass movement, and fight back against austerity cuts and the privatization of everything. But we need your help promoting October 7th. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Repost or “share” this letter and tag friends friends.
- Join the Facebook Group and invite all your friends: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=119043614817780&ref=ts
- Post directly on your friends’ walls “I’m going to walkout on October 7th to save our educations, are you?”
- Repost the October 7th video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljp_gk3VRkQ
- Sign up to do daytime or nighttime outreach: http://www.wejoinin.com/sheets/gzjxmhttp://www.wejoinin.com/sheets/oefys
- Email all of your professors and ask them to cancel class on October 7th, prepare a lesson on the education crisis or ways to resist, or at least to accommodate students who would like to participate
- Change your facebook profile picture to the walkout flyer: http://mobilizeberkeley.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/WALKOUT-FB1.jpg
- (Starting on Sunday) Change your middle name on facebook to “Walkout Thurs.”
- Wear a red armband (available on the 2nd floor of Eshleman Hall) starting now to show your solidarity with the movement.
- Go to the Faculty, Student, Worker Teach-In on Oct. 6th at 5:30pm in Eshleman Hall
- Text “follow ucbprotest” from your phone to 40404 to get mobile updates on protests and important meetings in the movement
We must continue the struggle to restore the public good and we must always remember that this struggle is not about us. We are fighting this battle for our university, for the people who work in it, for the families of California with foreclosed on futures, and the children of California whose dreams we are told are too expensive to fund.
Ricardo Gomez, Undergraduate Student
Day of Action Sponsored by: the American Association of University Professors, the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), b.a.n.g lab (UCSD), Berkeley Students Against the Cuts, bridges Multicultural coalition, Cal Berkeley Democrats, California State University Employee Union-Teamsters, the Raza Caucus, the Solidarity Alliance, the Student Worker Action Team, the UC Student Association (UCSA), University Council-AFT, University Professional and Technical Employees-CWA local 9119, Veterans for Peace
Peter Byrne’s Article on UC Investments: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-09-21/article/36292?headline=The-Investors-Club-How-the-University-of-California-Regents-Spin-Public-Money-into-Private-Profit