Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Students vs. Regents of University of California

The University of California's governing Regents' meeting this Monday was interrupted by protesting students against ever rising tuition and fees. 

The reported that 
Hundreds of students and faculty members chanted and shouted so loudly at a number of UC Board of Regents meetings Monday that the university officials had to move to different rooms to take up their business, including voting to ask the state for millions of dollars in new funding.

UC Berkeley social policy graduate student Megan Wachspress, 27, said the regents are part of the problem.
"We need to find a new way to pick regents," she said at the Mission Bay campus. "So many of them have conflicts of interest. They're on the boards of corporations. They belong to groups that oppose tax increases, and they keep raising the pay for top administrators."

Lawmakers have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from UC's state allocation over the past few years, including $650 million this year alone. Another $100 million could be cut this winter if state revenues fall short as expected.
At the same time, the regents have raised tuition and fees annually since 2006, when they totaled $8,323. Tuition and fees this year amount to $13,218.

UC President Mark Yudof said afterward in San Francisco that he sympathized with the protesters' plight.

"I wish they wouldn't interrupt a public meeting," he said, but added "the students have taken it on the chin for the past decade ... I definitely understand the students' position."

However, he and several regents said - reiterating what they have said before - students should direct their efforts to restore funding to higher education at state leadership in Sacramento rather than at UC's administrators.

It is understandable that UC's administrators were just as frustrated and upset as the student when the State has failed them repeatedly.

However, UC Regent's plea for the students to protest at the door step of the state legislators instead of their schools sounded rather like shrugging their collective shoulders.

The students live and study around their campuses and they should have the right to speak out and protest in their home turf.  It was the Regents who imposed the fee and tuition hikes, and they have the right to protest against the Regents.

In turn, if the Regents feel the urgency and the pain the students are suffering from, they ought to camping out in Sacramento themselves, and demand tax increase from the super rich, the rich and even the middle class to support our once great educational systems in California.  Our Regents ought to occupy Sacramento themselves.

Perhaps, Wachspress hit the nail on the head.  If our Regents could or would not fight to solve the problems, then they are part of the problems.  Then they ought to be replaced.

November 11, 2011 - Protest at Cal _ 7964

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Military Budget Cuts

President Obama makes a statement at the White
House afterthe congressional debt supercommittee
failed to reachan agreement. Photograph: Pablo
Martinez Monsivais/AP- via
Apparently, the ill-conceived "Super Committee" is to fail to reach budgetary compromise and that would automatically trigger a huge cut - read, cut only, no tax increases - including military cuts, the only incentive for the Republican to compromise in the whole "Super Committee" enterprise.

With the cuts looming, guess what, the Republicans are trying to take that cut out of the whole deal and President Obama has voiced his strong opposition.

If the Republicans are so concerned with the military budget cuts, they could have prevented it by compromise on tax increases in the "Super Committee".  Failing that, if they really want to prevent the military budget cut, they can try to negotiate with tax increases to offset all those agreed upon military budget cuts.

After all, our nation's huge military spending, is largely to protect the commercial interests of large corporations and the super-rich.  The Republicans love to lecture people that there is no free lunch.  Suck it up then!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Linda Katehi (UC Davis Chancellor) and Administrative Costs at Public Universities

The police's dosing of pepper spray over peaceful protesting students last week had called attention once again to the chancellor of University of California, Davis (UC Davis), Linda Katehi, with many calls for her resignation from students, faculty and staff and alumni and others.

According to UC Davis's web site, that Chancellor Katehi, was hired in 2009.
As chancellor of UC Davis, Katehi will receive an annual salary of $400,000. This is a 12.4 percent increase above her current salary of $356,000 at the University of Illinois. Vanderhoef currently earns $315,000 as UC Davis chancellor.

UC seeks to be competitive in the employment markets relevant to its faculty and staff hires, and the base salary of $400,000 is still substantially below the 2008 median of $628,000 among chancellors at UC’s comparison group of 14 public and private U.S. campuses with medical schools.
Her $400,000 annual salary, approved by the UC Board of Regents, equated to a 27 percent hike from her predecessor and a 12.4 percent increase from her previous position at the University of Illinois.  That happened during the time when the funding to the University from the state had been cut year after year, after staff and faculty were forced to take unpaid furloughs, and endless tuition hikes threatened the quality of the university system.  It was an obscene amount of money thrown at a civil servant, a public university administrator. 

Considering the protest on UC Davis, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, was a rallying cry against greedy individuals and their enablers, and the institutions behind them, asserting the rights to an affordable good education, and taking back our country, our state and our public university, it is very pertinent that Chancellor Katehi be replaced by a dedicated, highly qualified administrator, who would not demand such an exorbitant salary.  Claiming it is impossible to find such candidate is not good enough.

University of California's present and regents must act.

Police pepper spraying and arresting students at UC Davis

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Failure of American Universities - Thoughts on Penn State Riots and Novel "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"

Following up the disclosure of the horrendous sexual scandal and crime of the assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who preyed on young boys, and the covering up of such crime by the officials and football coach Joe Paterno, considered a legendary figure and hugely bankable figure, generated a more shocking scandal.   This time, the actors were the supposedly bright young men and women who were studying at Penn State University. reported that
Penn State students chant support for fired coach Hundreds of Penn State students have taken to the streets to chant their support for ousted football coach Joe Paterno.

The students flooded downtown State College on Wednesday night after Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired amid a growing furor linked to their handling of sex abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach.

The students gathered about two blocks from the campus, with some chanting "We want Joe! We want Joe!" Some shook a lamp post and others tipped over a news van, kicking out its windows.
The utterly disregard of the victims and human decency, and the mass hysteria of "hero" worshiping demonstrated in the YouTube videos below were truly disgusting and disturbing.  They were supposed to be the best of their generation and should have the soundest judgement and compassion.  But, it seems to me, that they had only their bloated egos and misplaced love.  What they lacked were just brown shirts to generate more shudders. 

Below is the detailed background story of the sex abuse allegations, reported by SFGate:
Penn State trustees fired football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach.

The massive shakeup Wednesday night came hours after Paterno announced that he planned to retire at the end of his 46th season.

But the outcry following the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on molestation charges proved too much for the board to ignore.

One key question has been why Paterno and other top school officials didn't go to police in 2002 after being told a graduate assistant saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in a school shower.

Paterno says he should have done more. Spanier has said he was not told the details of the attack.

Sandusky has denied the charges. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach while Rodney Erickson will serve as interim school president.
While searching for the YouTube videos above, I came across another riot of the very same Penn State University, this time, celebrating the killing of Osama Ben Ladin:

Image Source: Wikipedia
Well, it was understandable to feel relieved, vindicated and the sense that justice was done, the death of Ben Ladin, did not warrant such riotous celebration, the same kind appalling celebration after the attacked masterminded by Ben Ladin, in some hostile corners where humanity didn't shine.

The kind of celebration was described in the award winning novel "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", which my friends and I happened to discuss last night at our book club.

The book described "a bearded Pakistani man called Changez (the Urdu name for Genghis) tells a nervous American stranger about his love affair with an American woman, and his eventual abandonment of America." [Wikipedia]

The narrator (Changez) described that he, a Princeton graduate, smiled when he saw the image of airplane plunging into World Trade Center.  That smile was as damning to the lack of humanity in certain people, mirrored painfully in the riots occurred in Penn State University and other places, and to the failure of American educational system, particularly the universities and graduate schools.

In the past, universities trained scholars immersed in classical humanism, even if the major of the students were in science or engineering and it was no accident that the advanced degrees in those fields were called Doctors of Philosophy.

It is utterly different now.  Universities concentrate on churning our job seekers and the graduates were useful tools and parts in well-oiled economic machines.  Universities and especially graduate schools instilled little, if not none, of the humanism so prized before.

Facing the fact that American students are fleeing from science and engineering fields, and being replaced by waves after waves of foreign students who had little understanding of western tradition and philosophy, we are get a very bad bargain.  We train skilled technocrats who can remain totally alien or hostile to the foundation of our cultural foundation.

Look at those many despotic rulers in Mideast, Africa and Asia.  How many of them were western "trained"?  Trained, but hardly educated.

Failing to truly educate the cream of the new generation, US or foreign born, is the greatest failure of our educational system.