Thursday, November 20, 2014

Students rebel against hostage-taking in California's higher ed war

I stopped by Wheeler Hall this evening, crossing from the NW corner of the Berkeley campus where I work to look in on the building occupation that began yesterday evening, following a UC Regents committee vote to hold students hostage in a war between California Governor Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano (who is also a former governor of Arizona, 2003-2009; and former head of the Department of Homeland Security, 2009-2013). It's a war of Titans (remember Cronus, the leader of the Titans? the one who ate his children?).

Here's how the L.A. Times told the story on Tuesday, in an editorial titled A battle for UC's soul:
At issue is whether the 10-campus system will continue to rank among the nation's premier research universities, drawing top students and the best professors from throughout the world, or whether it will slowly shrink its ambitions, becoming a more utilitarian institution that concentrates narrowly on moving students to their bachelor's degrees and into the workforce quickly and efficiently.

UC President Janet Napolitano says that she will ask the Board of Regents to approve the tuition increases Wednesday, although they would not have to go into effect if the the state provides better funding. Gov.  Jerry Brown, who opposes the tuition hikes, points out that he is already planning on increasing the state's contribution 4% a year over the next two years, though he wants to tie those increases to some major changes. Among his suggestions: more online courses, heavier teaching loads for professors, reductions in nonessential research, the admission of a smaller proportion of freshmen and more community college transfers, so that the state can educate college students more inexpensively for their first two years.
The editorial goes on to lay out:
It then concludes with support for UC President Napolitano's plan to hold students feet to the fire until the state coughs up funding to maintain its preeminent public university system.


Students bussed in from all ten UC campuses to protest adoption of this plan to hold them hostage, but the UC Regents committee charged with making the decision voted on Wednesday to make Napolitano's threat real (the full board ratified the committee's decision today). Last night, seeing the writing on the wall, Berkeley students began an ongoing occupation of Wheeler Hall in the heart of the campus; students at UC Santa Cruz are occupying the Humanities 2 building; CNN is also reporting protests at UC Davis and UCLA. Photos are being tweeted from around the state hashtagged #fightthehike.

My read: this is going to be a complicated conflict to narrate through the filter of mainstream media. There are no clear heroes or villains. Governor Brown wants to fight tuition hikes, but he wants to do it by turning California's higher ed treasure into a diploma mill. UC Pres. Napolitano wants to preserve the value of the university she heads, but she's prepared to throw students off the cliff to get her way (not to mention that her moral authority to lead UC is worse than questionable, as students across the state have been arguing since her appointment to the role).

In the wake of Germany's decision to offer free university education to all -- even international students -- I'd like to see UC students call for the same here in California. Do I think that's an achievable demand? Not in the near term. But it calls for a remaking of the world as we have come to know it, and that's what these times call for.

Longtime Daily Kossack Don Mikulecky quoted Peter Kropotkin in a thoughtfully angry (and underappreciated) diary yesterday:
Think about what kind of society you want to live in and then demand that your teachers teach you how to build that society.

Right on the mark...

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
UC Berkeley's anti-apartheid movement: setting the record straight
The Occupy Movement and UC Berkeley's Free Speech Monument
When authorities equate disobedience with violence
Chancellor Katehi, Athens Polytechnic, and ... Janet Jackson?
Paying what things cost

Thanks to Brittany M. (@belitebrite) for her image of the Wheeler Hall occupation at Berkeley on 20 Nov 2014. Thanks also to Falcorian for the image of Wheeler Hall: "Wheeler Hall--UC Berkeley--Panoramic". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Never mind Election Day 2014, consider Fall in Northern California

It's election day, and I'm at a loss for words. Fortunately, Jon Carroll of the SF Chronicle is not. Check out As we face another election day for a little perspective, not that it'll cheer you up any. But instead of bemoaning the state of our corrupt and boughten democracy, I'm going to share pictures. In addition to election day, today is the end of my long mostly-stay-cation.

Just to be contrary, I started my stay-cation by taking a drive up the coast, from Berkeley to Pt Reyes to Pt Arena, then home.

First (out-of-car) glimpse of the Pacific, at McClure's Beach at the south end of Tomales Point:

By the Pierce Ranch, just a short way up the hill, this fence caught my eye:

On Tomales Point the elk were rutting. Here's a small herd near the trail:

The next day was all about the Sonoma Coast, from Goat Rock, to the seals at Gerstle Cove (Salt Point State Park) where I stopped for lunch.

Here's a little video from Gerstle Cove, for a sense of the surf's power and the seals' cute-factor (from a distance anyway):

I met an old friend who lives on the coast just north of Sea Ranch, and he showed me a beach I never would have found on my own: the easement that gives access to it is a narrow path along a fence between properties:

I stayed that night in Pt. Arena, at The Wharfmaster's Inn, where my room had a five-star ocean view from the balcony:

On my way through Fairfax and San Anselmo in Marin County, on the way to Pt Reyes, I passed through a thick, hard rainstorm -- a serious anomaly in the midst of California's drought. Then it rained again, not quite so hard, soon after I returned home. Here's what Berkeley's front yards had to say about this unusual water-from-the-sky phenomenon:

I closed out my stay-cation with another trip, this one to the South Fork of the American River with my friend Bill. I've written about Bill's cabin before, about three years ago. For the first time in over 20 years, I visited the cabin when it was snowing (it was the tail end of a light snow, but there you have it). Here's the view when we arrived in mid-afternoon:

An ice puddle on the road the next morning:

Bill contemplating a plunge in a very cold river:

He did. I didn't, avoidance of freezing to death being the better part of valor.

Here's something strange and pretty wonderful, which I'd never seen before: at several places some yards back from the river, ice had formed in tiny columns that lifted the sandy soil above them, like little ice-mushrooms sprouting after a storm. They kind of reminded me of Devil's Postpile National Monument on the other side of the Sierras, only smaller, colder, and more ephemeral. When we returned to someplace where I had intertube access I Wikipedia'd around to find that this phenomenon is called "needle ice."

By the time we left, yesterday morning, the snow was mostly melted away ... here's (roughly) the same view as the arrival picture above, taken two days earlier:

I'd already mailed in my ballot before Bill and I headed up into the mountains. And I'm not going to watch the returns tonight, I'm going to have dinner with a friend. For election results, I'll wait for all the news at once, in the morning. Then it's back to work I go....

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Mental Floss
Point Reyes National Seashore at the start of the year
Taking the coast road north from Santa Cruz
An Egon Schiele vision in Berkeley
Flowery front yards in Berkeley