The achievements of UC faculty, staff and graduates would be a list too long to recount and too prodigious to measure. We have reaped abundant results from the seeds laid by The Master Plan for Education adopted in the 1960’s. Using the current state budget shortfall for cover, the new regime at the helm of UC seeks to undo this visionary public policy in order to turn a quick profit.
This week, the strike by the research and technical workers in UPTE-CWA at UC Berkeley combined with a student and faculty walkout and planned protests at the Regents meeting in Los Angeles show escalating discontent with UC President Mark Yudof and the Regent’s new corporate-oriented vision for UC.
UC President Yudof and the Regents have commenced the dismantling of the public service mission with the de-emphasis of undergraduate education. Student fees will increase 32%, 15% of which will occur in the middle of the school year when students have no opportunity to go to another university. Lectures, teacher’s assistants, class room support, faculty availability for teaching have all borne a disproportionate share of the cuts.
Research, health care, agricultural support and many other public service programs that are dependent on state funds have also been cut, even though most of them actually have dedicated funds for growth. Among the cuts are two years of raises for which funds were allocated but not distributed, layoffs of support staff in research units so that faculty must spend their time on administrative and house-keeping tasks instead of teaching and research, and unprecedented cuts to the benefits programs that attracted and retained the quality staff and faculty upon which UC achievements are based.
Despite these painful cuts, growth continues nearly unabated. Construction of new facilities at UC, guaranteed by increases in student fees, defies budget shortfalls. Partnerships with private industry have taken precedence over educating California’s youth. From nanotechnology to biotechnology UC has embarked on public/private partnerships where UC researchers perform the research and development from which private corporations’ profit.
The hoped for transfer of technology to private industry is supposed to drive the future of the California economy to benefit all. Unfortunately, the nearly free office space and easy access to UC facility and staff has not led to a boon in UC income or the state economy.
The Regents and President Yudof have alternatives. UC has many reserves that can be called upon in time of fiscal restraint. Expansion can be slowed and funds redirected to support the staff, services and students already at UC. Attrition could be leveraged to garner savings without costing jobs. Finally, executive pay could be reset to the levels of a few years ago before the vast increases, starting with the 100% increase President Yudof received over his predecessor.
These budget tightening measures could get us through a couple of lean years of state funds. Instead, UC leaders have chosen to take advantage of the cover provided by the state budget shortfall to undermine the Master Plan for Education and fundamentally change the orientation of the University of California from public service and education to corporate welfare and elite education.
The protests which began on September 24 this year initiated a strong and broad movement against the corporatization of UC. Students, faculty and staff stood together then and again this week to defend the quality, accessibility and public ownership of UC. This week UPTE-CWA members have joined the Berkeley demonstration in their third strike of the year. In Los Angeles, union members are joining students and faculty to confront the Regents as they vote for unprecedented student fee increases of 32%.
The broad coalition in opposition to the Regents and Yudof have already committed to major future actions including a march on Sacramento in the spring. In the upcoming election year, the coalition aims to make adequate support for higher education rate high as campaign issue.
Without a broad, highly educated citizenship, well-paid jobs will not come to California. Without the basic research, not compromised by corporate profit motives, cancer, AIDS and many other cures will be the profit ventures of high tech corporations instead of the well-earned fruits of our tax dollars.
Jelger Kalmijn is a Staff Research Associate at UC San Diego, and serves as President of University Professional and Technical Employees, UPTE-CWA