July 31, 2012

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE:

Since 2009, the UC Board of Regents and President Mark Yudof have responded to state retrenchment by taking the axe to their campuses—cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from UC’s budget, raising tuition 32% and more recently proposing another tuition hike of 81% over the next four years. The response has been rallies, direct actions, and widespread protest among faculty, staff and students.

While many of these actions have called for an end to Operational Excellence, movements for greater democracy in university governance face a variety of obstacles. At UC, knowledge workers are divided among an alphabet soup of bargaining units, each covering campuses across the state: the UAW (grad teachers), CUE (clerical workers), UPTE (technical workers), AFSCME (service and maintenance), the AFT (lecturers and other staff), and then undergrads and tenure-track faculty, who don’t have formal bargaining power. As Smith puts it, “There are coalitions that have been built that are working, it’s just that there’s a lot coming at us. We have to be continually regrouping, moving forward.”

Meanwhile, dissident university staff face threats to their already insecure jobs. “I have spoken to next to no individual staff who welcome the idea of shared services, but nobody will speak out,” says one employee, who has worked in managerial and sub-managerial capacities and wished to be kept anonymous. “People are mostly doing like I am doing, counting the years to retirement and hoping to stick it out.” . . .

The fate of Gender and Women’s Studies at Berkeley rests on the availability of its single full-time staffer. “Visitors come, foreign visitors, global feminist people,” she says. “Part of our mission is to welcome people and have a space for intellectual discussions. Are we going to reach a point where there’s no there there?”

Yes.