by Sarah Kanbar –
The Vanguard had the opportunity to do a brief phone interview with AFSCME Local 3229 President Lakesha Harrison. The Vanguard asked Ms. Harrison two questions revolving around this ordeal: Is this fair? And who does this effect the most?
Harrison believes that this furlough plan will not have any positive outcome, nor will it help close the budget, instead, she believes that this plan will end up costing the UC. As Harrison explains, losing a day of work means that there is more work to be done the next day. And while Yudof’s proposal calls for having furlough days being scattered throughout the year, it is common logic that one day of missed work in most cases leads to more work the next day. Just imagine if someone who works in medical billing lost a day of work; in some cases this can lead to misplaced files, lost bills, paperwork not being mailed, and so on. In the end, it just makes a mess, and that employee has to work harder to fix small tasks.
But the group that suffers the most is a group I am more familiar with: students. There has already been controversy with the loss of student services and rise in student fees, and it seems unfair to have to pay more and get less. Harrison stated that if the UC system were already to raise fees then there is no need to have to lose workdays. The furlough system, as she pointed out, will impact students negatively with the loss of custodians in dorms, food servers in cafeterias, and all the workers that make day-to-day life in a college bearable. This might seem outrageous, but to lose a day of clean bathrooms in a college dorm does not sound like the ideal college life, and it does not sound like something that could come from one of the nation’s top university system. These employees who make the least are the employees that students will encounter more often in a single day; they are always looked over, but they are the ones who clean our trash, serve us food, take care of our campuses and us.
Harrison has noted that the alternatives to this are to cut pay from the very top, starting with President Yudof and to rethink how the UC is spending its money. There have been poorly planned campaigns from many campuses to increase donations and there have also been ill advised funding. There will be losses, since the deficit is $813 million, and everyone will have to suffer, but what seems to be forgotten is that this is higher education and we are not dealing with a high ranking corporation.
Laura Nader, the prestigious professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley published an open letter to Mark Yudof noting that the original mission of the UC was to freely educate able California residents.
“The original philosophy that the university, as a public institution, should be accessible and within the financial means of every resident regardless of economic class and status has withered.”
It maybe doubtful that Californians will ever see that mission fulfilled, but the issues that the UC system facing today are much more staggering. It is well accepted that losses will have to be made, but furloughs are only a notch in comparison to the larger issues of poor spending and overly excessive salaries.
“Politically-selected regents have not husbanded the university. Most have been negligent in their budgetary responsibilities, unaccountable on policy questions, deaf to students, staff and faculty concerns, and disdainful of the very people who make a university great.
In a non-profit educational system, there is no ethical place for comparisons with profit-making corporations and US CEO pay that astonishes even CEOs in other countries.”
It is this educational vision that has been lost, but one we should continue to fight for. Unfortunately those at the top continue to thrive in the UC System, while the commitment to educate the students and help those at the bottom earn a living wage has suffered.
Sarah Kanbar is an intern with the People’s Vanguard of Davis