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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Two recent polls, one by the Public Policy Institute of California and one by LAT/USC offer dispiriting news about the prospects for Proposition 30.  The PPIC poll still shows more support than opposition for Prop 30 but its support has fallen below 50% (48% in favor, 44% opposed, 8% undecided). (9)  According to the USC/LAT poll the numbers are similar (46% in favor, 42% opposed)  (4-5)  For a proposition to be trailing a week from an election bodes very, very badly for its passage.  Unless there is some turnaround or a more significant effort to get supporters to the polls, both K-12 and Higher Ed will be facing devastating cuts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

As with the Presidential contest, the California elections offer the choice between continuing the dispiriting new normal and an accelerated descent into a new Gilded Age of publicly supported private inequality.  But, in California, the significant action is in the propositions: specifically Propositions 30 and 32.  

Proposition 30--the compromise between Governor Brown, students, and unions--raises money for education.  It increases the marginal rate on income over $250,000 (for a single filer) for 7 years: in other words, rates on all income below $250,000 will remain at the present rate, on the $50,000 between $250,000 to $300,000 will rise 1%, on the $200,000 between 300,000 and $500,000 will go up an additional 1%, and the income over $500,000 will go up another 1%. (2)   It also raises the sales and use tax by 1/4 cent for 4 years. (1) The expectation is that Proposition 30 will generate on average an additional 6 Billion dollars of additional annual revenue, 89% of which would go to K-12 and 11% to the Community Colleges. (3-4)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012
1970s California was no utopia, but I do get whiplash going from giving a UC budget talk yesterday at a UCSB Faculty Association forum to preparing for my senior seminar at noon by re-reading the Issacson biography of Steve Jobs. Jobs famously stood for the fusion of art and technology, not today's desperate and sterile fixation on building STEM with no regard for its interconnections with the arts and humanities.  Jobs was also famously obsessed with making things truly great.
Atkinson taught his team to put Jobs's words through a translator.  "We learned to interpret 'This is shit' to actually be a question that means, 'Tell me why this is the best way to do it.'"
Another example:
"If someone didn't care to make their product perfect, they were a bozo."  At the West Coast Computer Faire in April 1981, for example, Adam Osborne released the first truly portable personal computer. . . it worked well enough.  As Osborne famously declared, "Adequacy is sufficient. All else is superfluous." Jobs found that approach to be morally appalling, and he spent days making fun of Osborne.  "This guy just doesn't get it," Jobs repeatedly railed as he wandered the Apple corridors.  "He's not making art, he's making shit."
Fast forward thirty-one years to yet another UC budget crisis forum, where the academic equivalent of making true art was as plausible as proposing that UC launch its own mission to Mars.  I showed slides of how far we have sunk: since the MacIntosh was released, the states have cut their real-dollar investment in public higher ed by about 25% (SHEEO Figure 3), and in California it's quite a bit worse.  Proposition 30 is a meager stopgap, but it is essential in order to prevent yet another cut to UC's and CSU's state funding--the "trigger cut" would be another 10% or so for UC. 

The overall panel discussion centered on engagement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Please come to the Arbor at noon Tuesday to support UC-AFT's UC Day of Action for Prop 30 and Against Prop 32.  UC-AFT President, Bob Samuels, will be speaking along with Nelson Lichtenstein, Das Williams, Hannah-Beth Jackson, A.S. President Sophia Armen, and Juan Donato.

Passage of Prop 30 is critical to education funding at all levels in California. UC faces a guaranteed $250 million cut this year if it fails to pass.  The UC Regents have already discussed a 20% fee increase for UC students if Prop 30 fails.  

Prop 32 would completely ban union political contributions, while leaving most corporations free to spend on politics. 

If you teach in the morning tomorrow, please let your students know that passage of Prop 30 could save them about $2400 in tuition increases this year, and encourage them to attend the rally tomorrow at noon at the Arbor to learn more.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012
By Pat Morton, UC Riverside

Timothy White, Chancellor of UC Riverside, announced yesterday that he will become Chancellor of the California State University system at the end of this year.  The surprise announcement was greeted with unalloyed delight by activists on campus.  This response might seem strange to those who know little about Tim White, whose public persona is relatively untarnished by scandal or controversy.  He has never been publicly vilified like UCD’s Chancellor Katehi, nor has he ever faced calls for his resignation or a vote of no confidence from the Academic Senate. In fact, White’s positive public image is probably one of the chief reasons he was chosen by CSU.  By carefully managing this image as an affable, nice guy despite presiding over a period of budget cuts, student protests and declining educational quality at UCR, Tim White has been able to keep his real agenda undercover.

In spring 2011, Tim White disguised himself as “Pete” and posed as an assistant chemistry professor, a track coach, a library worker and a campus tour guide for the reality TV show “Undercover Boss.”  The stunt attracted enormous press attention for White and UCR, and prompted an outpouring of uncritical affection for this Chancellor who proved he was capable of being just like us.  To see the episode in this light, however, you had to ignore the condescension that permeated his interactions with staff and students, and the fundamentally corrupt premise of the show, which allowed White to dole out money and special favors to his unsuspecting interlocutors.  Leaving aside the propriety of a Chancellor appearing on a reality show in the first place, the display of his selective largesse was particularly distasteful at a moment when UCR faced a $50 million budget gap resulting in staff layoffs, work time reductions, huge class size increases, decreases in student and academic support, reductions in faculty by attrition, mergers of academic units, and other draconian measures that eroded educational quality.  

The bread-and-circuses approach worked to distract attention from White’s policy decisions, such as the pursuit of a new Medical School that has taken millions of dollars and more than a dozen FTE out of the campus budget.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Cross posted from the Huffington Post

Mitt Romney had two simple jobs in the first presidential debate. First, he had to be the defender and not the privatizer of Social Security and Medicare. Second, he had to be the candidate of the middle class rather than of the rich.  He'd dug himself a big hole with the kind of statements that appeared in the leaked video that had him claiming that 47% of Americans are dependent on government, and with running-mate Paul Ryan's obsessive variations on his theme of how America's makers are burdened by its takers.  Romney also had to be for things that women voters favor, like public education, although, as I pointed out in the Chronicle of Higher Education, his world doesn't need it.

On the other side, Barack Obama had to cement his small lead as the sane, moderate candidate whose genuine great strength is that he doesn't have contempt for most Americans, especially those whose everyday life is a constant struggle.  He had to show Gov. Romney to be an extremist who will cut taxes for the rich and make the declining middle class pay for them with the mortgage check they would have given to the bank if the bank hadn't taken away their house, and then cut Medicare and give that to the wealthy too. He had to challenge Romney's credentials as a pragmatist businessman who was simply going to do what works.

Gov. Romney couldn't have counted on what happened October 3rd, which was President Obama freezing and folding, allowing Romney to pose endlessly as the friend of retiree and worker alike.