Friday, March 12, 2010

Mission Statement plus California

This blog will be devoted to whatever we feel like it: cultural events, film critique, reading responses, newsworthy events. Any of the above and more could find their way to our pages. It will also be a bilingual French/English publication. So sorry for those who won't be able to read half of the posts, and good luck for those who can't but will try anyways! Finally, its purpose is to encourage Jeff and I to write more, so here's to hoping that it will work!

Now that that is over, let's talk about something:

Jeff and I went to the March 4 protest in Sacramento on Thursday. For me, this was a strange experience. Although I am no longer a Cal student, I still have connections with the university. I am auditing classes right now and I also hope to benefit from the university in the future, either through being a student or in other ways that I cannot even know yet. Either way, I feel invested in the future of the University of California and so it was important for me to be there supporting my fellow Humanities professors and students (the lack of participants from the sciences and other well-funded departments was not discussed as far as I know, but was duly noted and will be discussed later on in this post).

Overall the Protest was much more of a protest. That is, it claimed itself to be really important, groundbreaking, "history-making" when in fact it was a small gathering of people with fairly disparate interests, all claiming a "day of action" which was actually just a morning of standing and listening. Speakers kept going on about how the crowd was "all the back to there" when it was only a hundred feet. Although apparently this day represented the first time that a walk-out had been "coordinated" throughout the whole California Public Education System, there were really only representatives from a handful of schools (UCB, UCD, UCSC, and Sac State, as far as I could tell). While it claimed a lot, I wasn't really convinced that I was participating in what I was being told that I was participating in. 

However, I did get to talk to a news guy who asked me questions while I was filmed. I wasn't particularly articulate now did I provide any "sound bites" and so I don't think that I was put on TV, but he did ask me an interesting question: since there was a simultaneous protest in Berkeley, why did I come to the one hosted in Sacramento? The reason that I came to Sacramento was to go with Jeff and so get out of Berkeley for a morning, to take a trip, so to speak, and the reason I gave him was that I thought it was important to be at the law-making center of California, which I didn't realize was one of my reasons until I had already said it. It turns out that this was actually a good reason, since I found out about AB 656, a bill sponsored by Assemblymember (long word) Alberto Torrico which would tax oil companies in CA and give the estimated $2 billion in revenues to Public Education. Sounds good huh? here's the website:

Besides this glimmer of light, the other main problem is the lack of support from a large chunk of the University. It's not just that most people at UCB went to class on March 4th, it's the fact that the division between the professors that held class and those that didn't falls so clearly between the Humanities and the Sciences. Of course this is an over-generalization, but not by very much, as you can see at this website: Of course to most readers this division seems predictable. Of course scientists aren't interested in revolution: they are too busy thinking about atoms. This however, is a ridiculous thing to say. The departments of science at UC Berkeley are not complacent merely as a result of their subjects, but due to a systematic series of buyouts of these very departments by Corporate Capital and the income that these departments generate for the university in relation to Humanities departments.

In a certain sense, we have allowed our universities to mutate into pseudo-corporations, the chancellor acting as a kind of CEO and departments acting like divisions of the business. Knowledge is abstracted into a commodity and then only becomes useful insofar as it can generate more capital in the form of money. This eliminates argument when a the CEO-chancellor decides to downsize or eliminate departments: there is nothing to be said about quantitative analysis based on the exchange value of a commodity whereas the use value of certain knowledges over others is still a space for constructive debate. Until then, we need more money.

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