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Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Democracy in 60 Seconds

Students Protesting at UCLA
Despite the Regents' absurd attempt to limit speakers to 60 seconds each (and the even more absurd rule penalizing people who wanted to pool their time to allow for more thorough statements), students, staff, faculty, alumni, and ex-Regents all seized the public comment period at this morning's Regents Meeting to make a series of important democratic points.

Running throughout the comments were at least 2 overriding messages:

1) That the time was long past for UCOP and the Regents to think that expressions of regret or surprise were enough: if words are not followed up by concrete actions they will seem little but efforts to divert attention from the University's real problems


2) That the administration (especially UCOP) and the Regents have lost their legitimacy within the University...  And it is up to UCOP and the Regents to prove that they deserve to have that legitimacy back.

Speakers made these points clear through a series of interlocking points.

  •  It makes no sense for the Regents and President Yudof to claim to be surprised at the recent police violence at Berkeley and Davis.  This violence has been going on at least since 2009.  At this point such claims are reminiscent of nothing so much as Captain Renault's shock that gambling was going on at the Casino as he pocketed his earnings in Casablanca.
  • The Regents can no longer pretend that they are powerless people overwhelmed by state politics.  As speaker after speaker emphasized, the Regents contain some of the most powerful and powerfully connected financial, corporate, and political leaders in the state.  If they are truly concerned with the public trust of the University rather than protecting the interests of finance capital in the state they WILL SIGN THE REFUND CALIFORNIA PLEDGE and then lobby and speak actively on its behalf.  The Speakers presented the Regents with copies of the Pledge so it is now in their hands to do so.  The time has come for the Regents to declare which side they are on.
  • It is time for President Yudof to deliver budget transparency and to begin to acknowledge the reality of University finances and his administration's choices.  Speakers pointed out over and over that, as with the economic crisis more generally, the burden of UC's budgets problems have been falling disproportionately on those least able to afford it while administrative salaries remain high.  Moreover, while UCOP continues to insist that philanthropy, technology, and technical efficiencies are the key to the everyone now knows that this is wishful thinking.   
  • The recent police violence has made even clearer that there is a crisis of governance in the University.  Speakers demanded that police violence be ended, that free speech rights be preserved, and that the role of the police within the community be subject to open democratic debate.  Once again, speakers--especially students--made clear that words of regret were not enough.  A changing of the rules and practices are required.
Whether the Regents really understood what they were being told is unclear.  Chair Lansing promised to start a program of coming to the campuses but reverted to a request that students join the Regents in a march on Sacramento.

President Yudof, after announcing that former Justice Cruz Reynoso will head up the inquiry at Davis also displayed his usual tone-deafness when issues of his oligarchy arise by assuring everyone that Robinson and Edley would provide objective evaluations.  He doesn't realize that his commissions can not have legitimacy until he appoints truly independent people from outside of his inner circle. 

The Regents claim they have heard the demands.  People are waiting.  But it was clear that they won't wait long.


cloudminder said...

the most incendiary statement they can make is about how Katehi is asking the DA to drop the charges against the students
-it is salt in the wound-
the students are left wondering - why is she the person to do that?

The other concern is that many say that Breslauer apparently has been heard to say on more than one occasion that he thinks the complaints about the legitimacy of the regents appointments etc is a 'canard'-- if he really believes that he should lay out his reasoning and be open to debate it with the students and other faculty etc. It has been mixed messages on this at Cal see: http://ucdemocracy.blogspot.com/2009/11/chancellor-birgeneau-wants-more.html#comment-form

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