By La Voz- East Bay
No to Napolitano/Blum 11 Occupation
The No to Napolitano/Blum 11 occupation of February 13th, 2014 made strides for the rebuilding of the student movement at UC Berkeley and the movement for public education in general. It marked the largest protest at UCB since 2012, and was an escalation of the wider movement against the appointment of Janet Napolitano as UC president. Napolitano was the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and is known as the architect of a Deportation system which deported more than a million people when she was in administration, and is reaching the 2 million mark this month. The Blum 11 occupation was an impressive protest of no confidence in Napolitano, and the culmination of a series of protests by student activists during Napolitano’s tour of the UC this past year (including another protest at UCB, when she spoke during Chancellor Dirks’ inauguration last Fall). The occupation was primarily organized by the Student of Color Solidarity Coalition (SCSC), which is composed of the underrepresented student of color communities at Cal (Black, Latin@s, undocumented and others) and other students who have been part of the battle against Napolitano and the UC’s privatization agenda. The UAW 2865 graduate student union and other unions such as AFSCME 3299 (custodians and service workers) have been supportive of the coalition and its cause. The rally for the protest brought out around 300 students and campus allies, and among them many Blacks and Latin@s, even though they are scarcely represented on campus. After the rally, a march led the protest to the occupation site, the Richard Blum Poverty center. The occupation lasted 26 hours and the students occupying wrote a manifesto demanding Chancellor Dirks to publicly renounce Janet Napolitano, their amnesty, and calling for building a strike for Napolitano’s resignation and the democratization of the University. In sum, the occupation brought attention to Napolitano’s appointment itself and what it represents, as well as to the communities who are fighting against it. It also brought in a new layer of activists to the movement for the democratization of the UC and for a real public education system that makes a conscious effort to recruit and retain members of underrepresented communities.
UC Protest Legacy & Continued Austerity
To understand the Blum 11 occupation and today’s struggle of the students and workers at UC, we must look at the most recent activism in our university. The UC, and UC Berkeley in particular, has a history of activism against the UC Regents. The departure of previous UC president Mark Yudof can be connected to the wearing out of his effectiveness- especially after having to face protests at the UCs since 2009, including occupations, strikes and walkouts that brought out thousands of students, workers, faculty, and community members. Yudof and the board of Regents were successful in implementing many of their austerity measures (like Operation Excellence – a process that has re-organized departments, staff and majors and has led to the weakening of the Humanities, Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies and other often-cut departments), even if fee hikes were stopped by the student and workers’ strikes, walkouts & occupations (e.g. September 24th Walkout in 2009 and strike and Occupy Cal in 2012). Although, a tuition freeze was implemented after the Occupy Cal protests in late 2012 , the UC Regents and California Governor Jerry Brown have recently been discussing ending it in 2015. The movement that emerged to fight back the budget cuts and change / transform the nature of public education in this country in 2009 continues today in the students’ struggle to force Napolitano to resign, the UAW’s and other labor unions’ fight for better working conditions and wages and other campus organizing struggles. What united all these struggles was not a preference for one tactic or another, but rather the need to organize the students, faculty and staff to take mass, militant, and democratically-planned actions together to fight the attacks on public education.
UC Administration’s Attack on Black and Brown Communities
Today’s struggle against UC president Janet Napolitano – an undemocratically appointed President and the architect of a brutal immigration policy – has roots in the UC Regents’ and the administration’s continued attacks on public education. It is also tied to the historical marginalization of working-class Black and Latin@ and other underrepresented students in the UC system, which goes further back than Napolitano’s appointment and even before the days of Mark Yudof. But Napolitano is unique in that she also represents a wider issue that has resonated with certain communities – the mass deportation of undocumented folks and separation of families. The anger and injustice at the appointment of the leader of the attack on undocumented and immigrant communities has brought in a new layer of activists in the movement. Most of these are student of color (like the The Student of Color Solidarity Coalition shows) that tend to be underrepresented in the student movement, and this helped with the success of the Blum 11 occupation.
Uniting our Struggles around Common Demands & Goals
In this piece, we’ve been talking about the need to unify our struggles, but it’s also important that the movement is united around common demands & goals. One of the most successful parts about the messaging of the recent campus organizing and actions in the UC has been the demand for the resignation of Napolitano & the democratization of the UC. We need to coordinate and make sure that this message is clear to the campus community and beyond. Another reason to make sure that we’re all on the same page is tied to the likelihood that Napolitano may not resign anytime soon. This means that we will need to fight not only for her resignation, but most importantly against the policies that will continue the resegregation of education and hurt students (like her plan to use more online education & continued fee-hikes) and the continued attacks on the rights and benefits of UC campus workers and faculty. In addition, while we are counterposing Napolitano and her policies, we as a movement, both at the UC level and beyond, must be clear on the type of education and campus we are for. As starting points, our main fight should be for UC Berkeley and other UCs to not be elite universities, but a public university system for all. Tied to this, we must question the relation between UC and private companies like British Petroleum, Siemens, and other big companies, which are owned and run by members of the UC Regents (such as Richard Blum’s “Blum Capital”). Another issue that needs to be called into question is California’s state government (i.e. Governor Jerry Brown & his administration) and their role in appointing the UC Regents and other managers of the UCs and other public education institutions. They regularly appoint Regents who administer policies for private interests, private research, and private profit. We also can’t forget about the UC fee hikes being proposed in 2014-2015 (goodbye 2 year tuition-hike freeze from the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012!). In sum, it’s no surprise why Blacks, Latin@s, and other communities of color are underrepresented in higher education: the UCs, Cal States and Community Colleges are not affordable and aren’t welcoming to them. We must stop any future fee hikes and call for the reversal of previous ones. The UC needs to open its account books and change its priorities away from private interests and private profit.
Building & Expanding the Movement
While uniting around common goals, we must also continue to build the movement against Napolitano by winning over allies, especially other student groups and labor unions who are also fighting for the same issues. This includes linking up with student groups fighting for UC’s divestment from fossil fuels (such as Fossil Free Cal and the fight against Keystone XL), AFSCME 3299 (workers at UC medical centers), UAW 2865 (GSIs/academic workers), who are currently in a contract fight and went on strike on April 2-3, as well as faculty and other staff members, who are facing reduced tenured positions and increased workloads. Currently, the SCSC, & other student groups in other UCs, and Cal States and Community Colleges are discussing the importance of building more regional and statewide events & actions, along with organizing meetings to discuss our common goals and interests. Let’s continue this work!
Below are the mandates, principles, & demands of California Student Union which we think are a good start for the upcoming struggles.
We Say NO to Racism and Privatization, YES to Democracy in Education!
MANDATE: To Fight for the Right of all People to Equal Access to a Free, Quality, Public Education To Fight for Democratic Governance of the Schools by Students, Staff and Faculty To Unite and Fight for All Sectors of Public Education across California To Fight Against Racism and All Forms of Oppression in the Movement, in Society, and Everywhere
PRINCIPLES: Participatory Democracy Orientation Towards Mobilization and Mass Direct Action Political Independence Student and Worker Solidarity and Unity in Struggle National and International Solidarity Against Repression: in Defense of Free Speech, Academic Freedom, and the Right to Protest
DEMANDS: Cancel New Fees and Roll Back the Existing Ones at All California Campuses Make Ethnic Studies a General Education Requirement at All CSU Campuses Remove UC President Napolitano and CCSF Special Trustee Agrella
 http://studentofcolorsolidaritycoalition.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/collective-statement-regarding-the-february-13th-day-of-action/  http://reclaimuc.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-blum-center-takeover-manifesto.html  http://www.theaggie.org/2014/04/08/regents-discuss-de-freezing-uc-tuition/  Prop 30 was a measure to increase taxes to the wealthy and a personal income tax for all to prevent US$6 billion cuts to the education budget for California state schools that was in question in 2012-2013.  http://castudentunion.org/