Before we launch into a brief overview of recent developments, we thought we’d excerpt Gavin Newsom’s borderline incoherent remarks on the various Wheeler occupations. In an interview with the Daily Cal yestesterday, Newsom was asked to respond to the occupations at Berkeley. Here he is:
I completely understand it, and I think people should express themselves, but always in a peaceful and thoughtful manner, and I say that from a legitimate point of view that if you want your voice to actually be heard, you want to do it in a way that gets more plans, that builds more support. Sometimes people can get a little too aggressive, and it actually hurts the cause that they’re trying to promote. So doing things that are peaceful and organizing their voice around an issue, I think it’s a fundamental value that needs to be enhanced, not just protected, it should be championed. I love that energy and love that thing. And if it’s not happening on the UC Berkeley campus with all those fee increases, I mean, we’re in serious trouble, so I’m encouraged. But when people start locking themselves in and denying other people access that are innocent in terms of the debate and when people start to incite behavior that can actually start tipping and losing support, that’s when I just want to pause and say, “Hey guys, you don’t need to go this far.”
We urge you to read the rest of the brief interview, in which Newsom can’t conceive of public education funding beyond the framework of “investment” in “human capital.” Typical. Meanwhile, our friends over at UC Rebel Radio recently posted an important overview of UC Irvine PD’s collaboration with an Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force called the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center (OCIAC). We only have knowledge of this collaboration because a graduate student at UCI filed a FOIA request an obtained the relevant documentation:
Information suggesting that UCIPD has been working with the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, a local Joint Terrorism Task Force affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI’s National Security Network, to monitor student protests and student activists has just become available after John Bruning, a local activist on the UC Irvine campus, retrieved the information requested as per a public records request made earlier in January. He comments, “I don’t know what the relationship is, other than that a member of OCIAC, also a Detective with the Huntington Beach PD SWAT Team, forwarded a YouTube video of the protest I was arrested at in November 2009 to Sgt. Arnold with my name in the subject line.” Due to “public safety exceptions”, 24 pages of the report were redacted.
Along similar lines, one of our comrades, a professor at UC Davis, wrote a scathing critique of UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi for the Aggie, and in particular of her apologia for the infiltration of student activist circles by cops and administrators. Foremost among his important claims — and there are many — is the fact that the myth of the violent protester is just that: a myth. Not once has a student protester on a UC campus inflicted harm upon another’s body; “all incidents of bodily injury have been meted out by the police.” Read the quote in full:
The administration has repeatedly placed the police in this path, has effectively stood there with them. Yet only protesters have been thereby placed in harm’s way. Across the UC system, as students and workers have organized against the unequal devolution of austerity, all incidents of bodily injury have been meted out by the police, none by protesters. The feverish fantasy of dangerous protesters is just that. Contrarily, the police have exercised their monopoly on violence, threatened and real, at the administration’s behest. Last fall a UCI police officer leveled a loaded pistol at an unarmed protester. Naturally he claimed to have been threatened. The video shows otherwise.
On the labor front, our comrades in AWDU have discovered the impending backdoor defunding of teaching assistant positions in blatant violation of the university’s contract with UAW 2865. In short, budgeting for academic student employee positions will devolve from the campus onto departments, incentivizing cuts and speedup. As AWDU observes:
We can expect that, as health insurance costs and other fees for graduate students continue to rise, the pool of money disbursed to each department will not keep up with these rising costs. Each department will then have to decide for itself how to reduce the number of staff and GSI positions in order to meet their budgetary shortfalls. For graduate student instructors, this will likely translate into fewer available GSI-ships and an intensification of workloads, as 25% appointments are converted into 50% appointments and as 50% appointments are redefined to involve more sections and/or more students. Graduate students unable to secure GSI-ships in this more competitive environment could be forced to take out more debt, and are more likely to find themselves pushed prematurely into a devastated job market.
In response, Local 2865 is pursuing an unfair labor practice charge against the UC. We will post updates as we learn of new developments. We can’t resist posting one more excerpt from the AWDU post:
[W]e must comment on the Budget Office’s cynical use of the rhetoric of decentralization and flexibility in their draft proposal. Just as campus Administrators have presented Operational Excellence – a process that, if implemented, will result in hundreds of layoffs – as an effort at increasing staff autonomy and self-management, the Budget Office has suggested that limiting the overall compensation of graduate students and staff members will give departments greater budgetary freedom. But what sort of freedom are they offering? The freedom of staff members and graduate students to work longer hours for the same pay? The freedom to spend time and resources petitioning private institutions for funding? The freedom of faculty chairs to choose which staff members to lay off, or where to cut corners? The freedom of debt and wageless life?
Finally, we are just over a week away from the negotiations between allies of the protesters who occupied the Wheeler ledge on 3/3 and a number of administrators. A grad student, two undergrads, and a representative of UC-AFT will be meeting with UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau, Graduate Dean Andrew Szeri, and representatives of the campus privatization plan “Operational Excellence.” (We should mention that these latter extra-administrative participants were not supposed to be involved in these negotiations; this was a unilateral decision of the administration.) In any case, the meeting will take place on April 8 from 3:30 to 5:30. We will post a reminder as the date nears, but those involved are calling for a mass gathering outside of the negotiations, most likely in California Hall. Assuming the administration stonewalls — and based on precedent we have no reason to believe that they won’t — we can expect the direct actions to continue…