One of my favorite assignments for students is that I give them several headlines from the day's news and ask them to connect the different stories together. The idea behind this exercise is that people need to overcome the fragmented nature of our information society. So, let us take a look at the top five headlines from the January 21st UC Regents meeting: 1) UC approves bonuses for hospital execs; 2) Waiting lists to be established at most UC campuses, regents say; 3) UC regents approve Cal stadium retrofit; 4) Regents to back UC students protest at Capitol ; 5) UC leaders wary of governor's budget promises
At first these stories appear to go in different directions, but there is an underlying logic that connects the dots: The UC system is continuing its recent push to increase the compensation of its highest earners and embark on expensive construction projects as it limits undergraduate enrollment and attacks the state for not supporting higher education. While the UC administration says that it has to raise student fees and limit access because state funding is down, it also argues that it must pay top administrators higher salaries in order to keep them from going elsewhere.
The new twist to this old tune is that the regents and President Yudof are trying to co-opt the recent protests by students, faculty, and unions. We now have to imagine the regents and President Yudof locking arms with students marching through the streets of Sacramento demanding that legislators fully fund the UC system. In response to this fake claim of solidarity, several unions have released the following statement:
“To Defend Education, Reverse the Hikes and Cuts:
Open Letter to UC Regents and the People of California
The UC Regents claim to be on the side of students, staff, and faculty in defending public education, but their actions speak otherwise.
On January 20, UC President Mark Yudof and other UC Regents announced to the press that they support the March 4 Strike and Day of Action to Defend Public Education. Yet at that very meeting they awarded $3.1 million more in executive bonuses.
This is a cynical publicity stunt, and we do not buy it.
If the UC Regents were serious about supporting the students, staff, and faculty of the UC system, they would immediately reverse the 32% fee hike and roll back the catastrophic layoffs and cuts they have imposed. The future of public education in California for all working people and communities of color is at stake.
The UC Regents claim that the University of California is broke and therefore they argue that "we must work together to pressure Sacramento." But if the UC is broke, why are the Regents giving out millions in executive bonuses? If the UC is broke, why did the Regents recently loan the State of California nearly $200 million dollars? And if the UC Regents are "on our side," why have UC police consistently been sent in to repress peaceful protests?
Independent analyses of the UC budget testify to a simple and disturbing fact: the fee hikes and layoffs in the UC system are a result of a priorities crisis, not a "budget crisis." Indeed, the UC made record profits last year. The conclusion: UC Regents can and must use their millions of dollars in reserve funds to reverse the fee hikes, cuts, and layoffs.
Furthermore, we do not accept that the UC system be funded at the expense of pre-K, K-12, Community Colleges, the CSUs and adult education, as well as other public services. All levels of education must be fully funded and quality education must be equally accessible to all Californians and immigrants.
On March 4, 2010, tens of thousands of students, teachers, and workers and their organizations in all sectors of public education and across the public sector will organize mass strikes and protests against the priorities crisis of both Sacramento and the UC, CSU, CC, and K-12 administrators.
Until the UC Regents and Sacramento reverse the fee hikes, cuts, and layoffs, we pledge to continue to deepen this growing movement. We refuse to let this struggle be co-opted.”