September 24, 2009

A furlough day from one university, but a protest at another

DAVIS, Calif., USA - In this first 'furlough' day from my teaching at California State University, Sacramento, I studiously avoided any schoolwork, and tried to do anything that was unrelated to my teaching or other university service.

So it was a morning of laundry, reading newspapers, walking Tucker the Dog around a block and chatting for awhile with Berta, the Spanish-speaking house cleaner who comes in once a month to chase away the dust bunnies, among other dirt-related creatures that lurk in difficult spaces to clean. My rusty Spanish proved sufficient to talk un poco...

Tucker the dog
Tucker, always ready for a walk

But during the morning I also received an email from a Capital Public Radio news guy who had interviewed me a week ago about what effect the furloughs were having on students and faculty at my campus.

And after listening to it, it prompted to me to use some of my CSU, Sacramento furlough day by going to the nearby University of California, Davis campus to hoot and holler in support of the faculty there, who have been furloughed like me, but cannot take off any days from teaching, despite taking a pay cut. (Of course, they teach one or two classes per week, compared to our four, but come on, solidarity is solidarity.)
  • Interview

  • The protest eventually drew probably between 700-1000 people, with many lurking in the shade of the trees, listening to various speakers thunder about the lack of foresight on the part of the state legislature in slashing higher education budgets so drastically this year.

    Many of the students in the crowd - when not shouting slogans like "More Privatization Means Less Education" and "UC Slay-Very" - were debating whether to show up for their classes or cut. In several cases, the decision was easy because the speakers were faculty members who had canceled classes - on the very first day of school - to protest not only their plight but the steep increases in student fees with which UC students were being hit. And more UC fee increases are on the way, just like in my university system.

    A physics professor told a longish tale about the University of Texas, which he said is actively recruiting faculty from the UC system, knowing that the furloughs might tip the scale in favor of faculty choosing to teach in the Lone Star State. Such notions seemed far fetched in the past few years, but with the pay cuts, perhaps not.

    (But would UC faculty be able to pronounce Yee-Haw properly and name the entire cast of the TV series, Dallas?)

    Physics professor speaks
    UC physics professor warns of potential faculty exodus

    The protest and rally also drew plenty of people with petitions to sign: some supporting San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for governor, others to be sent to lame-duck Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger protesting the cuts.

    And the media was out in full force with TV cameras all over the place, trying to get some good footage of outrage for the evening's newscast.

    But at least while I stood there, no one yelled "You lied," at any of the speakers, or even in reference to the University of California Regents and UC President Mark Yudof who may have told a fib or two on occasion.

    The protest was quite civilized in that regard.

    TV reporter packs up
    TV reporter packs up and heads out

    Natural purple hair at Davis Calif protest
    A protester and fan of the book, The Color Purple?

    Crowd at Davis, Calif rally
    As the crowd gathered

    The UC Davis campus is no different from any other in one regard - the parking enforcement officers tend to be genetically linked to members of some past Reich and so I was pleased that after sweating for an hour listening to speakers and taking photos I got back to my Little Red Nissan with 10 minutes to spare on the meter.


    Meter with 10 minutes left
    10 minutes left - and no ticket

    Below is a brief video of one of the better speakers - Bill Camp of the Sacramento Central Labor Council who got the crowd roaring during his five-minute speech.

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