Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC
For the Week of November 19, 2012

Researchers at UC Berkeley have published a report analyzing how so-called “interest rate swaps” engaged in by the regents over the past decade have cost UC $57 million so far, with $200 million more in losses expected.

An article in the November 13, 2012, San Francisco Chronicle, one of whose authors co-wrote the UC Berkeley report, explains what interest rate swaps are and raises alarms at what it says is a growing foothold of Wall Street banks within top UC management. UC’s chief financial office, Peter Taylor, for instance, came to UC from Lehman Bros., where he was managing director for public finance until Lehman collapsed. “While Taylor was at Lehman,” the article notes, “the company was hired to help expand UC's debt load. Lehman ultimately was party to one of UC's interest rate swaps – a bad deal that already has cost the university more than $23 million.”

The article drew a swift retort from Peter Taylor, who claimed the report’s authors would have flunked finance class.

The regents addressed the report at its meeting Wednesday, according to the Daily Californian. Also at that meeting, Gov. Brown popped by the meeting to question the regents and admonish them to spend the public’s money wisely. The regents approved a 2013–14 budget that requested $126.5 million from the state and contemplated additional tuition hikes. Brown got the regents to table some tuition increases, but said UC’s repeated requests for more money is “unsustainable.”

UC Regents Meeting Poster
UC Regents Meeting Poster. Photo: Lisa Kermish
Hundreds of students and unionized UC workers gathered Thursday, the final day of the regents’ meeting, to demand roll-backs of tuition increases. As radio station KPFA news reported, the sleep-out, blockade and rally temporarily shut down the meeting in San Francisco.

Plans by the trustees of the Cal State system to raise new fees on so-called “super seniors” drew protests from students, who demanded to know why CSU intended to raise tuition only a week after passage of Proposition 30 – which was specifically intended to forestall such increases.

UCSC professor Bob Meister has compared American students to the “coal miners of early industrial capitalism” for their position at a key “choke point” of the economy.

Student leaders at UC Irvine passed a resolution Tuesday urging UC to divest from  companies that they say profit from anti-Palestinian Israeli policies. The resolution was promptly rejected by UC.
If you think worker militancy is a thing of the past, think again. Workers around the state and country have been striking for the past two months at businesses under contract to Walmart, one of the nation’s most notorious anti-union companies. Workers recently completed a 50-mile march to LA’s city hall, and next plan actions at Walmarts around this state on “Black Friday,” the bonanza shopping day after Thanksgiving that traditionally puts retailers “into the black” on their balance sheets.

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