Tag Archives: College

Affecting Communities with 58-12 Design Lab

One of the best things about my college experience was it jump-started my passion in helping others. I found that my apathy quickly dissipated when I got out of my comfort bubble. I learned about Alzheimer’s disease and how it affected not just the individual, but the entire family. I learned about the homeless sleeping on the benches of Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade and on the floor of Los Angeles’s infamous Skid Row. I learned about human and sex trafficking that not only occurs around the world, but even in my neck of the woods. But it’s not enough to know something–something must be done.

College exposed me to a variety of ways I can help my community or make some impact in the world. When Hurricane Katrina hit or even as most recent as the earthquake in Haiti, college students across the country volunteered their time, even sacrificing their Spring Break to help those in need. You see, college supposedly trains you in life to be upstanding citizens. But it is utilizing what you learn in the classroom into the real world that shows

Most people after they graduate get a job or go for more school. Some even get married. There’s noting wrong with which path you choose. But that’s usually when the spirit of apathy comes stumbling back, telling you that what you’re doing doesn’t matter. Sure, you can’t save everyone, but you can definitely save one person at a time. Well, for Jonathan Crisman, Melanie Young, and Thomas Yung, the passion for helping others never left. Together they formed the 58-12 Design Lab, dedicated in integrating design that would affect communities in positive ways. But they first need your help. It takes less than 2 minutes. Vote for their project on Pepsi’s Refresh Project .

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Aborting Tim Tebow’s Superbowl Ad?

“Tim Tebow is a Greek god,” my friend Sandra* said. “Yes–tall, dark, handsome, and a whole lot of man. Wish guys at my school looked like him. I’m definitely going to be paying attention to Florida football from now on.”

“What are you talking about? It’s college basketball season now.” I asked surprisingly. “Besides, I thought you have a crush on Mark Sanchez. He was a Trojan you know, and…” As I turned around, I realized what brought on this random conversation. There was Sandra, going through my collection of books and magazines. In her hands was my September 2009 issue of GQ magazine where Tebow was interviewed and featured.

“Yah, Tebow is bow wow.” Sandra winked. “I’d go to church if I get to see that every Sunday. Are all you Christians this hot?” Then she takes the magazine and points to a close up picture of Tebow wearing John 3:16 eye-black markings.

“Yes,” I answered sarcastically. “Very hot. I mean look at me. Better get those books and magazines away. They catch fire when I’m around.”

Sandra picks up a book, throws it at me, and starts laughing. “You wish.”

Yah, I wish. Sigh. How can a five-foot-seven, 195 pound guy like me supposed to compete with a six-foot-three, 235 pound athletic phenomenon? I know where to pick my fights. Tebow is numero uno, so why try harder? He was the first underclassman (a sophomore at the time) to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy back in 2007. The truth is, I do admire the guy, despite being a Bruin. I kind of have to, at least according to the hilarious Jon Acuff. I commend Tebow for being outspoken about his faith, without getting too preachy or Pat Roberson-ish and not minding all the ridicule or criticisms associated with being a Christian in the public eye. Here’s a guy who genuinely loves Jesus Christ, and can’t help but share that fact with the world. I mean, isn’t that what we all particularly do when we are in love with someone? We want the world to know it. That’s why songs about love are the most common types of songs. And for those who see football as a religion–well, he plays football darn well too. You don’t have to be a Christian to like him–he’s easily likable.

He’s easily likable for many female fans for obvious reasons, but for some women’s groups, that’s another story. And that story first started twenty-two years ago with Tim Tebow’s parents, Bob and Pam. In 1985, the Tebow family moved to the Philippines for a Christian missionary outreach. Unfortunately while pregnant, Pam Tebow drank contaminated drinking wanter and contracted amoebic dysentery. The doctors advised her to get an abortion because the medications that would help her recover could have extreme irreversible effects on the child she was carrying. Pam Tebow chose to keep the baby, and on August 14, 1987, the Tebows welcomed a healthy baby boy. That boy would grow up to be the Heisman Trophy-winning American football quarterback for the Florida Gators, the guy that girls like Sandra dream about, and that guy I can never measure up to.

And now, that boy grew up to star in a controversial Superbowl advertisement coming to a TV near you. Working with Focus on the Family (FOTF), the Tebows finished a commercial highlighting Pam Tebow’s predicament in the Philippines. FOTF spent about $2.8 million on the ad. The Tebows just want to tell their story, but women’s groups believe it’s an anti-abortion ad and urged CBS to pull the ad. Although I can sympathize and understand the women’s groups, I think even if you were pro-choice, you should respect Pam Tebow because she made a choice–she chose life. And to be pro choice means to respect choices that might not agree with your own.

“I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe … I’ve always been very convicted of it because that’s the reason I’m here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it.” – Tim Tebow

Controversial Superbowl ads are nothing new to Superbowl Sunday. The most controversial ads tend to be the most sex-infused because the Superbowl tends to be a family event. Why aren’t women’s groups making noise about how women are being portrayed in these ads? Well, at least they made some noise over a certain wardrobe malfunction. Should Tebow’s ad have a place with all the other Superbowl ads?

I don’t care. If people are willing to shell out millions of dollars and are abiding to FCC regulations, then shouldn’t they be given a chance to show their ad? Isn’t that the American thing to do?

Tim Tebow knows some people won’t agree with it, and that’s just fine by him. But then again, not many people could say that at one point, their mothers were about to abort them either.

I picked up the book that Sandra threw at placed it on my desk. Then I got my revenge by picking up a dictionary next to me and throwing it at her. Don’t worry–it was a soft cover.

“Ouch,” Sandra said, then started laughing. “See, I’m right. You can never be like Tim Tebow. You throw like a girl.”

*Name change

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The Importance of Being a LOSER

School Hierarchy (n): The social order in which any high school runs from top to bottom.

Flashback to the awkward days of high school. In most high schools around the nation, you know where you belong in the school hierarchy. If you didn’t, you’ll certainly be put in place. It’s a food chain, and when you’re a guy, you can have it just as bad.  If you’re too scrawny you get picked on, and if you’re too fat you get picked on. Like Goldielocks, things have to be “just right.”

In college, those lines get blurred. Why? The infamous Freshman 15–almost everyone seems to be gaining weight. Results from a Cornell study showed an average weight gain of 5 lbs in Cornell freshmen. Despite the results, there’s still an obesity problem and according to Newsweek reporter Johanna Cornblatt, “In an effort to fight obesity, colleges may also trigger disordered eating.”

What exactly causes Freshman 15 or should I say the Freshman 5? I, for one, know all too well. I wasn’t blessed with a high metabolism:

  • Eating unhealthy dorm food and/or over-eating
  • Eating late at night.
  • Having unhealthy snacks in the dorm.
  • Drinking lots of coffee, lattes, etc.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Lack of exercise
  • Less sleep
  • More stress

When I first entered high school, I was at a scrawny 145 lbs. By the end of college, with my weight shifting up and down, I became a fat 205 lbs. Inexcusable! It’s time I reclaimed my life and my health. This New Year resolution is going!

I was a geek back in high school, and in many ways, I still am. I’m not ashamed of it. It what makes me…well…me. After all, Clark Kent had nerdy glasses and look who he turned out to be. And that fat that has accumulated over the years? That needs to go so Superman can come out. So dear friends, the geek in me is shouting: I want to be a LOSER…a loser of weight.

And I hope you’ll accompany me on this 5-month journey of being a loser by keeping me accountable. Encourage me when I need it, and abuse me when I make bad health choices.

I’ll fill you guys in on my BMI and other health info tomorrow as part of a health series. For now, that’s my loser identity revealed.

How about you? What’s your weight-loss strategy? How much have you gained since high school or college? What are you doing about it?

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The Post Grad Identity

Photo Credit: eHow

Fact 1: It’s the twelfth day in 2010.

Fact 2: The Class of 2009 graduated in May (semester system) and June (quarter system).

Conclusion: It’s been 5 or 6 months since you graduated.

On the day of your graduation, you are hopeful of the future, of opportunities coming your way. After all, that’s what all those graduation speeches are for–to pump you up. That’s because those that have walked before us know that the real world isn’t as idealistic as your college one. You wake up the next morning and begin thinking: God, I am actually done. I don’t have to wake up and class.  This is great! Oh God, I got to find a job. I got to work off my debt. This is not so great! Oh God, oh God. What have you been doing since that day? Yes, let’s freak out together.

After graduation, there are many routes to take. There are 3 parts to this Post Grad identity; am I missing any?:

1. Go immediately for your Master’s or Ph.D. or Law School or Med School. This might be the most common pathway undergrads choose. The process usually starts around your second year of undergrad, as you secure letters of recommendation from professors or internships. You want to visit your professors during their hours and to make sure that they know exactly who you are. Study about your professors beforehand, read up on their research, then show up to their office with confidence.

You also want to work on your Curriculum Vitae (CV), which is essentially a resume for academic purposes. When I mean academic, I mean any research positions you’ve had, any research papers you’ve done, any research you’ve presented–the key is research. You may also want to put in any symposium or academic talks you’ve attended.

Also, research on potential Grad Schools. Look at their programs. Does it fit with you and what you want to research? Do they have fellowships? Do they give out  loads of money for your research? What about the professors? Are there any you desperately want to work with and learn from? You may want to visit the campus because if you’ll be spending 2 to 7 years at that school, you should like attending it.

Around the later half of your third year, you should study your butt off for the GREs, LSATs, MCATs, GMATs and then actually take them.  If you don’t like your score, this gives you enough time to study, take it again, and redeem yourself. Then, when the applications for Grad School are due as early as October, you are ready!

Then, your rejection or acceptance letters come in, and by the time you wear that cap and gown, you know you have a secure future–a spot at whatever prestigious university you’ve chosen and accepted you.

2. Taking a break…for a year…or two! I’ve spoken with about twenty graduate students and post-doctoral candidates, and most of them say that taking a break is important. *Gasps* A break? That puts me behind my cohorts. They say you’ll thank yourself in the end. You may need that time to “find” yourself after being in school for so long. After all, if you want to get your MA or Ph.D, that’s MORE years at school and DECREASES your “you” time. That means no breaks from here on out because after your get those degrees, there’s work, more work, and perhaps starting a family.

And of course, there’s also that slight chance that you don’t see yourself in the future doing what you got your BA or BS in or want to postpone that dream. For example, let’s say you got your degree in Psychology and Sociology. And as you take your much-needed break, you realize maybe Nursing is a better a life choice for now.

You may also want to use your break to explore the world. If you didn’t use opportunities to study abroad, you now have the time to go to places you could only dream of visiting. You may not get the chance once you start Grad School or when family life takes over, although you may get that chance to travel to an exotic place for your honeymoon. *Wink, wink*

You can also use your break-time to add experience to your CV/Resume. You may decide working at a place that relates to your intended Grad School major.

OR, you may need that break to get a job, save up, and work off that undergraduate debt. If you are trying to get a job, good luck. Apparently, it’s harder than getting into Harvard.

3. No Grad School for me…a BA/BS is enough, and I’m going to just work thank you. Some people’s goals is reaching a BA/BS. That’s fine. You did it. You’re done. Congratulations.

Now, remember when I said “Yes, let’s freak out together?” That’s probably because I’m the guy who is doing something unconventional. During my “break,” I’m going back to school to take my nursing prerequisites so I can apply for Nursing school, whereas most psychology graduates are in Grad School right now. You need to follow your own path–the one that works for you. But lucky for us, there are people out there who want to help you as you experience your post grad identity.

The people of The Post Grad blog are there to lend a helping hand and give some friendly advice. They’ve walked in your shoes and want to ease your anxieties of this new identity you’ve achieved (a Sociology reference for you Sociology majors).  If you’re experiencing a quarter-life crisis, or trying to find a career path, The Post Grad is there for you. If you’re taking a break, you should keep your mind sharp. And as for me? Let’s just say that I need to shed some of that undergraduate fat I’ve accumulated. This post grad body of mine needs to stay fit.

So head over to The Post Grad site, and tell them Gio sent you (I’m a huge fan of theirs). And embrace your Post Grad identity. Oh, and congratulations on graduating!

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The Fictive Kin Identity and The Importance of Being a “Bro.”

Yah, I give it a couple years before I'll be the short one.

Everyone has pet peeves, whether it’s people who wear socks with their sandals, drivers who don’t use a signal to turn, or that one student who feels the need to prolong class time by asking stupid questions. You know who I’m talking about. As for me, I hated it when guys would come up to me and ask, “Hey, what’s up bro?” First of all, I’m not your “bro.”  We’re not even related; I do have a name, you know. It’s Gio. Use it.

In college, it was bound to happen. Every guy has the potential to become a “bro.” Now, I’m not talking about the Urban Dictionary definition, which defines a “bro” as  “obnoxious partying males who are often seen at college parties.” I’m talking about the commonly used greeting of a male to another male in order to indicate a sense of friendship. After hearing it so often, I found myself using it. I use it in my daily speech when I speak to another guy around my age. I even use it so much, that perhaps, I’m someone else’s pet peeve. Little did I know how the word would be essential to my survival, to my process of grieving.

You see, when you lose two siblings, your identity also changes. It just has to; you’re forced to. I was the oldest of three, then two, and now I’m the “only child.” Is that what I call myself now? An only child? It is, after all, fact. An “only child” is one who has no siblings. That’s what I am now, right? Yes, and no. I’ve grieved over the lost of my siblings, but I am not sibling-less. And if you’re going through what I’ve gone through, you need to understand that.

Sociologists have a term for it: fictive kin. Thanks to Wikipedia, we know that a fictive kin is simply “giving someone a kinship title and treating them in many ways as if they had the actual kinship relationship implied by the title.” Now, I should get used to the practice. I am, in fact, Asian. And Asians are notorious for indicating a familial relationship when there is no genetic or marriage ties. In most Asian cultures, especially in Indonesian ones, you would call an older male and female who are around your parents’ ages and are close friends of theirs as “uncle” and “aunt.” Their children would be your “cousins.” Let’s just say it was confusing growing up, keeping track of which of my hundreds of “uncles” and “aunts” were actually related to me, and which of my “cousins” I could date.

We're really well-dressed for this wedding.

Fictive kins relationships are essential for one’s survival. One such example of its importance can be found in American history. During America’s slavery period, it was common practice for slave owners to separate slave families in order to control them. Parents would be separated from their children and siblings would be separated from each other as they were divided to different plantations. In an act of human survival, to maintain that human sense of family, it was also common for strangers to become a family. An older slave woman would take in a slave child as her own. Slave children would call each other as “brother” or “sister.” Fictive kin relationships provided slaves with a symbolic family, as each person supported one another.

Yes, we're "related." All Asians look alike, right? Maybe 3 out of the 5 in this picture do.

You see, saying “bro” makes perfect natural sense for Christians. If we’re all part of God’s family, then we’re all brothers and sisters in and through Christ, His Son. As the greeting goes: Hey brother from another mother. And I guess, that’s how I’ve chosen to survive and to maintain my “older brother” identity. Yes, by societal standards, I am every bit an “only child.” But in a larger and deeper sense, I have a lot of brothers and sisters. They may not be my flesh and blood family, but they act in every bit like a sibling should. Do I argue or fight with my “brothers” and “sisters?” Sure, that’s something that siblings do. But we also enjoy each other’s company. And when I find that I need some lifting up when I am depressed, I know my “brothers” and “sisters” are there to help me out, and vice versa.  The result is fictive kinships are relationally deeper than friendships.

As for me, I no longer mind being called a “bro.” I welcome it. I love it. When I hear it, I am not reminded by what I’ve lost–I am reminded by what I’ve gained.  I also don’t need to put a close sibling-type relationship in quotes, as they are now my kin. Maybe you’ve joined a fraternity or sorority and have gained new brothers and sisters–more than you can imagine. Maybe you’re in a college club or ministry and have grown so close to certain people that they’re practically family. Maybe you don’t work with your co-workers, you hang out with them after work and they too, have become part of your symbolic family.

In fact, just the other day I lost an arm wrestling match to my fourteen-year-old brother. And I realized that in a couple years, he will grow taller than me. Just the other day, I saw my eighteen-year-old sister, and I saw how much she’s changed spiritually. And just today, I saw a picture of a New Year’s dinner party. I saw that I’m still the oldest of five brothers.

So how about you? Do you have fictive kin? Are you someone’s fictive kin? What do you do to grieve and survive the loss of a loved one?

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My Drinking Problem Or The Lack There Of

Photo Credit: InImagine

Photo Credit: InImagine

According to old English Common Law, “A man’s home is his castle.” If that is true, then aside from the couch being a sort of throne, perhaps the toilet is like a side throne. In either case, a man spends some time on these two equally important thrones. In America, a man sits on his couch, drinks beer, and watches TV. And in his younger days, a man lies down on his couch, passed out from his excessive drinking. At least, that’s the stereotype. On the other hand, a man conducts all kinds of business on the comfort of his toilet seat, even reading magazines and newspapers while sitting. And in his younger days, he would vomit into the toilet from his excessive drinking. Thank God I’m not the Australian man who had to get rushed into the emergency room after sitting on a toilet that was pranked with fast-acting adhesive. No, my problem is drinking.

But not exactly the kind of drinking problem you may automatically be thinking. I am a 23-year-old male college student/graduate, but that doesn’t mean I binge drink. You see, (now this may be a bit graphic for some people), I went to urinate today and discovered that my urine wasn’t quite as clear or light-colored as it should be. Diagnosis? My drinking problem is that I don’t drink enough water. Sure, everyone knows that drinking alcohol gets you dehydrated, and therefore you need to combat that with drinking water. But for me, it’s all those Starbucks caramel machiattos, those Tapiaco Express boba milk teas, and those Arizona sweet teas that have led to the downfall of my urine. This was quite a wake-up call to me. There you have it. I am not ashamed of my drinking problem, and chances are you aren’t too, because you may be suffering just like I am, being dehydrated and not know it! As a result, I’ve decided to be an amateur advocate promoting the healthy drinking of water. According to nutrition experts, “a good estimate is to take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That gives you the number of ounces of water per day that you need to drink.” In my case (and I’m a little sensitive about revealing this to you), I currently weigh 195 pounds (yes, I’m working on losing 30 pounds). That means that I should be drinking 97.5 ounces of water daily.

You may wonder why I am promoting the “healthy drinking of water.” You may think that it’s redundant, that water is healthy for us anyway because it flushes out all the filthy stuff in our bodies and refuel our cells and giving us some energy. That’s all true, but drinking too much water too quickly is also bad for you–it can even kill you. You can have “water intoxication,” just like the tragic story of 28-year-old Jennifer Strange. A local radio station contest held the “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest in 2008 when the Wii just came out. Strange drank  some six liters of water in three hours for the contest and was found dead in her home. Another incident involved a 21-year-old male student from California State University, Chico back in 2005. According to the Scientific American, he  died after being “forced to drink excessive amounts of water between rounds of push-ups in a cold basement” during a fraternity hazing gone wrong. As tragic as their stories were, it educated me about the dangers of excessive water-drinking, especially because our health-conscious  culture tells us to drink plenty of water. Now we know how much is “healthy.”

I know I’m a strange person for even examining my urine. But I’m a curious college student. And this curiosity led to a scientific exploration of my dehydration. Now, I hope you too will drink more water instead of all that other junk. And I hope you will drink water responsibly too!

For now, I’m trying to control my Starbucks addiction. In the mean time (and this is bad timing), Jamba Juice has a special promotion until September 27, 2009. If you buy one smoothie, you can get one 16oz. smoothie for a buck if you print out the coupon.

Photo Credit: InImagine

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UC Berkeley Professor’s Letter to Students

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Network-Democracy

As a recent graduate, I can empathize with the college students of California and their situation. As an upcoming master’s students–well, it’s also my problem and my situation. And despite reports of the Great California Garage Sale, I’m not sure if it’ll help us students out. Please read the letter by Catherine M. Cole, a professor at UC Berkeley. In her letter to students, she talks about the current state of the California budget crisis and how it relates to the faculty, to students, to the UC Office of the President, to the Academic Senate, pay rolls, current actions that are being taken, and so much more. University senates from other campuses are also mentioned.

The following letter is not my own, nor was it sent to me. It was simply a repost to spread the word. Please also repost this and share it withother students to let them know the current state.
——

August 30, 2009

Dear students,

As you know, the State of California and the University of California are presently in a major funding crisis. The full landscape of this situation only really became clear in late June/early July 2009, which was precisely the time I (like many other faculty_ was leaving the country to conduct my research. I followed as best I could the emerging situation via email: The State of California failed yet again to pass a budget, so the university along with a host of other social services must cope with a sudden and very large cut in state funding. The President of all ten campuses, Mark Yudof, went to the UC Regents in July to ask for the power to declare a state of fiscal emergency, a power which was granted. And furloughs have been instituted along with an 8% pay reduction for all staff and faculty, along with fee hikes for students. We are all reeling from the suddenness and unprecedented nature of these changes.

I write today because there is a great mobilization effort going on at this very moment, including a union-organized “no confidence vote” for UC President Yudof being held on our campus right now through September 2 (details at the end of this letter). The coming months are going to be a time of tumult, and this is going to impact our educational activities together.

There is talk of a UC-wide system walk out in September. There is talk of “teach in” about the budget crisis in October. And there is talk of a formal Academic Senate vote of no confidence.

We face a complex and confusing set of challenges, and while I cannot claim in any way to be an expert, I present below as succinctly as possible my assessment of the situation, and the basis for my opinion that President Yudof’s handling of this situation is deeply disturbing and destructive. I can live with a budget cut. I can live with a pay decrease for one year, two years, or even three. But I cannot tolerate a fundamental alteration of the core values of the University of California, the institution I have chosen to make my academic home—and that is what I see President Yudof enacting in the past few months.

As someone who has worked for the University of California for 13 years, I can say without reservation I LOVE this university and have chosen to work here, turning down offers to work other places. I believe deeply in our public mission, and the twin values of access and excellence that are central to our goals. I am proud to work for a campus of the UC that is ranked by many as the number one public university in America. I am especially proud and honored to have the opportunity to teach our extraordinary graduate students here at Berkeley, and I know for many of them, Berkeley’s twin values of access and excellence are the main reason they chose us over other institutions. I deeply value the fact that our undergrad student body is remarkably diverse. Berkeley has more students on Pell grants (government grants that fund students with the least economic resources) than all the Ivy League schools put together. Many of my undergrad students are the first in their families to get a higher education. Many of them are working, sometimes even full time, to put themselves through college. They approach our exchange together in the classroom as a privilege rather than an entitlement, and it is MY privilege to teach them because they are so committed, bright, and curious. I went into university teaching because of the ideals and values that guide my encounters with students every day. I did not choose this job for the money. I am distressed and deeply concerned that administrators at the top level of the University of California are using the present budget crises of the University of California to fundamentally alter the focus and mission of the university in ways that are instrumentalist and utilitarian, and show little respect for the role of the liberal arts in producing effective and thoughtful citizens.

I am also concerned about the way the current administration shows a lack of respect for shared governance. Each UC campus has an Academic Senate whose membership includes all tenure-track faculty members. This body shares power with the deans/chancellors and other administrators, with various committees intimately involved in decisions about budget, hiring, promotion, tenure and all matters in regards to curriculum. “The Academic Senate operates as a legislative body and as a system of faculty committees. UC has a dual-track system of authority and responsibility which presumes that faculty are best qualified to chart the University’s educational course, while the administrators are most competent to direct its finances and organization. In practice, these domains overlap and are interdependent. To function successfully, faculty and administrators depend on a high level of consultation, trust, mutual respect and a tradition of collegial collaboration.” (From UCSC senate website)

The mechanisms in place for our university operations are relatively transparent and democratic, and because of this the University of California has been, historically, a fair and good place to get tenure. This is something that I love to brag about when we are recruiting new junior faculty. Unlike most private universities, one’s path through the tenure process is clearly articulated. There are checks and balances all along the way. A candidate can request copies of pivotal assessment documents, and he or she has recourse to appeals. What this means is that one’s future is not contingent upon one key relationship: that between the untenured professor and his or her chair or dean. Compared to many private universities, UC faculty is relatively protected from having personal vendettas or patronage relationships determine their futures. This shared governance system doesn’t operate quickly. It’s slow, deliberate, with a lot of smart people weighing in, keeping the organization’s eyes both on the fiscal bottom line and the core values of academic excellence and integrity that are central to our mission.

Shared governance was suspended on July 17 when President Yudof received the endorsement of the Regents to declare a State of Emergency. (See Regents’ Item J1:http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/aar/julj.pdf) At the same time, he formed something called the “Gould Commission” which is supposed to redefine the future of the University of California. This commission is to “change how we do business,” in the words of Yudof. (See http://www.newu.uci.edu/main/article?slug=letter_to_the_editor195 for a thoughtful grad student response to this). It is the centrality of the word “business” in Yudof’s phrasing that sends a clear indication of the direction that future will take if we decide to follow his leadership. I didn’t go into a “business” when I decided to pursue a PhD. I went into a profession—the profession of higher education. This profession is built around the core values of teaching, research and service.

The composition of Gould Commission included in its first iteration not one professor from the Colleges of Letters and Sciences on the 10 UC campuses. Faculty representation on the commission (which was minor) came only from the professional schools: business, law, and medicine. The signal this sends is that professional degrees will be central to the future of the UC, but historic disciplines like biology, art, physics, literature, math, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, theatre and rhetoric are not important. Such a commission would historically within the UC NEVER have been formed without consultation through the shared governance structures, which include Academic Senates on all 10 campuses AND a UC-wide academic senate. But since we are in a state of emergency, the President has the power to do, essentially, whatever he wants, and he can do so without consultation, transparency, or any kinds of checks and balances. The question is: will we let him do this? And for how long?
As if the agenda of the July 17 Regents meeting wasn’t full enough, in addition to declaring a state of emergency and instituting a mandatory furlough and pay reduction for staff and faculty, the Regents also spent time approving executive pay increases for a number of senior administrators. So at the very time the Regents are asking the faculty and staff to accept lower salaries and asking students to accept significant fee increases, the Regents are rewarding senior administrators for a “job well done.”
On the issue of UC executive pay see:

SF Chronicle Article on UC exec pay
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/12/EDP61972EV.DTL
“Who are the high earners in the UC system?” from President of UC-AFTE union
http://changinguniversities.blogspot.com/2009/08/who-are-high-earners-in-uc-system.html

To quote one excerpt from website: “What all of these statistics tell us that that UC does not have a budget problem; it has an out-of-control compensation problem. Moreover, it is the people at the top, just 1.5% of the employees (out of a total of 240,000 workers) who make 11% of the total compensation, and this group increased its wealth by close to 40% in just two years.”

And just fyi: all UC salaries are a matter of pubic record: http://ucpay.globl.org See for yourself how much our sports coaches make!

The rationale for executive pay increases is, apparently, a desire to retain our top administrators. What does not seem to register with President Yudof is that retention of quality faculty is something he should be extremely concerned about. It is the research and teaching prowess of this faculty that have given the University of California its top ratings. Other universities are now looking to California as a place to raid faculty talent, as this article from Texas makes clear:
“Texas universities should capitalize on California’s budget shortfall”
http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/2009/08/12/0812barachas_edit.html

To build up a world-renowned faculty with researchers and departments ranked number one or within the top ten nationally takes decades to achieve. But such a reputation can be undone in a very short time. If the administration mismanages a fiscal crisis–as is clearly happening under President Yudof’s failed leadership in his short but destructive tenure as President of the University of California—this will be our future. And the consequences of this impact everyone who has the University of California’s name attached to their resumes and degree qualifications! Students and alumni have a very particular role to play in protecting the reputation of the institution that confers their degrees.

President Yudof’s handing of the implementation of the furlough plan has been confusing and contradictory, and shows little respect for the consultative process of shared governance upon which the University of California is founded. In response to the Regent’s/Yudof’s furlough legislation, the system-wide faculty Academic Senate Executive Council made the following recommendation:

“Council weighed the benefits and limitations of using and not using instructional days as furlough days, as well as the appropriate level of campus flexibility in making these decisions. While Council members acknowledge that students are already being negatively impacted through increased fees, staff reductions, and loss of services on furlough days, the Academic Council unanimously supported the concept that furloughs should affect instructional days. In particular, Council members noted that faculty members perform the following three activities—teaching, research, and service, and that all three should be affected by the furlough program. It also is important to acknowledge that faculty are evaluated in terms of their performance in their teaching, research, and service; excluding furlough days from any one of these areas may unfairly hurt the faculty in merit and promotion reviews. Finally, the Academic Council felt it was important to send a message that budget cuts do in fact negatively impact the University’s instructional mission.”
But the Office of the President did not agree. Despite the fact that the original language on the furlough vote by the Regents indicated that each campus would have latitude and flexibility to devise their own furlough implementation plan, the UC Office of the President recently declared furloughs could not be taken on instructional days—and this pronouncement came just days before those of us here at Berkeley had to begin teaching, after our syllabi had been written.

http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2009/08/ucop-on-furloughs-were-deciders.html
The tone and nature of such pronouncements from the Office of the President on this and other matters (including a new fee policy for non-resident graduate students that presents significant hardships for international students) shows a consistent lack of respect for the consultative, democratic way in which the University of California has historically conducted its operations. In addition, Yudof’s new policies and decrees are not being delivered in a timely, coherent fashion, and thereby the administration is creating additional confusion and stress. Not surprisingly, the Office of the President’s high-handed, authoritarian (not to mention disorganized) approach has met with swift and vociferous objections by the executive of the Academic Senates at UC Santa Cruz and UCSB. See their open letters:

Santa Barbara Senate Response
http://toodumbtolivearchive.blogspot.com/2009/08/ucsb-senate-letter-on-instructional.html

Santa Cruz Senate Response
http://senate.ucsc.edu/FurloughPayCuts/FurloughPayCutsindex.html
(See “Senate Executive Cte on Interim Provost Pitts’ Furlough Plan”)
I believe that the way in which the President Yudof is operating is deeply destructive to the values and mission that have guided the University of California for over 140 years, and have made it one of the most respected, leading centers of learning in the world. I have never witnessed anything remotely like what is going on now in my 13-year career in the UC system, and those who have worked here much longer than I have (like 30+) feel even more dismayed.
California has been in trouble for along time financially. And this history is not President Yudof’s fault, nor is it Governor Schwarzenegger’s. Our problems date back at least as far as the 1970s when Proposition 13 was passed. This legislation put a cap on property tax rates and reduced them by an average of 57%. It also instituted a new policy that requires a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates. It is the 2/3 majority that has severely hampered our state’s ability to pass a budget as of late. In addition, since 1991 the state has consistently cut corporate taxes, so that the tax burdens falls disproportionately on individuals.

What has been the impact of this on education? Here are some details that give a sense of the larger implications:
1. California is ranked very low in terms of per capital spending on K-12 pupils:

2. California’s K-12 classrooms are the most crowded in the country

3. California students’ ability to participate in our own higher education system has been severely eroded.

So clearly, the problems we are facing are substantial and far bigger than the failures of one incompetent senior administrator. However I would argue that it is precisely because the problems in the State of California are so significant and their implications for higher education are going to be so profound we need at this moment more than ever to have competent leadership in the Office of the President of the University of California. We need leaders who will keep the historic mission that has led our university to such greatness firmly in view. Yes, we will need to change our operations. Yes, we will need to streamline. Yes, we will need to reconsider fundamental structures and procedures of our operations. But our mission of public education and shared governance is not the source of our current problems.Our historic priorities of access, excellence and shared governance must be, at this moment, more central than ever to our administration’s handling of this crises. These values are the source of our greatness. I do not believe that the current University of California President, Mark Yudof, shares or respects these values, and for this reason I urge you to cast a vote in between now and September 2 that reflects our University community’s lack of confidence in him.
You can do so via the following voting stations:

Berkeley Campus Polling Schedule
AFT and CUE will host tables for polling in front of Moffitt Libary/Free Speech Movement Cafe during the noon hour on
Monday, Aug. 31
Wednesday, Sept. 2
Other unions:
AFSCME-hosted polling places, Thursday, Aug. 27
11:30 am to 6 pm Bancroft & Telegraph
12 to 1 pm University Village
8:30 to 9:30 Dwinelle Hall
2:30 to 3:30 LBNL cafeteria
UPTE-hosted polling places
Aug 27-Sept 2 at Westgate (Center/Oxford) early morning before work
Aug 27-Sept 2 at Telegraph/Bancroft, noon-1:00
Aug 28-Sept 2 at Northgate (Hearst/Euclid) noon-1:00
Sept 2 at College/Bancroft at noontime
Sept 1-2 at Yali’s/Stanley Hall at noontime

The text of the resolution is located at this website: http://www.upte.org/noconfidence/UnionsCallforVote.pdf

Sincerely,
Catherine M. Cole, Professor
University of California
colecat@berkeley.edu

Photo Credit: Network-Democracy

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