This morning I picketed the University of California for the first time since the Free Speech Movement in 1964. I was going to library school then, and we walked out to protest police brutality in the arrests of the FSM supporters sitting in at the administration building. This time it was about the budget crisis. 1) California’s budget crisis would not be as severe if we had an oil severance tax like all the other oil-producing states do. 2) The budget crisis wouldn’t affect the university as much if we put less money into prisons and more into education. 3) Given that we don’t tax oil and we do run a huge prison system, the university is in budget crisis. OK. Does this seem like the right moment to give administrators big salary increases while cutting staff and raising fees?
So a lot of professors and students and staff staged a one-day walk-out today. I got an email from FSM asking us to show up and picket with signs identifying us as FSM alums. I got to the West Entrance (not Sather Gate this time) at 7:45. Already a lot of pickets in place. I hung the sign I’d hand-lettered the night before around my neck: “FSM alum supporting PUBLIC education.” One of the picketers knew my name, sort of, and it turned out we’d both been to actions against nuclear weapons development at Lawrence Livermore Lab (run by the university) in the eighties. She’d been in the Lorax affinity group, I was in Mother Courage. I talked to some staff people; not only are jobs not being filled as people retire, making more work for everybody else, but positions are being eliminated completely. I talked to another guy for a while, we established that both our mothers had gone to UC, as had we, and he asked if I was in music. We ascertained that he’d seen me at the Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship. About the time I was going to mention my mother’s name, he asked, “Are you related to Malvina?”
I went across the street for coffee (I seem to have an affinity for actions close to coffee shops) and when I came back the Pink Slips had arrived. This is a singing group formed in support of the people being fired; they wear slips made of pink material over their clothes, even the one man in the group. They sang the “Battle Hymn of the (Re)Public University.” Here’s a verse:
Is money short, of course it is, on that we all agree,
But why is that and who’s to blame: Let’s stop and look and see.
Should profit become the measure of a Ph.D. degree?
Or is there room at Berkeley to study humanity?
On the way home I noticed that Allston Street was blocked off at Shattuck and two men dressed alike were setting out white folding chairs in front of the Shattuck Hotel, newly become the Shattuck Plaza. I asked what was happening. An official opening, a ribbon-cutting. A friend had told me I should take a look at the new lobby with the peace sign so today I went in. The peace sign is big, inlaid in the marble floor of the entryway, just inside the front doors. My friend was told it was there to make the decor specific to Berkeley. Good idea, instead of being identical to any hotel in the chain. The lobby redo is spiffy, too. In honor of the occasion, I tried out the bathroom.
I spent the afternoon in my writing office in Albany. Came home and saw the headlines: 5000 rallied at Sproul Plaza at noon in support of the walkout. Seems like old times.
Next week is Banned Books Week and I’ll be joining others at the Berkeley Public Library’s annual banned books read-aloud on Friday afternoon, October 2, between 3 and 5 p.m. in front of the Central Library at 2090 Kittredge. My choice this year is The Golden Compass but there are always a lot of good ones to choose from. So in this week before Banned Books Week, the online limericks group I belong to has been writing verses using words relating to censorship. Here’s one of mine:
nihil obstat
(NY-hil OB-stat, NEE-)
1. Official approval.
2. In the Roman Catholic Church, a statement by a church censor that a book is not offensive to the Church.
From Latin nihil obstat (nothing hinders), from nihil (nothing) + obstare (to hinder), from ob- (against) + stare (to stand). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sta- (to stand) that is also the source of stay, stage, stable, instant, establish, static, and system.
"The Army Corps of Engineers last week gave its nihil obstat to the Hudson River Park, New York City's scheme."
New York's Finny Friends; New York Post; Jun 5, 2000.
Nihil obstat permits your endeavor
Without saying "Good job!" or "Clever!"
All it does say
Is "Nought stands in the way."
It's kinda like saying "Whatever."
Along with the assignment, the group forwarded this link to a fine response by a librarian to an attempt to censor Uncle Bobby’s Wedding. You can subscribe to the limericks by emailing your request to
©2009 by Nancy Schimmel
Banned Book Week is coming up. Here’s one of my favorites.
Thursday, September 24, 2009