The Place of Anger #3: A Funny Story, Actually

Question: Where is the place of anger in the university?

Answer #5

Recently I met a graduate student who is a couple of years ahead of me in my own department.  His wife is also a graduate student in the same department.  We got to talking about Cal’s childcare.  He was as frustrated because, as he explained to me, since both he and his partner are working GSI’s, they make too much money to qualify for subsidized child care through the university, and they can’t afford it without said subsidy.  Don’t forget that the monthly pay for GSI’s is well below the living wage in Alameda County.

Answer #6

Also recently I met a woman who has worked for the Art Department for over 16 years.  She was walking her dog outside of Kroeber Hall one morning when we struck up a conversation.  She was on the verge of tears when she told me that her higher-ups were deliberating on her fate: “in an effort to save money,” the powers that be were considering moving her and a whole host of other support staff to an office building down on 4th street.

Answer #7

Last Thursday my partner and I stopped by the cashier’s windows at the facility on Channing Street, where many people pay their tuition, rent, childcare, etc.  I noticed a small sign in the window that proclaimed that the cashier’s windows would be closed on Fridays from here on out.  When I inquired as to the reason from the be-cargo-shorted and shoeless undergraduate work-studier, I was told that it was “a funny story, actually:” since they were now responsible for concession stand sales on game day, they could not continue to operate in their traditional capacity: to accept payments for crucial services like tuition, rent, and childcare on Fridays – the payment of which carries a rather large weight for those of us who get paid on Fridays, and whose timely payment ensures a continued participation in the university.

The Place of Anger #2: Ticket To Ride

Question: Where Is The Place Of Anger In The University?

Answer #3:

During a particularly chaotic episode at the above-mentioned bus stop, in the shadow of the above-mentioned stadium, I managed – while wrangling my 18-month old, two book bags (hers and mine), a tote bag, and an umbrella stroller – squeezed as we were between the foot traffic of students and joggers and the actual rush hour traffic of the three-way stop at Bancroft and Piedmont, to lose my student ID card.  I had thought ahead to take it out of my wallet and place it securely in the left breast pocket of my shirt, for easy access when the bus arrived.  Somewhere in there, however, it decided to disappear into the ether.

Two days later, I found myself at the Cal1/ Student ID card center on Lower Sproul Plaza.  There I discovered that it would only cost me 25 dollars to replace the actual card – but that in order to get a new bus pass sticker it would cost me 65 more dollars.  Oh and I’d have to go to a different facility to get it.  When I asked, incredulously – and with a number of swear words strategically injected into the question – why, the young undergraduate student who was working the front desk “reminded” me that this information had been on the back of my lost card, and that in accepting it I had “agreed” to paying the fee in the case that the card became lost.  She sounded as though she was responding with an official response provided to her by her superiors, which made sense considering its patronizing tone, and it translated into something like “By accepting your student ID card, you agreed” (a tricksy rhetorical sleight-of-tongue) “to paying an exorbitant fee should you decide, at some moment in the future, to misplace your ID card.”  In other words: I should’ve thought about this before I decided to lose it.

Besides the fact that I’m not the type of student that has 65 dollars earmarked for those moments when I spontaneously decide to engage in minor transgressions against the university, I am already paying it.

Answer #4:

Toward the end of the summer of 2013, as the majority of my cohort and I prepared ourselves emotionally and mentally for our impending TAships, we were surprised to find that on our August bill a “Campus and Transit Fee” had appeared.  Being fellowship students, we’d spent our first two years primarily engaged in class work while we lived off of our modest stipend.  This semester, however, we were making the transition into the curious world of student-employeeship, wherein we were to begin our new jobs as discussion section leaders.  We were not informed that we would be required to pay over 300 dollars of our pay back into the university until we were given 15 days in which to do so.  And this out of a monthly pay rate that is over 6,000 dollars below the living wage for Alameda county – before taxes.  Seventy of these dollars are specifically earmarked to go to AC Transit, meaning that after I’d decided to lose my original card, I’d be paying more than double that in order to be able to ride the bus to class in the morning, and home at night.  This sort of thing is apparently known as a “Partial Fee Remission,” which – as far as I can tell – basically means that the University reserves to right to change them at any time, and your department can choose whether or not they will inform you about them in the first place.  After calculating how much money I would spend were I to continue using the bus as much as I do now – and even allowing for a slight rise in ridership – it has become clear that it would be cheaper for me to simply pay my bus fees out of pocket.  But then, for half of that, I don’t have a choice, do I?  And even when I take care of that, I still won’t be able to ride.

Q: Where Is The Place Of Anger In The University? #1

At a recent colloquium in the English department at UC Berkeley, a local scholar posed the question “Where is the place of anger in the university?”  I could not help but feel as though I knew the answer to the question, but that the venue and the mode in which it was asked (something like the academic-rhetorical) – and therefore the possible answers – were unable to fully address the problem to which the question was ostensibly directed.  My proposed answer, then – to throw a brick through the nearest window – would therefore have been incomprehensible to the vast majority of those in attendance.

In response to this question, I propose here to provide a series of sketches of university life, culled from my experiences and the experiences of others, in the short time since the beginning of the Fall, 2013 semester.

A1: Toward the end of the summer of 2013, after what had already proven to be a frustratingly bureaucratic and often redundant application process, I was told by a representative of UC Berkeley’s Early Childhood Development Center that my partner, our child and I would not be able to tour any of the facilities, as we were applicants for subsidized child care.  When pressed to explain why, I was told that since we were subsidized, we might not even get a spot.  It was therefore, apparently, not worth the trouble to show us the space in which we might or might not be able to place our daughter in preschool.  Nevermind the fact that the reason we were applying for preschool was so that a) my partner could resume her studies at Berkeley City College (with the intent to transfer to Cal) and b) I could resume my classwork and begin teaching in the fall.

A2: Everyday I walk past UC Berkeley’s newly renovated football stadium on my way to drop off my daughter at the Clark Kerr facility for toddlers, and everyday – after picking her up from school – I wait at a bus stop directly across from the same stadium.  The stadium, which has put the university 445 million dollars in debt, is just down the street from my daughter’s UC preschool, which is housed in a double-wide trailer and sits on a parking lot in the northwest corner of Clark Kerr Campus.  Its interior walls have been removed, and linoleum and carpet patchwork that are no longer contiguous with the layout of the room still show marks of these former walls – in some places adhesive still clings to the floor, marking where one of these walls once stood.  This is the facility that we were not granted a tour of – a facility that houses only subsidized children.  We do not know where the unsubsidized children receive their care.