Strikers disrupt classes and block public thoroughfares in protest against unfair labor practices while upper level administrators continue to receive exorbitant salaries and enjoy a culture of lavish living
By Daniel Gutiérrez
Graduate students at the University of California, San Diego represented by the United Auto Workers Local 2865 initiated a two-day strike Wednesday, April 2nd, that will end Friday, April 4th. The strike at UCSD is part of a statewide action occurring at all the campuses of the University of California for these reasons. Graduate students have been bargaining for months now and have faced an unresponsive University of California Labor Relation bargaining team that barely allowed a 3% increase in pay to Teaching Assistants, still leaving them below the poverty line and far behind competitor universities.
Graduate students and undergraduate supporters began to assemble in front of the university’s emblematic library at 8:30 am to begin their activities. Students were able to successfully close Gilman Avenue for nearly twenty-five minutes in an attempt to cause delays for the city and school bus services.
Strikers created human barricades along a busy pedestrian avenue that cuts through the heart of the campus. Later in the afternoon, strikers attempted to storm the Office of Graduate Studies, but the office locked its doors to them and even one of their own employees.
Throughout the day, those on strike and those supporting the strike would go from lecture hall to lecture hall interrupting classes. At first, students merely barged in assembling at the lecture floor and chanted before exiting and moving on to the next classroom. After doing this a few times, the students began to work on a message.
“Don’t let people tell you that we don’t care about you. That’s absolutely not true. Our struggle is yours,” said a graduate student in a repeated message to undergraduate classes. “One of the things on the bargaining table that the University of California does not want to even consider is reducing class size.”
In one class that strikers walked into in particular there was nearly fifteen students sitting on the floor while some five others stood in entrance doors.
“In a class of sixty, seventy, or even ninety students we’re paid the same for a class of 30, how can we possibly grade your papers or prepare your classes as you deserve? This means that we either get exploited, or you do.”
Juan Carmona, a doctoral student of history told students throughout different classes, “they’re taking your money and it’s going to shit.”
Lifestyles of the Rich and Not Famous
There is truth in the words of Mr. Carmona. Over the course of the past decade, a certain culture of lavish living has been created in the upper-strata of the university administration — all at the taxpayer’s expense.
In an article published two months ago by the San Diego Reader, Steve Gamer was recently hired as Vice Chancellor at UCSD for a cool $455,792 in his first year, including a $3,000 dollar cash allowance per month for 90 days, a relocation allowance of $85,938, and a reimbursement for transportation while he looks for a house.
In a scandal that has recently come to light thanks to the Center for Investigative Reporting, UCLA has dished out $486,000 on 130 first class airfare tickets from 2008 to mid-2012 when it could have saved more than $234,000 if the school had bought economy tickets. One dean in particular, Judi Olian of the Anderson School of Management was able to rack up a tab of $647,000 on personal travel related expenses from 2008 to 2012.
According to the San Diego Reader, former UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox was allotted an annual housing allowance of $20,000 while the university planned to spend a whopping $10 million to restore the chancellor’s house. All of this after UCSD blew a nice $500,000 on a remodel that never happened.
In an article by the Daily Cal, it turns out that UC San Francisco decided to spend $241,800 dollars in 2010 on upgrading Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s home and office — upgrades that fitted her personal home with surveillance cameras, shatter-proof coated windows, and new fencing.
Meanwhile as of 2010, it was recorded that then UC president Mark Yudof cost the University of California $600,000 in a mere two years over various housing issues, including his damaging of hardwood floors and Venetian plastered walls.
Once again at UCLA, the university handed out a mere $500,000 in 2011 to then offensive coordinator Norm Chow while he coached at Utah after his time coaching at UCLA.
The sad thing is that all of this luxury (as always) comes at the cost of other’s misery. The University of California has become a case study in mismanagement and poor fiscal responsibility. This ridiculously unreasonable spending occurred while 4,200 people lost their jobs. Not to mention that undergraduate study costs soared up nearly 70 percent since 2008.
Subsidized living seems to be alright for the rich. The following findings are from a document of research findings by the UAW:
“The money is in executive compensation. If the top 225 administrators in 2011 gave up their extra compensation and stuck to their salaries (averaging at $335,500), we would save roughly 20 million dollars, easily enough for massive amelioration. Likewise, one could ask why the UC’s upper-level administrative strata has grown 251% — resulting in roughly 1 billion in extra costs — while other sectors have grown 51% over 21 years.”
In an article in the Orange County Register written in 2012, it was recorded that of the 152,500 employees that made up the working body of the University of California, three-quarters were non-academic personnel. In the same article, the University of California administration justifies this due to an “increasingly complex university system” that “requires greater professionalization of its staff, who must meet higher technical and competency standard.”
Somehow it seems that the University of California has confused itself with a corporation. This chart published by the University of California shows where money has been going. In 2012, the pay of managers alone accounted for $660,655,439. From 2011-2012, managers alone received an increase of $53,530,961. In the field of Fiscal, Management, and Staff Services, $1,538,579,740 dollars of taxpayer money was paid. Up $90,388,348 from 2011.
As of right now, more than twenty strikers and supporters have already been arrested in Santa Cruz while legally on strike. Furthermore, e-mails have been found showing that the University of California is attempting to use undergraduate students to inform university staff who is on strike and who is not. This sets the ground for the UAW to file even more Unfair Labor Practice claims against the University of California.
The San Diego Free Press attempted to reach out to Laura Levinson of Labor Relations at UCSD for comment, but she declined.