2016-17 End of the Year Communiqué from UCSD Lumumba Zapata Collective

As we wrap up academic year 2016-17, we are happy to share the Lumumba Zapata Collective’s end of the year assessment of the current state of affairs at UCSD.  In this assessment we inform you of struggles both past and upcoming for next academic year. We give this brief summary and urge you to talk about it with friends, think about its implications for your experience on campus, and organize. Organize during the summer, reach out to existing groups on campus, and surround yourselves with people interested in confronting the ongoing changes that the UC Office of the President and the UCSD administration imposes upon us. We urge fellow students and workers to demonstrate solidarity to those involved in the struggles we will briefly outline below. The university administration wants to silently extinguish these fires to avoid facing backlash and resistance. We cannot allow them to do this.

We appeal to your indignation as fellow student-workers and non-student workers, because our university administration and its self-important Chancellor continue to believe we are dealing with “business as usual,” even as we bear witness to the urgency of response. We close the year with a series of disgraceful acts of racist violence affecting all of us at UCSD, such as the April 30th La Jolla Crossroads shooting which took the life of Monique Clark, mother of three, and injured six others. Some of our UCSD faculty dared to publish a thoughtful and adequate response in The Triton that we encourage you to read. Faculty were met not only with indifference by UCSD’s administration, but also with condescension by various representatives of the university’s diversity management, who sought to restrict the framing and analysis of the linked letter before it was even made public.

Chancellor Pradeep Khosla recently gave an interview in the San Diego Union Tribune in an article titled “UC San Diego booming as chancellor Khosla finishes fifth year.” This interview provides clear insight into Khosla’s vision for our university and reflects an embarrassing ignorance and disregard for the needs and concerns of the common, everyday people who make up our UCSD community. Khosla shows himself to be completely detached from our realities as struggling student-workers and non-student workers. His responses may very well come from a script of a stereotypical finance banker or the CEO of a transnational corporation, who boasts of unprecedented success while helming a sinking ship. Khosla completely erodes the vision of the UC Master Plan and other not-for-profit-driven visions of what a public and free university may look like. Just because the Chancellor has succumbed to a neoliberal political imagination doesn’t mean we must suffer the same fate.

You may wonder what this means concretely at UCSD. Below are a couple of examples to inform you that contrary to the Chancellor’s business-like celebratory interview, we are a campus in crisis:

  • LITERATURE DEPARTMENT, IN CRISIS: Students have penned a Letter of Discontent to demand future hiring of more faculty of color who specialize in border literatures, adequate compensation and security of employment for Spanish Language and foreign language TAs, and greater diversity in the required graduate curriculum. In the letter—which many prominent faculty and alumni of the MFA and PhD programs have signed in solidarity— students denounce Departmental practices which reinforce Eurocentric visions of literary production, arguing that the Literature Department hire a new qualified Creative Writing professor to teach Spanish Language literature and mentor its students, and embrace, rather than move away from, the Department’s radical roots. As with most other “diversity”-minded projects at UCSD, though the Literature Department promotes itself as a leader in multilingual—especially Spanish-language—writing, such administrative commitment to transborder intellectual pursuit frequently comes only in rhetoric. In addition, Spanish language Teaching Assistants continue to work under extremely precarious working conditions, having to apply for work at the end of each quarter rather than receiving year-long contracts. Moreover, undergraduates are forced to learn in overcrowded classrooms with instructors who are paid 13% less than other Teaching Assistants on campus. As if this were not enough, the Literature building continues to pose a cancer threat to everyone who must work surrounded by its toxic walls. All the while, Chancellor Khosla cheers the money rollin’ right in. The building has been an issue for over a decade, affecting nearly a dozen lives, mostly of women and people of color. This is what structural racism and sexism looks like!
  • CRITICAL GENDER STUDIES PROGRAM, IN CRISIS: Critical Gender Studies is facing serious budget cuts in the next year. The university administration is reducing the Program’s paid staff positions from 100 to 80 percent. Professors and students have expressed serious concerns that the staff positions and the Program itself will be eventually cut off in its entirety. It is evident that Chancellor Khosla and Dean Carol Padden must not consider the Critical Gender Studies Program valuable and worthy of financial support. By no coincidence, the overwhelming majority of students and faculty in this program are women, queer people, and people of color. This is what structural racism and homophobia looks like! If Critical Gender Studies falls, what follows? We already see indications that the Literature program is slowly being returned to an anachronistic academic model whereby the only literature worthy of study is European and Anglo-American. Our university has built up an entire office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, yet does the bare minimum to provide space and resource to students from historically under-resourced and underserved communities, and to the topics that critically inquire about the historical processes that ground our marginalization. The current national political climate of normalized white nationalism, homophobia, and misogyny adds even more urgency to our involvement in these structural changes at UCSD. It is frightening to think that the university is choosing to defund and eliminate a vital program that allows us to imagine different ways of being in the world while these different ways of being are attacked at the nationwide political level.
  • STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES, IN CRISIS: There is an ongoing campaign for a Students with Disabilities Resource Center on campus, one that is autonomous from the university’s Office for Students with Disabilities. A group of students with disabilities believe the autonomous center is a necessary step in advancing a truly democratic campus that allows them to organize in favor of their interests, instead of redirecting them to a paternalistic office that makes being disabled on campus a difficult and painful experience. Although the campaign has been met with overwhelmingly positive responses by fellow student-workers, the administration continues to oppose it due to the organizers’ demand that the center be separate from the bureaucratic OSD. It is clear that UCSD administration understands “inclusion” solely on their terms as a means to extend its administrative apparatus, rather than by acknowledging the needs and demands of those affected. Self-determination with the appropriate support is the only solution.
  • UCSD TEACHING ASSISTANTS, IN CRISIS: A renewed TA, Reader, and Tutor contract struggle approaches. In Summer 2018, our student-worker union UAW 2865 will begin contract negotiations with UC-wide management. The LZC maintains the position that we must build towards, and use, a strike. Having learned from our 2014 contract struggle, we acknowledge the use of two work stoppages, and the threat of a third, as the primary reasons for having won our best contract yet, one that includes a 17% wage increase, access to gender neutral bathrooms in all UC buildings, 40% increase of the childcare stipend, and undocumented student-worker coverage under the union contract, among others. These benefits can be reversed and our conditions as student-workers can worsen if we let UC-management dictate the terms of our contracts. We will be spending the 2017-2018 academic year organizing within our respective departments. Undergraduates, this means that your TAs need your support and solidarity, and also collaboration. Since our union’s move towards a participatory social justice-based model of unionism, we have used the threat of withholding our labor as TAs to get UC management to act ethically and respect our rights as student workers. A work stoppage is everyone’s best friend to get the administration to fulfill the needs of student-workers and non-student workers. Imagine all of us shutting down UCSD for a whole week!

The LZC currently has one major collective-specific project. We are investigating UCSD’s connections to the military industrial complex by perusing through budget statements and developing a coherent understanding of where the military funding is coming from and what exactly it is being used for. What we have found so far reeks of cronyism at UCSD. The idea is to produce a holistic report that can be accessed by all. The university’s resources are being appropriated by private companies and individuals invested in a frightening future of war-profiteering and destruction.

We close with a reminder about the recent California state audit of the University of California Office of the President, which is a testament to the neoliberal appropriation of public tax dollars to serve Janet Napolitano and to the Regents’ private expensive taste. The UC’s squandering of public funds and the incompetence of the Regents should not lead us to the foolish call for more privatization. Instead, we call for a dismantling of the board of Regents, UC Office of the President, and UCSD Office of the Chancellor/Vice Chancellors. We believe in and push for a free, student-worker run university.

Contrary to popular belief, the university is not an antithesis to Trump’s neofascist project at the nationwide level. In fact, the same apoliticism, hyper individualism, and free-market jingoism espoused by our very own administrators, especially our neoliberal Office of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellors, is part and parcel to the rise of the neofascist politics currently physically embodied by Donald Trump. Like the US President, the UC administration is not our friend. Not now, not ever! We don’t want to save and salvage the neoliberal university. We want a new one, we imagine one. 

The abovementioned struggles are only a few of those being worked on by members of the Lumumba Zapata Collective. As the fight continues we urge you to reach out to us: ucsdantifa@gmail.com

We must take seriously a commitment to building a student-worker movement against the continued assault on our education. If you are outraged, reach out. We cannot bring an end to the neoliberalization and privatization of our campus as individuals—we must fight collectively. We cannot stand by and hope that things will change solely through posturing on social media or participating in dead-end task forces organized by the campus bureaucracy—we must fight on our terms.

You are more than a customer and you know it. Let’s organize!

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