The New Yorker Magazine recently had an extensive article on the UC system, and the general frame was that President Yudof is deeply unpopular, the university is broke, and people are rebelling. While the idea that an institution with a record level of revenue has no money is ridiculous, the article did a good job at highlighting many of our recent struggles. For example, a very interesting quote came from Alberto Torrico, the majority leader in the state assembly, who was asked about his new plan to fund the UC system: ”If I gave them a blank check, they'd use it for administrative costs instead of education.” Torrico, who is one of the only legislators in Sacramento who is working on securing funding for the UC system, is right to stress that if the state gives the UC more money, they may just use it to hire more administrators.
Torrico’s bill, AB 656, which would put a 12.5% tax on oil extraction in California and send $1.3 billion to higher education each year, has received no official support from Yudof or the Regents. In fact, when Yudof was asked about this bill, he said that he was unhappy that only 25% of the funds would go to the UC system. In response to Yudof’s discontent, Torrico told The New Yorker reporter that he would say the following to the UC president, “"Do you want twenty-five percent of a billion-plus, or one hundred percent of nothing?" 'Cause I can give you that very easily.” Torrico is displaying here the sentiment of many Democratic legislators who are tired of being attacked by Yudof for never giving the UC system enough money.
Another thread of the article is that there is a new movement arising from the University of California fiscal crisis, and it is unclear, which direction the movement will lead. On the one hand, a new spirit of student and faculty activism is bringing hope to many people inside and outside of the UC system, but, the article stresses that it is unclear what can be accomplished and how long the students, unions, and faculty can work together.
In my travels to New York and Philadelphia over the winter break, I kept hearing about the revolution in California. It seems that people are looking at us to start a new social movement, even if no one can define the target or the goals of the movement. I was surprised to hear on one radio show in New York, the argument that the only progressive social movement in the country challenging the current economic system is the one at the University of California. As strange as it may seem, we have become a small ray of hope for people fighting the privatization of the public sphere and the casualization of the labor force. Let’s hope that we can live up to the expectations of those around the country. Everything starts in California—not only the bad but sometimes the good.