Saturday, November 21, 2009

The University of California is Occupied!

by Jody Ballew

Students at the University of California Berkeley and Santa Cruz have occupied buildings on their campuses in protest of the 32% tuition hikes.  Their demands call for a stop to the proposed 32% tuition hikes, a repeal of faculty layoffs and a reversal of the 15% labor cuts for custodial staff.  Video of the occupation at Berkeley is pouring in on YouTube.

As these occupations spread from the Santa Cruz campus to Berkeley, the police response has escalated to a level of violence that is much like that against University of Pittsburgh students at the G-20 protests in Pittsburgh this September.  Despite the peaceful appearance of the protests, crowd control measures include forcefully striking students with batons and crowd barricades are used to shove protesters.  As professor Robert Dudley is arrested National Lawyers Guild observers call out to ask him his name.  In response, students chant to the police officers, "Shame on you!", "Students. Not criminals",
"Hey hey! Ho ho! Police brutality has got to go!", and "You're sexy, you're cute, take off that riot suit!".
Asking, "Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!"
Shouting, "No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!"  There's an idea.

UC students are actively demonstrating opposition to fading educational opportunites.

CUNY and SUNY students face similar financial challenges.  NY Governor David Patterson has proposed sweeping cuts to public education from Kindergarten to College.  The legislature calls these budget cuts a "Deficit reduction plan".  For us CUNY students these cuts mean reduced campus services, hiring freezes, larger classes, and ultimately a reduction in our TAP financial aid.  Many of us depend on these services to make our education possible.  These cuts will have the most effect on the students who already face financial and personal obstacles to education.  CUNY Chancellor Goldstein has summarized some of the effects of those cuts in his testimony to the NYS legislature.  

During this time of economic crisis, our country and our state face difficult financial choices, as reflected in the Deficit Reduction Plan. Every state or state-supported agency, to the extent that it can, must work to alleviate the state's burden. The proposed reduction for CUNY's senior colleges in the current year is $53 million, which represents a 4.8 percent cut in state support, taken against non-personnel service (OTPS) costs.

Clearly, it is difficult for the University to absorb a mid-year reduction, particularly when it follows previous cuts to CUNY's senior colleges totaling $68.3 million. While the University anticipated the likelihood of a mid-year cut and took appropriate measures to mitigate its effect and prevent significant diminishment of academic services, the fact remains that it will have a chilling effect on CUNY's plans. As the legislature reviews the proposed OTPS reductions, the University will continue to focus on protecting its core mission. Going forward, a serious concern is the cumulative effect of the cuts on the quality of education at our senior colleges; we must prevent the permanent damage that will result from a sustained period of reductions.

In addition, the reduction plan proposes cuts in state aid to the community colleges in the amount of $260 per student, as well as cuts to related community-college support, including child care centers, rental aid, workforce development, and the College Discovery program.

So, CUNY students face the same challenges in their pursuit of a public education as the UC students.  The UC students have organized a strong response to those challenges.   Will their demands be met?  How will CUNY students be effected by the proposed budget cuts?  Will we make any demands?


John Maerhofer said...

The UC strike shows the increasing potential of student/faculty orgainization and strength. We need to learn form thier stuggle at CUNY and create a mass movement to take back our education from the corporations and oust the corrupt officials who are moving closer and closer to total privitization. Significant aspects of this trend are the rapid increase in contingent labor in the last decade(over 50% of the classes at CUNY are taught by adjuncts with no job security), the chanelling of capital into imperialist wars which suck funding out of public education, and the attacks on tenure and academic freedom from David Horowitz and the fascist right who have the ear of the ruling class. The time is now to build a movement on our campuses, happening now at UC Davis and in other parts of the world like Japan's Hosei University where students and faculty have had enough of the bosses' rhetoric of change that prevents organization from below.

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