[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the introductory section of an eight-part series sponsored by the Berkeley Daily Planet in cooperation with several other publications, organized by the spot.us non-profit organization. The whole series can be found here on the spot.us site.]
“As universities become glorified vocational schools for corporations they adopt values and operating techniques of the corporations they serve.” – Chris Hedges (Empire of Illusion, 2009)
Part One: Overview of the investigation
Experts identify multiple conflicts of interest among an elite group that oversees investments for the University of California.
Last fall, amid an unprecedented state budget crisis, the University of California Board of Regents took extraordinary measures to cut costs and generate revenue. Lecturers were furloughed, classes eliminated. The board reduced admissions for in-state students, while increasing the admission of out-of-state students, who pay higher fees than state residents. And to the consternation of tens of thousands of students, undergraduate tuition was raised by 32 percent, with more hikes to come.
It now costs about $30,000 per year to attend the University of California (UC) as an undergraduate, including tuition and expenses. Even with student aid, it’s a sum beyond the means of many students and their families.
While education took a beating, the regents authorized $3 million in bonuses to a handful of top administrators, and reduced the salaries of janitorial staff. The regents approved new construction projects, including a sports stadium. They assured Wall Street bond underwriters that periodic tuition increases would help pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction loans.
Objecting to the tuition increases, UC students, employees, and professors staged demonstrations at regents’ meetings and on campuses across the state. Some protestors accused the regents of “privatizing” the university to benefit industrial corporations and Wall Street investors. While it is true that the university’s ties to corporate and banking interests are many and legion, there is a special kind of privatization taking place behind closed doors.
Our eight-month investigation reveals that some members of the regents’ investment committee, who are also Wall Street heavy-hitters, have modified long-standing investment policies in a way that benefited their own financial holdings. The fallout: multiple conflicts of interest. -more-
Last Thursday, the Berkeley High School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) met at the school’s Florence Schwimley Theater. This assembly at the beginning of each school year gathers the BHS parents/guardian community, and on this evening, the grassroots energy and enthusiasm were abundant. -more-
Two Berkeleyans Win Big in Bay Area Contests: Singer Angela Arnold and Environmentalist Mark Liolios
Soprano Angela Arnold of Berkeley has won the competition to sing the National Anthem at Opera at the Ballpark, San Francisco Opera’s free simulcast of Verdi’s Aida, Friday, September 24, 8pm at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Angela is the Circulation and Stacks Supervisor at UC Berkeley's Hargrove Music Library and a professional soloist – you can hear her with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Chorale! You can see her winning video here. . -more-
Community members have real health concerns re pollution from Pacific Steel Castings company located at 2nd and Gilman. Here are a few of the problem chemicals: -more-
Providing further proof that trash in San Francisco Bay is a serious pollution threat to people and wildlife, Save The Bay's 5th Annual Bay Trash Hot Spots includes 225 creeks and shoreline areas where cities identified toxic levels of plastic bags, cigarette butts, fast food containers, old tires and more. Trash is a dangerous pollutant that harms wildlife, spoils water quality, threatens public health, and smothers sensitive wetland habitat. Interactive maps showcasing the 225 hot spots can be found at: www.saveSFbay.org/baytrash . -more-
Berkeley’s Pacifica Radio Station KPFA’s (94.1 FM) jazz programmer or jazz activist, as he sometimes referred to himself, “The Doug of Edwards” died in the mid morning of September 19, 2010 at the age of 80. Earland Edwards was his legal name, but he was called Doug by most. For the past thirty years, beginning in May of 1980, never once arriving late for his show, Doug was heard live from 11 PM – 1 AM on Saturday nights hosting his jazz program, Ear Tyme. Sometimes called “Sir Doug of Edwards” by his close KPFA friends Afikahn Jahmal Davys and Ken Pruitt, from the time he joined KPFA until failing health led to his hospitalization a few weeks ago, Doug punctuated virtually every show with his signature theme music, Milt Jackson’s Blues for Roberta, signaling the identity of the show and transitions . -more-
When the New York Times gives a West Coast person, other than a politician, an obituary that is almost news in itself. So I was happy to see that the death last week of William Coblentz, the San Francisco attorney, made it to the Times, not least because of his long service as a regent of the University of California. As a land use attorney Coblentz, or at least his firm, was not always on the side of the angels, in San Francisco or here in Berkeley, but on the Board of Regents he was a refreshing voice of progressivism. -more-