Friday, May 12, 2017

The theater of caring about UC students

The latest UC scandal is that a California state auditor found that the UC office of the President was hiding $175 million dollars. It wasn't reported to the UC Regents, nor to the state. Furthermore UC President Janet Napolitano interfered with the auditor's survey of the campuses, removing anything bad said about her office. Then when called to the capitol to testify to the legislature about the issue, Napolitano fell asleep, and then lied in her testimony.

In response students and workers started a petition with demands to rollback tuition, pay a living wage to all campus workers, fire Naplitano, and reform the UC system to create checks on the now totally unaccountable administrative power

The Deflection Game: Used to score points

Anyone following the history of the UC and the student movement will not be surprised to see both the legislature and the administration pretending to care about students, while continuing to use us to score political points, even if it means harming us.

The California legislature has had no problem significantly defunding higher education over the years, while the UC administration restructures the UC to look more like a corporation - with administrative bloat and skyrocketing executive compensation. (For more info see the middle of my post about the #FireKatehi movement).

When student movements sprung up to resist tuition hikes this let the two play off of each other, the administration saying "It's not us that's the enemy, its the legislature! They have defunded us! We *have* to raise tuition because they took our money!" to deflect from their own actions, and when students protest the legislature they got to deflect by saying "We can't just give a blank check to the UC, not with all this irresponsible spending! Look at those luxurious executive salaries!"

Well the cycle continues. California Governor Jerry Brown is now threatening to withhold $50 million of UC funding unless the Regents rollback the tuition hike. While we obviously want a tuition rollback, this is not the way to get it. UC admin has shown that when budget cuts happen it is the students and workers that pay (usually the most marginalized), not them.

This reminds me of a less deadly parallel to when the US imposes sanctions on a country. It is not the elites of that country that pay, it is the people, and usually the poorest of them. Saddam Hussein's lifestyle didn't suffer from the US imposed sanctions on Iraq, but an estimated over one hundred thousand to half a million children died because of them. Furthermore, the US administration showed their callousness about the deaths when Madeleine Albright was interviewed on 60 minutes:

Lesley Stahl: "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" 

Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it."

UC Announces Plans to "Investigate" Itself

In response to the public outcry about this scandal, the UC Regents have announced they will investigate Napolitano's interference with the audit."Lozano said she and four other regents will lead a fact-finding review of the allegations, assisted by the outside law firm or consultant hired. The full board will then decide what, if any, action should be taken."

The most obvious problem with this is that Regent Lozano, who will be leading this "fact-finding mission" was there alongside President Naplitano testifying by her side and supporting Napolitano. The two are a team, but we are supposed to expect this investigation to be unbiased?

Furthermore, Regent Lozano has an even bigger conflict of interest than former UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi! Katehi was forced to resign after it was revealed she took a paid position on the board of Wiley and Sons publishing, and students, referring to themselves as #FireKatehi, engaged in a 36 day long sit-in/live-in outside her office on the 5th floor of Mrak Hall. They also raised other grievances and brought up more structural issues about the very nature of the university and the growing power of the administration.

Lozano sits on the board of Bank of America. So one day she may vote to raise tuition, and the next students might take out a loan with BofA to cover tuition o living expenses. The very fact that Lozano was ever allowed to be on the board of Regents, or that after Katehi was fired she is still there, speaks to the absolute inability of the UC administration to hold itself accountable.

This investigation, like Governor Brown's threat to withhold money, is just political theater. Neither party cares about public education or students.

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