Fight Back Against Budget Cuts At California Colleges And Universities
The Radical Caucus of the Modern Language Association supports the California students, faculty and campus workers who are fighting against budget cuts, fee increases, furloughs, and firings. We encourage all MLA members to support the Californians’ fightback.
This year California cut more than $800 million from the University of California (UC) statewide budget, $500 million from the California State University (CSU) system, and $700 million from California Community Colleges (CCC). University and college administrators reacted by eliminating programs and support services, reducing enrollments, offering fewer courses, cutting staff and faculty salaries via furloughs, and laying off hundreds of instructors and non-academic campus workers. To make matters worse, UC and CSU have hiked their fees by 32%, placing the cost of attending college out of reach for many students from low and middle income families. As a result of California’s downsizing of higher education, CSU will cut its enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years, and CCC will force out a whopping 250,000 students. Working-class families, already facing a 12.2% unemployment rate in California, will be the hardest hit. Since September 24 of this year, thousands of students, workers and faculty have organized teach-ins, rallies, demonstrations, marches, walkouts, strikes and occupations to stop the cuts. Even though university administrators claim that students have the right to “free speech,” protesters at various campuses have been beaten by the police and arrested..
The California budget cuts?and the fee increases at four-year schools?smack of racism because students of color will feeel the effects of these cuts the most. But the cutbacks are also racist in a more devastating political sense. Tragically, while CSU will reduce enrollment by 40,000 students next year, the state has approved AB 900, a law that allocates $7.7 billion to add 40,000 new beds for prison inmates?on top of the $12 billion a year the state spends on prison operating costs. By 2012 California will spend more on prisons than it does on education. There is a direct correlation between the lack of educational opportunities and imprisonment: 18-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts have an incarceration rate 31 times that of males who graduate from a four-year college. And California’s prison inmates are overwhelmingly Black and Latino. Every dollar cut from higher education increases the likelihood of young men of color being siphoned away from higher education and toward a racist prison system.
The financial problems of colleges and universities are directly linked to US capitalism’s current economic crisis?the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. With the collapse of the banking system last year, predatory banks and speculators wiped out vast amounts of capital, including capital used to sustain colleges and universities. While the federal government has spent billions to bailout banks and corporations, it has invested only a pittance on bailing out schools and colleges. In an exposé of capitalist greed, the California Budget Project has shown that California’s 1993 tax cuts benefiting corporations and the wealthy cost the state $11.7 billion in 2005-6 and $12 billion in 2007-2008. Had the state continued taxing at rates equal to those fifteen years ago, there would be no budget crisis in California—or at least it would be far less severe. What’s more, the economic crisis is bound up in a larger global crisis involving imperialist occupations and war. The US spends close to a trillion dollars a year on wars to dominate oil production and pipelines in the Middle East and Central Asia. Obama’s recent escalation of the wars in Afghanistan-Pakistan (at $30 billion and counting) and the continued occupation of Iraq make clear that this president plans to continue Bush’s policy of overspending endlessly on wars.
The struggle against budget cuts at UC, CSU and CCC is a political struggle: a fight against the decision of the state to make students, faculty and workers pay for the profit losses of capitalist corporations. MLA members should support the movement of students, faculty and workers in California because their fight is our fight. We support a second federal stimulus bill to fund higher education nationwide. We support Californians’ fight to abolish racist prisons and increase state funds for higher education: “No cutbacks! No fee increases! No furloughs! No firings!” We don’t want pie in the sky. We want to restore the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education in which public colleges were free for all and which guaranteed a place for all California students who wanted to go.