December 29, 2011
The Corporatization of California’s Universities
Arise, Students of California
by RALPH NADER
Students of California, arise, you have nothing to lose but a crushing debt!
…As Mike Konzcal writes, “One of the Occupy movements’ major objectives is combating the privatization of public higher education and its replacement with a debt-fueled economy of indenture.”
So far the students have gotten nowhere in the Golden State. The Board of Regents rules with an iron hand. Their chancellors are enforcing the state government’s unprecedented cutbacks of facilities, faculty, courses and maintenance-repairs.
Berkeley Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes called the “current crisis” as being “fundamentally about privatization and the dismantling of a national public treasure.”
But the students have a very powerful unused tool of direct democracy – thanks to Governor Hiram Johnson’s enactment of the voters’ initiative process nearly a hundred years ago. They can qualify an initiative on the ballot that would set tuition at affordable levels or even become like some leading European countries where free schooling extends through the university years.
Planning and implementing this people’s legislation would be a rigorous course in law, political science and communications.
The effort invites the best minds from the faculty. The language of the initiative must be clear, persuasive and as devoid of ambiguity and openings for circumvention as possible.
Depending on whether the initiative amends the California Constitution or has statutory status, the students will have to collect as many as 810,000 or as few as 505,000 valid signatures on petitions to get on the November 2012 ballot. Ordinarily, without lots of money for paid petitioners, this can be a formidable challenge. But with millions of community college and university students reachable on campus, combined with their families, this should be a fast process and a piece of cake.”