Archive for November, 2009

Dear CSU Trustee Chair Bleich,

November 6, 2009

Congratulations on your new job! I’m sure you will serve our country well. I wanted to commend you for your heartfelt speech given at the Sept. 23 CSU Board of Trustee meeting in Long Beach. In my case you were correct in stating that many in the room had similar stories to yours. I too grew up in Connecticut and dreamed of being a college professor someday. My father earned his BA in business at UCONN on the GI Bill after serving in WWII. He dreamed that all his eight children would be college graduates too. Unfortunately, the state of Connecticut did not share that dream. One older brother and older sister each had some college, but I’m the only one to get a degree, and I had to come to California to find it.

After working as a baker for 16 years (both in Conn. and Calif.) I attended California Community Colleges and, with my 4.0 GPA and guidance counselors promising a bright future through the UC system, I transferred into SF State. My eleven-year path to a BA saw divorce, three-and-a-half years of single parenthood with two young children, and eventually a new relationship that—along with the university experience—helped transform my life into the one of great privilege I enjoy today.

Despite the troubled times we live in I am loving my work and family—I’m sometimes reminded of the Dickens’ opening in “Tale of Two Cities.” Yet I still dream of becoming a professor someday and starting a master’s in philosophy a few years back gave me a taste of that wonderful life. Unfortunately, my academic plan is on hold due to other more-pressing challenges and priorities. Like you, a day does not go by that I do not thank California for believing in me. And like you, I am thoroughly disheartened by the apparent abandonment of the California Dream—especially as this is happening without public debate. However, without your moving speech I was not even sure if the CSU trustees were fully aware of what was happening on their watch. They need to do more, much more of what you did and in public like never before. They need to take our case to the taxpayers of California and stop relying on, like you said, an unreliable system lead by shortsighted fools.

As a union leader who gets the “big picture,” I’m deeply offended when the small-minded call what I do a “special interest.” I tell people that I’m doubly blessed in my union work—not only do I get to fight for the rights of employees in the workplace (extending what it means to be an American into a third or more of people’s lives) but I get to fight for the CSU and all that it represents to California and the nation. Make no mistake; those who would privatize public education have an anti-democratic agenda.* A system of, by, and for elites is their vision for America, what my political scientist neighbor calls, in his book by that name, “Democracy For the Few.” I believe in the Alliance for the CSU, in advocating together because of our shared interests and vision. That same spirit infuses my union advocacy as well.

Thank you again for a wonderful speech and for your service to the CSU and California, but mostly thanks for your recognition of the sacrifice we, the staff, continue to make for the good of both the CSU and California. Best of luck “down under” and remember that Australia was at one time a British penal colony. With examples like that in the world there may yet be hope for California’s future.

Sincerely,

Russell Kilday-Hicks
VP for Representation
CSUEU/SEIU 2579/CSEA

* I highly recommend Thomas Frank’s works on why people vote against their own interests (“What’s the Matter With Kansas?”) and on the difference between moderate and neo-conservative Republicans (“The Wrecking Crew”), and the work of UCSB Professor Christopher Newfield explaining the dismantling of public higher education (“The Unmaking of the Public University”). Also, Obama’s books are pretty great, especially for a president. His chapter on our Constitution is a must read if you are going to work for him. In many ways the nation has some catching up to do to the president’s vision before we will see substantive change.

Related links:
* http://www.calstate.edu/BOT/chair-reports/sept2009.shtml
* latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-bleich4-2009nov04,0,1193621.story
* http://toodumbtolivearchive.blogspot.com/2009/07/ucsb-save-uc-letter.html