Dear UCSD Activist Alumni,
By Monty Reed Kroopkin
The OB Rag and San Diego Free Press have published a fine article, written by the Che Cafe Collective. Please circulate it widely. OB Rag / SDFP editor, Frank Gormlie, is an alum of UCSD. Alumni of the UCSD co-ops are mounting a call for all alumni to write to the University telling them we are cancelling the “planned giving” that we previously intended to do upon our demise, until and unless they back off and treat the Che Cafe and all the co-ops with proper respect.
As a union activist (SEIU steward and IWW San Diego Organizing Caucus and formerly, in my grad school days, Press Representative of my AFT TA local in Oregon), I am interested in working with people to try to get all the unions at UCSD (and the SD-Imperial Counties Labor Council) to issue support statements and consider donating money to the collective for legal expenses and for facility maintenance.
We also need to see if the Teaching Assistants union can pressure the Graduate Students Association to reverse its harmful stance.
As an alum of the New Indicator Collective, I recall well that the administration told the staff of the original official campus newspaper, the Indicator, to disband and to join the staff of the new mouth-piece for the Regents, the Triton Times.
This happened in the late 1960’s, before all the landmark 1970’s Supreme Court decisions recognizing the First Amendment rights (including funding rights) of campus newspapers. So at the time it was still legal for the Regents to shut down funding of an official campus newspaper for editorials in support of the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, and student rights.
I recall that the Indicator staff defied the Regents and obtained sustaining subscriptions and continued publishing independently for a few years. I recall that remnants of the Indicator staff, and new recruits, changed the name of the paper and convinced the administration to allow funding of a “subsidiary journal” starting in 1972, which evolved from Crazy Times, to North Star, to New Indicator and which last published in 2002.
It was the North Star Collective that held the first meetings to start the bookstore collective that is now Groundwork Books (we called it the North Star Bookstore while it was in the planning stages and it officially opened as the Changing Times bookstore). The constant struggle to get adequate funding and the frequent machinations of administrators to convince student government committees to defund the newspaper led me to become an experienced lay advocate representative for the collective’s many grievance hearings.
That experience led me, after graduation, to the USD paralegal program and membership in the National Lawyers Guild. That, in turn, has guided my years of work as a union steward, representing workers employed by the County of San Diego.
As a former co-chair of the student government (during the time we had no Associated Students and had co-chairs instead of a President) and as the chair of the student government’s budget committee the year before that, I remember well when Vice Chancellor Watson froze the entire 1976-77 student government budget at the end of the spring 1976 term (as students were leaving for the summer) without any stated basis of any policy or legal violation by the committee or by the student government (i.e., the Student Cooperative Union).
The administration was plainly upset that a left majority had pushed through funding priorities for over 100 student organizations that were contrary to what the administration (and the Right) wanted. Watson used the false, fabricated pretext of funding “irregularities” to whip up student support for a 1977 referendum to decertify the Student Cooperative Union and restore the Associated Students (which had been dumped in a 1972 student referendum).
The administration mouthpiece rag, the Guardian (formerly Triton Times) propagandized the “irregularities” and the imagined dysfunctionality of the SCU (the open student body assembly, New England Town Meeting form of constitution) and grossly under-reported when Watson unfroze all the budgets for the student organizations in the fall of 1976 (he hadn’t been able to find any credible basis for the budget freeze).
As a UCSD alum, I am interested in working with people to
- get the Alumni Association to issue a statement of opposition to destruction of the building, on the basis that it was the first student center and should be preserved for historical and cultural reasons. The building is less than 100 years old – practically brand new by East Coast or Old World standards. It is a good 20 years younger than the house that my wife and I own and we certainly have no plan to level it. And
- to try to get the Alumni Association to assist (with its contacts info and its newsletters, etc.) in organizing an official sub-division — the UCSD Co-ops Alumni (to include not only the officially recognized co-ops but also those, like the New Indicator, which fell under the “Media” funding bureaucracy which was separate from the Student Center/co-ops funding bureaucracy).
As a citizen of California, I am interested in organizing public support, especially from teachers and professors, for the position that the co-ops are a vital educational activity that warrants greater support from the Regents, rather that the constant neglect and/or open hostility.
The co-ops provide a highly successful laboratory for students to learn about worker-owned and operated enterprises. Unions have increasingly taken over operation of productive facilities that corporate CEO’s wanted to shut down. Co-operatives of many varieties are and have long been a significant part of the economy. The skills that students learn in co-op staff meetings and in running the co-ops also translate very well into what people need to know to become sole proprietors or partners in starting new small and medium sized businesses.
This hands-on laboratory education is stuff you simply cannot learn in a classroom. We all know that the Regents are appointed by the Governor almost exclusively from the corporate CEO class in society.
Getting the Regents to enthusiastically support and promote the co-ops is rather like asking all the CEO’s of all the electric companies to promote legislation to put solar panels on all the buildings in the country. It flies in the face of who the Regents are. However, that never stopped us from demanding Third World studies, ethnic studies, women’s studies, et cetera. This is a public university and the public has the right, the responsibility, to demand that the kinds of education that WE want is available at our university.
Please email me <<mkroopkin AT juno.com>>if you want to team up on any of this.