Enough! The balance of forces is shifting as the interests of capital are increasingly determining the direction of the university. Sure, the university has produced bureaucrats and middlemanagers for capital. Of course the entry requirements serve to stratify the workforce by keeping many people from education, insuring a sizable manual and service industry labor force, expanding and contracting as needed, but the university has another history that includes the production of a space of malfunctioning capital—if only temporarily so. It’s also served as the temporal and material location of possibility for mounting attacks on the dominance of bourgeois class interests. This doesn’t mean that the university is the space of vanguard resistance; it’s certainly served as a space of reenforcement of social hierarchy. That being said, its role as a place from which one may organize opposition to capital cannot be overlooked.
UC Berkeley has co-opted and capitalized on this history.
The administration of UC Berkeley speaks of its commitment to Free Speech. Last Spring, it held an anniversary celebration of the Free Speech movement and has even deigned to name a cafe on campus after the movement, but administrators have spoken much louder with their recent actions. It seems shocking that they’ve repeatedly quelled student protest on campus with violence and asymmetrical force, but we shouldn’t be surprised by this. They see the attempts by students, workers, and their allies to draw attention to the crisis of the universtity as a problem, insofar as it challenges the power structure. We’d like to ask why a University that declares that it is committed to principles of free speech feels the need to intimidate students. In the case of student activists, it uses the code of conduct to atomize them, making their cases appear as singular infractions. It tries to divide these activists from the service workers and lecturers that they are aligned with. The exercise of administrative power reaches further, struggling to maintain distinctions between tenured and non-tenured faculty, graduate students and undergraduates. By maintaining that the violations of the code of conduct are singular infractions, the administration seeks to take individuals defined by their relations and produce autonomous agents. In conduct hearings it denies them legal representation, by arguing that it is protecting their right to speak for themselves. This isn’t a judicial process, but an academic one, we are told. The speech of these newly formed agents is protected so that it may be used against them. The managerial class threatens the communities that these coalitions have constructed and deny them the future that they are pushing towards. They want to systematically silence these activists by using the student code of conduct to punish students who have spoken and acted in defense of the university. If the administration claims that they are protecting the university and fighting for its future and these coalitions claim the same thing, why is there discord? The problem is that there are two separate universities being spoken of.
There are a number of possible futures that are on the horizon. The university that they want is online and packageable, branded. They want to build campuses internationally, while slashing labor, supplies, and quality of life for workers, students, and student-workers. The university belongs to those who use it: those who make it, who produce and consume it as a use value.
Officially, the UAW represents Academic Student Employees at UC Berkeley. They should be invested in making sure that the labor that runs the campus has a viable future. They should be protecting the students’ struggle for the university. The UAW should be pushing for better work conditions, better pay, and more power to designate what livable working conditions are. They are OUR union.
The UAW is fighting for us, right? Wrong. After recent actions by the UAW leadership forcing their membership to accept a contract that contained too many concessions, it seems like no surprise that the union leadership is gearing up to force the Berkeley unit to accept a contract that not only lacks any real gains, but fails to even keep pace with the current increases in the cost of living. Without getting pulled too far into the logic of capital, we might concede that, yes, the economy is in poor shape and cuts are being made in all sectors; however, for two straight years in a row UC management has given themselves bonuses: nine million dollars last year—let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we, and just chalk that up to bad accounting—and eleven and a half million dollars this year. On top of everything, they’re turning a profit with public money.
But the actions of UCOP and the Regents are distinct from the UAW, aren’t they?
The UAW leadership is cozy with management, a shameful set of relations for a union whose history includes the use of occupations to force changes in the working conditions. The word is that if the international hears that we are mobilizing for a no vote on a contract, they’ll actually use resources—OUR UNION DUES—to convince US that this contract is good. This is not only absurd, but insulting and ultimately a cause for action. The power of organized labor resides in its rank and file. The ‘leadership’ thinks that strikes are a threat to gain concessions from the UC. Let’s show them that they’re not a threat, but a reminder. We make this university. We don’t like the direction that it’s going. We aren’t going to take it.
Strike! Organize! Resist! Fight Back!