UC faculty council endorses Occupy Wall Street

University of California faculty are among the newest members of the social movement known as Occupy Wall Street, which aims to promote awareness of the various forms of economic, political and social inequalities in the United States.

The Council of UC Faculty Associations — an umbrella organization for the associations of UC Senate faculty members — wrote a petition Wednesday in support of the movement.

The petition supports demonstrators in demanding changes to “the many inequitable features of our society, which have been exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2009 and the subsequent recession,” including the country’s economic inequalities and the relationship between corporate power and government.

The board of the council, which includes eight UC campuses, decided to create its own petition in support of the movement after faculty from Columbia University and Barnard College developed an initial petition last week, according to political science professor Wendy Brown, co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association.

Brown said in an email that the council promotes higher education as a nonprofit, public good, which aligns with the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“We understand this to be part of what (the movement) stands for,” she said in the email. “We are delighted by the protests and consider our campaign to be at one with it.”

As of Sunday, about 700 people have signed the petition. UC faculty have been signing the petition at a rapid rate since it was posted online Wednesday evening, said Joe Kiskis, a physics professor at UC Davis and vice president for external relations for the council.

The faculty’s motivation for signing the petition, Kiskis said, is the result of a shrinking amount of employment and educational opportunities for young people in the state.

“Our leadership at the state level and the university are trying to institutionalize these inequities and make them even worse,” he said. “A lot of people are gratified to finally see people giving voice to some of these frustrations.”

Christine Rosen, an associate professor at the Haas School of Business and co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, said the vagueness of the movement could be helpful in prompting discussion about economic issues.

“Although the Occupy Wall Street movement is a little formless in some ways, we see it as raising the questions and not being totally anti-government, like the Tea Party,” Rosen said.

Rising tuition has forced students to borrow increasing amounts of money, pushing them into exorbitant debt, said Bob Meister, a professor of political and social thought at UC Santa Cruz and the president of the council.

“You are turning students into customers of Wall Street,” he said. “You are asking students to imagine that their tuition is income investment — as other people in society fall asleep.”