Thoughts on the Situation in California

I posted a bit on my blog this morning on the situation in California and thought it would might be something we wanted to talk about here at HASTAC as well. Here's a slightly modified version of that post, with links to some resources elsewhere on the Internet:

The current crisis in the UC system came up again and again at the recession conference my department held at Duke this weekend. How the University Works had a nice post of all this, focused on the occupation of Wheeler Hall at Berkeley and the protests at UCLA. Democracy Now has an even better video report on the protests, as well great attention to the fiscal origins of the crisis. This open letter to Chancellor Birgeneau, holding him personally responsible for the police violence on campus, is making the rounds as well.

I don't have much to add to all this except to reiterate the necessary structural point about the emergence of the corporate university that is being made by so many. There's something closely akin to Naomi Klein's famous "shock doctrine" currently going on in California's university system; a fundamentally political crisis, caused by deeply flawed governmental institutions and bad decisions going back decades, is being misrecognized as a force of nature, something we must learn to be "realistic" about as we begin to make the "tough decisions." This is how neoliberalism does its work. As zunguzungu puts it in the link above:

"This is not, however, the difference between idealism and realism, even if thats how the media has spun it. If you heard NPRs account of the Chancellors meeting this morning, for example, youll note that they staged it as a conversation between students demanding money and Yudof saying the money was unavailable. One voice naively demands to be given more while the other voice regretfully and knowingly informs them that it just isnt realistic. The reason this account is wrong is the same reason the UCSB Academic Senate officially called Yudof a cynical opportunist with no commitment to education and voted to censure him. As they put it, UCOP has misrepresented the real nature of the Universitys financial situationThe state cutbacks, though significant, are being used as an excuse to proceed aggressively with further steps toward transforming the University from a public resource, dedicated to the education of the people of California and the pursuit of knowledge, into a profit-making enterprise, a research facility of benefit primarily to industry and beholden primarily to commercial interests. The university keeps spending money, on lots of things. And the situation is complicated; there are real fiscal limitations to what can be done, just as part of learning to be a teacher is figuring out how to limit what you can give, out of self-preservation. But its how those decisions get made, what principles you use to decide how the money gets spent, that determines the difference between an educator and a businessperson. Because you dont want to go to, or send your kids to, a school that makes its decisions based on the bottom line.

...the best example of the bad educator is the administrator who, instead of thinking of what needs to be done for the students of the UC system, capitalizes on a crisis of funding to make those students into the cash cow for making the UC profitable. The difference is not between idealism and realism but between two very different sets of priorities, between the social function of education (educating students) and the economic function of being profitable. And that was why Yudofs ridiculous cemetery line was so damningly telling: to make room for a corporation, you have to bury the school first."

The current situation -- and, I suppose, this very post -- is also yet another instance of the status update activism I discussed in my very first HASTAC post. Everything I know about the student movements in California, and all the links above, came to me through Facebook and Twitter.