Tag Archives: protest

Oct 7th at UCSD with Cara Baldwin

14 Oct

October 7 at UCSD

At UCSD a group of approximately 300 students, workers and faculty members gathered at the Silent Tree outside Geisel Library to shout an alarm. Their message? Once again, the UCOP (UC Office of the President) has proposed a further fee increase of as much as 20%, a year after they voted in an increase of 32%. Indeed, according to UC Budget Director Patrick Lenz, the UC Regents will consider a tuition increase of up to 20% at their November meeting” — 9% in Summer 2009, 32% Fall 2009, %20 Fall 2010. This is a % 70 increase, in compound terms, in a mere year and a half. Our question: Will we stop them?

For many witnessing the gathering, these increases, and the business practices that accompany them -such as predatory lending- were news. Throngs of incoming undergraduate students looked on, and many joined their fellows on Library Walk to learn, for the first time, that they were entering into a field of conflict in which they would be asked to act as isolated and passive consumers or socially-engaged and active producers of their own education.

Across the UC’s, this unfolding drama spooled out further, as institutionally-funded student bodies and groups aggressively assumed control of what they apparently perceived as a formless and undifferentiated ‘student body’ rather than a mutually assembled commons ready and able to imagine and enact change in the present. These bodies were told to sit. They were photographed. Sitting. Listening. They were chided for their inactivity. They were told that their experience in this moment was ‘activism.’

Students and Faculty from UCSD Department of Visual Art listened, and waited, respectfully, for a moment of open and shared exchange that never came. We, each of us, and together, have recognized and shown a deep investment in the possibilities for social change in this moment. Brett Stallbaum responded to this scene actively-raising his voice in response / interjection to the canned speeches presented by self-appointed and institutionally-funded student ‘leaders.’ We were told to write a poem, introduce ourselves to our neighbors and sign a circulating petition.

October 7 at UCSD
Cara Baldwin
Department of Visual Arts: Art History, Theory, Criticism and Practice

At UCSD a group of approximately 300 students, workers and faculty members gathered at the Silent Tree outside Geisel Library to shout an alarm. Their message? Once again, the UCOP has proposed a further fee increase of as much as 20%, a year after they voted in an increase of 32%. Indeed, according to UC Budget Director Patrick Lenz, the UC Regents will consider a tuition increase of up to 20% at their November meeting” — 9% in Summer 2009, 32% Fall 2009, %20 Fall 2010. This is a % 70 increase, in compound terms, in a mere year and a half. Our question: Will we stop them?

For many witnessing the gathering, these increases, and the business practices that accompany them -such as predatory lending- were news. Throngs of incoming undergraduate students looked on, and many joined their fellows on Library Walk to learn, for the first time, that they were entering into a field of conflict in which they would be asked to act as isolated and passive consumers or socially-engaged and active producers of their own education.

Across the UC’s, this unfolding drama spooled out further, as institutionally-funded student bodies and groups aggressively assumed control of what they apparently perceived as a formless and undifferentiated ‘student body’ rather than a mutually assembled commons ready and able to imagine and enact change in the present. These bodies were told to sit. They were photographed. Sitting. Listening. They were chided for their inactivity. They were told that their experience in this moment was ‘activism.’

Students and Faculty from UCSD Department of Visual Art listened, and waited, respectfully, for a moment of open and shared exchange that never came. We, each of us, and together, have recognized and shown a deep investment in the possibilities for social change in this moment. Brett Stallbaum responded to this scene actively-raising his voice in response / interjection to the canned speeches presented by self-appointed and institutionally-funded student ‘leaders.’ We were told to write a poem, introduce ourselves to our neighbors and sign a circulating petition.

We wanted to sit-in at the newly opened CHASE bank branch in the Student Union behind us. We wanted to register our own discontent and resistance in ways that were not only unimaginable to those behind microphones staged in front of us–but in ways that were apparently unacceptable.

One question hangs in the air above us and calls out for response;

‘Will we stop them?’ And how?

Oct 7th at UCSD (stephanie lie and brett stallbaum in background)

We wanted to sit-in at the newly opened CHASE bank branch in the Student Union behind us. We wanted to register our own discontent and resistance in ways that were not only unimaginable to those behind microphones staged in front of us–but in ways that were apparently unacceptable.

One question hangs in the air above us and calls out for response:

‘Will we stop them?’ And how?

Cara Baldwin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Arts: Art History, Theory, Criticism and Practice at UCSD.

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Oct 7th at UCLA with Olive Odille

13 Oct

The Ides of October

Balloon fliers to promote the event, inspired by UC Berkeley. Photo by Eric Gardner

October 7th was the occasion of many actions at college campus nationally with a heavy concentration in California. There were rallies, sit-ins, marches, demonstrations, and merriment at nearly every UC campus, UCLA not being an exception. Organized by the UC Fights Back Coalition which unites student groups and unions, the events at UCLA included balloon drops, teach-ins on various aspects of the economic crisis, a rally, and a march/radical tour of UCLA which stopped at different sites on campus where students spoke of past radical actions that have happened or the effects of budget cuts  on various aspects of the university. The march paraded through the halls of these buildings, momentarily interrupting the normality of campus life to evoke UCLA’s radical history and find ways to collectively name the unannounced effects of austerity measures. We disrupted the quiet of the library and tumbled into lecture halls full of 300 students with drums and festivity.

About 100 students rallied and then marched through a series of campus buildings on a "radical campus tour." Photo by Eric Gardner.

The actions on October 7th at UCLA and more broadly at campuses state-wide highlight two connections between the arts and student organizing. First, student activism frequently invokes the slippage between a political event and an art event. Students use artistic media – particularly music, paintings, poetry, dance – in how they organize, how politics is done. Student movements, like other social movements, have their own cultural production. This use of artistic media within student organizing helps to give an action a performativity; organizers do not direct the mobilizations to some imagined listener but enact a certain kind of politics amongst  those present.

However, one must be a bit wary of foregrounding the artist in social movements. The artist is often a figure that is instrumentalized behind her back and used for any number of political interests. The artist has become the poster child for neoliberal labor markets: the continued expansion of professionalization accompanied by the simultaneous eclipse of full-time work and a decent wage. So while the artist may be useful to student movements, one must not reify the work of the artist without interrogating the politics that are at play.

 

Olive Odille is a PHD student in Culture and Performance at UCLA.

Oct 7th at UCSC from Kyle Mckinley

13 Oct

Students, workers, faculty and community members came together today, at UC Santa Cruz’s Bay Tree Plaza, to voice opposition to privatization, fee hikes and pay cuts. This is the same site where, one year ago, dozens of students kicked off a year of occupations, strikes and teach-ins by seizing and communizing a study lab known as the “Graduate Student Commons.” Though the number of people in attendance today (estimated to be 100-200) was overshadowed by the massive rallies and campus shut-downs of the last academic year, enthusiasm was high in the plaza as students shared the stage with workers and local politicians. Participants vowed to continue the struggle against the corporatization of public education with further direct actions, legislative pressure and consciousness-raising.

The highlight of the event was a skit by faculty members that literalized the metaphor of “pie-charts” in order to make apparent the disproportionate allocation of funds given over to administration. Some faculty members – dressed as cigar-puffing fat-cats – wore signs identifying them as “executive compensation,” and “Yudof’s housing expenses,” while other faculty played the roles of “teaching budget,” “ethnic resources,” “graduate student support”  and “language instructors.” As might be predicted, when dollar sign-inscribed apple pies were laid out before these competing sectors of the UC budget, it was the administrative concerns that wolfed down the lion’s share, while other players were left with crumbs and crust. By the end of the skit the crowd was roaring with boos and laughter at the expense of the good-willed faculty who, it should be said, had a great deal of pie on their faces.

Check out the video here:

Among the participating professors, all of whom are members of the Faculty Organizing Group (FOG), was Ben Leeds Carson. At UCSC, Professor Carson (http://bencarson.squarespace.com/) teaches music theory and composition for the Music Deptartment and graduate level courses in art theory and practice for the Digital Art and New Media program. He joined me for an informal conversation about the role of artist-academics in this social movement and the importance of arts divisions embracing struggle for public education. Carson’s analysis of how Arts divisions have been suffering the effects of privatization begins with the administration pulling a bait-and-switch. Departments were told a decade ago that when their enrollment increased, so would their funding. “Increasing enrollment was easy,” Carson remarked, “but the goal posts shifted; disparities in resource allocation continued.” The paradox that Carson emphasizes is that at the same time as class sizes have increased, there is ever more pressure on academic-artists to seek the sponsorship of private and corporate donors who sometimes value art as a kind of luxury. Voicing a common sentiment, Carson explained that “we’re left with an impression that our programs don’t deserve funding simply for their serious contributions to research and education.”

Such sentiments are reinforced by commonplace misunderstandings about UC budgets. “There is a widespread perception that engineering and biomedical research pay for themselves with corporate partnerships,” Carson explains, “but we (arts instructors) offer a disproportionately large amount of the teaching labor that generates the U.C.’s tuition revenue.”

Despite the palpability of these problems, Carson notes that there is “far from a consensus” about how to grapple with these pressing issues. At UCSC the struggle against privatization has been overwhelmingly led by educators from the humanities and social sciences; a lack of consensus as to what is to be done may one of the reasons for the relatively meager response of Arts faculty to the student movements. Carson asks, “why aren’t arts faculty angry about this subservient funding model? It doesn’t match the reality of our contribution to knowledge and learning at this institution.”

Though reluctant to make overarching claims about “Art,” Carson’s optimism for the future role of artists in social movements is grounded in his simple observation that almost all arts practitioners today are likely to agree that art has an important role to play in the production of social values. “I hardly think anyone would disagree with the idea that art is a provocation,” Carson explains, “when we distinguish ourselves as creative workers, or as producers of culture, we understand that distinction as something of an ability to echo society back to itself in a way that is illuminating or in a way that teaches.”

That sense of the imaginative capacity of creative workers was certainly bourne out by the faculty skit and in other events throughout the day in Santa Cruz. A critical-mass type bike ride, students dressed as zombies (in a now familiar reference to Yudof’s “graveyard”) and a rally to bring together K-12 students and teachers with higher education activists were each infused with a sense of good humor and possibility as Santa Cruz kicks off another year of actions in defense of public education.

Kyle McKinley is a student in the Digital Arts and New Media MFA Program at UC Santa Cruz. Read more at http://kylemckinley.com/

Calls for Action on October 7th

23 Sep

For the National call and the California Call visit http://www.defendeducation.org/

and check out:

Planning for the School Year with micha cárdenas (UCSD)

14 Sep

Last month SOTA sent out a Q&A to the UCIRA list-serv about preparing for the school year and got back some great responses, posted here. After it was posted we got one more really insightful response from micha cárdenas at UC San Diego. If you would like to respond to this or other Q & As post a comment on this text or email ucirasota@gmail.com.

Q: Recently on Remaking the University blog Michael Meranze (UCLA) reflected on the summer and the upcoming school year: “This year crucial issues about the organization of University life and work, about the relationships between the campuses, the intersection between UC and the larger Higher Education system, about pensions, staff layoffs, and student fees are going to confront us all. This summer may have been quiet—but in all likelihood it is the calm before the storm.” SOTA wants to know what challenges do people need to be preparing for, thinking about as the school year begins? What is on your mind?

A: micha cárdenas (Lecturer, Visual Arts Department and Critical Gender Studies and Artist/Theorist, bang.lab; all at UCSD) – For me, what’s on my mind is the question “how far can I go?” As a lecturer, I’m very aware that I can lose my job for participating in indefinite strikes, blockades and occupations, but they are the only actions that I think are going to be effective at this point. We’re all coming back to a university reshaped by budget cuts, and we have to choose between acceptance and noncompliance. For myself, at UCSD, I was saddened last year to see so many large marches and single or few day strikes totally co-opted by [UC President] Yudof. Across the UC, huge marches happen, and Yudof puts out a press release the next day saying how proud he is of the democracy in action in our school system, when really there is none. Really, we come back to fewer jobs, friends laid off, fewer classes for students and more tuition. I applaud and support efforts Ken spoke of to coordinate a non-payment plan of the tuition increases. I feel myself, like the only thing on my mind is how to join and support efforts that are continuing to start blockades and occupations, because I think we’re long past any semblance of democracy or negotiation and are at the point where we have to either stop the machine of privatization or help it function. I was also saddened by what I saw happen at many UCSD rallies where a diversity of tactics was not respected. I saw march organizers, “protest police”, literally break up and stop multiple street blockades at UCSD last school year, and that can’t happen. Hopefully those of us willing to stop the working of the university in order to open a space to re-imagine and reclaim education can see now that the name “activist” or the “organizer” t-shirt is not enough to indicate an ally, and that we have to find solidarity and build it with those people we share an affinity and a passion with and act on that solidarity. I for one, am ready to put my body on the line and hope I can find some people who are willing to join me.
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