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UC Week of Action Begins

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday October 22, 2009 - 09:15:00 AM

A week of major events focusing on the crisis in California education kicks off Saturday with a daylong event, the Statewide Mobilizing Conference for Higher Education. 

The gathering is the first major public action to emerge from the massive Sept. 24 protest in Sproul Plaza, the largest campus demonstration since the Vietnam War. At a general assembly meeting that night, students voted to hold a conference on the crisis in California public education a month later. 

The session will focus on refining the campaign to gather broad public support for financial funding reforms to support all public education in the state. 

Saturday’s gathering kicks off a series of events dubbed Another Week of Higher Education, headlined by an appearance Tuesday night by best-selling author Naomi Klein, who will speak on “The Shock Doctrine: California Style.” 

Klein’s address begins at 8 p.m. in the MLK Student Union’s Pauley Ballroom. Tickets, which are free, may be picked up at the door starting at 6:30 p.m. 

Sponsors of three legislative reforms designed to restore funding to California’s public institutions will speak during a Monday teach-in from 4 to 7 p.m., also in the ballroom. 

State Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, is the author of Assembly Bill 656, which proposes to fund higher education with $1 billion raised from a 9.9 percent tax on oil extracted from California’s land and water, a method already being used in Texas. 

San Francisco County Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting is sponsoring a petition drive to reform Proposition 13, which has been called the “third rail of California politics.” The 1978 ballot initiative capped property taxes in the state and limits annual assessment increases to 2 percent. Ting proposes to remove the proposition’s protections of commercial property, while retaining the measure’s benefits for homeowners.  

UC Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff is sponsoring a referendum proposal that would modify another Proposition 13 provision, which mandates a two-thirds legislative vote on any new state taxes and a two-thirds voter mandate for any new local property taxes.  

Lakoff’s one-sentence proposal reads simply, “All legislative actions based on revenue and budget shall be determined by majority rule.” 

Other speakers include local Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, UC San Francisco medical professor and budget reform activist Stanton Glantz, UC Riverside ethnic studies professor Janya Brown, UC Berkeley city and regional planning professor Ananya Roy and Associated Students of the University of California senator Ariel Boone. 

Wednesday night brings Robert Cohen and a panel who will discuss his just-published book Freedom’s Orator, a biography of Mario Savio, the seminal figure in Berkeley’s’ Free Speech Movement of the early 1960s. (See page 13 in this edition of the Planet for a review of the book.) 

Among those on the panel for the event, which begins at 5 p.m. in the Moffitt Library’s Free Speech Movement Cafe is Lynn Hollander, the late activist’s spouse and chair of the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture & Young Activist Award. 

Thursday’s three-hour program at the Bancroft Hotel, 2680 Bancroft Way, features USC professor Ruthie Gilmore, Distinguished Lecturer for UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender, speaking on “Life in Hell, or How Capitalism Saving Capitalism Should Fire Our Imagination.” 

The program is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m., and the event is open to the public. 

Capping the week’s activities is the Nov. 2 “Day of the Dead” protest from noon to 1 p.m., to be held at Sproul Plaza and other campus venues. 

The event takes its name from the traditional Latino holiday by way of UC President Mark Yudof’s Sept. 27 New York Times profile, where he declared that “being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening.” 

UC Berkeley union members will be joining the protest, which is cosponsored by the Center for Latino Policy Research, the Comparative Ethnic Studies Program and the Solidarity Alliance, the group that organized the Sept. 24 protest. 

The wave of activism was sparked by the proposal by the UC Board of Regents to implement fee hikes that, in conjunction with other increases passed earlier in the year, would raise the fee total to more than $10,000 a year—or more than 44 percent over the amount students were paying two years ago. 

For updates, see the Solidarity Alliance website, http://www.uc