If the Open Forum with Chancellor Drake today proved anything, it is how incompetent and unaccountable UC administration is. Rather than answer a single question, Drake talked in circles around students, often contradicting himself while over and over repeating the lie that the UCI administration did everything it could, but that the cuts were a painful necessity.
When asked what he had done to assuage the pain of the cuts, Drake said he was a tireless advocate. When asked if excessive force was used by UCPD at UCLA, he responded that he wasn’t there, even though his previous answer to a question about UC Regent accountability, was that the Regent meetings were open to the public and that he was present at UCLA. How can you be somewhere that you aren’t? One student told Drake that she witnessed police beating students, and Drake responded that the police were responsible for “keeping us safe inside.” Police Chief Henisey replied to another question about police carrying handguns and tasers at protests that lethal weapons were necessary to keep protesters safe. Yes, in the land of Oz–I mean UCI–they are keeping us safe by tasing us, macing us, and beating us.
Similarly, Drake stated defiantly that UCI is seen as a leader in promoting free speech on campus. Between 12pm and 1pm, in a 100 sq yd area, with a permit, and surrounded by cops with guns, perhaps this is true. But the other 23 hours of the day, on the other 99.9% of campus, free speech is nonexistent except in an Orwellian sense. Police tear down posters with political content and follow marches around Ring Road carrying batons and riot helmets. Police consistently threaten to arrest protesters with bullhorns even in the “free speech zone.” The permits would be fine if they were actually granted for political events or uniformly enforced. At the January 4 protest, administrators walked around with decibel meters, making sure the protest stayed below 80 dB. Of course the reading is taken out of context when not measuring distance as well, but this level is very low for outdoor events. We should also question the accuracy of these readings given that several fraternity groups were blasting pop music over speakers… without permits. The fact that permit regulations are enforced for political speech but not for fraternities should be cause for concern; maybe if we just play Lady Gaga we won’t be shut down.
Another student asked why police tear down political posters on campus. Henisey responded that they work with the Dean of Students Office to take down posters that are improperly posted or offensive, but that he didn’t know about these posters being removed. We post here two photos of a UCIPD officer (name and badge number forthcoming) tearing down two or more posters advertising the January 4th rally, earlier that morning. We assume that the posters in question were posted properly, including a “post til” date. We also supply a photo of another poster which was next to the removed posters, which does not include a “post til” date or a registered organization name, which was taken after the officer left.
We find Drake’s references to students and workers problematic. Drake referred to students early on as “assets,” not too different from our function as collateral for building loans. Drake repeatedly refused to comment on the campaign to insource 150 custodial workers, who are currently the only outsourced staff in the entire UC system–his excuse was that this was not the proper forum, that this was a collective bargaining issue, the only problem is that there has never been a proper forum, and meetings for collective bargaining have consistently been held illegally, without a representative present from the administration who was empowered to make decisions. Drake insisted that students are the top priority at UCI, and that workers can and should be mistreated for the benefit of students. We cannot stomach these attempts to divide and conquer students and we remain steadfast in our solidarity with all members of the campus community; further, we consider Drake’s comments to be fundamentally racist and classist, that an entirely Latin@ staff isn’t considered to be equal to students or administrators.
Responding to questions about the privatization of the UCs, Drake mentioned several rankings on affordability. That UCI is #20 in best value is nothing to be proud of, when Berkeley is #18 and UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN–the beacon of privatization–is #19. Why is Drake considering Michigan to be a legitimate model for affordability? Vice Chancellor Gomez, who traded in Chicano activism for a cushy admin job (apparently his price is $200,000 plus benefits), chimed in to cover for a flustered Drake to say that 70% of UCI students were on financial aid. THIS IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL! This is what happens at Harvard, at UC we should not be covering low-income students with an endowment, we should just have affordable fees, or no fees at all!
Finally, we absolutely must call attention to the elements of repression inside the meeting. Among the numerous suit-wearing administrators, two police officers were in the back of the room disguised as administrators. One took photos of activists during the Open Forum. When confronted by a graduate student asking who they were, they responded that they worked in the Dean of Students Office. One is pictured in the photo below, the male officer furthest to the right, with an awful comb-over (name forthcoming). The other was the officer who had graduate student and organizer John Bruning arrested at the November 24 protest, Mark Arnold (badge number 915). Why are police spying on us and lying about who they are?
Drake was repeatedly booed and heckled throughout the Open Forum, and the one student who naively spoke in support of Drake was booed. The room was not packed, but there was still a large number of pissed off students, who clapped and hollered after every critical question. Best line of the night: “Chancellor Drake, if you were forced to take another 10% pay cut, would you look for work elsewhere?”
The Open Forum was ended at 6pm, and still we do not know the official reason why it was ended at 6 rather than 7, because the official story kept changing. Drake’s assistant initially reserved HIB 100 from 5pm-7pm. After the break, she told organizers that Drake had to leave at 6 to catch a plane, undoubtedly to schmooze with private donors to build another unnecessary building. At the Open Forum, Drake stated that the room needed to be cleared at 6pm for another event. Drake was no hurry to leave at 6:15, chatting with other administrators and loyal careerist faculty, and there was no sign at 6:30 that another event was happening, probably because there was no other event. At this point–not that there was any doubt before, only that it is further confirmed–we cannot trust a single word that comes out of Drake’s mouth, because even the possible truths are contradicted 5 minutes later by another misrepresentation. When he isn’t lying, he is merely stalling until he can again pass off malevolence as benevolence.
Simple words, no matter how poetic or crafty, can do no justice to the abomination that is Drake’s “leadership.” We hope to have a video recording of the entire ordeal posted soon, and there may be an audio recording posted soon over at UC Rebel Radio, who streamed the Forum.
Elsewhere on the interwebs, Bob Samuels has posted another article showing how UC is hiding money and assets through accounting maneuvers, to hide that there actually is money available to avert tuition hikes and layoffs. Takeaway message: “The UC is basically laundering its money.” Hack journalist and amateur photographer Gary Robbins of the OC Register posted a relatively favorable article calling Drake “evasive” and challenging his leadership, although once again he is numerically challenged: the event allegedly “drew only 100 or so of the university’s nearly 28,000 students” (neither number is correct, though it’s better than his Walkout number of 150).
This morning students had chalked around campus for a rally for campus workers at 2:30 this afternoon, along with slogans like “University of Corporate Interests” and “Fascist Cops.” As of 10:15am the chalk was still between the Student Center and Humanities but everywhere else it had been erased. Can we post anything political on campus without it being removed overnight?