The University of California is an active engine of the death economy- An economy where our labor is exploited for the extraction of natural resources and community wealth, while polluting our homes and bodies, all to generate power and profit for a select few. The only way to uphold this system of greed and destruction against the inevitable popular uprising, is through a repressive military and police force.
The UC has every ingredient of this cycle. The UC extracts wealth directly from its students, with the looming threat of even more tuition hikes. For students who still find ways to afford an education, structural racism and classism within every level of the institution creates an un-safe zone for students to think critically and question the oppression that pervades our lives. Students leave burdened with debt and afraid to engage in political resistance because of the pressure to find paying jobs. Student movements have historically been some of the most radical and transformative struggles for reimagining a new world- our silencing is strategic.
Tuition is not the only way that the UC profits from us. Student housing prices have skyrocketed, and the UC has removed the word “affordable” from its mission for these residences. The student families at the UC Village are experiencing exploitative rent hikes, and at other UC campuses, student housing has been completely demolished and replaced with for-profit housing. This leaves its students without affordable homes while also contributing to the further gentrification of the neighborhoods around these properties.
Beyond housing, the UC extracts from us through its active privatization of the most basic of our public resources for community power- like land. The commercial development of the Gill Tract epitomizes this conversion, as historic farmland that was once the site of innovative research in ecology-based agriculture is now under imminent threat of being paved for over for a greenwashing, union-busting, big-box grocery store, that contributes to monocropping, GMO, farmworker injustices, and all that we know is wrong with the food system.
The UC also extracts wealth from the exploitation of workers, as its consistent history of Unfair Labor Practices speaks to- such as in the worker intimidation during several of the past year’s contract campaigns. The UC is increasingly trying to replace unionized workers with contracted workers who do not have the same protections from unions and the right to collective bargaining.
As students and researchers, we too are workers- and this labor in the creation of ideas and knowledge is also being extracted from us towards private gain. Our university and research programs are increasingly funded by multinational corporations like BP, who then gain power to shift our academic labor towards producing biotechnology that advances their extractive industries and away from critical thought and political education that could create transformative solutions to confront austerity and privatization. The UC profits off the patents from these ideas, and many administrators, particularly in the regents, also profit off of the wealth generated by these private corporations, where they own stock or other financial interests. Through these and other nefarious ways, money and resources are sucked out of us like blood from a rock, while administrator salaries continue to rise.
Even the capital that goes into our endowment, which we contribute to through student tuition, housing, resource privatization, worker exploitation, and research patents- then gets used towards other far-reaching harm and trauma to our bodies and planet. Without our consent, the UC regents invest our community resources directly into fossil fuel extraction, big banks, prison industrial complex, and war- such as through their investments in Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people.
These decisions are made without student, worker, or community democratic participation. In fact, the UC is no democracy at all. The UC Regents are not elected- they are appointed by the governor because of their wealth and political connections. Over the years it has only become increasingly clear that student and community voices are blatantly ignored. The UC oligarchy is a microcosmic portrait of the farce of our American Democracy at large.
The only way they could uphold such an unjust system is through repression and force. We see that right here on campus with the policing of our email (berkeley.edu emails can and will be read!), security threats to our privacy, militarization of our UC police force, and police violence against student protestors. The President of our University- Janet Napolitano- is an emblematic figurehead of this transition. As the former head of homeland security, she has overseen the deportation of millions of people, including UC students, workers, and our families and communities.
The UC is an essential part of global systems of injustice, but we have power as students, and we are the generation that can fix this! It is our role and our power as students to transform our own school into a place where we learn and vision what the world can be and practice how to be active participants in change. Through the struggle to transform our own institution, we join in solidarity with struggles for freedom and liberty from oppression and injustice across the fabric of all our relations. This fall, by pushing for our rights to speak and participate in the decisions made on our behalf, we also take a huge step forward towards the creation of an economy and a university that supports the planet, people, and life itself.
Stop the extractive economy and create an economy for life!