This is the single best thing I have read so far on the political economy of higher education. Brown's comments are clear, incisive, and compelling. He begins:
I’m an English professor, and as some of you know, English professors spend a lot of our time talking about how to construct a “thesis” and how to defend it through argument. So today I’m going to model this way of thinking and writing by using it to discuss the university struggle. My remarks will consist of five theses, and I will defend these by presenting arguments.
- Tuition increases are the problem, not the solution.
- Police brutality is an administrative tool to enforce tuition increases.
- What we are struggling against is not the California legislature, but the upper administration of the UC system.
- The university is the real world.
- We are winning.
Please read the whole thing. It will be the best ten minutes of your political / intellectual / professional day. Some excerpts below the fold:
THESIS ONE Tuition increases are the problem, not the solution.
State funds are restricted funds. This means that a certain portion of those funds has to be used to fund the instructional budget of the university. The more money there is in the instructional budget, the more money is invested in student instruction: money that is actually spent on your education. But private funds, tuition payments, are unrestricted funds. This means there are no restrictions on whether those funds are spent on student instruction, or administrative pay, or anything else.
What Meister uncovered [see here] through his research into the operations of university funding is that student tuition (your money) is being pledged as collateral to guarantee the university’s credit rating. What this allows the university to do is borrow money for lucrative investments, like building contracts or “capital projects” as they are called. These have no relation to the instructional quality of your university education. And the strong credit rating of the university is based on its pledge to continue raising tuition indefinitely....
THESIS TWO Police brutality is an administrative tool to enforce tuition increases.
Without provocation, UC police bludgeoned faculty, workers, and students. They drove their batons into stomachs and ribcages, they beat people with overhand blows, they grabbed students and faculty by their hair, threw them on the ground, and arrested them. Numerous people were injured. A graduate student was rushed to the hospital and put into urgent care.
Why did this happen? Because tuition increases have to be enforced. It is now registered in the internal papers of the Regents that student protests are an obstacleto further tuition increases, to the program of privatization. This obstacle has to be removed by force. Students are starting to realize that they can no longer afford to pay for an “educational premium” by taking on more and more debt to pay ever-higher tuition. So when they say: we refuse to pay more, we refuse to fall further into debt, they have to be disciplined. The form this discipline takes is police brutality, continually invited and sanctioned by UC Chancellors and senior administrators over the past two years....
THESIS FOUR The university is the real world.
The university is not a place “cut off” from the rest of the world or from other political situations. The university is one situation among many in which we struggle against debt, exploitation, and austerity. The university struggle is part of this larger struggle. And as part of this larger struggle, the university struggle is also an anti-capitalist struggle....
THESIS FIVE We are winning.
Yes, it is true that tuition continues to rise. I am not saying that we have won. But it is also the case that last year state funding was partially restored. This was due to student resistance on our campuses, not in Sacramento. It was due to our struggle against the administrative logic of privatization. Meanwhile, privatization is becoming more and more unsustainable, less and less viable. In the fall of 2009, student resistance became a powerful obstacle to perpetually increasing tuition. It is because of that obstacle that the Regents meeting was cancelled this week....
So we have built a historically important student movement, and now that movement is linked to largest anti-capitalist movement in the United States since 1930s. Students now have the support of a struggle that can be waged on two fronts, on and off campus. To put it mildly, we have many more allies than we did two years ago.