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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Occupy Opportunities

By Charles Schwartz

Here at UC Berkeley we are faced with the immediate announcement by the Chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, that he will resign at the end of this calendar year. (This announcement came out Tuesday, March 13; and I was on a picket line outside his office complaining about his behavior just the day before; but I doubt there is much of a connection.)

That announcement earned a flood of email commentary among activist faculty on this campus: wondering why it had happened, who the next Chancellor might be, how we might find some leverage to influence that outcome?

Is this an opportunity for something more creative?

What is the most salient new force in American political consciousness? Occupy.

Occupy what?

Occupy the process by which the next Chancellor will be chosen.

We know the standard drill. The President of the University system will appoint a Special Committee to advise him – a few members of the Board of Regents, some top administrators and faculty leaders from throughout the UC system, and a few faculty from the Berkeley campus, plus some reps from alums, students and staff. They will: define the scope of their task; invite applications; select the serious candidates; interview their top selections. The President will make the final choice and the Board of Regents will ratify that. And all of that will proceed in secrecy.

So, here is an alternative model. Some group of campus leaders call for a General Assembly of all members of the Berkeley campus and surrounding community.

This body will engage in the most open and engaging discourse on those very same questions: What are the principal issues that should guide the selection of a Chancellor? What are the criteria that we want to use in evaluating any candidate? Then: invite candidates to apply in paper and appear in person to speak and engage in discourse with this community. Then: some voting process to pass collective evaluation of the available candidates.

Of course, we cannot claim legal authority to make our choice “official”. But consider the competition for legitimacy that this process sets up.

Any serious candidate in the official circuit will have to ask themself some questions: If the people of the Berkeley campus feel that I am simply being imposed upon them, how can I be an effective leader? If I choose to engage in that public process, how can I expect the Regents to favor me as their chosen executive?

What a marvelous tension: Democracy vs. Monarchy. The 99% vs the 1% .

What a marvelous opportunity for experimentation and learning on a university campus.

Furthermore, this opportunity is not limited to the Berkeley campus. There are now three vacancies on the University’s Board of Regents. Normally, the Governor will make those appointments. (And he will make two more in March 2013 and another two in March 2014.) Citizens at each of UC’s ten campuses can convene a General Assembly to occupy the process of selecting good candidates. Each may develop a list of names, candidates rated by the local citizenry as acceptable or preferred, and submit that to the Governor for consideration.


I Am Not a Robot said...

One hopes the next Chancellor will hold his Vice Chancellors and Assistant Vice Chancellors accountable for their actions. Or is that asking too much?


a said...

But the essence of Occupy & the GA process is that nobody is responsible, no individuals represents or acts for the whole. Prof. Schwarz is trying to bend Occupy to his own purpose here, and that is to be rejected. He should come to a GA, bring his supporters from this blog, and engage with us, instead of trying to preempt our name.

Alexander Kim said...

I appreciate your sentiment Professor Schwartz and I believe the rhetoric used and suggestions within are something that the activist and general campus community should openly consider.

In my personal opinion, I disagree with "a" above in that there is any preemption purported here. I also disagree with the sentiment above of "our name."

In my personal opinion, occupyCal is not a representation or simply just a name, but rather acts as a space of discourse open for anyone and everyone willing to listen to each other and contribute in a meaningful way.

The more exclusionary that occupyCal seems to act, the more excluded people will feel. Professor Schwartz is not the enemy here, nor should anyone else be other than those who are in positions of power and use such power for various forms of abuse and oppression, i.e., institutionalized violence.

In my personal opinion, coalitions and networks should be fostered rather than be turned away in any form of rejection.

Kevin said...

One serious consideration should be reducing the Chancellor's salary (so as not to attract people who identify strongly with the 1%).

Hiring from within the campus often reduces the sense of having a chancellor imposed form without (look at the succession of chancellors at UCSC to see how much more cordial the governance is when the chancellor is an already respected member of the faculty, rather than an outsider).

peacedoctrine said...

Hello the 297,000,000,

Having read, heard, watched numerous instances of selflessness, courage, and confidence throughout the American history, recently I was stunned how all three have been taken away from most of us, away from 99% of the 99%; i.e., at least temporarily.

At this point in time, it seems only 1% of the 99% have maintain or have dusted off those three fundamental American strengths.

As a start, how about getting inspired by Charles Schwartz, Scott Olsen, Issac Kreisman, Alan Ross and many more and resurrect and buttress those three values, and do it soon.

In this age of occupy movements, surprisingly, I have encountered too many instances of selfishness, cowardice, and insecurity among our UC administrative staff and executives as well as our faculty members of all UC administrative units and departments.

Even more astonishing, I have seen it among those whose field of study or specialization examines the issues of undue political, financial, and organized white-collar crime influences all the way to the core of our historical and logical academic mission. The latter has always been devoted to accessible teaching, training, scientific dialogue, innovation, discovery, and finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems in our society and across the globe.

Let us dust off, or if necessary, like a wet canine, shake off the daze and the fear which have been engulfing us all, soaking us for too long. As a chamois or a shammy soaks volumes of water, use the inspiration from the 1% of the 99% and soak away the daze and the fear, and reveal those three American values in our remaining 98%.

A number of individuals within the 1% of the 99% are advocating the occupy movement, others are using our legislature in the state and the federal governments (yes, please go ahead and lobby them, they listen, that is the power of marketing and advertisement; it works for everyone.), and still many more are using our justice system, and its investigative tools, honed and sharpened over a century, and its criminal anti-corruption and federal conspiracy laws.

All of the above are subject to the "Use-It-or-Lose-It" Law of Activism.

So, let us get to work and clean up the house, the shop, and the neighborhood after being hit repeatedly by numerous Cat 5 hurricanes over the past three decades, too many to count, that have left us in a perpetual daze and fear.

Dust off, shake off, and soak the daze and fear away.



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