the state of the university in california

last week i was at ucsb (university of california at santa barbara) and there was a protest against the california budget cuts affecting education in the state. one of my favorite scholars, lisa hajjar, a professor at ucsb, and author of courting conflict, explains some of these issues here in this short clip from a recent press conference:

part of the issue is related to salaries. the fact that all employees–except for those highest up on the ladder–are receiving a 10% cut in salary. here are some of the main points from the protest, but there are more on the posters i photographed below from the protest:

University of California faculty, staff, and students are mobilizing in response to recent decisions made by the UC Regents and UC President Mark Yudof. We span the 10 campuses of the UC system, with affiliates throughout the CSU, Community College and K-12 systems. We support top-quality public education for our state. We urge Californians to take back their schools and end the incompetent stewardship of the UC Office of the President (UCOP), the UC Board of Regents, and the Schwarzenegger administration, before it is too late.

• The UCSB CC4O4 rejects the Regents’ decisions (1) to ratify Yudof’s requests for emergency powers, and (2) to cut faculty and staff salaries and essential programs and services. We also repudiate the justifications for these decisions and the process leading up to them. Prior to the Regents’ meeting, Yudof asked for the UC community’s responses to only three options: salary cuts, furloughs, or both. The University can overcome the challenges it faces in other ways. We demand Option 4: no salary cuts, no furloughs, and the pursuit of alternative budgetary avenues.

• We demand transparency and democratic participation in financial planning and the budget process at all individual campuses and at UCOP. We call upon Chancellor Henry Yang to permit the full participation of the entire UCSB community in all determinations of our campus’s response to the Regents’ vote.

• The only vision of the University’s future acceptable to our coalition gives first priority to the needs of all of our students. We ask that Yudof redesign the Commission on the Future of UC to represent a real variety of viewpoints and student concerns. We ask that the Commission’s first actions be directed toward immediate redress of recent budget cuts, and general reform of education funding and the state budget process.

this protest was outside of a swanky hotel in santa barbara where the university of california president mark yudof was speaking.

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the protest was disappointing. first of all, it was small. there were people from ucla and ucsb there. but most of the people there were not faculty. they were workers at the university. members of the union. i had been on ucsb’s campus prior to the protest and there were definitely faculty members around. but as is par for the course faculty often let the struggle fall on the shoulders of those lower down on the ladder, including students–and there were students there too as their fees will be going up about 30%. but i also started wondering about american labor organizing in general. while i think that labor organizing is important–and those wanting a good analysis should check out bill fletcher’s recent book on the subject–it always seems very individualistic in the u.s. it always seems to me like this sort of organizing only emerges when one’s personal salary, well being, livelihood is threatened. this is not true with respect to labor organizing historically in the u.s. nor is it true with respect to labor organizing globally. but the problem is that organizing more generally is not proactive. it is not global. and it is not thinking in terms of solidarity actions around the world. at least not from what i can glean in the u.s.

i also found it striking that the protest stayed outside on the street corner the entire time. i’ve written about this before, and posted a video of naomi wolf on the subject, but i find it troubling when protesters play it safe. this small protest would have had far more publicity if there had been arrests. if people had stormed the hotel and brought the protest inside. but people were afraid of arrests and so they stayed outside on the street corner. at the same time i don’t think that the workers should be the ones who get arrested. i think those with the most privilege–the professors–should be those who get thrown in jail for protesting the salary cuts and tuition hikes. but, of course, without a significant number of professors present this was not possible.

for instance the union organizing for california state university employees has not endorsed or signed on to any solidarity statement supporting the boycott of the zionist entity. compare this to south african dock workers who organized in solidarity with palestinians and who later influenced american dockworkers to do the same a couple of months ago:

2009 Convention Resolution–Commend South African Dockers adopted at the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) – Longshore Caucus June 2009

Whereas, the South African dockworkers union in the port of Durban organized a heroic action against the ZIM Lines ship Joannna Russ, on February 5, 2009 protesting the Israeli massacre in the Gaza War and in solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people, and

Whereas, a report entitled “Victory for Worker Solidarity—Durban Dockers Refuse to Offload Israeli Goods” issued February 6, 2009 by Randall Howard, General Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) and Patrick Craven of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) stated “Israel’s terror included flagrant breaches of international law, the bombing of densely populated neighbourhoods, the illegal deployment of chemical white phosphorous, and attacks on schools, ambulances, relief agencies, hospitals, universities and places of worship.” and,

Whereas, the Durban dockworkers announced that their action was inspired by the ILWU’s 1984 anti-apartheid action in the port of San Francisco against the ship Nedlloyd Kimberly from South Africa, and

Whereas, unions around the world have lauded the SATAWU for their action,

Therefore Be It Resolved that this Convention direct the Titled Officers to send a solidarity message commending our brothers and sisters in the South African dockworkers’ union (SATAWU) for their exemplary action.

Note: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has approximately 42,000 members in over 60 local unions in the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. An additional 3,500 members belong to the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, which constitutes the Union’s Marine Division. Another 14,000 members belong to the autonomous ILWU Canada.

there are so many reasons why such solidarity actions are important, and indeed relevant. at ucsb, for instance, professor william robinson was recently exonerated after having come under attack by zionist nimrods in the area for having sent around an email about gaza:

On Wednesday, he was notified that a faculty committee had found no “probable cause” to undertake a full investigation of complaints filed against him related to e-mail messages he sent to his students in which he compared Israelis and Nazis. Further, he was notified that the administration at the University of California at Santa Barbara had accepted the faculty members’ analysis, and that the case was over — without his ever having faced formal charges before a disciplinary committee.

Supporters of Robinson, a tenured professor of sociology, agreed with those findings. But they said that grievances filed over e-mail messages sent in January should have been seen immediately as baseless, and that allowing the case to linger for months endangered the academic freedom of Robinson and others.

“We’re pleased, but this decision is too late,” said Yousef K. Baker, a graduate student and one of the organizers of the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB. “I don’t think it is enough for the university just to say that this case is terminated. The university needs to be held accountable for the chilling effect that their tardiness in doing what they have done now has created.”

In a statement, Robinson said that he is waiting for “a public apology from the university as a first step in clearing my name after it has smeared my reputation and undermined my professional integrity.” He added that he plans to file a grievance over how he was treated in the case.

The case has attracted attention far beyond Santa Barbara, with the American Association of University Professors last month calling on the university to “pause” its inquiries because of the academic freedom issues involved. Cary Nelson, national president of the AAUP, said Wednesday night that “although I am pleased that the Robinson case has been closed, I am also concerned that unnecessary investigations of faculty exercising their academic freedom are having a serious chilling effect on our more vulnerable or less courageous colleagues.”

The dispute dates to an e-mail message that Robinson sent to the approximately 80 students in January in a course about sociology and globalization. The e-mail contained an article criticizing the Israeli military’s actions in Gaza. Part of the e-mail was an assemblage of photos from Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews and from Israel’s actions in Gaza. Students were invited to look at the “parallel images.” A message from Robinson argued that Gaza would be like “Israel’s Warsaw.”

In February, the Anti-Defamation League’s Santa Barbara office wrote to Robinson to protest the e-mail and to urge him to repudiate it. “While your writings are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, we rely upon our rights to say that your comparisons of Nazis and Israelis were offensive, ahistorical and have crossed the line well beyond legitimate criticism of Israel,” the letter said. It went on to say that the “tone and extreme views” in his e-mail were “intimidating to students,” and that using his university e-mail to send “material that appears unrelated to” his course violated university standards for faculty members.

Following that letter, two students in the course dropped the class and filed complaints against Robinson. One student wrote that she felt “nauseous” upon reading the e-mail, and felt it was inappropriate. A second student complaint accusing Robinson of being unprofessional — also from a student who dropped the course after receiving the e-mail — said that Robinson has “clearly stated his anti-Semitic political views in this e-mail.”

Under Santa Barbara’s faculty governance system, such complaints go to a “charges officer” and then — if they are serious — a committee may be formed, somewhat like a grand jury, to determine whether formal charges should be brought against the professor. Robinson and his supporters have maintained that the e-mail was so clearly covered by academic freedom that the faculty charges officer should have dropped the matter. Instead, a committee was formed to determine whether the charges merited consideration by the standing committee that considers such allegations and can recommend sanctions against a professor. It was that non-standing committee that determined that there was no need to bring charges for a full investigation. Under the university’s rules, no official statement is released about why charges were not brought. But earlier memos suggested that the two rules Robinson was accused of violating were measures that bar faculty members from “significant intrusion of material unrelated to the course” and “use of the position or powers of a faculty member to coerce the judgment or conscience of a student or to cause harm to a student for arbitrary or personal reasons.” (Many of the documents related to the student complaints and various university communications about the situation may be found on the Web site of the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB.)

The position of Robinson and his supporters has been that Israel’s conduct in Gaza was in every way appropriate as a topic for discussion in a class on global issues, and that the complaints filed against him were a simple case of students (and some pro-Israel groups) disagreeing with Robinson’s analysis. Robinson could not be reached Wednesday, but last month he told Inside Higher Ed that the charges against him were “absolutely absurd.” He noted that he is Jewish and said that he abhors anti-Semitism, and that his academic freedom is being violated by the university taking seriously charges that link his e-mail criticisms of Israel’s government with anti-Semitism. “This is all because I have criticized the policies of the State of Israel.”

Stand With Us, a pro-Israel group that has been organizing petition drives to back the idea of a full investigation of Robinson, issued a statement Wednesday night questioning the university’s decision. “We are surprised and disappointed that UCSB chose not to uphold their standards for professional conduct, and that it has blurred the lines between responsible education and the peddling of propaganda. It is unfortunate that students will continue to be victims of partisan indoctrination and misinformation,” said the statement, from Roz Rothstein, international director of the organization.

on a larger scale, yudof, one of the very men we were protesting last week, is an unabashed supporter of the zionist entity:

The new president of the University of California’s 10 campuses and 220,000 students keeps a kosher home, lectures on Maimonides for intellectual stimulation and is an unabashed Israel supporter.

“I am what I am,” Mark Yudof says. “What I’ve found works best for me is transparency, being direct and being honest.”

As he takes the helm of one of the world’s leading public research universities with an $18 billion budget, Yudof, a former chancellor of the University of Texas and president of the University of Minnesota, has his work cut out for him. Over the past five years, Jewish students and some observers have charged repeatedly that the administration at the UC Irvine campus, now headed by Chancellor Michael Drake, has failed to protect Jewish students against hate speech and intimidation by outside speakers and Muslim student groups. Yudof, a veteran law professor and expert on constitutional law and freedom of expression, says the issue presents him with something of a dilemma.

“It is an excruciating conflict when people demean everything that Judaism stands for. Some of these speakers and what they say drive me to distraction and I hate it,” Yudof says. “On the other hand, I teach constitutional law and I have a deep commitment to the First Amendment, which has served us well over time. How do you reconcile that as a Jewish man? It is horrendously difficult.”

Yudof defended Drake, who has been criticized by some Jews for not taking a sufficiently firm stand against hate speech.

“I’ve had several conversations with the chancellor, and he has a great heart and enormous sympathy for the Jewish people. He is a mensch,” Yudof is in Israel this week with Drake as the co-leader of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange trip for American university presidents and chancellors. Yudof, who had invited Drake on the trip before he became the University of California president, says he thinks the trip will be beneficial for both he and Drake. Yudof says he will discuss the problems at Irvine when he addresses the Hadassah national convention in Los Angeles on July 14.

Born in Philadelphia to descendents of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Yudof, 63, is the son of an electrician. He credits his wife, Judy, with intensifying his Jewish observance inside and outside the house. She is the immediate past international president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the first woman to hold the post in the organization’s 93-year history. Judy Yudof currently serves on the council of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and on the international board of Hillel.

“Judy went to Israel quite often, and I went along as the bozo on her arm,” Yudof recalls. “I am a very strong advocate of Israel,” he says. “I just am. I’m there for Israel. I may at times disagree with Israeli policy, but when they suffer, I suffer and my wife suffers.”

as part of his support for the zionist entity, he reinstated a study abroad program at the zionist entity’s universities last year:

The University of California, one of America’s largest public higher education systems, will soon allow students to return to studying abroad in Israel.

The school announced November 25 that it intends to reopen its Education Abroad Program with the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The U.C. system was among scores of American universities that suspended their Israel study-abroad programs in 2002 after the United States State Department placed Israel on its travel advisory list for safety reasons. Israel remains on the list.

As a matter of policy, the U.C. system does not offer study-abroad programs in countries that are on the State Department’s travel warning list.

But university spokesman Chris Harrington said December 4 that the school “is firmly committed to re-establishing its program in Israel.”

According to a U.C. statement, the university is in discussions with the Rothberg International School to reopen the program in Israel in fall 2009 after reviewing safety issues. The school cited a heightened ability to “to monitor and mitigate security risks.”

American access to study-abroad programs in Israel has emerged as a hot-button issue over the last six years, as pro-Israel activists have battled to have them reinstated. They argue that Israel is safer than countries such as Egypt, where students are often allowed to study with their university’s official stamp of approval. Students at local Hillels have gathered signatures and lobbied university leaders, while the Washington D.C.-based Israel on Campus Coalition assembled a task force to take on the issue nationwide.

While students from campuses that no longer offer Israel study-abroad programs have continued to study in the Jewish state, finding ways to circumvent the programs’ closures, pro-Israel campus activists say that the U.C.’s decision should have a marked impact on the number of California students taking a semester in Israel.

“This makes it more accessible, and that’s the most important thing,” said Gordon Gladstone, executive director of Berkeley Hillel at the University of California, Berkeley. “Spending long periods of time in Israel allows you to contemplate your Jewish identity in a way that few other things can.”

The announcement comes less than a year after the U.C. Board of Regents tapped Mark Yudof, the former chancellor of the University of Texas, to lead California’s extensive 10-campus system. Yudof, who keeps a kosher home, is only the second Jewish president in U.C.’s history. Yudof has visited Israel at least six times, and is married to Judy Yudof, a board member of Hillel International and a former president of the Conservative movement’s congregational arm, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

While the movement toward reinstating U.C.’s Israel study-aboard program has been in the works for several years, some pro-Israel activists said they saw Yudof’s interest in the issue as the tipping point. Upon his return from a nine-day trip to Israel in early July  just two weeks after he assumed the presidency June 16  Yudof was quoted in the Bay Area’s Jewish weekly, the San Francisco J, saying, “I told Hebrew University that it’s no secret – I’m going to take another look” at the policy.

U.C.’s program with Hebrew University once ran seamlessly. U.C. students received school credit for Hebrew University classes; they paid U.C. tuition, and had a U.C. professor on hand to administer the program. According to Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Hillel, at its peak, some 20 students from UCLA alone participated in the program.

UCLA Hillel estimates that about three to five UCLA students per year have chosen to study at Israeli universities in the years since the program was shuttered. But, said Seidler-Feller, the process has been far more complicated, requiring students to withdraw from the school. “During the last few years it’s been cumbersome and burdensome to assume the personal responsibility of enrolling in the year abroad at Hebrew University,” said Seidler-Feller. “In particular, it’s been cumbersome regarding the transfer of credits.”

Now, say Hillel leaders, students will once again be able to study in Israel without having to navigate institutional roadblocks.

One student, 21-year-old Ilana Nankin, said that while she experienced no financial hardship from spending last spring at Hebrew University, she has come up against bureaucratic pitfalls trying to get her Hebrew University credits approved at U.C. Berkeley. Nankin, a U.C. Berkeley senior who is majoring in psychology, said that she finally got her credits from Hebrew University approved just last week, some six months after she finished her studies there. “That’s been really difficult because I don’t know what I’m going to need to do to graduate,” she said.

The program’s reinstatement is the result of intensive lobbying by pro-Israel activists. Last winter, student activists redoubled their efforts when they took their case to the California state legislature. In January, former Democratic state senator Carole Migden introduced Senate Resolution 18, which cited the added burdens of studying in Israel without the program, and called for its reinstatement. That resolution passed unanimously.

Then, in August, the U.C. provost requested that an ad hoc working group advise whether the university should, as an exception to its policy, re-establish the program in Israel.

perhaps this is why, in part, the us campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel participated in a guerrilla ad to correct the university of california’s study abroad posters (click link here to see before and after versions of the posters).

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