Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why We are Walking Out


The below message is circulating around the UC mailing lists, and it explains why UC staff and students are walking out today (except me, because I can't fail out of graduate school just yet):

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On Thursday, September 24, an unprecedented coalition of UC faculty, undergraduates, grad students, postdocs, lecturers, and staff will engage in a system-wide walkout. As UC Davis graduate students and lecturers concerned with the quality of all UC students' education, we write to clarify the reasons for this walkout as we understand them.

This summer, UC administration began implementing tuition hikes, enrollment cuts, layoffs, furloughs, and increased class sizes that jeopardize our education, endanger the livelihood of the most vulnerable employees, and compromise the fundamental mission of the University. This is not simply another budget cut; although the UC Regents repeatedly state their commitment to "quality, access, and affordability," their recent actions undermine all three principles. These decisions affect all sectors of our campuses and communities, and threaten the fundamental character of the university.

On Thursday, we walk out to support our faculty, who are concerned about the undermining of shared governance. Their traditional involvement in decision-making processes was subverted this summer when President Yudof assumed emergency powers, ignored the recommendations of the Academic Council, and created the Gould Commission on the future of the UC, originally with no faculty from any UC College of Letters and Science present.

We walk out because faculty furloughs threaten to lower the quality of UC education. Whether taken on instructional days or not, furloughs suggest faculty should spend less time either on research or instruction, both of which are key components of UC's prestige. (Nonetheless, the faculty walkout statement requests an end to furloughs only for salaries below $40,000.)

We walk out to support our university staff members. The UC Office of the President demanded unlimited rights to furloughs and layoffs from University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), who are striking on 9/24 in response to unfair labor practices. They will be joined by the Coalition of University Employees (CUE). Our education depends on the vital role of UC staff, who make possible the day-to-day functioning of this university.

We walk out to support our undergraduates and their families, who now find themselves carrying a majority of the burden of funding this university. President Yudof’s proposal to raise student fees will bring tuition to over $10,000, forcing undergraduates to take larger loans, work full-time jobs, or drop out. While student fees continue to rise, course offerings are cut, extending the time needed to graduate. Lecturers and postdocs represented by the American Federation of Teachers Unit 18 have been laid off after UCOP refused to consider furloughs or answer questions, canceling required courses just weeks before classes begin. UC prides itself on making the world's best research faculty available to California's best students, regardless of income. Recent administrative actions threaten to strip students of that promise.

We walk out to support our fellow graduate students, who face proposed fee increases alongside heavier workloads, reduced lab assistantships and teaching appointments, and greater debt. Administrative responses to the budget cuts undermine our educational and professional goals, hinder our ability to offer quality teaching, and diminish the perceived and actual quality of a UC graduate degree.

The crisis facing UC, while certainly related to the state budget , is primarily about California's priorities for funding education. After the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, California's K-12 public schools dropped from 4th to 45th in the nation. Current budget decisions by UC administration place our university system on that same path. There are alternatives to fees and furloughs, including pay cuts -- rather than pay raises -- for the highest-paid UC executives, and the tapping of surplus funds from medical and extension units.

The UC Regents' actions accelerate a long-standing process of privatization and have led us, today, to a crisis we cannot and will not stand for. On September 24, we will not conduct official university business. Instead, we will gather at our university for education of a broader sort. We walk out to educate students and all Californians about what the University of California has been, what it promises to be, and what it might be in the future. We walk out to force the administration to seek alternatives to fee hikes and furloughs, and to demand that legislators prioritize state funding for education. We walk out to demonstrate that this university belongs to its students, its community, and its workers. We walk out on 9/24 so that come 2010, we still have a public university in California: a university solidly committed to quality, access, and affordability.

Sincerely,

Toby Beauchamp, Graduate Student, UC Davis
Kristin Koster, PhD, Lecturer, UC Davis
Vanessa Rapatz, Graduate Student, UC Davis
Kaitlin Walker, Graduate Student, UC Davis

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