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Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Robert Williams: Press Conference Statement (7/29)

Press Conference Statement (on behalf of faculty participants in the Option 4 Coalition)
29 July 2009
Robert Williams, UCSB

The faculty members of this Coalition wish to emphasize that the current crisis, while seemingly the result of cutbacks in funding authorized by the State legislature, is primarily the work of the Regents. The Regents are not professional educators, they are political appointees, mostly very wealthy business people and strong supporters of Schwarzenegger and his agenda. For years they have been working to privatize the University, to run it, not as a public resource, dedicated to the education of the people of California and the pursuit of knowledge, but as a business venture, an institutional platform on which to establish profit-making enterprises that will benefit primarily the interests of big-business, and only secondarily – in “trickle-down” fashion – the State and its citizens. The effects of their policies have been disastrous: these most recent decisions are only the latest in a series of managerial blunders that have cost Californians billions of dollars and degraded, not improved, the quality of education. They represent an outrageous betrayal of the public trust, comparable to what we have seen happen at Enron and at Wall Street banks and investment firms.

The Regents are using the current economic downturn as an excuse to make cuts they have long wanted to make as part of the privatization process. These cuts do not just impair the way the University works, they fundamentally redefine what it is: they mean the end of the promise that the UC had always offered, of access to an excellent education for all qualified students no matter what their economic background. Delivering on that promise for decades, the UC created a large and well-educated workforce that powered California’s extraordinary prosperity and animated its vibrant culture. Make no mistake: these cuts will have profound and long-term consequences for the quality of life; they will affect everyone who lives here. There are plans to close some of California’s parks temporarily in response to the budget crisis: well, imagine if Yosemite was not just closed for awhile, but sold off to developers and turned into a cluster of gated communities. The selling off of the UC system is just as destructive a treatment of just as precious a resource.

We, the faculty, are professional educators. We have had enough of the way in which our priorities and those of our students have been repeatedly deferred and dismissed by the Regents, of the way in which this great institution is being trashed by the very people responsible for its care and preservation. We call upon all faculty, here and across the UC system as a whole, to join with us in demanding that the University reorganize its priorities and, if necessary, its governance structure. And we urge the people of California to get involved, to join us in helping to protect one of our most valuable assets. We have a responsibility to each other, to our children, and to our children’s children.

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