Page One

Faculty, Staff Protest UC’s Handling of Budget Crisis

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:56:00 AM

Faculty from every University of California campus, including UC Berkeley, are planning to walk out on Sept. 24 “in solidarity with students and staff to protest the defunding of public education and the UC administration’s mishandling of the budget crisis, which has done disproportionate harm to students and low-paid employees,” according to an ad hoc website, which has been set up to gather faculty endorsement signatures, numbering 750 at press time.  

“There is a real budget crisis at the state level. But there is also a crisis of priorities on the part of both the California legislature and UC administration,” says Joshua Clover, associate professor of English at UC Davis, on the website. “The State of California and the UC administration have responded to the budget crisis in ways that fundamentally compromise the mission of the University of California: to provide accessible public education to everyone. We’re walking out on September 24 to defend that mission.”  

At UC Berkeley, faculty members have been holding a series of meetings to plan for the walkout. One of them, Professor of English Lyn Hejinian, told the Planet that many of her colleagues view the current situation as “a political crisis being described as a budget crisis.” Many believe that UC President Joel Yudof and the UC Board of Regents are taking advantage of the economic situation to expand private control over what has historically been a public institution, yielding more and more control of the university’s agenda to corporate funders. 

In a Sept. 8 letter, Shelly Errington, spokesperson for the UC Santa Cruz Faculty Associa-tion and the AAUP Executive Board, characterized the focus of the actions this way: 

“Protests are being organized throughout the UC system by students, staff, and faculty. Are these protests really about furloughs and pay cuts?  

“Not for most faculty, although those are the precipitating causes and rallying points. 

“The underlying and pervasive fear and anger is that the university’s historic mission to provide accessible and affordable public higher education is under attack; and that the trust that the people of California, our students, and our younger colleagues have had in the UC system are being betrayed; and that public higher education in this state could be seriously and irreversibly damaged in a very short period of time.” 

Among the Berkeley faculty who have endorsed the protest are many of UC’s best-known academics, among them Ignacio Chapela, Laura Nader, T.J. Clark and George Lakoff. Lakoff, UC Distinguished Professor of Linguistics and author of several popular and scholarly books on the language of politics, said in a letter to UCB’s Townsend Center that “the privatization issue goes well beyond public education. It is about whether we have a democracy that works for the common good, or a plutocracy that privileges the wealthy and powerful. Privatizing the world’s greatest public university is a giant step away from democracy.”  

Hejinian said that in addition to the walkout,on Sept. 24 what she called a “solidarity alliance” of faculty members, staff, graduate students and undergraduates will sponsor a noon to 2 p.m. rally on Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley Campus. The campus will be surrounded by picket lines, which will part in order to let members of the public and walkout participants attend the rally.