Category Archives: Academia

Protests challenge California, British tuition hikes


The desideratum of the neoliberal regimes governing on both sides of the Atlantic can be summed up simply: It is the abolition of any barriers toi the infinite accumulation of wealth by that the very apex of an increasingly rigid and increasingly steep class hierarchy.

Two graphics drawn on the work of Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez and colleagues sum up the reality:

First, the hyperconcentration of wealth by the American elite, via VoxEU:

BLOG wealth

Second, evidence that a parallel process is at work in Europe as well, most notably the U.K., via the London School of Economics:

Print

One major factor in this process of hyperaccumulation is the deconstruction of progressive income tax and the replacement of lost revenues by regressive taxation that penalizes the porr and, increasingly, middle classes.

And one major initiative has been the replacement of student tuition and fees to replace lost tax revenues, with the result that student costs are soaring at rates far higher than inflation, forcing the young to mortgage their futures through student loans, debts that in the U.S. can’t be forgiven in bankruptcy court, effectively insuring a form of debt servitude.

Just how bad has the increase been? Well, here’s what is looks like for the University of Califonia, via the Committee on Student Fees:

BLOG UC tuition

But it doesn’t stop there.

From the Associated Press:

Tuition hike tentatively approved in California

A proposed tuition hike was tentatively approved Wednesday by a committee of the University of California governing board.

The committee voted 7-2 to approve the plan recommended by UC President Janet Napolitano that would raise tuition in each of the next five years.

The proposed tuition hikes still must be reviewed by the full Board of Regents on Thursday.

Napolitano said the increases are needed to protect the quality of education in the face of insufficient state funding.

Before the meeting, students made their feelings known as the Los Angeles Times reports:

UC tuition hike: Shoving, anger among protesters, police

Student protesters and university police tussled outside a UC San Francisco meeting hall early Wednesday where the regents for the 10-campus system were about to debate a proposed tuition hike.

About 100 protesters tried to block entrances into the building as regents and other UC officials tried to enter. Some of the officials were jostled as they wedged their way through the yelling crowd. Pushing matches between police and protesters erupted at several entrances and at metal barricades.

There was one arrested in an incident that led to the shattering of a glass door in the building’s rear, UC police said. No one appeared to be seriously injured in the protest.

A video report on the protest from Sacramento Bee:

UC students standoff with CFO Nathan Brostrom

Program notes:

University of California students protested a proposed tuition hike outside the Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco on Nov. 19, 2014.

The Bee also covered a Tuesday protest in nearby Davis, home of another University of California campus:

UC Davis tuition protest

Program notes:

Hundreds of students at UC Davis marched Tuesday to protest proposed tuition hikes.

And from ABC 10 News in San Diego, a report on a protest at the UC campus there:

UCSD students protest proposed tuition hike

Program notes:

UC San Diego students staged a sit-in Tuesday to protest a tuition hike proposal — an action mirrored at other University of California campuses.

And just as the wealth concentration process is going on in the U.K., so is the ceaseless rise in unviserity tuition, so that at the same time studentds were taking to the streets in California, their counterparts were doing the same in London.

From the Guardian:

Student protest over tuition fees ends in scuffles with police

  • Organisers say 10,000 joined march, which saw NUS offices daubed with paint after it refused to back protest

Organisers said the demonstration against tuition fees and wider cuts to education was the biggest mobilisation of students since 2010 when demonstrators occupied Tory party offices at Millbank.

Wednesday’s protest saw the National Union of Students (NUS) headquarters in London daubed with paint after it decided not to back the demonstration due to “an unacceptable level of risk” to its members. That provoked anger among those who took part in the march. “We did not organise what happened at the NUS but we do know students are very angry about being let down by the NUS,” said Beth Redmond from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, one of the groups that organised the demonstration. “When you see the numbers here today, they are in danger of becoming an irrelevance.”

Organisers claimed that up to 10,000 protesters took part in the march with university students joining those from further education colleges and sixth forms.

The protest passed off peacefully until demonstrators arrived at Parliament Square. A breakaway group of several hundred, including many who were wearing masks, pulled down fences blocking off the square, provoking minor scuffles with the police.

A video report for the Press Association:

Two arrested in mass student protest

Program notes:

Two protesters have been arrested after protesters on a student demonstration charged the headquarters of the Tory party in central London. Thousands of students marched through central London in protest against tuition fees and debt.

We agree with the students. Tax those who can afford it, and save the most precious resource any community has, its future, embodied in the students of today.

MexicoWatch: Shootings, parents, rage, pols


We begin with another shooting, first from teleSUR:

Mexican Students Shot by Police

  • One student was shot in the leg and another grazed by a bullet, according to early reports.

At least two people were shot Saturday as an individual alleged to be a police officer fired on students at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who were meeting to discuss their participation in the upcoming national strike.

One student was shot in the leg while another was grazed by a bullet, although both of them are in stable condition, according to early reports.

The incident occurred around 13:00 pm (local time), when a group of soldiers and federal police officers occupied the entrance of the iconic university as students held a meeting on the national strike called for November 20 in protest of the disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teachers’ training college.

According to eyewitnesses, a car of the Office of the General Prosecutor (PGR) parked outside of the auditorium where the meeting took place, with four armed men getting out of the car. A number of the students asked them to leave the grounds before one of men from the car opened fire on the group.

The four individuals managed to escape in a taxi and left the car in the parking lot.

Photos of an injured student from the Pugrider Tumblr:

BLOG Mexico student

The accompanying text:

Around noon, members of the PGJ (Procuraduría General de Justicia. Like, special cops) entered the UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, which, as it’s name says, is autonomous, so the police has no right to go in and, well, do their job. It’s out of their jurisdiction.

The problem started when these agents were seen taking pictures of some students, (who may have been pacifical anarchists, but were doing nothing at the moment) when these students asked them what were the photos for, they started running. A group of people, including more students, followed them, either to stop them or make them leave, but one of the agents took out a gun and started shooting. Several times. Hitting a student in the leg, and even a dog. Luckily, no one else. Now outside of the University, a couple of these ‘cops’ fled in a cab, while a third one, the one who shot, was arrested by the regular Police Department itself.

Later, members of this Police Department (Public Safety Secretary) went to University grounds (once again, they can’t do this) and, in an attempt of getting students out of where the morning shooting happened, a violent conflict started. The Police retreated but is still in the outside of the University.

Please share this, what we want is to make some noise about our situation. We won’t remain silent about how we’ve constantly been opressed for no reason. Not anymore.

Mexico City, November 15, 2014.

More from teleSUR:

Mexico University Rector Allegedly Aiding Student Repression

  • The case of the 43 missing students has mobilized university students in numbers not seen in many years and the state is responding with repression

Alberto Bravo, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) told teleSUR in an exclusive interview that the President of UNAM, Jose Narro is, “complicit not only in the repression that occurred this past Saturday but also in other incidents where police have entered the campus.”

Bravo also told teleSUR that Narro, “maintains close ties with the [governing] Institutional Revolutionary Party,” and that as a result he works to preserve the image of the government. He also stated that, “inside the university there are many complaints regarding police harassment and there are many infiltrators.” He added that these complaints have not been pursued and those who speak out against the authorities face intimidation tactics.

On Saturday, police from the office of the Attorney General of the Federal District shot and injured two students. The shooter arrived alongside 3 other officers and university police at the Che Guevara auditorium and began photographing the students at which point they were told to leave, the shooter then took out a gun and fired.

But it’s not just students who have been protesting. Teachers are taking to the streets as well, as CNN reports:

Teachers of missing students riot

Program notes:

With little developments in the mystery of 43 missing students in Guerrero, Mexico, the community is outraged.

From Reuters, more blowback for the abduction of the 43:

Main Mexico leftist party on verge of dissolution, leader says

The elder statesman of Mexico’s main leftist party said on Sunday the group was on the verge of falling apart after a series of mistakes and the disappearance of 43 students in a state it runs in the southwest of the country.

Three-times presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas said the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which finished runner-up in Mexico’s last two presidential elections, had lost its moral authority and needed urgent reform.

The PRD, which Cardenas helped found in 1989, rules Guerrero state and the city of Iguala, where the government said 43 trainee teachers were abducted by police on the night of Sept. 26 and apparently handed over to a drug gang and killed.

A president besieged, via the Guardian:

Mexico’s president faces wave of fury across country over fate of missing student teachers

The brutal killing of 43 students has become a national cause, and the government’s inaction and perceived disdain risk a social explosion and political instability

The pent-up fury of the parents reflected the intensity of the violent protests that marked a dramatic week in Mexico, which has deepened the political crisis facing President Enrique Peña Nieto as he returns from a week-long trip to China and Australia, seen by many as a sign of disdain for the suffering and anger at home.

The most significant thing the president said during his trip was on an outward stopover in Alaska, when he condemned an arson attack on the door of the ceremonial presidential palace in Mexico City. “Mexican society says no to violence,” he said, referring to the burning door. “We say yes to justice, order, harmony, tranquillity, and we say yes to the application of justice.”

The president made no mention of the fact that, immediately before the door was set on fire, the streets of the capital were filled with thousands of peaceful demonstrators. Many had carried banners proclaiming “ya me cansé”, which means “I’m tired” or “I’ve had enough”. The phrase was used by the attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, to cut short questions at the end of a press conference two days earlier, in which he had revealed the government’s new claim that the students were probably massacred in a rubbish tip not far from Iguala, hours after they had been arrested by municipal police and handed over to a local drug gang called Guerreros Unidos on 26 September.

And an inconvenient complication, via Reuters:

Mexican president promises answers on tainted luxury home

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said late on Saturday the government would next week give answers about a luxury house acquired by his wife that has raised questions about the ethical standards of his administration.

Days after the government canceled a $3.75 billion rail contract won in an uncontested bid by a Chinese-led consortium, local media reports identified the property as linking one of the Mexican partners in the group to Pena Nieto.

Reports about the house have swelled a recent tide of public anger about the government, which has been under heavy fire for its management of the disappearance of 43 students in the southwest of the country in late September.

And from teleSUR, presidential thuggery:

Mexican President Warns of Further Force Against Protestors

  • At a press conference, Enrique Peña Nieto said he will address corruption allegations this week and issued a warning over protests demanding justice in the case of the 43 missing the Ayotzinapa protesters

Mexican President Peña Nieto has said that while he will try to establish a dialogue with protesters demanding justice over the 43 missing students but warned that the state will use force “when all other mechanisms to restore order have been exhausted.”

His remarks, during a Saturday night press conference, came just hours after the police in the capital shot and injured two students at a meeting planning solidarity events for the 43. Later 500 heavily-armed police forcefully entered the campus of the university, provoking clashes with students.

Peña Nieto condemned the violent acts of some protesters during recent weeks, although, he said that the government understands the pain and concern of the Mexican population for the atrocities carried out in Ayotzinapa.

While the Latin American Herald Tribune voices neoliberal anxiety:

Mexico’s Central Bank: “Social Developments” Could Hurt Investor Confidence

Recent “social developments” in Mexico could have an adverse impact on investor confidence, the central bank said, according to the minutes of its most recent policy meeting.

Although the Bank of Mexico did not mention any event in particular, all indications are the monetary authority was referring to the case of 43 missing teacher trainees in the southern state of Guerrero – which has made headlines worldwide – and nationwide protests demanding their safe return.

That perception stems from statements Thursday by Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray, who pointed to the potential negative repercussions of the missing students’ case on the national economy.

And CNN turns the focus on those most impacted by the crimes of Iguala:

Crying for justice, clinging to hope: The parents of Mexico’s missing 43

In parental torment over what became of his son and 42 other missing Mexican students, Isrrael Galindo rejects official accounts they apparently were massacred. He hopes that somehow his son and the others are still alive.

“I think they have him arrested or locked up. I don’t know where he is, but if I knew, I would go get him,” Galindo said of Israel, 19, his namesake son with a different spelling.

“I want him to know that I love him,” he added, beginning to weep. “I want him alive.”

Anguish overwhelms Galindo and grows daily, ever since the aspiring primary school teachers disappeared September 26 in a violent clash with police during a political protest that also left six people dead, including three other students.

More on the parents, from Reuters:

Parents of Mexico missing students lead rally

Program notes:

Parents of 43 students who have gone missing in Mexico lead rallies demanding the government bring back their children alive. Yiming Woo reports.

And to close, via the Associated Press, a judicial story:

Mexico begins court proceeding in other crimes for mayor investigated in missing students case

A federal judge has opened a court proceeding against the former mayor of a southern Mexico city in crimes that preceded the case of 43 missing students from a teachers’ college.

The Federal Judiciary Council said in a statement late Saturday that Jose Luis Abarca has been charged with organized crime, the kidnapping of seven people and the killing of another in crimes that occurred before the students disappeared. Abarca was mayor of Iguala, in Guerrero state, when the students went missing.

Abarca has been behind bars since he and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, were arrested Nov. 4 in a crowded Mexico City neighborhood.

Map of the day: Charting an American tragedy


From A Great Recession, a Great Retreat [PDF], a new report on public college funding from the Center for American Progress:

BLOG Colleges

Two UCLA rallies against the War in Vietnam


Both star-studded, as only Los Angeles rallies can be.

Both are represented in remarkable audio recordings from the 1960s and early 1970s in the wonderful online archives of the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Communications Studies [and do browse, there’s everything from Bucky Fuller and Timothy Leary to Robert Oppenheimer and Richard Harris].

The first recording is from the 15 October 1969 Vietnam Moratorium Day rally, one of scores held on campuses and in cities throughout the country.

Among the speakers are Los Angeles Urban coalition chair Martin Stone, actors Burt Lancaster and Candice Bergin, several students [including the daughter of a South Vietnamese politician jailed for advocating peace], U.S. Rep. George Brown Jr. [D-CA], Harry Bellafonte, and comedian Stanley Myron Handelman, plus some brilliant performances by esnl’s favorite radical folkie Phil Ochs [previously].

From UCLA’s Department of Communications Studies:

Moratorium Day Rally at UCLA 10/15/1969

The second event is the Vietnam Day rally of 15 May 1972, and features an impassioned speech by Jane Fonda, the actress who became a lightning rod of the American right and was used to discredit John Kerry during his presidential run, a story we covered at the time for the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Fonda’s remarks are prefaced by those of Dong Hong Cai [phonetic], a Vietnamese native awarded a Harvard scholarship, followed by an architectural scholarship to MIT, who delivers an impassioned plea on behalf of his country, and an illuminating perspective on American ignorance of the culture they professed to protect.

His is a remarkable speech, and we still haven’t learned as a nation the lessons he imparted so eloquently.

On with the event:

Jane Fonda speaking at a rally against the war in Vietnam 5/15/1972

Beam us up, Scottie: Cloaking is here


For folks of a certain age, the words “cloaking device” entered our vocabularies way back in 1968, when Star Trek introduced the concept to make the Romulan Bird of Prey a more interesting adversary and the target of espionage.

Well wait no more! The cloaking device is here, or at least an interesting protoype thereof.

From the University of Rochester:

The Rochester Cloak

Program notes:

Researchers at the University of Rochester Create a Three-dimensional, Transmitting, Continuously Multidirectional Cloaking Device

Inspired perhaps by Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, scientists have recently developed several ways—some simple and some involving new technologies—to hide objects from view. The latest effort, developed at the University of Rochester, not only overcomes some of the limitations of previous devices, but it uses inexpensive, readily available materials in a novel configuration.

“There’ve been many high tech approaches to cloaking and the basic idea behind these is to take light and have it pass around something as if it isn’t there, often using high-tech or exotic materials,” said John Howell, a professor of physics at the University of Rochester. Forgoing the specialized components, Howell and graduate student Joseph Choi developed a combination of four standard lenses that keeps the object hidden as the viewer moves up to several degrees away from the optimal viewing position.

“This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum,” said Choi, a PhD student at Rochester’s Institute of Optics.

Many cloaking designs work fine when you look at an object straight on, but if you move your viewpoint even a little, the object becomes visible, explains Howell. Choi added that previous cloaking devices can also cause the background to shift drastically, making it obvious that the cloaking device is present.

In order to both cloak an object and leave the background undisturbed, the researchers determined the lens type and power needed, as well as the precise distance to separate the four lenses. To test their device, they placed the cloaked object in front of a grid background. As they looked through the lenses and changed their viewing angle by moving from side to side, the grid shifted accordingly as if the cloaking device was not there. There was no discontinuity in the grid lines behind the cloaked object, compared to the background, and the grid sizes (magnification) matched.

The Rochester Cloak can be scaled up as large as the size of the lenses, allowing fairly large objects to be cloaked. And, unlike some other devices, it’s broadband so it works for the whole visible spectrum of light, rather than only for specific frequencies.

Their simple configuration improves on other cloaking devices, but it’s not perfect. “This cloak bends light and sends it through the center of the device, so the on-axis region cannot be blocked or cloaked,” said Choi. This means that the cloaked region is shaped like a doughnut. He added that they have slightly more complicated designs that solve the problem. Also, the cloak has edge effects, but these can be reduced when sufficiently large lenses are used.

In a new paper submitted to the journal Optics Express and available on arXiv.org, Howell and Choi provide a mathematical formalism for this type of cloaking that can work for angles up to 15 degrees, or more. They use a technique called ABCD matrices that describes how light bends when going through lenses, mirrors, or other optical elements.

While their device is not quite like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, Howell had some thoughts about potential applications, including using cloaking to effectively let a surgeon “look through his hands to what he is actually operating on,” he said. The same principles could be applied to a truck to allow drivers to see through blind spots on their vehicles.

Howell became interested in creating simple cloaking devices with off-the-shelf materials while working on a holiday project with his children. Together with his 14 year-old son and Choi, he recently published a paper about some of the possibilities, and also demonstrated simple cloaking with mirrors, like magicians would use.

Chart of the day: Color lines of student debt


From Gallup:

BLOG Student debt

John Oliver tackles $1 trillion student loan debt


Yep, it now tops everything except mortgage debt, and lenders have more coercive power to collect it than do lenders of any other form of debt, while the parallel growth of for-profit colleges [like those owned by UC Regent Richard "Greasy Thumb" Blum, spouse of Sen. Dianne Feinstein] have fuekled the rapid growth of student loans. Blum also presided over the board of regents during the massive inflation in tuition that forced increasingly numbers of students to resort to borrowing to attend the University of California.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Student Debt

Program note:

John Oliver discusses student debt, which is awful, as well as for-profit colleges, who are awfully good at inflicting debt upon us.