Dear University of California students, staff and faculty: Thank you. As a California parent, I am grateful for your courage in standing up to this administration in the massive walkout you’ve planned for tomorrow, September 24th.
You are wise. Without you, tuition would soon rise to a point where most Californians couldn’t afford it. Public higher education in this state used to be free–and now it’s going to cost more than a new small car every year? Pretty soon a UC bachelor’s degree will cost the equivalent of four luxury cars. Who can afford that? Thank you for throwing yourselves into the trenches against the Schwarzeneggers and the Yudofs who want to turn public higher education into a subsidy for the rich.
You are compassionate. You are demanding that cuts not fall on employees earning less than $40,000. Thank you for demanding fairness, and asking that–if cuts are actually necessary– the thousands of wealthiest UC employees dig a little deeper.
You are honest. The reality is that undergraduate tuition subsidizes every other activity in the university, and the administration has billions of reserve funds. As Bob Samuels says, “UC does not have a budget crisis; it has a crisis in priorities.” The savage 40% tuition hike–while raising class sizes, cutting sections, etc–is really a massive increase in the tax on undergraduates represented by cross-subsidy. Thank you for asking that education come first.
You are fighting racism in admissions. Economic discrimination is always wrong in a democracy, but in our state it falls much harder on African-Americans and Hispanics.
You are fighting racism in university employment. Faculty salaries in the humanities already offer an unbelievably low return on the ten years it takes to get a PhD (if you’re lucky, around age 35 or 40 you’ll get a job that pays you $55,000, or less than a bartender). This means that mostly persons from wealthier backgrounds can afford to become professors–a form of economic discrimination that explains why university faculties are among the most disproportionately white workforces in the country.
You make us think. It seems the administration has been trying to mislead the media with the statistic that UC professors make an average over $100,000. Funny thing about averages, though. If your neighbor earns a million dollars a year, and you earn $15,000–guess what? Your average salary is half a million bucks! The fact is that “average” salary includes a lot of people making huge, inflated salaries, and a lot more folks barely scraping by.
Your typical humanities prof–you know, the person they show as a prof in the movies, talking to you about history, culture, or philosophy–puts in about ten years getting the Ph.D., then another three or four years on temporary appointment, before even starting a tenure track job.
Even worse? Most university teachers aren’t tenured profs at all. Most courses are taught by grad students or folks on temporary, part time and nontenurable appointments. Most of these faculty make fifty or a hundred dollars per student per year. Thank you for inspiring us to ask: If it’s not going to the persons teaching our students: where’s our money going?
In solidarity, Marc Bousquet
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