Churning out marketability is not what public education should be.
Years of cutting, condensing and consolidating UC Berkeley’s peace and conflict studies major have culminated in the March 2016 announcement that the new global studies major will swallow PACS, development studies and all of the major area studies programs under the international and area studies umbrella into one single global studies program.
After decades of political action on the part of undergraduates and faculty to keep peace and conflict studies alive on campus, the program will die out next spring without more than a whimper.
Many students have come to UC Berkeley over the years to study PACS. The radical vision of a PACS education weaves together timely campus issues and intersectional, international issues into a program unique to UC Berkeley.
Meanwhile, on the other side of campus, the Berkeley Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology Program will begin in the fall. A dual degree program between the Haas School of Business and College of Engineering, M.E.T. emphasizes marketability in Silicon Valley and getting the most bang for your buck for a semester’s tuition, demanding upward of 20 units per semester.
M.E.T. and global studies are two sides of the same coin: the neoliberal march toward making majors more marketable and more efficient.
Associate Chancellor Nils Gilman claims that the creation of global studies is “a way to streamline and create administrative efficiency,” but that’s a cop out. If anything, formatting a single global studies bureaucracy is just a way to minimize support for peace and conflict studies at UC Berkeley and relegates it from a full curriculum to a few courses.
UC Berkeley’s financial deficit has has backed the administration into a corner, forced to celebrate privately funded programs like M.E.T. while important aspects of the public mission fall by the wayside. Moreover, the formation of global studies seems to be a way for the IAS department chairs — who are both political economists — to solidify political economy’s position on top of the hierarchy.
In 2011, the campus External Review Committee decided that PACS was flourishing and that its only need was more funding and resources. Instead, the administration has proven that it does not care about allocating funds or support for PACS or other IAS majors, instead downsizing and weakening them.
In times of increased global conflict and heightened polarization of political ideology, it is imperative that we teach how to deconstruct and analyze these events in an academic setting.
With the rise in tuition, education is an investment. Perhaps it’s too little too late, but this prioritization of marketability over education in UC Berkeley highlights a strain in the priorities of the education system and in the systems at large that put demands on students.