Below is the statement of the group that occupied the Architecture & Engineering building on Wednesday, November 18; the first day of the UC system wide strike.
The University of California is occupied. It is occupied as is the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and the Technical Institute of Graz; as were the New School, Faculty of Humanities in Zagreb and the Athens Polytechnic. These are not the first; they will not be the last. Neither is this a student movement; echoing the factory occupations of Argentina and Chicago, immigrant workers occupy forty buildings in Paris, including the Centre Pompidou. There is still life inside capital’s museum.
We send our first greetings to each of these groups, in solidarity. We stand with everybody who finds themselves in a building today because they have chosen to be, because they have liberated it from its supposed owners — whether for the hint of freedom’s true taste, or out of desperate social and political necessity.
This declaration and this action begin with contempt for those who would use their powers to cordon off education, cordon off our shared world, those who would build “opportunity” on the backs of others who must inevitably be exploited. This is why it begins here in this building with its Capital Projects, its Real Estate Services, its obscenely named Office of Sustainability — it begins in the corridors of accumulation, the core of the logic that privileges buildings over people. But it also begins with love for those who would refuse such enclosures, who are committed to the deed rather than the petition, who are committed to deprivatization as an act. This antagonism cannot be negotiated out of existence. We make no demands but the most basic one: that our collective life shall admit no owner.
Whoever has watched the disease of privatization, precaritization, and financialization spread through the University of California will not fail to recognize it as the plague of neoliberalism insinuating itself into every corner of the globe, every minute of our lives. In the most recent revelation, we have discovered the obscene student fee increases are being used not for education but as collateral for credit operations and building projects. This is the Regents’ will. If bonds aren’t repaid, the fees — that is, our days and years of work, extending into an empty future — must be used for repayment.
There is a grotesque irony to this. Student fees are being securitized and repackaged exactly like the toxic assets that triggered the latest economic collapse. Four years ago it was subprime mortgages; now it is “subprime education,” as Ananya Roy says. The very strategies and schemes that bankrupted millions of lives, and that showed the bankruptcy of the economic sphere — it is to these that the university has turned for its salvation, even after such strategies failed spectacularly. The Regents reveal themselves not simply to be dishonest, venal, and indifferent; they are too stupid to learn the most basic lessons of recent history. Or perhaps this is their idea of solidarity: that all members of the university community (save them, of course) must join the nation and the world in its immiseration, must be battered equally by a nightmare economy built on real human lives. We say to them: if you summon forth such solidarity, do not be surprised when its power escapes you.
The arriving freshman is treated as a mortgage, and the fees are climbing. She is a future revenue stream, and the bills are growing. She is security for a debt she never chose, and the cost is staggering. Her works and days are already promised away to raise up buildings that may contribute nothing to her education, and that she may not be allowed to use — buildings in which others will work for less than a living wage, at peril of no wage at all. This is the truth of the lives of students, the lives of workers (often one and the same). This is the truth of the relation between them and the buildings of the university, in the eyes of the Regents and the Office of the President.
No building will be safe from occupation while this is the case. No capital project but the project to end capital. We call for further occupations, to pry our buildings and our lives from its grip. We call for a different university, and a different society in which this university is embedded. We call for a different relation between lives and buildings. We do so freely. We are the power.