This cannot be the work of few: A response to EVC Kliger

In response to the letter from Executive Vice Chancellor Kliger:

These are times of crisis. Across the nation, workers are losing their jobs, families are losing their homes, and students are losing access to public education. The administration agrees that these are times of crisis, but they refuse to acknowledge how this affects us all. They ask us to tighten our belts for a year, to take furloughs and budget cuts, to accept massive fee hikes. Now, they tell us that attempts to protest and fight back against this are part of the problem and that they add to the costs placed on students and workers. They accuse us of making worse a situation that they have perpetuated and exploited. This is not the case.

According to EVC Kliger:

When added to cleanup costs following the earlier occupation of the Graduate Student Commons, these efforts will run into tens of thousands of dollars — costs directly borne by taxpayers, students and their families. Those dollars are diverted from educating and supporting students.”

We reject this entirely. The figures for repairs they invoke are ridiculous. It is hard to fathom that this “cleanup” should cost “tens of thousands of dollars.” If true, they only indicate the corporate structure of the university and its reliance on inflated costs for services, costs that are indeed “placed on students and workers.” More crucially, these are not dollars “diverted from educating and supporting students.” Kliger, of all people, should know very well that this is not how the university works.

These sums that he touts to scare and divide people are only a drop in the bucket compared to the real cuts that the administration has overseen and indeed foisted upon those who depend on the university’s functions and services: students, faculty, and workers alike. To insinuate that it is attempts such as these occupations that are responsible for increased costs is a cynical lie. The funds raised by the proposed fee hike, in addition to the laying off of workers and the slashing of student services, will not be directed to preserving or improving the quality of education or access to jobs. They are directed to preserving the bond rating of the institution so that it can borrow money for unnecessary building projects, and to bolstering the state of California’s credit rating against its own future borrowing.

We have no illusion that these actions fully or correctly expressed the discontent felt across the UC system and the state. Many disagree with the tactics, and we encourage those who do to join a wider struggle and to pursue their own ways of fighting against this ongoing trend toward the destruction of our education.

But the false claims of the administration need to be countered. Vandalism did occur at both occupation sites. It was not the work of those who planned these actions. It is not the point of these actions. But we see this as the expression of wider student discontent. More troubling is the response of the police and administration to protesters who expressed solidarity. On Thursday night, three undergraduates were maced by the police, and one was arrested. They were not told to cease and desist, they were not given warning of the extreme response, and the one who was arrested was not Mirandized. Whether or not you agree with the specific action, such a response is unacceptable. The university is trying to have it both ways. They dismiss this action as petty vandalism. And they have chosen to respond with excessive police force to a serious expression of student discontent. We ask all of you to consider the consequences of that position and what it indicates about how they see and treat their students.

We are not interested in clandestine actions. We have acted upon a broad base of support for radical measures. It has become evident that the modes of protest condoned by the university cannot change the decisions it makes. On this campus, we embrace a radical past: it is part of the legacy of UCSC, and students and faculty are proud of this. But the administration discounts any and all attempts to produce a radical present. We know that in these increasingly desperate times, when workers lose their jobs and families are stretched thin to pay for education, such a radical present is necessary.

We believe in common access to education for all. Like the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, we believe that no one should be denied access to education because of financial barriers. Working families and working students across the state scrimp, save, and borrow in order to afford this education. They make real sacrifices to earn degrees, degrees that are supposed to earn us jobs. But these jobs are disappearing. The future for which these sacrifices are made is becoming impossible: graduates face an economy where there are few jobs to come, where student loans cannot be repaid, and where a college degree increasingly means little. We have to face this reality. We have to confront the fact that the administration is raising the costs of education while that education’s value is materially diminishing. We are told that we should appreciate the education that we do have. But to appreciate it means to fight not just for what it is but for what it should be.

We must all fight back against this situation. This cannot be the work of few. This is a collective and urgent task.

When one of the students was maced and arrested, he was told that “any pain you feel, you deserve.” We respond: any pain coming to the administration and legislators who have overseen the gutting of California’s education system, they deserve.

In solidarity with all students, workers, and faculty.

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