Monday, December 9, 2013

UCD Pepper Spray: State of the UC Two Years Later

This is a (version of a) speech I gave at the 2nd anniversary of the UC Davis Pepper Spray incident on November 18th 2013 on the UC Davis quad.

I'd like to give a brief background on what happened on Nov 18th and why and then talk about what has changed (or not changed as it happens to be) since then.

In fall of 2011 the UC Regents were considering a tuition hike of over 80%. The occupy movement reinvigorated campus activism and students were organizing to oppose tuition hikes and other forms of inequality. At UCB on Nov 9 UC police beat students and workers with batons for standing peacefully arms linked around tents on their campus lawn. What happened at Davis was a response to both the proposed tuition hike and the police brutality at Berkeley. We occupied Mrak Hall overnight and a couple days later put tents on our own quad to start Occupy UCD. In an effort to remove then tents and discipline protesters the UC Davis police pepper sprayed peacefully sitting students.

Videos and images went around the world and there was a huge political fall out for the UC because of this disgusting police brutality.

Since then the administration has payed a lot of lip service to making our campus a safer space for free speech for students and workers. However things have only gotten worse. This is the direction our university is going:

  • Tuition continues to rise, keeping our university inaccessible to many. The rise in UCSHIP (Student Health Insurance Plan) fees are do to gross mismanagement by UCOP (Office of the President) to the tune of about $57 million in debt over just 3 years. It was their mismanagement but they wanted students to pay for it!
  • From 1993 to 2007 here at UC Davis, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students jumped 318%, while the university actually reduced its full-time instructional, research, and service staff by 4.5%. 
  • Between 2007-2012, the number of UC employees making more than a quarter million dollars a year grew from 1,538 to 3,094.
  • Class size is on the rise. TAs are teaching and grading for more students for less pay. Quality education is declining. Undergrads are paying more for a worse education.
  • Campus workers (AFSCME 3299, UPTE, and CNA) are facing pension and wage cuts. UC has forced these cuts on workers without consent, making a mockery of their right to collective bargaining. most of these workers make very little money and are eligible for some kind of public assistance.
  • We have a brand new "welcome center" on campus. This interactive touch screen wall cost $311,000 and the cost of installation and related work was $125,000. But I have to ask, who are they welcoming? I have read numerous reports in the media lately about who the UC is welcoming and who it isn't. 
    • For instance nearly 60% of African-American students accepted at UCB are choosing to attend other colleges - often because they don't feel welcome.
    • And it was just announced that UCLA has more NCAA championships than black male freshmen
  • The University has a $78 Billion endowment and other funds that it invests. Does it choose to invest in helping students and workers here and off campus? No. the only affordable family housing on campus, Orchard and Solano Park, are facing demolition in the next couple of years, to be replaced by privatized housing with much higher rent.
  • But it does invest in:
    • Private prisons: The UC is financially supporting these corporations by investing in companies that invest in them, such as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Lazard, Blackrock Inc, and Morgan Stanley, all of which own over 2/3 of the Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group.
    • The occupation of Palestine: The UC is financially supporting the occupation and colonization of Palestine by investing in companies that profit off of the occupation, such as Caterpiller, Cement Roadstone Holdings, and Hewlett Packard. These companies have assisted the Israeli military in the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes and the creation of an illegal separation wall.
    • Fossil Fuels: The UC is invested in coal, oil, and natural gas and is effectively subsidizing the destruction of the environment.
  • The new "free speech rules" officially codify our lack of free speech and assembly. the Davis Faculty Association has raised numerous concerns with its focus on restrictions of supposedly free speech then on its commitment to maintaining this right.
  • The Regents chose top cop Janet Napolitano, who set records for overseeing most deportations in US history, as the new UC president. This also signifies the continuing militarization of the campus.

These aren't all just mistakes or bad choices. The university is being run this way because the people running it benefit from selling off pieces of our university to their own companies or their buddies companies. They aren't interested in free public education because they won't get rich off of that.

The University is run by a board of Regents, who are members of the business class - 
Monica Lozano sits on the board of Bank of America, so she benefits from increased student loans when she hikes our tuition.
Richard Blum owns a private education company, and construction companies that are building student housing in Irvine.

We see their vision, and it isn't working for us. Its time to fight for our vision of an accessible and welcoming university that takes care of the community instead of investing in oppression and destruction.

But the only way to do that is to exercise control over both the budget and the daily running of the university. A democratic UC is our only hope for turning this into a place of justice.

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