Education is not prioritized in the U.S.

Shared sacrifice should prevail throughout the university

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Nicole Lim/Staff

Who is giving back to the university?

Now that the economy seems headed toward a double dip, with future budgets for the UC system possibly headed toward a similar dip, we have to ask ourselves how we can create more quality for less money.

And while this has been the mantra for lecturers for years, I challenge my colleagues in the Academic Senate to come out of their ivory tower dungeons and give back.

How “public” is our university when middle class families have to take out big loans to send their kid to school?

Education in this country is no longer a civil right — it is a privilege for the folks who can afford it.

For less than half the money that I would have to pay for my son if he went to Cal for only one year, I earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Britain and a Ph.D. in the Netherlands, my country of origin.

And don’t call us potheads — call us citizens who have their priorities in the right place. We do not fear taxes if it means access to quality education for everyone.

By the way, unemployment in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in all of the Western World.

It must be because all that socialism that gives everyone a fair shot, a free education, free health care and six weeks of vacation to boot. We should call it the “European Dream” for a change, because it’s time to wake up from the American nightmare and smell the free speech coffee.

The shocking thing is that I have been asking my students in the past two semesters, “Are you getting your money’s worth? Are we preparing you for the world out there?” The answer was mostly no, albeit followed by the comment that a Berkeley diploma accounts for something.

Really?

One of my former students who excelled on this campus is on food stamps, so really, what good is a Berkeley diploma?

All summer long I have been working for an Internet company in Silicon Valley, as my salary as a lecturer at Cal will not put any extra money in the bank for the two kids I will have to put through college three years from now.

I will not talk about the laptop I received on the first day of the job. I will not talk about the free meals, the great and fair management, the lack of salary disparity and the lack of retention of people who are thrown out if they don’t perform. I will not even talk about the great parties I have had there, the collegiality, the compassion and the fun.

But I will talk about the team spirit, which is promoted from the top — once a month this company encourages its employees to find a charity of their choice and give back.

Why is it that in the seven years that I have worked for the department of German we haven’t for one day, as fellow lecturers and professors, worked at a soup kitchen in Berkeley to give our time and serve food to the les-privileged kids of our city who sleep in cardboard boxes up and down Telegraph?

We are not a “team” as colleagues and if we, as faculty, cannot be there for each other, how can we be there for our university and most of all our students and community, who deserve so much better?

You may ask me why I did not stay at that Internet company and why I am returning to Berkeley this fall. I am still there in Silicon Valley, yet will also return to my duties at Cal.

I return neither for my fellow colleagues — most of whom care more for publications than people — nor for that once-great public institution that was once one of the most of affordable and quality schools in California and the country.
I return for the students and their future.

If we quit and stop trying to make this campus a better place, we might as well become Dutch citizens.

Be critical of the education you are paying for, and if you are not getting what you want then stand up and demand more. Demand better quality and for less money.

UC Berkeley is not bankrupt — it is the morale on this campus that is. We can do better.

So here’s my challenge: I will give back 10 percent of my paycheck to the university if all the regents and the top 10 percent of highest paid faculty match this challenge. Let’s see who the real heroes on this campus are.

And no, this is not a publicity stunt to fill my classes. But if you do need to know, Dutch 1 and Dutch 110 are still open for business.

Inez Hollander is a lecturer in the department of German.