To: All those who endorsed my letter to the Regents:
From: George Lakoff
Date: July 17, 2009
More than a thousand of you responded to my letter to the Regents. I wish I could thank you each personally. I have never experienced anything like the warm flood of support from you all. The endorsements came in much faster than I could transfer them to the letter, and some are still coming, even well after the Regents meeting. I will make sure that all endorsements are posted soon on Chris Newfield’s blog "Remaking the University."
That flood of support alone was an important consequence of the letter. It means that we can actually organize over a thousand UC faculty, and we will need to do so. But what the support was for is vital.
a. It was support for maintaining the quality and the research and educational integrity of UC, as opposed to merely opposing salary cuts and furloughs. This is crucial because Yudof is trying to represent opposition as a matter of self-interest alone by faculty.In short, you took the high ground, as you should. You were backed up by Lt. Governor John Garamendi, who challenged his fellow regents and the alumni to support Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico’s bill to raise money for higher education by taxing oil extraction, that is, charging for our oil instead of giving it away for free. All proceeds would go the higher education—UC, CSU, and the community colleges.
b. The support was for using all UC resources, including “entrepreneurial” resources to maintain UC’s primary educational mission. That would include money from athletics, corporate sponsorship, hospital profits, new buildings, and so on.
c. The support was for real teaching and against a “new educational delivery system,” which means an online university, an end to real teaching, and a University of Phoenix approach. There will be a “commission on reinventing the university,” presumably chosen from among the Regents and campus administrators. The faculty must insist on changing the constitution of that commission so that they are truly represented.
d. The support was for activism by the regents, alumni, and students against the current minority rule by Republicans in the legislature. The current 2/3 requirement to pass legislation for budget and revenue allows 1/3 plus 1 of the conservative Republican minority to block legislation unless they approve. Such minority rule is bankrupting the state, as well as the university.
We need to keep taking the high ground and we need to organize all of you who wrote to me, and others as well. Here is what we must avoid:
We must avoid looking weak or fragmented. Yudof is trying to portray us as a small bunch of spoiled extremists complaining that our salaries were cut and that we have to go on furlough. He wants us to make the cuts and the furlough the issue. Then it will look like we are just being self-serving. And Yudof will rest his case. The press will simply follow suit.
That has already been happening. Fox radio called me to talk about the furloughs and the cuts. I rejected their framing, pointing out that the real issue is the long-term quality of the faculty and whether our great university will be destroyed.
Some faculty are talking of strikes and coordinated furloughs and cancelling classes for teach-ins. If such attempts fizzle, that is, if they draw only marginal support, it will only strengthen Yudof’s position that the faculty supports him. We must be absolutely assured of overwhelming active participation before we call publicly for any such action.
Then there is what we positively need to do:
- • We must, following Garamendi, support Assemblyman Torrico’s bill that supports higher education by charging oil companies for our oil that they extract and sell. Right now, we give our oil to oil companies for free.
- • We must shift the “entrepreneurial” frame. University entrepreneurs can get their funding because they are using the academic reputation of UC, the University of California brand established by our faculty and graduates. Entrepreneurs should be paying a significant royalty to the academic mission of UC for using the brand we established. This is exactly the opposite of what Yudof has proposed.
- • We must get ahead on the Yudof “commission on reinventing the university.” Perhaps we should set up our own commission. Or make sure that active faculty, especially in letters and science, not just regents and administrators, and not just people from professional schools, make up the bulk of the commission. And we need to make sure that certain proposals put forth so far, like canceling departments to get rid of tenured faculty, have no support.
- • We must organize, organize, organize. Both in support of higher education and against the tyranny of the minority. Not just faculty, but students, their parents, and alumni. They must be organized to do very specific things, not just once, but by regularly writing to their legislators, writing letters to the editor, speaking out in their communities.
We are at two tipping points. The life or death of our great university, and the life or death of a functioning state government.
We have never faced anything like this before.
We need to gain active support, from each other, and from those who care about our university and our state. We can take courage from the more than 1,000 responses to my letter. The names have been listed publicly. None of us is alone.
I wish that this were simply a disagreement about how to best proceed. But today President Yudof went on the radio (KQED’s forum) and told three lies. First, that only a handful of faculty disapproved and that just a few malcontents were sounding off. I had personally delivered 1,000 faculty endorsements of my letter to him at the meeting. He knew he was lying. Second, he said that “the elected representatives” of the faculty all supported his position. But all the faculty senates opposed his position. He knew he was lying. Third, he said that the alumni had already been sent a letter asking them to be active in supporting the university with legislators and others throughout the state. That letter has not been sent out, and though it is scheduled, it is not clear that a final version has even been drafted.
There was no rational reason for our president to lie. He could have admitted that the faculty overwhelmingly disagreed with his course, and then given his reasons for making his decision. Lying will come back to haunt him. When he lies, it creates unnecessary antipathy within university ranks. We need an administration that works with us, not against us. I call on President Yudof to publicly correct those statements. He needs to establish trust. Leadership requires trust.
Many of us are angry. Anger won’t help. We have a university to save — and to serve.
Thank you again,
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