One view of UC Merced from the San Joaquin Valley
We have been scratching our heads about the recent University of California fee hike, which brings the total increase to 40 percent over what tuition was two years ago, and the alleged attack on a campus policeman by a UC Merced student at the student demonstration against the fee increase.
It was good to see that Regent Odessa Johnson, from Modesto, voted against the increase.
The Merced Sun-Star reported on what the fuss was about:
The recent rise in tuition is needed to fill in a nearly $1 billion hole in the UC system's budget because of state cuts, said UC President Mark Yudof. The increase would raise $180 million in annual revenue, with $64 million set aside for financial aid.
The school's Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, a plan that covers low-income student fees, will broaden to include families whose annual income is $80,000 a year -- an upward shift from the previous bar of $70,000. About 67,100 students would be covered by this plan next fall.
The school's middle-income grant program will extend next fall to cover the increased tuition for a year for families with incomes less than $120,000.
UC officials estimated that the expanded financial aid will provide enough funding to cover the fee increases for 99,000 undergraduates, 55 percent of the UC's 181,000 undergraduates.
Most UC Merced students will not feel the impact of the fee increase, according to the UC Merced Office of Financial Aid. Roughly 77 percent of undergraduate students will be covered by either the Blue and Gold program or the University of California's fee grant program.
We presume that there are some students at UC Merced that pay tuition. We just have never heard of any, regardless of parental income.
UC Merced student Peter Howell, 19, has been charged with felony assault on a campus police officer, having allegedly gained control of the officer's baton and hit him in the head with it, after which the officer drew his pistol. Four officers were injured in what the what, from press reports and videos, appears to have been almost a riot of several hundred students in a parking garage.
It was a stupid thing for Howell to have allegedly done. It endangered him, the officer and potentially endangered those around him, if the officer had not kept his head. It was bad politics and an insult to the tradition of protest in the San Joaquin Valley since the 1960s.
Seven weeks earlier, a group of UC Merced students descended on City Hall in a show of for-credit solidarity with the homeless, ejected from their city-owned campground after more than a year of study and debate held in a series of orderly meetings. The issue split the council 4-3 for eviction. The students were there doing a project in a writing class. We gathered several quotes from the UC Merced lecturer, leading his students that night. At least as he appeared in the Sun-Star, we thought he didn't make any sense.
Christopher Ramirez, a UC Merced lecturer in the writing program, had his students pick and choose community projects on various issues. Two groups in his writing classes picked the issue for their semester-long projects..."A classroom should exist without walls and the best way for students to immerse themselves in critical thinking -- at one level -- it's about learning from texts but what better way to create a live rhetoric and take that to the streets and see the texts come to life depending on what issues they take on?" he asked...Ramirez said this issue has too many people involved and no leadership and "none of this energy is being focused into a solution." For example, he said one of the solutions was a six- to eight-month period where council members could meet with HomeBase, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, public policy law firm that specializes in homelessness... "There is no plan, no solution," Ramirez said. "There is a lot of irony, we have a lot of compassion and yet it's unfortunate for those four members on City Council who voted no."
Where to begin unraveling the rhetoric? We might start with the observation that politics isn't literature any more than literature is politics. That is the reason there are not very many good novels about politics. As far as "live rhetoric" is concerned, anyone who has had anything to do with that situation knows the rhetoric is rather deadly. The issue is fairly straightforward: the homeless began to camp on city land near Black Rascal Creek; businesses in the area complained to the City; after it was determined the land actually belonged to the City rather than to the railroad, the City had the authority to eject the homeless whenever it wanted to; rather than do that, a committee was formed, meetings were held, positions were discussed and a decision was reached. Now the homeless are camped on the front lawn of Sierra Presbyterian Church in the middle of the affluent north side of Merced -- a better address than the BNSF tracks beside Black Rascal Creek.
A classroom without walls is not a classroom. It is something else. Does the public of the City of Merced exist now so that UC Merced students can "see the texts come to life depending on what issues they take on ..."? What texts, pray tell? This is backwards. The best writing courses can do is aquaint students with literature, allow them to practice writing and get criticism so that if they ever have anything to say they may be better able to say it. We suspect this class will treat the subject of the homeless in Merced as dishonestly as a UC Merced history class treated the foundation of the campus in a wretched little volume called The Fairy Shrimp Chronicles.
A fine example of “texts” coming to life are the comment letters from UC Merced students on the Sun-Star stories about the fee hike and demonstration. We think we are not alone in our wish to read what the students have to say. The problem is that they cannot write well enough to express their thoughts.
Most movement people read all the history they can find that could shed any light on their situation. Many people who demonstrate are great readers of the Bible. Then there is a story treasured by some in the Valley of the great Filipino labor organizer, Philip Vera Cruz, in his eighties, lecturing a group of fellow octogenarians on Lenin, in the retirement center in Delano Vera Cruz had created for them.
What we find so offensive about the "culture" UC Merced is establishing on its campus is expressed in the following bit of faculty flak -- a species of rhetoric we continue to call bobcatflak:
Jan Wallander: UC Merced engages community...Jan Wallander, Ph.D., is professor of psychological sciences at UC Merced.
UC Merced's innovative research comes in many different forms, whether it's studying stem cells, building better solar panels or analyzing literature.
But it all shares one characteristic -- a focus on discovering new knowledge. Research discoveries are powerful. They change the world, our region and even our community.
Faculty members at UC Merced conduct research with a range of goals, from advancing basic understanding to improving people's lives in communities, including Merced and the San Joaquin Valley.
The campus fulfills many missions, one of which is channeling its research in ways that will serve the region. Community-engaged research is about understanding and addressing problems our society is experiencing so that our lives can be improved as soon as possible.
With regard to the present and future off-campus activities of UC Merced students, we ask: what about rediscovering any knowledge of the place where you are before you set about changing it in your own image? Specifically, if the students, led by professors without minds seeking classrooms without walls, are going to continue alleged "political" activity, they just might consider that they are living in a region that, 45 years ago, was transformed by a massive non-violent movement.
In addition to providing financial support for research at UC, residents in this region can benefit from engaging with UC faculty.
Local and regional problems cannot be understood, and then addressed, without engagement between UC researchers and citizens. One important way this occurs is when citizens participate in research projects.
There is no way for useful information to be collected by the researcher without participation from the people affected by the issue.
Citizens can also actively engage UC faculty by inviting them into collaborative research relationships.
Consider approaching a UC faculty member by saying, "We have this problem, and we would like to partner with you to address it in a way that benefits all of us."
This is community-engaged research, a partnership based on mutual respect, needs and goals. It has the potential to create extraordinarily valuable knowledge.
The community is invited to financially support UC Merced research. It is the most childlike pitch for the local plutocracy to buy research we have seen.
Apparently, we cannot understand local and regional problems anymore, without "engagement between UC researchers and citizens." But the local/regional public might ask how UC Merced researchers have demonstrated enough basic knowledge of the area to begin to produce exciting new knowledge about it.
Wallander even gives us a little formula for how to talk to professors, in case we don't have no manners. The only problem with the "approach" is this: what if the research the public needs doesn't benefit UC Merced or, for example, its trustees?
UC Merced faculty and administrators have demonstrated repeatedly that they are incapable of listening to any member of the local and regional public that is not writing them checks, and we imagine even some check writers have not felt they have been listened to, either.
Without any fear of being heard at all in the hallowed halls, we suggest in light of the stupid alleged assault on a campus cop, someone out at UC Merced should be writing 500 times on the blackboard the following quote from Gandhi:
“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.”