Michael Drake, Chancellor at UCI, showed us today that he is the most appropriate leader to guide us through the crisis of the university. Taking unprecedented steps in direct action, he has devised the brilliant strategy of directing us to write letters to the Governor and the Legislature. By denying over a billion dollars in funding to the university–draconian cuts, he calls it–university has had no choice but to lay off thousands of workers, kicking them and their families to the curb; raise tuition an unbelievable 32%, forcing students out of the UC; and cut essential services like the Counseling Center, the Libraries, and the SAAS. There was absolutely nothing the University could do to avoid these cuts–cashing in on the UC’s A++ credit rating or the $8 billion discretionary reserves would have been impractical. Additionally, the illegal take-over of buildings on some of the other campuses only hurts students more; by preventing administrators from doing their jobs, these instigators are keeping them from carrying out these painful but completely necessary cuts. And by scuffling with police, students are just getting riled up against people who are really their allies when they should be focusing their attention on Sacremento. Even these peaceful protests–and I, like Drake, support free speech more than anyone–are counterproductive as students should be voicing the entirety of their concerns, not to Drake, but to the State Government.
Let’s get real. Such a strategy digs our own graves. We may eulogize the State-funded university, but we will not eulogize ourselves.
The fact is, we are seeing a profound transformation happening within the university. While the loss of State funding has been significant, we are seeing our administrators try to restore the research reputation (the façade) of the UCs without concern for the actual community (the substance) that exists on and between each of the campuses. Our administration is actively trying to maintain its relevance while using student labor power to win back more funding for themselves: to fund the university which historically has existed only as an organ of Capitalism, functioning like a liver to cleanse the populace of impure elements such as unmotivated workers and political dissidents; the University is currently the primary link between the Prison-Industrial Complex and Capitalism proper. Those that can’t be sterilized are trapped for eternity in one of its various prisons. The endpoint for this transition is naturally the neoliberal university, one where prospective students pay for admission and pay for a degree after 4 years, the cost set by the market. The abandonment of faculty pension funds by the State are only the most recent milestone in this journey.
We do not buy this appeal to activism which Drake has magically found. After all the past efforts, we do not delude ourselves to believe that writing letters to the State would be effective. Additionally, such a campaign does nothing but reinforce in our minds our dependency upon our elected masters and our subjugation to the system. Most importantly, if he “applauds” our activism, why does he sic his bodyguards, the police, on students? Why are students pepper sprayed, arrested, and threatened with tasings for trying to enter the building which houses the Financial Aid office? And why has Drake not had a single meeting with students or public forum where he can be held accountable for the budget decisions he has made? Either Drake is delusional, or he is trying to hide his own attacks on students with weak parlor tricks.
Those of us who have advocated for a New University want neither State dependence nor privatization. We are tired of the sterile, detached research and stale rhetoric of our professors; but privatization would be even more disastrous. Further, we refuse to be cannonfodder in the battle between the Siamese twins Capital and State. Instead we want to take back the University for ourselves. We want a university unlike every other: autonomous, self-managed, and dedicated to solving the real problems of society. Successful implementation of this vision requires the total communization of society, a fundamental revolution in the relations of power and production. We want a University whose primary concerns are critical education and community involvement.
We don’t just want a University with no tuition, we want one which is in all regards free. Tuition is just one of many constraints that seek to divide society and engineer society; free education also necessitates the dissolution of the administration and all administrative offices, free housing, access to free healthy food and community gardens, social centers, and independent curricula. This isn’t about the abolition of tuition, but the abolition of commodity exchange.
Let State funding dry up completely, and with it, our subordination to the State apparatus! But as Capital seeks to fill the void, we must be prepared to build real and imaginary barricades around campus to keep it out, while constructing the new autonomous University in the shell of the old.