The UC Berkeley administration continues to attack our communities of color with the expectation of little student resistance, knowing well that those who have the most reason to speak up have the least time and resources to do so. In a silent chokehold of discriminatory policy and misappropriation of funds, our administration continues to strangle any true call for inclusivity but seizes the opportunity to sell the image of a multi-colored warm embrace. Just a couple years ago, while launching campaigns boasting diversity on campus lampposts, campus at first denied space to our minority recruitment and retention centers in our newly reconstructed Eshleman Hall. Meanwhile, our marginalized communities have continued to struggle for a student body that is more reflective of state demographics than of a private school for elites. And while my skin color, my name and my clothes alone suffice as a political statement on this campus, little comfort remains in knowing there are administrators enjoying luxurious lifestyles in the Berkeley hills or abroad, pandering to corporate bullies for funding behind closed doors.
Whether it’s the recent mishandling of sexual assault cases in the campus community, the hiring of a UC President that formerly oversaw and supported the ongoing mass deportation of undocumented immigrants or the resignation of high level administrators with boosted salaries such as Chancellor Nicholas Dirks or Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele, the appearance of an administration that cares for the student body is fading ever so quickly. More efforts are made in projecting the image of a progressive, diverse, accepting campus than in actually providing one. Laborious efforts cohesively bring this facade together, some of which you can find on Twitter via your dean of students, Joseph Greenwell. Posing with students and staff of color for selfies doesn’t make you an ally; actively fighting for us in privileged places of power does. Adding trimming to the seal of “the world’s number one public university,” this campus gleefully accepts opportunities for increased corporate sponsorship, now including Amazon — ever so visibly present across the steps where Mario Savio once stood.
In the wake of scandal after scandal, one can’t help but notice where the true values of this allegedly great university lie. Administrators get signing bonuses, departments are expanded and restructured under policy like Operational Excellence, construction projects continue to be privately and publicly funded, jobs are contracted-in and poor students continue to be degraded and pushed out with new policy like the cancel for nonpayment, or CNP, which does not account for an under-staffed financial aid department and a short one-month’s notice of the new policy. Policies such as the CNP disproportionately target low-income students and are negligent of the diversity of circumstances endured within our marginalized communities. Whether they’re undocumented students forced to pay higher student rates or student-parents with children depending on them, by forcing students to choose between basic necessities and an education, this campus undermines our supposed democratic values and acts as a stronghold for the already privileged. This campus isn’t ours. It wouldn’t be serving its purpose if it were ours.
This university is not a learning institution for all, and it is intolerant of discourse that fundamentally disagrees with its current structure and function. We as students are not to be misled into believing that we are attaining a world-class education when our education is being commodified, packaged and sold to us, one overcrowded lecture at a time. This is not simply an issue of privatization under austerity measures, but a complex dynamic between the overpowering interests of global elites and the necessity of an educated public. Canceling students for non-payment isn’t the start of it, and unless you say or do otherwise, it won’t be the last of it.
Rolando Gutierrez is a member of RAZA and a third year UC Berkeley student majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies.