A new academic year is upon us and with it a new set of problems. We are entering the second year of the Trump administration, an administration that rescued the latent white-supremacist rhetoric that long existed in our society. Trump’s political climate has affected our university in particular ways by dangerously making neo-fascism appear “cool” and by giving white ethnonationalist rhetoric and action an air of “dissidence” and martyrdom. Neo-fascism and white ethnonationalism are political visions that reject all forms of democracy and fail to provide solutions to the crises we confront as a society. If you are disgusted by daily instances of hate speech, and if you are feeling disempowered by the mess we’re in, it is indispensable to remember that you are not alone, your struggle is our struggle. Our resistance has to sprout from the bottom-up, and it must be collective. The LZC invites you to participate in our collective if you are interested in organizing towards a new university, one that can make white supremacy and white ethnonationalism a thing of the past!
We have long argued that the university is a microcosm of society and not an insulated entity detached from the realities imposed on us by the failures of neoliberal capitalism. Our realities as students are these: many of us are broke, student loan debt is burying us alive, and we’re facing ecological disasters linked to our current political-economic system. We have no foreseeable future in the status quo.
“…remember that you are not alone, your struggle is our struggle.”
Thus, the LZC scoffs at the idea that universities are sites for “liberal indoctrination,” and that they are filled with “cultural Marxist” propaganda. The reality of the corporate university is far from this. What has been framed as a fight for “free-speech” is actually just one of the manifestations of the deep crisis our once public university is in. The University of California Regents continue to fail to serve students’ needs by increasing our student fees, bloating management positions, imposing top-down policies, and defending intolerant bigots. The LZC believes in the tolerance paradox: in order to defend tolerance we must reject ALL forms of intolerance. When we extend tolerance to openly racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and neo-fascist positions these will end up eradicating the “tolerance” that they were initially afforded. Don’t be fooled– this is not about free speech, it is about trying to legitimize a white ethnonationalist political project predicated on continuing the problems that have led us here: more exclusion, more discrimination, more class stratification. The University of California Inc. has enabled and exacerbated the current set of problems we face on campus, including its “alt-right” expressions, by choosing to side with private interests, militarism, and corporate donors, thus betraying its initial mission as a FREE public university with the mission to democratize access to higher-education to groups historically excluded from its halls.
The UC is in crisis and it readily provides statement after statement with no actual action because it doesn’t really have student interests’ at heart. The recently announced UC San Diego Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence provides case in point of yet another top-down initiative to deflect from our campus’ true crisis in access, representation, and public service with more market-oriented psuedo-solutions filled with corporate buzzwords, paternalism, and an expansion of university bureaucracy. Here at UCSD we are faced with internally created crises, as enrollment increases, services are consistently cut. Yet tuition continues to burden students who pay more to receive less. Last spring the news broke that the UC regents were sitting on a pile of cash of over $175 million. Hoping that the memory of this may have already left our minds, the regents are now arguing that it may well be necessary to increase tuition to fund employee and retiree benefits – once again, misprioritization transfers more costs onto students and our families.
The administration could care less about our student demands when they go against their corporate mission reduce us to consumers. If it did, our reality would be much different and students at UCSD would feel empowered and part of a student-led community. Instead, the collective depression and isolation lingers on as administrators enact their top-down vision of a so-called modern institution for higher learning. We don’t want to place more demands on Chancellor Khosla and his UCSD Corporation. We envision a whole different campus, and we know it’s possible to realize it with collective participation. Can we dare to imagine a new university? We must solidify a new set of relationships with one another than can transform UCSD from the bottom. Khosla will not do it for us, nor should we be begging him to do so. He is quite happy in his mansion (built on Indigenous sacred land) while living off the bounty he collects, treating us as consumers while providing the bare minimum for a “service.”
“…For the first time the number of admins in the UC now surpass the number of faculty!”
In response to the banner drop by Identity Europa earlier this year, the LZC called on students to stand up for one another – to create autonomous (administration-free) spaces based on trust, support, and true dissent. We stand by this call to action. Since 2010 the ranks of management have continued to swell across the UC. For the first time the number of admins in the UC now surpass the number of faculty! The UC has been transformed into a faceless bureaucracy, mirroring UCSD’s faceless architecture. Our campus and our daily lives are being increasingly controlled by self-described technocrats, yet the institutionalization of “diversity” and the administration’s top-down “communication channels” offer the facade of a sort of dialogue between those on top with the student-worker body. They have essentially monopolized the discourse and manifestation of dissent. The diversity apparatus, a construction of UC administrators, sets out to give the illusion energies should be spent conversing with those above us when really we should be engaging one another! How many more demand letters must we write before realizing that their interests do not align with ours? Ultimately, the UCSD administration’s model of bureaucratizing diversity has now become a national model for de-mobilizing student protests calling for racial justice since its consolidation in 2012.
White supremacy, gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and anti-immigrant sentiments are ever present on our campus – it is time to recognize that these forces are not going away via more expansion of administrative bureaucracy. The Lumumba Zapata Collective stands in support of all students who take on the challenge of confronting structural oppression on their own terms. We invite you to participate in our project to develop strategies and tactics for manifesting that rage collectively. We reiterate our call for and commitment to the building up of an autonomous network of students, faculty, workers, and community members to move towards creating a new university.
Some updates on the list of crises that we shared in our end of the year communique last academic year. Contrary to what Chancellor Khosla and Co. would have us believe, we know there are plenty of issues brewing on this campus:
- The Fascist Threat – People wish to argue that the neo-fascist propaganda that we are seeing on campus comes from “off-campus agitators.” We know this to be false. All across the country we have seen a marked increase of “alt-right” recruitment on university campuses.
- UCSD Teaching Assistants, in crisis – A new TA, Reader, and Tutor contract is upon us. Prepare to see academic student employees wage a protracted battle against a UC administration which devalues their work. TAs, Readers, and Tutors are the backbone of this campus, they teach our classes and do much of the invisibilized pedagogical labor, yet administration refuses to provide adequate pay and housing security. Current take home income is below the national minimum wage and the upcoming Tax Bill will implement a tax increase for this workforce that is equivalent to a 25% wage cut. 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 included the implementation of gender neutral bathrooms, collective bargaining rights for undocumented student-workers, a 40% increase in childcare stipends, and more.
- UCSD Undergraduates, in crisis – After imposing a $336 tuition increase on
students this past January, UC administration is already attempting another money grab. While administration argues that these increases are necessary to makeup for decreases in state funding, we know that the reality is that tuition increases due to gross fiscal mismanagement on the part of the regents, as well as to continue to give pay raises to the slip corporate managers (known as chancellors) now in charge of our universities.
- Computer Science and Engineering, in crisis – The vast majority of companies recruiting in the CSE department have deep ties to the military, contribute directly to mass surveillance, or both. These tech companies are also infamous for their sexist, frat-house company cultures where toxic masculinity is idolized. Students in CSE have grown tired of the fictional narrative in which CSE “saves the world,” and they have begun speaking out. In response, the administration has taken steps to intimidate and discourage those who would voice dissent.
- Students with Disabilities, in crisis – Students with disabilities have been organizing on campus for some time now. The UCSD Office for Students with Disabilities’ (OSD) inability to provide adequate services to students with disabilities on our campus is being revealed. To add insult to injury, students agitating for greater support for students with disabilities had their petition to use the the ex-Outback Adventures space for a disabilities resource center denied. Students with disabilities have had enough, and are fighting for their rights to an education which respects them!
These are some of the few sites where members of our collective our currently organizing. Be in touch if you would like to join any of the campaigns around these issues. We are also aware that this list is not comprehensive. Please share with us if you are involved in campaigns around other issues on campus. We would love to support and intersect them together with the work that we do!