Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Class War? Failed Leadership.

Catherine Liu has written an interesting post called Class War.
But it left out a key piece that I hope faculty will speak to (and perhaps Liu speaks to it in her forthcoming book, I don't know) :

Liu's post reminded me of the time when I first used the phrase "class war at Cal" in conversation. It occurred at the beginning of the decade, when many at Cal were vociferous in their protest against Bush and against the wars. Some commentary by UC members and the City of Berkeley was offensive to another part of the community at Cal- a large number of staff and students at Cal were serving in, or had family members who were serving in the armed forces. Many felt their viewpoints were not being respected in the discourse- they were hearing attacks on military service while struggling with the financial hardship of military service and pay etc. The administration tried to deal with the backlash after the fact. See letters to the editor here for some detail- the Berkeleyan also attempted to cover this- their archives are not so easy to search- but here is one story and another one. It was a failure in leadership at the top that the issue was allowed to fester for too long. Administration eventually worked on giving a face to those in military service who also concurrently studied and worked at Cal. At that time, it was merely a failure in quick leadership response...

To me, those experiences were some early warning signs that the ever present "class war" was going down a nasty path of becoming more hostile and complex.

Class wars always involve race- and we can't avoid it.

Finding solutions to these problems in the University-Cocoon setting (forgive the oxymoron) at UC is difficult when, year after year, we are hampered by a leadership group that has ZERO credibility both system-wide and state-wide because they provide scandal after scandal documented in the press.

Sometimes bad leaders at least can be great communicators of their own message-- but we don't even get that benefit. Our UC leaders also speak out of both sides of their mouths, examples:

In response to protests at UC Irvine and other racially charge incidents earlier this year, Regent Lansing encouraged students to attend a Jewish Studies Center at UCLA to foster deeper understanding among groups.

and now we see this story:
UCLA's ongoing suspension of admissions to Islamic studies worries students
Admissions were frozen in 2007, pending a reorganization. But that hasn't happened, and students fear that the program could simply be allowed to die.

What sort of message does that send to students- not just Bruins- but students throughout the system? Students at Irvine see what goes on at UCLA and vice versa etc.

Additionally, the Ethnic Studies programs (always ridiculed but now under assault) at Cal are also being downsized
Students, Faculty Discuss The Fate of Ethnic Studies

while the campus does double speak on Diversity Program Seeks to Improve Understanding of Diversity on Campus

Our shared troubles are complicated by a failure to provide a model/example of leadership, an absence of credibility and trust at the top and trickling on down. Efforts at fostering objectivity and perspective are doomed almost from the start when the top level of management thinks they have the answers- and, as most low level staffers can tell you, it is a lesson in futility to attempt to "manage up".

So, where do answers come from in these times when the economic woes are just fuel to the fire?

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