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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010
In celebration of having skipped the shopping hell of post-Thanksgiving Friday, I caught up on some tech articles, trying unsystematically to find someone who doesn’t like their iPad as much as I don’t like mine. I ran into David Pogue’s piece about what he’s learned in 10 years of writing his “State of the Art” technology products column for the New York Times. Focusing mostly on products related information technology, towards which universities feel a fatherly pride, Pogue makes two points worth remembering. First,
Things don’t replace things; they just splinter. I can’t tell you how exhausting it is to keep hearing pundits say that some product is the “iPhone killer” or the “Kindle killer.” Listen, dudes: the history of consumer tech is branching, not replacing.
TV was supposed to kill radio. The DVD was supposed to kill the Cineplex. Instant coffee was supposed to replace fresh-brewed.
But here’s the thing: it never happens. You want to know what the future holds? O.K., here you go: there will be both iPhones and Android phones. There will be both satellite radio and AM/FM. There will be both printed books and e-books. Things don’t replace things; they just add on.
This has obvious implications for the relationship among the arts, sciences, humanities, and social sciences: fund them as though they were related branches, not as though some were replacing others.

Second, there's this:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice; in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear 
---William Blake

Following their very successful demonstration of November 10, where somewhere around 50,000 made their way to London to protest the proposed elimination of governmental support for university teaching and the reduction of the students to debtors, UK students and faculty will take once more to the streets in London on the 24th of November.  Despite the size of the protest, the Coalition government has insisted that they will not retreat in their commitment to oversee the long-term elimination of university arts and humanities while reducing higher education to an appendage of business and the immediate labor market.

Strikingly, the English students, teachers, and allies are protesting against an arrangement that has long been the fundamental reality for US higher education--increasing student debt, declining government supports for higher education, the transformation of students into consumers, the redefinition of education as a commodity purchased on the market as a private good rather than a public trust promoted as a common good.  Equally striking are the protesters' attempts to make common cause between the transformation of higher education financing and the larger Conservative and Liberal Democratic effort to reduce security for the poor and the elderly.  As in the United States, the government seems determined to produce a general state of social insecurity.  A petition in solidarity with the protesters can be found here.

Closer to home, of course, the Regents last week decided once again to raise tuition on students.  We will have more analysis on that in the near future.  But for now I wanted to highlight two separate--although interrelated--points.  The first is that the increase in fees comes right on the heels of renewed efforts by the Obama-Bowles-Simpson deficit commission to justify cuts in social security and the reduction of aid to the working and middle-classes while promoting tax breaks for corporations.  As with the Regents, those in power are making "hard choices"--although for some reason they seem to be "hard" only in their effects on the less fortunate.

The second point worth noting is that in the aftermath of the Regents decision and the questions raised about police conduct at the Regents meeting, campus police at both Berkeley and UCI apparently have attempted to close off free speech and protest opportunities.  At Berkeley, for example, police have been reported as having torn down posters protesting police action and threatening to cite students and others for distributing the flyers.  Bronwen provided links to some of these incidents in her comments on Pop The Mace.  You can find additional information here and here. The latter also gives a photo of the poster in question.  Please check out the links and see for yourself.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Bob Samuels reports, "First of all, they voted to change fees to tuition without discussion and with a quick vote. I thought this was a historic move, but the regents did not think it was a big deal. Then  they went out of their way to connect the student fee increase to the need to fund the pension for the workers and the faculty.  Outside students were arrested and pepper sprayed, and one police officer pulled a gun on a student after the student took the officer’s baton.  They will vote on the fee hike on thurs. People are working behind the scenes to delay the increase."

News and Video with a horrible commercial:

SF Chronicle: has pictures of the protests, including this especially resonant one

Emotional confrontation:

Daily Cal: comes with pepper spray. Also this comment, reasonable in a normal world: ""Now (the regents) heard our concerns, maybe they'll alter some of the plans they've been making," said Ruben Santos, a custodian at UC Davis who is also an ASFSCME member, of regents meeting protests."

Occupy California

Cloudminder says: "Pitts was the pitts today- no real research has been done on non resident placement after graduation- here is the student regent account of the Pitts presentation:
"Provost Pitts talk to the Ed Policy Committee on the issues of nonresident enrollments. The UC Commission on the Future was suggesting that the nonresident enrollment be increased and then capped at 10%. It is currently at 6.5%. Regents had mixed reactions – a couple of the Regents remarked on the capacity issue of our campuses, and asked how nonresident enrollment increases were not going to knock out California residents. Other regents questioned why there is a specific cap of 10%, when the current enrollment percentage is not a capped percentage. Other Regents asked what are the results of these nonresident enrollments – do these nonresidents stay in the state after they leave? While data shows that 2 out of 3 nonresidents decide to stay in California for graduate school, we do not know how much of these nonresidents stay and work in California."

it was embarrassing how many times Pitts had to say 'i don't know those numbers ill have to get back to you- or maybe i'll get back to you' just a friggin embarrassment- does the man not have a well paid staff?!

other funny stuff
Blum's comment about talking to someone close to him about "our tea party friends" and how likely they are to help with discussions with OMB and NIH

and Eddie Island asking Taylor - why did you makes us just listen to your 20 minute presentation on UC finances.

comedy central should let their cameras

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The Regents have some items on their agenda that will reshape the University of California.  Wednesday the 17th at 9:30 the Committee on Educational Policy will discuss the effort now spreading throughout the system to recruit more nonresident students who can be charged more than double in-state fees.  The L.A. Times report repeats without investigating claims that nonresidents will not replace resident students but will be added to them, in a zero-growth budget environment when the state has no reason to pay additional money to educate the children of Texans and Nevadans.  Tune in to see if this claim is repeated and explained.

At 10:15 on Wednesday the Committee on Finance will hear fairly dismal budget news.  Student tuition will start going up sometime after 8:50 am on Thursday morning.  And the discussion of the pension changes will begin Thursday morning at 10:15.  Listen in.

Commentary to follow -

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
What comes next for universities after the Democratic "shellacking"?  Michael has laid out the basic issues, and it's worth adding that the public is going to get what they didn't actually want, and then asking how to make the case for something better.

First of all, the Democrats failed to make a case for a major innovation boom, one based on a serious increase in public funding.  They left public spending in the twilight zone of the last-resort safety net, and now a repositioning will come too late. The Financial Times reported that the Republican victory killed flagship elements of Obama’s innovation policy for at least for the next two years. In “Corporate America welcomes power shift" (print title), the FT observes that cap-and-trade and net neutrality are gone, to be replaced by coal-and-oil and the cable cartels.  The same goes for defense conversion, which would have helped research-and-development funding of the kind conducted at universities. The New York Times' Frank Rich has pointed out that neither party offered a coherent storyline in which clear solutions follow well-described problems. In spite of its favorable stance towards science, the Obama Administration does not have a serious innovation policy that aims at supporting the creation of both knowledge and middle-class jobs. And neither party has a plan for supporting and expanding public universities.

Is this what people voted for? There is no popular support for the abandonment of renewable energy, or for the economic inefficiencies of the inequality boom, or for a recovery limited to the top end of the financial industry, or for a recovery based on the Fed reinflating asset bubbles, or for tuition increases at double to quadruple the consumer price index.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010
It will take some time to grasp the meaning of Tuesday's election for higher education and the state in general.  But it is possible to take some preliminary bearings.  Clearly the biggest victory was the defeat of Meg Whitman.  While Jerry Brown has never shown himself to be a friend to UC, he does not share Whitman's conviction that the state's problems lie in the coddled public sector.  Consequently, he does not seem to share her vision that the way to economic recovery is to fire thousands of public workers, skew the tax system even more in favor of the most wealthy, or demonize poor immigrant workers (who apparently have not sacrificed enough for their betters).  In addition, Brown is more likely to address pension questions through negotiations with unions than through an effort to re-write retirement through a fear-driven, personally funded, initiative.  Voters also moved the budget process forward with the passage of Proposition 25 which overturns the 2/3 rule for budgets.  But the question here is whether half a loaf is really better than none.  While the budget no longer requires a 2/3 majority raising taxes still does--so the majority still may be unable to find the revenue to fund the programs that the state needs.  

Indeed, we should recognize that the election provides little comfort to those who think that the state faces a revenue problem--Proposition 24 which would have rolled back tax boondoggles granted to corporations failed, Proposition 26 which extends the 2/3 requirement from taxes to fees, passed, Proposition 22 which would limit the State's ability to draw funds from cities and county revenues passed, and Proposition 21 to aid state parks failed.   The Democrats may be in control of the state government but whether they can find revenue enough to help both education, the poor, the infrastructure, etc remains doubtful.

On the national level there is little reason to hope.  The Republican victories in the House and in many of the Governorships bodes badly both for getting out of the Great Recession. increasing unemployment, or getting the Federal government to invest in the country.   Obama is likely to seek common ground with the Republicans on Arne Duncan's plans to have markets drive public education.  And whereas voters in Arizona and Florida rejected plans to cut funding to schools, voters in Washington and Oklahoma refused to raise to support schools.  Indeed, it is possible to see Proposition 24 as a battle between schools and corporations where corporations won.

In all, not a pretty picture. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010
By Michael Meranze

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, an' go it alone
London calling upon the zombies of death
Quit holding out-and draw another breath

--The Clash

If Albany’s language departments are the canaries in the coal mine of public education, the ongoing efforts to restructure higher education funding in England are the coal mine collapsing. As James Vernon and Stefan Collini have argued, the Browne Report and the Coalition government’s Spending Priorities Review, if implemented, will mark an effective end of public higher education in England. England’s government is now proposing to shift the fiscal basis of higher education from the public to the individual student and enshrine the notion that higher education is primarily a private not a public good. Moreover, the Browne Report assumes drastic cutbacks, if not outright elimination, of public subsidies for teaching “non-priority” courses while maintaining some targeted support for STEM fields. Under the sign of fiscal necessity, Browne and the coalition government are attempting to subordinate higher education even more to the perceived short-term needs of business under the sign of appealing to the desires of students. Any notion of the centrality of the transmission of a critical tradition in higher education has been lost.