Monday, November 28, 2011

Open Letter to President Yudof

Dear President Yudof,
A year ago, I told the regents that they needed to investigate recent incidents of police pepper spraying, tasering, and beating students. I said that we cannot have a real dialogue if students, faculty and workers are afraid that their actions will result in bodily harm. However, President Yudof, you and the Regents stood by the police and did nothing.

The same day I addressed the Regents, a police officer pulled a gun on several students. Once again, I urged the university to investigate and punish dangerous police actions, and still nothing was done. It has taken a viral video of police violence at UC Davis for the university to take this issue seriously.

While all of the attention is now on UC Davis, there needs to be an investigation of the broader culture of police hostility towards students, workers, and faculty. I believe this culture of violence starts at the top, and it is the Regents and the President who must be responsible for the safety on all of our campuses. When violent actions by the police continue to go unpunished, the administration sends the message that these acts are tolerated. What we need to do is to simply disarm the police on our campuses, which would follow the model of most private universities in America and most public universities around the world.

Bob Samuels, President, UC-AFT

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Police Violence: The New Normal in America

Recent actions by police at Occupy encampments and student protests shows what happens when state violence goes unpunished. The new normal in America is that the police feel justified to inflict pain on nonviolent protesters, and the roots of this change have to be connected to the redefinition of torture as enhanced interrogation. Moreover, the Obama administration's decision not to hold any members of the Bush's torture regime responsible has set the stage for the use of police violence without fear of retaliation.

While we are not used to thinking of the U.S. as a police state, every day sees a new move in that direction. It is now commonplace for police to show up at peaceful protests dressed in full riot gear ready to baton, pepper spray, and intimidate citizens employing their constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly. Of course, the ruling class, including President Obama, has been silent on this issue.

Just as torture has been renamed enhanced interrogation, so has nonviolent resistance been redefined as violence. These actions can only result in a de-legitimization of politics as we descend into a police state. However, the protesters know that the only way to get their message to the masses is to allow for the police to inflict pain because in our media, if it bleeds, it leads. The end result is, as Chris Hedges has argued, all of our "liberal" institutions (the media, the Democratic party, the universities) lose their legitimacy.

A new generation of Americans has now grown up in this police-media-political context, and even though young people are used to communicating on the disembodied Web, they are putting their bodies on the line to make our country wake up. The failure of the political class to respond in any rational way only pours fuel on the fire, and while it may be too soon to talk about a second American revolution, the current dynamic is generating major social unrest. We camp, they beat us, and we return.

All out to Davis!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy California, Refund Higher Education, and the Question of Violence (Plus Schedule of Events)

On November 15th, faculty and students at UC Berkeley will hold a one-day strike and will attempt to re-establish an Occupy Cal encampment. This action is supported by thousands of students and faculty members throughout the UC system and around the world. One of the reasons for this demonstration is to protest the excessive use of police force that has been used against students and faculty members. People will also be protesting the last-minute cancellation of the UC Regents meeting.

While students, employees, and faculty members have asked educational leaders to sign a pledge to join us in our call to re-fund higher education in California by making the banks and wealthiest 1% pay, the regents have responded by hiding from the public. So the new plan is to track down the higher ed leaders on November 16th when Southern California protesters will converge at the CSU trustees meeting in Long Beach, and Northern California protesters will rally and march in the San Francisco financial district, starting at noon at Justin Herman Plaza. We will once again demand that the UC Regents and CSU trustees sign our pledge, and we will invite them to then join us as we continue the march to the state building in San Francisco. Once there, we will demand that government officials also support our pledge, and we will have a people’s regents meeting.

Setting the Stage
When the UC announced that it had canceled the Regents meeting, it stated that, “they had received information indicating that rogue elements intent on violence and confrontation with UC public safety officers were planning to attach themselves to peaceful demonstrations expected to occur at the meeting.” While the UC did not reveal the sources for these threats, it is important to ask, how does the university define violence?

According to a UC police officer, the university is using the following definition of violence, “"the individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence...I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest." Someone needs to call Gandhi and Martin Luther King to tell them that the whole history of non-violent resistance has been rewritten.

It is of course outrageous for any public university to declare that students and workers can be beaten with batons if they engage in the dangerous act of linking arms, and it is especially absurd for this claim to be made at UC Berkeley, which stands for the birth of the Free Speech movement. If people are no longer able to protest nonviolently, then they may be forced to use other means. (I am not endorsing here the use of violence; rather, I am arguing that the police have to allow for nonviolent resistance)

By shutting down the Regents meeting, the university has also sent the message that the university is not only being privatized on a financial basis, but it is also being privatized on a bureaucratic basis. The regents are now telling the people of California that public matters have to be discussed in private, and the public is no longer invited to witness the dismantling of the “world’s greatest public university.”

Following the day of activities on the 16th, attention will turn to the one-day strikes at CSU East Bay and CSU Dominguez Hills. Ultimately, what is at stake is the future of public higher education in California and around the world. As the refund higher education movement couples with the Occupy Wall Street movement, a new level of organization and energy will emerge.


10 – 10:30am: free busses leave from Telegraph and Bancroft on Berkeley
11:30am – Noon: gather for a free lunch.
Noon rally at Justin Herman Plaza in collaboration with Occupy SF, 3
blocks from the Embarcadero BART station
1:00pm: March through the Financial District to make the banks pay for
the financial crisis they created
4:00pm: People's Assembly for Public Education at the State Building
to call on Gov Brown to make the banks pay public education, 455
Golden Gate Ave San Fransisco
3:00pm early bus returns to UC Berkeley
6:00pm remaining buses return to UC Berkeley

8am-5pm: All day Open University activities (teach-outs, workshops,
public readings, installations, etc.) at Sproul Plaza and surrounding
Noon: Mass convergence at Sproul Hall and formal inauguration of
day-long Open University.
Noon – 2pm: Teach-outs in Sproul Plaza.
2pm: Rally against police violence and other, related forms of
violence, including dispossession, privatization, and debt.
2:30pm: March to Berkeley High and Berkeley City College.
5pm: General Assembly at Sproul Plaza.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Master Plan In Reverse

Bob Meister from UCSC has written an excellent article on the financialization of the university and the death of the Master Plan. Meister’s research shows that as tuition in the UC system continues to grow and in-state students are replaced with nonresident students, Californian students who in the past would have gone to the UCs or the CSUs are now going to community colleges. However, since the community colleges have also experienced budget cuts and enrollment reductions, a lot of the students who used to go to the community colleges are now going to the for-profit colleges, like the University of Phoenix.

One of the results of this system is that low-income, minority students are being forced to pay high-tuition at low-performing for-profit institutions. In turn, these schools, which often have a graduation rate of under 10%, suck up over a billion dollars in Pell Grants a year as students take out high-interest subprime student loans. Moreover, since these loans are usually guaranteed by the federal government, and they cannot be erased through bankruptcy, there are a safe bet for financial speculators.

In this Reversed Master Plan, the defunding of each system results in higher tuition levels coupled with larger student debts and lower degree production. Not only will students have to work twenty years to pay off their student loans, but they will be unable to pay taxes or to contribute to economic growth. Instead of universities and colleges creating social mobility and reducing economic inequality, they are generating higher levels of inequity. To help change this dangerous path, please come to the UC Regents meeting or the CSU trustees meeting on November 16th and call for a new economic and educational model. You can also sign here a petition to protest police violence during the UC Berkeley demonstrations on November 9th.

Friday, November 11, 2011

UC and the 99%

My last few posts have documented the growing wage inequality in the UC system. Like the rest of America, the university is structured by a divide between the people at the top and everyone else. This type of income disparity has motivated the Occupy movement to call for a fairer system, and we are now seeing a series of protests at the UC campuses, which will culminate in a large action at the next UC regents meeting on November 16th.

Already our actions are having an effect. In fact, the LA Times reports that due to the fight back against President Yudof's planned tuition increases, the system has backed off of its plan to increase tuition again for now. Currently, we have to turn our attention to getting the state to raise taxes on the wealthy so that state funding for higher education can be restored.

As the important book, The Spirit Level, reveals, income inequality not only undermines the productivity of an economy, but it helps to generate a host of social problems. According to global statistics, the developed countries with the highest levels of income inequality, also have the lowest levels of social trust, and the highest levels of crime, infant mortality, heart disease, and illiteracy. Even the rich people in unequal societies suffer from increased anxiety due to their constant drive to increase their wealth.

On the other hand, in countries where there is a lower disparity of income, like the Scandinavian nations, people report a higher rate of happiness and health. As The Spirit Level reveals, when people feel that their society is not divided between winners and losers, they support social programs and promote education and subsidized healthcare. However, when wealth inequality grows, social welfare programs are not protected because people do not feel that they are living in a just society.

In the case of the UC system, the growth in the number of high-earning administrators and medical faculty undermines any sense of a shared purpose. Moreover, as medical incomes increase, the cost of healthcare in California also increases. We can also anticipate that as UC moves to a new compensation system for faculty, we will see even more wealth disparity and a reduced sense of social trust. Likewise as income becomes concentrated at the top in California, we witness a decreased desire to support social welfare programs and higher education. In short, wealth inequality is the driving force behind most of our social and economic problems.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wage Disparities in the Professorial Ranks

In a previous post, I presented data on wage inequality in the UC system amongst different types of high-earning employees; what I would like to do now is to discuss inequities in the professorial ranks (these statistics do not include medical, law, or business professors).

One way of approaching this data is to first look at the average salaries for assistant, associate, and full professors. For instance, in 2010, there were 3,246 full professors, and their average total compensation was $139,633. Meanwhile, during the same time period, we find 1,322 associate professors with an average gross pay of $117,527, and 984 assistant professors with an average total pay of $76,949.

While the system-wide average gross pay for all academic professors was $116,665 in 2010, if we look at this average on the different campuses, we find the following: UCLA - $137,683; Berkeley - $127,607; San Diego - $118,480; Santa Barbara - $115,349; Davis - $101,903; Riverside - $98,107; Irvine - $107,462; Merced - $88,229; and Santa Cruz - $99,797. Excluding Merced, we see that the difference between the average academic professor salaries at UCLA and Riverside is $39,576 or 34%.

Also, looking historically, we know that in 2004, there were 216 full professors making more than $200,000, and in 2006, the number of high earners dropped to 194, but in 2008, this same category jumped to 380, and in 2010, it went down slightly to 372. Therefore, the number of full professors making over $200,000 nearly doubled between 2006 and 2008 and has since stabilized. Meanwhile, if we look at the salaries of assistant professors during this same period, we find that the number of assistants making less than $70,00 stayed almost the same between 2004 and 2008: there were 577 assistant professors making less than $70,000 in 2004; 553 in 2006; 558 in 2008; and 401 in 2010. These statistics tells us that the salary growth for academic professors was concentrated at the top during the period of 2006 and 2008.

It would be interesting to look at the salary disparities in the different disciplines, but this information is not available. Over all, it appears that the biggest wage disparities occur between the campuses with the highest number of graduate students (UCLA, UCB, UCSD), and the ones with the highest percentage of undergraduates (UCR, UCM, UCSC).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New UC Salary Data: 2010 was a Good Year for Higher Earners

New UC salary data is now available at Jeffrey Bergamini’s compensation database, and it reveals that in 2010, there were 4,237 UC employees making more than $200,000 for a total gross pay of $1.26 billion and a base pay of $744 million. This means that for the over 200k club, more than 40% of their pay came from extra pay; moreover, the over $200,000 earners raked in 12% of the gross pay for the whole system ($9.3 billion), while they represented under 3% of the regular employees and less than 1% of the total number of employees (including student workers).

If we compare 2010 to 2008 and 2006, we find that in 2006, there were 2,464 employees making over $200K with a total gross pay of $680 million, while in 2008, there were 3,643 high earners with a total gross salary of $1 billion. In other words, during the UC’s “fiscal crisis,” we have seen a continual increase of employees entering into the over-200K club.

To further investigate who makes up this class of high earners, we can break down these employees into six major categories: administrators, medical faculty, athletic coaches, business school professors, academic professors (excluding business and law professors), and law professors. These six categories accounted for over 95% of the revenue of the over $200,000 club in 2010.

Starting with the medical faculty, we find that in 2010, there were 2,772 medical faculty making over $200,000 for a total gross pay of $867.4 million. This means that in the period of 2008 to 2010, the medical faculty in the over 200k range increased their numbers by 476, while their total gross pay went up $187.4 million. It is clear that the medical centers are an economic powerhouse that drive inequality in the UC system.

The second biggest group in the over-200k club is the administrators. In 2010, we find 351 bureaucrats making a total of $102 million, while in 2008, there were 397 administrators in the over 200k club making a total of $109 million. In other words, due to the downsizing of the Office of the President, there are now fewer administrators in the over-$200,000 club, but their average pay is higher.

The next biggest group of high earners are the academic professors outside of law, medicine, and business. In 2010, there were 397 professors making over $200,000 for a collective gross pay of $93 million. If we compare these figures to 20008, we discover that this group has been reduced by 18 people, and their collective pay has gone down by $3.6 million.

In the case of the business school faculty, in 2008, there were 372 faculty making more than $200,000 for a collective gross pay of $93 million, while in 2010, 439 high-earning professors had a collective gross pay of $115 million. This statistics show that while the number of general campus, high-earning professors has been decreased, the medical and business professors making over $200,000 has continued to increase.

In the case of law professors, we find that in 2008, there were 85 making over $200,000 for a collective pay of $21 million, and in 2010, this same group consisted of 96 professors making a collective gross pay of $25 million. So we once again, we see a trend of increasing the number of high-earning professors in the professional schools, while the nonprofessional school professors are reduced.

The final group is the athletic coaches; in 2008, there were 24 coaches making over $2000,000 for a collective payout of $12.8 million, and in 2010, this same group has 35 employees at a collective gross pay of $16 million. In other words, the athletic departments continue to do well in bad times.

These statistics show that as the university continues to rely increasingly on undergraduate tuition to fund the system, more of the pay is going to people working outside of undergraduate education. Moreover, since the UC is the third biggest employer in California, we can see how the wage disparities in the UC system contribute to the growing wage inequality in the state.