Dear SFSU faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters,
The social movement known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is growing and raising issues of direct relevance to the faculty, students and staff of the CSU and SFSU, including a systematic undercutting of our institution of public education and, for our students, increased debt loads coupled with lack of job opportunities. This petition announces our support of OWS and our intention to seek a partnership in which we will jointly push issues of common interest.
This petition was originally developed by our colleagues at UC who drew heavily from statements by Columbia University and Barnard College faculty members.
Support OWS Movement
Our Petition (adopted from colleagues at UC, Columbia and Barnard):
The social movement known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is growing and raising significant issues of importance to our country, and too few of our government, corporate and other leaders are willing to examine closely what this movement is about and to take seriously the social issues it raises. As a public university community, we lend our support and partnership to the OWS movement.
We believe the occupy movements are raising significant issues of direct relevance to university community, including a systematic undercutting of our institution of public education and, for our students, increased debt loads coupled with lack of job opportunities.
The OWS movement represents a significant means of voicing discontent and being recognized as full participants in our democracy. This social movement, like others before it, represents a significant component of democracy: to exercise our Constitutional rights of assembly and free-speech in an effort to engage with and, put pressure on powerful institutions, be they government, higher education, or corporations that have and will continue to shape all people's lives. This social movement, while multiple in its perspectives, has clear objectives and goals despite what is often claimed by antagonistic constituents. While an OWS manifesto is currently being drafted, certain points and objectives are clear.
First, the OWS movement is fundamentally about a demand for economic equity in systems that today are defined by vast inequalities. Much of the organizing has emerged in the context of a current economic crisis and the handling of this crisis that has resulted in support for private corporations at the expense of public entities. The super-rich in our society (the fraction of one percent of the population in corporate America who have received a grossly disproportionate share of public funds to stabilize the foundations of their wealth) and those who justify their wealth avoid the inconvenient fact that this group was both architect of the financial collapse still echoing in our society and primary recipient of public bailout funds. Over $6 trillion of public funds have been used to rescue financial giants; less than a twelfth of this for the 99% represented by the OWS movement.
Neither the economic crisis nor the vocal dissatisfaction of the 99% occurred overnight; these are a result of a shift from public investment to enhanced private profit that has evolved over the past 30 years. In California and the entire country, public support for common goods such as education and health have eroded simultaneous with increased support for corporations in the name of innovation and competitiveness. The result has been vast inequalities in wealth, assets, and opportunities. Yet, OWS is not fundamentally an attack on capitalism; it is an attack on the disproportionate power of capital in our government and the policies that are passed and upheld. It is an attack on crony-capitalism in which corporations matter more than people; in which lobbyists control our elected officials, in which those officials are dependent upon capital for their jobs and are no longer independent to serve their constituents. The OWS movement is giving voice to the middle classes (fast joining the working poor) and their call for their needs and perspectives to receive the kind of political attention they deserve.
OWS correctly questions the extent to which American government is now more interested in investment in political parties than investment in this country and its communities. An enormously complex tax code that is irrelevant to the tax bills of the 99% results in the super-rich and their corporate manifestations paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries. We have one of the lowest tax rates for those in high incomes (marginal tax rate) in the Western world; we have grossly unequal access to educational opportunities for minorities and the poor; we still have tens of millions of our residents who lack adequate health care coverage. OWS wants to put back some modicum of equality of opportunity in America. We support them and call on those who shirk their civic responsibility to pay their fair share and engage in a collective conversation.
As leaders in higher education, we support a goal of education equity. Education and economic opportunities go hand in hand. OWS seems to celebrate our country’s proud tradition of investment in education for all people regardless of family origin, class position, “race,” immigration status, and other structural factors. We agree with them. That investment has paid enormous dividends for our country and for California and the bay area. For example, the very modest investment in education found in the GI Bill following World War II created an amount of wealth conservatively estimated at twenty times the investment. We believe such modest investment would pay enormous dividends again; yet, the current political climate treats a student with debt as an unwelcome charity case (unlike the banker with a portfolio of bad mortgage-backed securities).
We are also painfully aware of our own culpability in the spiraling cost of higher education. We have done too little to put downward pressure on costs at largely private, elite institutions. The California Master Plan for Higher Education has been gutted by reduced use of public funds for education. The University of California system has proposed a 110% cost increase over the next five years in order to remain competitive with elite institutions; that increase may come entirely from tuition increases. The California State University System cannot follow suit and remain true to its commitment to provide quality education to a broad range of Californians. We pledge to the OWS and the Californian public that we will fight to maintain the quality of education at the CSU without pricing large sections of the public out of this public good.
Finally, OWS is a peaceful, non-violent form of protest against corporate greed, social inequality and government policies. They are the conscience of America, not its enemy nor its fringe. For this we applaud them and provide our support with these signatures that represent our commitment to support the cause, a cause that includes all of us. We are the 99%.
Ad-Hoc Faculty Committee in Support of OWS