There are two main narratives battling to define the current crisis at the University of California. President Yudof and the Regents want everyone to blame all of the UC’s problems on the state. According to this narrative, the simple issue is that the state has defunded higher education, and due to a $1.2 billion cut to the UC, all the campuses can do is raise fees, cut courses, layoff workers, increase class size, furlough faculty, and demand that the state increases its funding by $913 million.
The counter narrative, articulated mostly by the unions and the students, is that the UC just had a record year of revenue, and the system does not have to raise fees or cut services. Instead, the counter discourse argues that the profit-making units should share their profits, and money earmarked for instruction should actually be used for educational purposes. While we do also insist that full state funding should be restored, we recognize that most of the state reductions were made up by federal recovery money ($716 million) and fee increases and cost saving measures that have already been undertaken.
Many faculty members have sided with the administration because it is much easier to blame the state for all of the UC’s problems. By blaming the state and the anti-tax Republicans, we have a clear enemy and an easy narrative: we are all good, and they are all bad. Moreover, by placing the onus of responsibility on the state, we do not have to look at our own internal problems. As I have argued, Yudof wants us to keep our eyes on the state, so we do not look at how the Regents have mishandled the UC’s investments and pension plan.
If the faculty continue to buy Yudof’s narrative, there will be no way of fighting the continual increase in administrative costs and the further privatization of the university. Yudof’s latest gambit is to ask the state, which he knows is facing a $21 billion deficit, to increase the UC’s funding by $913 million. Everyone knows that the state cannot provide this money, and so when the state does not meet Yudof’s request, he will feel justified to make another round of fee increases and budget cuts.
Without budget transparency and shared governance, the people at the top of the UC system can continue to manipulate statistics and scare faculty into accepting their narrative. In this version of the shock doctrine, a fake crisis motivates people to give power to a centralized authority and to privatize a public good, while wages are decreased and profits are kept by a small group of power elites. It is time for the UC faculty to stand up and resist Yudof’s latest power play.