UC Fee Hike and Berkeley Strike

Caught between state funding cuts and rowdy student protests, a key committee of the University of California’s Board of Regents on Wednesday reluctantly approved a two-step student fee increase that would raise undergraduate education costs more than $2,500, or 32%, by next fall.

If you are interested in an on the ground perspective of the strike and building occupation that occured at UC Berkeley, as well as being a graduate student at a public university at this particular moment of public sphere dismantling, I’d recommend this series of posts over at zunguzungu: (in chronological order) On Being a Graduate Student (sort of) On Strike, Wheeler Hall Occupation, Wheeler Hall Occupied by the Police, Security Doors.

Two additional things. One, from Kevin Drum, shows the relationship between prison spending and student tuition:

Also the chart here at Edge Of The American West, about the changing priorities of the university by employment categories.

Two. Wendy Brown’s “Why Privatization Is About More Than Who Pays”, from a UC Berkeley event “Save the University” (all of which is on youtube, and features Robert Reich, Ananya Roy and others). For work that is theory driven, the speech is incredibly accessible, and walks through the larger implications of the move to make public higher education more market driven in 10 easy steps.

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8 Responses to UC Fee Hike and Berkeley Strike

  1. zunguzungu says:

    Hey Mike! Thanks for the post. You’ll be interested to know that Ananya Roy and Wendy Brown were both out there on the front lines, and Roy was one of the members of faculty that managed to help negotiate a peaceful solution to the fiasco the administration created (by smashing the front door down nine hours before beginning negotiations). I doubt they caught any batons, though they were certainly toe to toe with the police all day; one of the things I heard from faculty was that the police were scrupulous about only beating and pushing students, and that once faculty identified themselves, they were not subjected to physical violence.

    • Not the Mike You're Looking For says:

      I’m very sympathetic to the plight of the students but I don’t understand why they are going after the administration? It’s not like they can make money appear out of thin air. It’s the state legislature that cut the funding. I mean, I’m sure that they’re protesting at the legislature, too, but what is to be gained from occupying buildings? My sense is that protests actually cost the universities money, which means even less left for education.

  2. Not the Mike You're Looking For says:

    That graph makes no sense to me. The price of college tuition has gone up at a rate exceeding inflation everywhere. Just because the two correlate doesn’t mean they are related.

    A better metric would be state spending on prisons versus education.

  3. zunguzungu says:

    Hey, other Mike. A lot of the stats and charts that get used are so polemical as to be a little too close to lying with statistics for my comfort. But the reason students are upset is that the amount of state money that’s actually being cut, while substantial, is nowhere close to large enough to the kind of evisceration that is being felt at every level. We are in a crisis at the moment, sure, but, not only has the California system been in crisis for some time (without necessitating these kinds of draconian cuts and fee raises), the things the university administration is doing are more like a fundamental restructuring of the university. And while fundamental changes might have to be made, they are being made by political appointees, not by anyone who has any stake in the university (calling them “adminstration” makes it seem like they’re from the university; the regents are actually all appointed by Sacramento). And while the UC system has a long tradition of shared governance between faculty, staff, and administration, the regents and president (appointed by the gubernater) have assumed dictatorial “emergency” powers and basically suspended every form of university governance that does not flow from them. They announced their plan for furloughs, for example, three days before they voted on it, and something similar with the fee hikes. This kind of authoritarianism is what led the UCSB faculty senate to officially call the UC president a “cynical opportunist”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/21247861/Press-Release-Saving-UCSB-Senate-Resolution

    In a more short term sense, the students who protested on Friday were protesting because the cops started wailing on them with billy clubs and tear gas when all they were initially doing was watching the show; a small group of protesters occupied the building but when the administrators called the cops (and the cops started treating the spectators like criminals) they escalated the whole thing wildly beyond where it originally had been (and where it would have gone, had they behaved with a modicum of restraint). But it’s been of a piece with an administration that has behaved all along like a dictatorial regime. They don’t talk; they issue fiats from on high.

    • Not the Mike You're Looking For says:

      Thank you for clarifying. I suppose it’s a sad commentary on the news media that your story is not the version we’re getting on the East Coast.

      What struck me as extraordinary about the NYT interview is the “shine is off” comment. Are you kidding me? Middle-class people are going nuts trying to get their kids ahead through college education. Why is it so hard for universities to get more funding? This is something that has puzzled me for a long time.

      So far, I’ve only been able to come up with two answers. One is my sense that parents see universities as credentialing systems, not sources of education, and they view college rankings as fixed relative to each other. In other words, they believe the only salient fact about the UCs is that they are “name” universities, and they can’t fathom that they might fall in prestige just because of funding issues.

      The other is that the population is aging, and older people have decided that lower taxes are more likely to benefit them than better-educated taxpayers.

      Either way it’s dispiriting.

  4. zunguzungu says:

    “lying with statistics” was far too strong a term. I’ve just been frustrated how so much of the conversation about what has been going on has been so stripped of its context; the reality is bad enough, and we lose the central issues (which, for me, are the administration’s dictatorial restructuring of the university) sometimes. But one of the ways this whole thing has been misframed is as if the admnistration is somehow different than Sacramento. It’s not; you have Sacramento cutting the budget and then you have the Sacramento-appointed regents using the cuts as an excuse to privatize the university, along the model of the University of Michigan (fewer in-state middle class students, more out of state students who can afford higher tuition, among many other things). But in the process they’re breaking with every precedent and every principle of public education (like California’s “master plan”) that has been used to guide the university’s development up until now.

  5. gabe says:

    The situation is dire. What also troubles me is that there’s no real vision of anything other than steady privitization. I don’t see any political will for a plan that would hold tuition steady, let alone actually live up to the California master plan.

    It seems like there are several models of privitization (in terms of high tuition costs, not necessarily the university’s structure)

    1) Raise tuition a lot (UC)

    2) Let in more out of state students that get almost no subsidies from the state (UMichigan)

    3) Let in tons of international students that get no subsidies from the state (UIUC) http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/2008/03/31/news/doc47f153150a547936637751.txt

    zunguzungu, you seem to say the the UCs are privitizing the University through 2, but I’ve never seen this. Is this part of the current plan?

  6. zunguzungu says:

    Not the Mike,
    Well, my interpretation is that calling Mark Yudof a “cynical opportunist” was being awfully kind to the man. He’s a hatchet man, hired to eviscerate the UC as a public university and he’s doing his job with all the sensitivity and tact that the metaphor implies. That’s why he says stupid shit like that all the time.

    Here, for example, on increasing numbers of out of state and international students:

    And Yudof’s thing from the beginning has been a “hybrid” university, which is a way of privatizing the university (and neoliberalizing its functioning) while still accepting state money:
    He had to sort of disavow this article when he came to the UC, since we were all pretty leery the he was going to do what he said in that article, but he more or less has since then.

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