UCLA Graduate Students Association Forum condemns administrative unilateralism

The Graduate Students Association at UCLA — the student government body representing graduate students — has released the following unanimously approved statement condemning their administration’s consistent exclusion of students from the creation of campus policy.  It was written and proposed by GSA Director of Communications Jason Ball and GSA Vice President of Internal Affairs Luis Limon, condemning the administration’s unilateralism, and in particular the undemocratic nature of campus budgeting.  Things came to a head at UCLA at the GSA Forum’s April 13 meeting, in which a top-tier manager admitted to those present that the administration is moving forward unilaterally in its project of privatizing the University of California.  The following resolution was introduced following this admission and was approved by all present (save for a single abstention) late last week.  We’re thrilled to see UCLA’s GSA taking the lead on this and call on all other UC student governments to follow their example.  After the resolution, we are reproducing endorsements from UCLA Fights Back and UCLA AWDU.  UC-AFT President Bob Samuels also issued an endorsement.  Hands off the public university!

Condemnation of Administration’s Unilateralism and Demand for Democratic Budgeting

Resolution unanimously approved, with one abstention, 25th of May, 2011

WHEREAS, Representatives of USAC and GSA met with high-level administrators of UCLA/UC to discuss the nature of the budget cuts facing UCLA, and were told by Administration in broad terms which programs would be cut and how UCLA would be restructured.

WHEREAS, Administration failed to provide supporting documentation demonstrating what challenges face UCLA as concrete justification for their proposals, though previously and clearly requested. Instead, emphasizing the severity of the crisis, Administrators took a “shock and awe” approach seemingly designed to achieve compliance without substantive discussion or negotiation.

WHEREAS, Students have for years settled for minimal inclusion of “voice” in campus decisions, engaging in politics that presumes subordination and seeks the sympathy of benevolent “listeners.”

WHEREAS, Administration has failed to take seriously even the meekest politics of voice by shutting students out of decision-making spaces, informing them of plans after they have already taken substantial shape, and refusing to concede even the most minimal and superficial forms of inclusion during this crisis.

WHEREAS, Administration denies the larger campus access to crucial management data that is used to formulate proposals, but also seems to blame the larger campus for not having coherent counter-proposals.

WHEREAS, We do not deny that there is a budget deficit, but we also acknowledge both that politics and economics are not separable as well as the vital link between the economies of California and the US. We hold progress will only be made when three broad contours of the political economic context are understood.

1. Those shouldering the burdens of this “crisis” are neither those who caused it nor those who can easily withstand it, but merely those without the political power to shape economic decisions, including students, workers, teachers, the poor and people of color, the elderly and disabled.
2. Wealth is being redistributed to an ever-expanding war effort as well as to the richest segments of our population, making possible an immediate legislative solution to our crisis through changes to this state of affairs – changes that will not come so long as we treat the UC as separate from the larger economy. It is impossible to cut in a neutral manner; all cuts reflect values and priorities.
3. Proposals for closing the UC budget gap come in the form of plans for privatization and assaults on Liberal Arts education, which have been publicly favored by many in the administration for years, forcing students to face the possibility that for some this crisis is more an opportunity, a possibility seeming ever more plausible given the total lack of transparency in these decisions.

AND WHEREAS, The scope of the proposals to “fix” the budget will radically redefine the community of UCLA, these decisions represent a special case compared to other campus matters. Under normal circumstances students may be content to leave decisions to professional bureaucrats but this situation requires students, faculty, and workers to come to the table and decide what form these changes should take. Some decisions are too important to be left up to “experts,” or more properly, we are the most qualified to decide on changes to the community we build our lives within.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, We condemn the unilateral approach to determining the fate of UCLA during this economic crisis of priorities.

RESOLVED, We will, until the time power in matters of vital import to the future of this campus is shared, refuse to participate or otherwise lend legitimacy specifically to spaces or proposals that seek to change the very nature of this community without providing substantive decision-making power to the community itself. We will not gloss decisions with a veneer of democracy when they reflect only one campus body, that body that is least visible and invested in the fabric of life, love, and community on our campus. We will no longer perpetuate the myth of student power where it does not exist.

RESOLVED, We demand that all cuts and changes be formulated through a process where decision-making power is shared equally between all constituencies: students, workers, faculty, and the administration, through their duly recognized representatives and political bodies. This process should attempt to attain:

1. Power sharing amongst the above specified groups.
2. Inclusion of those who reflect the diversity of this community including, but not limited to, individuals from different departments and programs, and ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds, with strong emphasis on those most impacted by potential/proposed changes.
3. Full and unmitigated transparency regarding all budgetary matters. To the extent that proposals originate from Administration, full and unmitigated transparency into their deliberative process.

AND BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, We reach out to undergraduate students, faculty, and campus workers directly and through their representative and collective political bodies, to start work on the creation of a process for power-sharing and meaningful deliberation regarding UCLA’s response to the economic crisis of priorities. We demand recognition and support of this goal from UCLA/UC Administration.

Two groups organizing against the privatization of their university, UCLA Fights Back and UCLA Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU — UAW 2865), issued the following statements in support of the GSA Forums’s resolution. First, UCLA Fights Back:

Statement in Support of the GSA Resolution to Condemn Administrative Unilateralism and Demand Democratic Decision-making in Budgeting

Only by holding democratic decision-making power can all campus groups rightly claim a role in the shared governance of our university. The UCLA administration, by merely seeking “input” from the campus population in minimal and often trivial ways, allows itself to dismiss the fundamental concerns and needs of graduate and undergraduate students, campus workers, and Senate and non-Senate faculty, while at the same time congratulating itself for its inclusion of “voice.” We cannot continue to legitimize a process that unequivocally disenfranchises those most directly affected by the decisions that this process makes. Such deliberate disenfranchisement is especially dangerous when the decisions to be made—around funding cuts to instructional programs and student services, departmental and division restructurings, worker layoffs and pension cuts, and privatization initiatives—directly and deeply affect the lives of everyone in the campus community.

UCLA Fights Back endorses this resolution and calls upon other campus organizations and individuals to join us in supporting it.

In solidarity,

UCLA Fights Back

The Coalition to Defend Public Education at UCLA

May 25th, 2011

And AWDU:

UCLA AWDU Statement in Support of the GSA Forum Resolution

Condemnation of Administration’s Unilateralism and Demand for Democratic Budgeting

The UCLA chapter of the reform movement Academic Workers for a Democratic Union fought for democratization within our union not simply in order to have a more inclusive union, but in order to have a more effective union capable of participating in the governance of the UC insofar as it affects our members as student-workers – that is to say, in order to democratize our university.

Like the stated aim of this GSA resolution, one of our goals is an increased role in making the budgetary decisions which directly affect us as student workers.  In light of the strategies deployed by UCOP in our recent contract battle, which used the same obstructionist and obscurantist tactics – showing up late to meetings, failing to provide requested information, unilaterally setting the terms of negotiation, and in general attempting to keep our bargaining team in the dark and out of the negotiating room – we feel that this resolution is a necessary step in calling out the UC for its attempt to make decisions about the character of public education in California without giving students, workers, and faculty the power to shape our university’s future.

As fellow graduate students, graduate student researchers, and graduate and undergraduate TAs, readers, and tutors, UCLA AWDU recommends the ratification of this resolution.  The UC and UCLA management will not even do the bare minimum of giving us adequate access to the information it uses and the forums in which it decides.  In light of such practices, we must not let the fact that they do nominally give us some access conceal their concerted effort to exclude us from decision making.  We cannot let formal inclusion paper over real exclusion in the hope that, at some point, we will be listened to.  If we are not exercising power, we should not participate in legitimizing the administration’s decisions.

Statement drafted by Zachary Williams

Signed on by:

Kyle Arnone (UAW Local 2865 Trustee, UCLA Sociology)

Carolina Beltran (UCLA Spanish and Portuguese)

Erin Conley (Candidate for Head Steward, UCLA English)

Renee Hudson (Candidate for Head Steward, UCLA English)

Dustianne North (UCLA Social Welfare)

Alexei Nowak (Candidate for Head Steward, UCLA Comparative Literature)

Althea Sircar (UCLA Political Science)

Julia Tomassetti (Candidate for Head Steward, UCLA Sociology)

Zachary Williams (Candidate for Head Steward, UCLA Political Science)

Elise Youn (UCLA Urban Planning)

Supported by quorum on May 25, 2011 by:

UCLA AWDU

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