University Of Calif. Faculty, Students To Walk Out

More than 1,000 faculty members and students at the University of California schools are planning to walk out Thursday in protest against an increase in tuition and furloughs. Joshua Clover, an associate professor of English at the University of California, Davis, says the moves instituted by the university system's administrators mean that students are getting less attention from their professors despite having to pay more for their education.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

University of California officials are bracing for a walkout by faculty and students at all 10 campuses tomorrow. Some classes may be taught by department heads; others may be canceled. Faculty members called the strike to protest furlough days and tuition hikes. And those actions were taken by UC after it had to cut hundreds of millions of dollars because of the state budget crisis.

Joshua Clover is an associate professor of English literature at the University of California, Davis. And tell us, what will take place tomorrow? What will you do?

Professor JOSHUA CLOVER (English, University of California, Davis): Well, I think different things will take place on different campuses across the system. At Davis, I know there's going to be cancellations of many classes by the professors who've decided to participate in the walkout. And there will be a central rally, or general assembly, at noon at the Memorial Union quad.

BRAND: Well, tell us why you're going on strike. What are the main points that you're opposing?

Prof. CLOVER: One thing I should stress is we're not technically on strike since the faculty are not unionized. But we are walking out. And we have many concerns. I don't think anyone doubts that there's a budget crisis in California and nationally. But we feel there's also a crisis of priorities in how education is being funded in the University of California.

Specific concerns include extraordinary increases for student tuition and fees that have gone up by 277 percent this decade, and are about to go up 32 percent more. Also decreased enrollment, increased class sizes, there - the workers -including the most vulnerable workers in the UC system, the ones making less than $40,000 - are taking pay cuts, they're getting laid off. They're getting furloughed. And the professors, as well, are getting furloughed. And we were told that we would get to decide how to distribute these furlough days, since all of us are obligated by our contracts to do various things - to teach, to do research and to do service, like advising students and serving on committees. We decided that the furlough days should be distributed across those three things. Then what happened was, our decision was summarily ignored. It was rejected, even though we were told it was ours to make. Then the real…

BRAND: And then the administrator said you have to take them on non-teaching days - your furlough days.

Prof. CLOVER: That's right, non-instructional days, is the technical term.

BRAND: But why not protest in Sacramento, where this crisis really has its roots with how the UC system is funded by state lawmakers? I mean, aren't the UC regions just carrying out something they don't want to carry out in the first place, which are budget cuts that are a result of the state's budget crisis?

Prof. CLOVER: I think that's a very fair question. And I think it's probably true, more or less, that the roots of this crisis come from state funding, both in the legislature and the governor, who has not established himself as a real friend of education, I must say. But there is also a crisis of priorities in the way that these budget cuts have been implemented. If these budget cuts are so disastrous that we have to cut across the board, it would be unclear, for example, why the highly paid administrators in the office of - the president's office currently make $11.5 million more than they did two years ago. So there aren't cuts happening across the line. The increase in administrative expenses is stratospherically higher than all other expense changes in the university.

BRAND: This strike tomorrow, is it really fair to students, who are paying a lot more this year in tuition, to cancel a day of classes?

Prof. CLOVER: I think it might be better to ask if it's fair to their brothers and sisters. Quality public education at affordable prices, which is the mandate of the University of California, will not exist for their brothers and sisters. Student bodies across the system are supporting this. So it's simply not a case that this is sort of, people acting on hi, I'm the - poor little students. The students know what's going on.

I'm teaching a classes here called English 45, it's introduction to poetry. It's one of the classes I very much like teaching. I taught it two years ago. It had 80 students. And there were four discussion sections of 20 each that met once a week, in which they could discuss matters in detail. I'm teaching it again this year. There's 120 students in the class and no discussion sections. So that's one example over which I have no say of the ways in which the education of these students is being compromised.

BRAND: Joshua Clover teaches English literature at UC-Davis. He will participate in a one-day walkout tomorrow by faculty and students at all 10 UC campuses. Thank you very much.

Prof. CLOVER: Thank you for having me.

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