Friday, July 24, 2009

LEAFLET: Who says thieves should run the CSU?

This text was included on a leaflet passed out to folks at a demonstration called by Student for a Quality Education (SQE) on July 21, 2009. People in attendance were protesting the California State University's Board of Trustees meeting at the CSU Chancellor's office at 401 Golden Shore, Long Beach.

A July 6th San Francisco Chronicle article titled “CSU chancellor hires 2 lobbyists without bids” sheds light on rotten corruption by the management of the CSU. Over the last decade, the CSU has paid more than $2 million in public funds to two Sacramento lobbying firms – Capitol Advocacy LLC and Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associate. While the Board of Trustees increased student fees, canceled classes, and implemented more faculty and staff layoffs, CSU management paid these private lobbyists to block bills aimed at full disclosure of CSU salaries – a shameful abuse of public funds.

Now instead of finding ways to increase revenue for the CSU to cover the $584 million budget deficit – the largest in the system's history, the Board of Trustees (with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the helm) has decided to further increase student fees, lay off lecturers, and force the question on those workers who remain to either have more of their colleagues fired or take a deeper pay cut. CSU Chancellor Charles Reed has indicated that he plans to eliminate more classes, student enrollment positions and faculty until the CSU system is downsized to match the $584 million in cuts, on top of eliminating 40,000 enrollment positions (out of the CSU 450,000 total) by the 2010-2011 school year. And for students who aren’t able to register for all the necessary classes to graduate, we are forced to attend another semester or two leading to great debt to finance a prolonged higher education. It should be noted that in 2008 the average student graduated with more than $20,000 in loan debt.

This budget reduction is, in part, an attempt to close a $26.3 billion budget gap and a concerted decision made by California's economic and political elites to cut, cut, cut the social safety net won by labor movements of the 30s and social movements of the 60s into the 70s. Today, the board is set to vote for yet another fee increase (while laying off more workers since they see fit to administer "significant reductions in labor costs"). However, we need to see these individuals on the Board of Trustees and managers on each campus for who they really are – crooks! There can be no such thing as an “Alliance for the CSU” when this alliance consists of over-paid bureaucrats and the uber-wealthy of California.

Take Dr. Glen O. Toney, a trustee since 2006, who for 23 years prior to his retirement in 2002 served as a top executive with Applied Materials, Inc. (based in Santa Clara, CA). Applied Materials has negotiated contacts with the Pentagon to create semiconductor equipment for weapons systems. And, Dr. Toney isn’t the only war profiteer on the board. Raymond Holdsworth, Jr. is the president of AECOM Technology Corp. (based in Los Angeles, CA) and has been a trustee since 2004. AECOM Technology Corp. has provided military maintenance support to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and received contacts worth $293.7 million from 2004-2006. Why is it that the board consists of blatant war profiteers?!

Take Dr. Robert A. Corrigan, President of San Francisco State University (SFSU) since 1988 (21 years being an unheard of length of tenure for a college president). Before he came to SFSU, he resigned from his chancellorship of the University of Massachusetts, Boston following the discovery of his secret “Chancellor’s Fund” by his vice chancellor. The Boston Globe specified the details of an audit revealing that $127,000 had been deposited into this special account. Much of the funds ($70,00) had been withdrawn by Corrigan from the Boston Food Services Trust Fund without authorization. Curiously, Chancellor Corrigan was never charged with embezzling funds from the university system. Instead, upon resignation, Corrigan received a farewell compensation. One wonders how he became yet another corrupt bureaucrat at a public institution.

It is because the CSU is run by thieves! And we, as students, faculty, staff, and CSU supporters, have to make sure they’re held responsible for their crimes. We have to create a movement against corruption and contempt. We have to continue to develop an inter-campus coalition of educators and educated and realize that our interest are one and the same. That we have much to learn from each other, as well as, teach each other in this struggle for more control over our lives.

CORE aims to be part of this struggle for a quality higher education. We support the CFA-sponsored bill to tax oil extracted from California soil to fund the CC, CSU and UC. Assembly Bill 656 would raise at least $1.2 billion for college students in California, just in its first year of implementation. California is one of the few states that does not tax oil coming out of the ground in the state. Alaska has a 25% tax. Texas uses an oil tax to provide major funding for their university system. Why not California? Tax Oil, Not Students.

CORE also supports the CFA-sponsored legislation, Senate Bill 218, which would require that the budget and financial details of CSU’s non-profit Foundation be made public so that the administration can be held accountable for these tax payer funds. Currently, hundreds of millions of dollars are held and spent out of Foundation accounts without any real public oversight. It is a backdoor way in which Reed and the Board have worked to privatize CSU by handing out contracts to their business friends.

CORE also supports Students for Quality Education’s educational efforts and protest activities, as well as all other student organizations and unions organizing against the cuts. We also think that to be more effective in opposing these cuts, we have to organize simultaneous sit-ins and student strikes at a dozen major CSU campuses - that's what it's going to take, nothing less. And we have to start by organizing our own respective campuses. Such actions are not new to SFSU! The longest campus strike in US history took place at SFSU during the 1968-69 school year. The solidarity of students and faculty won the nation’s 1st School of Ethnic Studies.

If we here today believe education is a human right, we need to build a network of organizers who deconstruct how this system has been built, expose the hypocrisy of an increasingly bureaucratized, privatized institution and build our own democratic organizations that disseminate relevant knowledge that actually contributes to the betterment of society. Where scientists produce research that ends poverty instead of increase militarism. Where students see the fruits of their labor not necessarily equating to a “letter grade” at the end of a term. But instead, amounts to people being fed, racism being challenged, skills being sharpened, and human connections being made and sustained.

Empowerment comes through building social networks - having face to face interactions --- organizing and mobilizing toward real change where each campus is not merely a combination of buildings people commute to but a community where lasting, trusting relationships are fostered between faculty, staff, and students -- where ideas are exchanged and debated and a democratic process of struggling for progressive change ensues. So let’s talk! And more urgently, let’s ORGANIZE after we mobilize today!

Critical demands that CORE supports:
NO fee increase
NO reduction in class offerings
NO reduction in the number of new students enrolled
NO layoffs of staff and faculty

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