More is Less: Making Sense of the UCSC Crisis

By the Long Road Collective: Sean Burns, Chris Dixon, Maia Ramnath, James Rowe, Rebecca Schein, and Alexis Shotwell, March 2005

Last year, the UC made $786 million more than it spent. Yet all we hear about is the “budget crisis.” This doesn’t sound like a budget crisis to us. Our university is in crisis, it’s true, but the main issue isn’t the budget. The main issues are priorities and power. Our resources are being extracted. The space we have to live and learn in is contracting. What all of us really need is a say in how the university distributes its vast resources. What we need is democratization.

EXTRACTION

Extraction is when something we have is taken away from us. This is exactly what’s happening to those of us who study, work, and live at UCSC. Our wages, our student fees, our work, our space, our time, and our imagination are all being redistributed upwards. More of us are going into severe debt, cramming into bigger classes, and working harder, faster, and longer, while getting less financial aid, fewer student services, shittier educational experiences, and no chances to advance or make living wages.

Our money, labor, and energy aren’t being extracted for the purposes of supporting our education or so that we can support our families. Instead, they’re being used to expand corporate connections to the university (in the name of “partnership with the private sector”), line the pockets of top tier administrators (in the name of “salaries competitive with the corporate world”), and double the physical spread of the campus (in the name of “strategic futures”).

Extraction means:

  • massive fee hikes while classes and programs, like Journalism, are being cut
  • full professors replaced by adjunct and temporary faculty, each teaching bigger classes for less pay
  • custodians required to clean more buildings in less time while being denied raises
  • paying workers so little that they qualify for and need social services for the poor
  • taxing UCSC’s natural environment to make way for a grossly expanded campus that is of no clear benefit to our city or to UCSC students

We’re told that UCSC has no choice but to make these cutbacks. So why do they have money to give $2.4 million in bonuses to UC executives? Why is there $227 million more in surplus this year than last? A recent neutral study found that the University’s pattern of taking in millions more than it spends is not going to change. Where is the budget crisis?

CONTRACTION

Contraction is when our opportunities are narrowed, our vision shrunk. We are all left with less money, time, education, opportunity and hope. You’re probably rushing to finish reading this pamphlet so that you can go to work to afford your fees, do homework that will get inadequate attention from your overworked TA, and crash three courses.

Contraction means crowded classrooms, overworked teachers and staff, and indebted students. But contraction also affects our field of vision. It narrows our sense of what education is for, reducing the university experience from an expansive imaginative exploration to narrow job training driven by economic imperatives. Contraction also narrows our sense of belonging to a community, reducing us to isolated constituencies fighting with each other for apparently scarce resources. Our contracted vision keeps us from seeing the big picture. We have a common problem: not scarce resources, but exclusion from the decision-making processes that affect our lives at UCSC.

Contraction is:

  • students crammed into more overcrowded classrooms and with fewer courses to choose from
  • resources diverted away from crucial outreach and retention programs that support students of color
  • poorer students in California less able to attend – or even imagine attending – a UC, due to higher fees and less aid (Sounds like a brilliant military recruiting formula to us.)
  • workers stuck in dead-end jobs, with no opportunities to advance or build decent futures at UCSC
  • women and people of color overly represented in low-wage entry level service and clerical positions – contraction further entrenches the structural racism and sexism that shape promotional practices
  • a narrowed vision of the educational experience: students are being trained to pass scan-tron exams, not educated to write and think
  • connecting the life of programs to corporate “partnership,” which insures the poverty of programs like philosophy or women’s studies

If the University squeezes the life out all the things that make it a university – its students, teachers, clericals, service workers, and environment – is it still a university?

WHOSE UNIVERSITY?

We share our ideas with you because the UC administration and regents are telling a different story about what is happening. We – the students, faculty, and workers – are being pitted against each other, when in fact a vision of a genuine educational community unites us. The University has enough money to pay its workers a living wage and fully fund its language programs. We can have unionized dining hall workers and give students a choice about meal plans. When the administration tells us it can’t, it’s telling us something about its priorities, not about material realities.

The crisis in our campus community is not happening in a vacuum. What goes on at UCSC connects with what goes on in California state politics, which must be understood in national and international context: perpetual war, global socialization of loss, privatization of gain, and a concentration of decision-making power. One way we tackle these bigger contexts is by organizing where they affect us – right here.

Solutions to the crisis we face begin with a democratization of the UC management process. UC is a public institution: publicly owned and publicly accountable. We the public demand participation in making the decisions that affect our lives, notably the distribution of our resources. Democratization isn’t a one-time task. It’s an ongoing process of learning, building relationships, raising questions, and organizing collectively.

Here is our invitation: Get involved in building democratic community on this campus!

Learn more. Read fact-finding reports on the UC budget. Find out more about the links between budget cuts, rising fees, and declining diversity. Get the facts on the low wages and their impact on our community. Study the UC’s connections to military and corporate agendas.

Talk to people around you about these issues – on the bus, at work, in the classroom, in your dorm, in the dining hall. Bring your questions and concerns out and into the open everywhere. Democracy rarely happens with official approval.

Connect with campus organizations. Only a few of many: Student-Worker Coalition for Justice, Engaging Education, Students Against War, Student Union Assembly, Long Range Development Plan Coalition (www.ucsc.edu/Planning_2020).

Participate in actions this quarter. Join campus workers (AFSCME and CUE) when they go on strike April.14th. Take part in the statewide student walkout against the budget cuts on April 20. Check out the Tent University April 18-22 (http://ucsc.tentstate.com).

This piece was originally written and distributed as a pamphlet to offer some analysis and context for escalating student and worker struggles at UC Santa Cruz during spring quarter 2005. It was our modest attempt to pierce the rhetoric around the University of California “budget crisis.”