The question of priorities is a hard one for university administration to answer, and Chancellor Yang’s recent email announcement of UCSB’s smoking ban reinforces the wall of silence which encloses the governance of the University of California.
I must admit, the email surprised me because I had no idea the UC cared much about public health. The administration has shown zero interest in public health insofar as it concerns their continued refusal of safe working conditions in UC hospitals. They have shown utter contempt for the well being of their academic employees as class sizes continue to expand, and TAs overwork themselves to keep up with the privatization of public education. They have displayed complete disregard for the history of police brutality at the hands of UCPD in their selection of America’s Top Cop to lead the 10-campus system.
However (and most suddenly with the announcement), they seem to care a great deal about public health but, then again, UC administration loves its own ideas and forms committees to validate its own conclusion. This simultaneously displays two things: their particular view of democracy and their hatred of any democracy that would come from the stakeholders of the university (students and workers). Students — undergraduate and graduate alike — and staff, service workers and faculty need to start asking harder questions. Why aren’t we asked about what the University should look like? Why can we only participate within the proposals of the Regents? What does the top-down model of UC governance say about the possible future of public education?
I doubt we will receive an answer, but we don’t need to wait to be asked.
Earl Perez-Foust is a graduate student in the comparative literature department at UCSB.