Opening Public Spaces: Study-in at the Library

liberatethelibrariesPulling an All-Nighter to Transform the UC by some students, workers and faculty of UC Berkeley.

On September 24th, called to direct action by university faculty, workers and students, thousands walked out of the classrooms, offices, and labs at the University of California, Berkeley. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder on Sproul Plaza, in numbers not seen for decades. Our message bears repeating: “Whose university? Our university!”

Now, in defense of our university, in defense of public education, and in defense of our community, we’re opening the doors—and opening the books! As the Daily Cal reported on Monday, many campus libraries are being forced to close on the weekends due to budget cuts. We aren’t only losing our study space; major staff layoffs across the UC system mean that people are also losing their jobs. These libraries are the symbolic heart of the university. And the university will simply not survive if its heart beats only six days a week.

In response to this attack on education we are calling a “study-in” On Friday, October 9, at 4:30 pm in the anthropology library in Kroeber Hall. On this crucial weekend before midterms, when the doors of many campus libraries are supposed to close, we will say NO! We will stay, we will keep the doors open—and we will study for our midterms.

But we want to be clear that we’re not “taking over” the library. We are actively consulting with staff to ensure that the library and its contents remain safe and our “cleaning commission” will make sure that we leave things are in even better order than we found them. We have considerable support from university faculty, who will be present to offer teach-ins and facilitate dialogue during the study-in. Together, we’ll be reclaiming our libraries as a creative space for learning and teaching the issues we face during this budget crisis.

By taking this action, we are stepping up to our responsibility not only as members of this university and this campus, but also as Californians—as the owners of the university—to have an earnest discussion coupled with strategic planning on what we want public education to look like.  And we already know what public education doesn’t look like: the UC administration.

So let us be very clear that the “real problem” isn’t just the elected legislature in Sacramento, but the unelected UC administration. The Board of Regents is an undemocratic body, directly appointed by the governor and not subject to university oversight. UC President Mark Yudof has invoked “emergency powers” to systematically ignore the input, demands and alternative proposals of faculty, students, and staff. At Berkeley, Chancellor Birgeneau hired consulting firm Bain & Company for the hefty sum of $3 million, to “streamline” the “business” of public education and concentrate even more power in the hands of the UC senior administration.

And let us not forget that privatizing our university has been on the UC administration’s agenda for years. Student fees have increased by over 300 percent in the last decade. In 1993 the faculty/senior manager ratio was 2.5:1, this year it is 1:1. This increase in senior management has added an estimated $791,981,440 to overall UC expenses. In 2004 a different (also overcompensated) UC President signed a compact promising to seek private funding to enable the state to continue defunding the University. While overall University funding is slashed, the UC administration continues to be richly rewarded for its oversight of these cuts.

The purpose of our walkout was to take power back from the UC administration, by shutting down the university and waking us up to a common cause. On Friday, we’ll be pulling an all-nighter to reopen a part of the university that has been closed to us. So we ask all students to join us—study for your midterms and transform the UC at the same time!

 

 

LETTER of a graduate student to the Chair of the Anthropology Department at UC Berkeley

Dear Prof. Joyce,

We haven’t had the chance to meet personally yet, but I’m a first-year Ph.D student in sociocultural anthropology. I’m also one of a number of students from various departments who has been working to organize a “study-in” this Friday through Saturday in the anthropology library. This Friday afternoon, prior to the library’s regular closing time, students, faculty, and staff will gather in the library with the intention of keeping it open from Friday until what used to be the closing time on Saturday.

I want to be clear that we’re not “taking over” the library. We’re in the process of consulting with staff to ensure that the library and its contents remain safe and in the same order we found them. Our decision to take action to keep the library open stems from a recognition of the immense value of this space and of the staff that tends to it, as well as its symbolic status as the heart of a thriving research university.

The university cannot survive if its heart only beats six days a week. This weekend — the crucial weekend leading up to midterms — students have been told that they can’t access their libraries. While the purpose of the walkout was to shut the university down in order to wake the people up, the purpose of this study-in will be to open up a part of the university that has been locked away from the students and the people of California.

We hope to create a space that is both conducive to studying and writing papers, as well as a creative space for learning and teaching about the issues we face during this budget crisis. It is our responsibility not only as members of this university and this campus, but also as Californians — as the owners of the university — to have an earnest discussion coupled with strategic planning on what we want public education to look like.

We have already garnered considerable support for this action. Approximately twenty faculty members have voiced interest in the study-in, and are currently deciding how they may best get involved. That includes members of this department who have offered teach-ins.

It is my personal hope as a new member of the Anthropology Department, that we — students, faculty, and staff — will have a visible presence at this weekend’s study-in. It is, after all, our library. I invite you, Prof. Joyce, along with the whole faculty, to support our efforts, to encourage your GSIs offer midterm study sessions the library, to join us, to offer teach-ins either inside the library or in front of it — to participate however you see fit.

If you are interested in holding a teach-in on the budget or related issues, please let me know of your availability before 10:30 pm tonight, when I will be working out the schedule. We are currently working on arranging childcare outside of the library if it will be helpful.

Thank you very much. I hope to see you this weekend.