Writings of Campus Occupy and Anti-privatization Movements
Installment Four: December 2011 - January 2012
In this post, published shortly after the UC Board of Regents took their meeting via teleconference at four UC campuses and voted for administrative salary raises amidst across-the-board cutbacks, Bady asks, “Who are these people who are entrusted with total power over the UC system?” Drawing from Peter Byrne’s “Investor’s Club,” Bady presents here a succint exposé of the 26 individuals who constitute the UC’s highest governing body. A kind of introductory primer on the Regents, Bady brings together details of their profile to give a biography of the Regency that reveals how it is a group of financiers who have no or less than qualifiable background in education and higher learning. It ends with a brief discussion of the Regency’s privatization schemes, arguing that UC’s funding shortfalls are more about investment losses than state cutbacks.
Haider presents a detailed account of the events and actions surrounding the establishment of the Santa Cruz Social Center. Haider takes us on the ground, recounting how organizers of Occupy Santa Cruz appropriated a vacated, Wells Fargo-owned building at 75 River Street and declared it as a space of organizing, community, and shelter. He recounts the confrontation with and resistance to the Santa Cruz riot police, and the subsequent decision of the organizers to voluntarily leave. Haider ends by reflecting on what this decision means and the achievement of the Santa Cruz Social Center event as a form of direct action and protest.
Interview with an activist and organizer at Occupy UC Davis. The interviewee responds candidly to questions regarding why he/she is involved, what the movement hopes to accomplish, their demands, and forms of protest. Reflections on leaderless organizing, new forms of sociality grounded on “communal type society,” and an argument about the Occupy Movement as a generalized and generalizing struggle and social movement are particularly insightful.
Delivered at UC Berkeley’s December 7 “Debt, Democracy, and the Public University” panel discussion, Terada reflects on the changing terrain of protest and action, and instructively identifies new areas of struggle and thus sites of possible interventions. In particular, Terada emphasizes the continued importance of the media; of finding ways to loosen and to usurp the administrator’s control over university functions and bureaucracy; and the need to galvanize cross-UC faculty participation. Throughout her piece, Terada is sensitive to unequal distributions of control and power and the unevenness of value – both economic and social – across different bodies in the universities. In doing so, Terada grasps the present moment in its dynamic complexity and renders concrete sites for urgent, critical action.
Newfield outlines recent attacks, violently repressive and ideological, on student and institutional democracy within the UC system despite the student and faculty movements’ attempts to articulate real budgetary alternatives to privatization. Instead of concrete proposals for state divestment and failing internal investment strategies, the UC administration have resigned themselves to higher tuition and inevitable structural deficits. He talks specifically about Charles Schwartz’ 12-step proposal (presented to the UC Commission on the Future in 2009) as well as Stanton Glantz and Eric Hayes (Council of UC Faculty Association) whose report shows that a full restoration of a public education is affordable, and might cost as little as $14 dollars in taxes per year. Why then is UCoP insisting on a budget strategy that locks in a steady decline? Why are the leaders, faculty and administration, not advocating for fiscal alternatives? The truth is, Newfield argues, Mark Yudof (the UC President) is committed to pursuing a “hybrid” university model, one which leverages public funds for the university’s private partners, while blaming to the cuts on a short-term recession and a failure of state legislature. Education is framed on a drain on UC revenues. “If you care about social justice on Planet Yudof, you must believe in higher tuition.”
Building off of a lecture in 2009 at Berkeley and a recent article in a special issue of Representations, Meister argues for the increasing financialization of the university (since 1978) and its marketing of student debt as collateral for the guaranteed “income inequality” of future graduates. The truth is, most middle-income Americans today pay a higher percentage of earnings for debt service than they pay in taxes, even more than most socialist welfare states, and have seen little income growth (outside of the top 1%) yet continue to believe in the social capital of “borrowing power.” Fortunately, the occupy movement has brought attention to the nature of the crisis as well as the vulnerability of this “liquidity” to collective actions which turn the risk back on the banks themselves. Meister uses this financial analysis as a way to talk about the UC’s interconnection with finance and security enterprises and how broad-based, spontaneous actions can reclaim democracy for the university and the country at large.
Taking the “situation in its totality” is both the epistemological and tactical problem of this brief talk which attempts to define how emergent coalitions of students, teachers, workers, artists, etc. from the Occupy and Open University movements restructure our notions of value outside of the logic of austerity and efficiency. Social value, she argues, “is located in and as social, and sociable action–as a process of living and working together, animating singular and collective possibilities.” It is out of this “poetics” of sociable action, targeted at the inter-relation between educational and social or political institutions, that new models and contexts for agency are realized, at the very moments when economic oppression is most wide-spread, varied, and acute. She closes with a close look at recently recovered Anselm Adams photographs from an early 1960s commission by the UC president Clark Kerr to reflect the UC as it might be. Today, those images still hold out some promise of a future yet to be defeated.
What would an elite university look like without quality graduate students and programs? This is the thought experiment Brown asks us to think through, particularly to realize the consequences of what seems to be a systemic privileging of market-oriented compensation for top faculty and administrators over funded PhD students. To begin with, it would mean less-satisfied faculty, as they base much of their professional well-being and scholarship on the earnestness and innovation of their students. It would also mean a drop in quality of the majority of instruction in the UC system, as their would be fewer grad students to match increases in enrollments to raise ever more “fee” revenue. The result of this systemic shift over the last 30 years has been a “cannibalization of features of the institution that will drive the best faculty into the arms of the privates regardless of what UC pays them.” The results of such “anti-egaliterianism” and absolute adherence to market metrics is a severe drop in the quality of research and education drops and the impending catastrophe of a once-great experiment in public education.
A re-examination of the legal category of “public trust” in light of anti-privatization protests at the University of California. Patnaik argues that, in mismanaging and enclosing the university, the UC Regents are breaching the trust they’ve received to sustain institutions of public education in California and to foster the “general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence” across the state. The essay tracks the relevant legal precedents concerning public trusts to build a case against recent austerity measures, and against the political appointees carrying such measures out.
The pepper-spraying of students at UC-Davis constitutes an evolution of the types of legally-sanctioned police violence historically directed at racial minorities. Arguing that the use of pepper spray against non-violent white student protesters sparked liberal indignation because “(historically white) university campuses” exist “as spaces of presumed innocence,” Rodriguez suggests that the police actions at Davis need to be stripped of their exemplary status in order to fully understand the systematic militarization of police forces in the past fifty years. The essay details the track record of LAPD Chief of police William Bratton, the lead investigator in the UC review of police actions at UC-Davis, to expose the ways that Bratton has been instrumental in perpetuating racialized police violence.
An attempt to offer a dilated view of autumn plaza occupations. Marcus reads recent occupations in relation to twentieth century political-economic transformations on the one hand, and as early acts in a potential drama of communization, on the other. While plaza occupations gesture toward a sequence of expropriations that would undo wage- and state-mediated forms of social life, at times the discourse and demands of OWS appear to call for an unlikely return to the post-war welfare state. Marcus reads this discontinuity of speech and action as a symptom of just how daunting the project of communization remains, even as he also outlines particular ways this project could be carried forward into the near future.
An account of recent actions at UC Davis, focusing particularly on the sequence of events that took place on November 18. Wildanger gives an extended and intimate description of these events, allowing the now-iconic moment of pepper spraying to appear at once more quotidian and more awful than it generally has come to seem. This essay also offers a defense of demandless occupations, insisting that encampments, reclamations of buildings, and mass strikes all enable the realization of ends that cannot be granted by existing authorities.
Recollections of recent protest actions at UC Berkeley, originally witnessed by the author obliquely or through digital mediation. Krim’s distance from the events appears to enable forms of attention to and absorption in their otherwise under-recognized aspects. She recounts, for instance, how a classmate’s phone call prompted her to pore over videos of students being struck by police, searching for a trace of her obscured friend. This discussion gives way to a brief consideration of how state repression reshapes the status of an event and the conventions governing its representation. The essay attempts to forestall definitive accounts of the fall events and their participants, in this way resisting the genre conventions of reportage or polemic. It speaks of and from the margins of the event, tracking its unseen and ambiguous intensities.
An overview of events this fall. Scheper-Hughes argues that recent protest actions have been carried forward by students who are facing a combination of rising debt levels and shrinking job prospects. She suggests that the conditions of work for university professors have also recently been degraded, and that the professoriat’s partial exposure to the effects of privatization has made this group more sympathetic to student uprisings. The essay ends with a call for waves of mass, non-violent civil disobedience at the universities to counter privatizing reforms.
A powerful account of a UC Davis student’s persistent attempts to speak with the Chancellor in the weeks following November 18, when she was struck with pepper spray. The lengths Katehi goes to in order to avoid having to speak with Jerika Heinze are stunning, and involve repeatedly lying about who works in her office. Jerika was only successful in securing a meeting — the parameters of which remained rather narrow — when her unanswered phone calls and personal appeals to Katehi become subjects of media attention.
One of a series of ‘end of semester’ posts published on Wood’s blog, Work Resumed on the Tower, this essay reflects on the condition of UAW 2865, the union of UC academic workers, after six-months of new leadership and a season of anti-privatization protest. While the post focuses on Irvine’s unit, it also makes a number of broader claims about the brief tenure of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, the reform caucus that won leadership elections in the spring of 2011. Wood argues that effective models of democratic organizing have yet to be fully crafted or put into effect within the union, and that persistent fractures around questions of coloniality and race continue to trouble broader anti-privatization organizing.
A discussion of gender dynamics within occupationist formations, illuminated by the author’s experience of bearing and beginning to care for a child in recent years. Lane-McKinley argues that certain exclusions, many of which have gendered dimensions, continue to structure much radical organizing in the bay area, and that activists’ attention to, even fetishization of, moments of heightened confrontation with police forces tends both to limit the participation of caretakers and young children, and also to obscure participation that does happen. The essay shows how forms of mutual aid and solidarity have begun to emerge between those, including mothers, “who must live in the shadow of the movement.”
An account of the forms of police violence witnessed and endured by the author on November 9, as well as during the days that followed when Peters-Slaughter was incarcerated, in isolation from other protesters. This essay describes the rounds of baton strikes endured by those surrounding tents during the evening of November 9, as well as the forms of sexualized and racialized violence those arrested faced, albeit to uneven degrees, in the hours following their arrests.