Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Naming Opportunities

Posters from protesters' site

Irvine -- When UCI opened in 1965, its main library was named, appropriately enough, Main Library. It was not until 2003 when a Newport-Beach real estate entrepreneur, Jack Langson, gave $5 million to the University of California that it got renamed, of course, after himself, as Jack Langson Library.

The library got itself a needed facelift, new carpeting and more PCs for students to use and comfortable, colorful sofas for them to sit in, and for some to sleep on.

Talking about naming opportunities, Lang Son is of course, the name of a northern province in Vietnam, next to China, so colleagues there often laugh when I say I am from Langson Library.

Fast forward to late November 2009, right after the UC Regents hike "fees" (they can't call it tuition according to the California Higher Education Master Plan) an outrageous 32%. UCI students protesting the fee hikes now plan a "study-in" at Langson Library Friday December 4, 2009, after 5 p.m. closing hours, calling it a form of resistance to the fee hikes. In "liberating Langson," "students, faculty and workers" have also taken the opportunity to rename it, rather creatively one might say, "Langston Hughes Library," after the gay Harlem Renaissance poet and literary master.

Their Facebook page on "liberating" the library already has over a 1,000 listed as potentially attending the study-in.

Their manifesto, addressed to UCI's librarians and library staff, declares:

"As students, we believe we should have full access to books, computers,
and library materials before and during Finals Week. We also know that
the funds exist within the UC system to maintain a fully-staffed,
adequately paid 24 hour library on campus. Close to 8 billion dollars of
discretionary funding is sitting untouched, and the UC has taken out
over 6 billion dollars in construction bonds. This money comes from our
tuition and our and our parents’ taxes, and we want a piece of it.
Similarly, we are disgusted by the University’s negotiation process,
offering library staff representatives the “choice” of layoffs or pay
cuts; we want neither!"

The unionized librarians accepted the University's pay cut/furlough plan, but library assistants (in the Coalition of University Employees) will be undergoing 11 rotating layoff days next summer.

The study-in organizers explain:

"In taking over the library and keeping it open overnight Friday and
perhaps indefinitely thereafter, we are exerting our agency as students
and members of the UC community. We do not expect anything of you beyond
your normal work requirements, and despite administrative claims to the
contrary, we are not asking you to stay beyond your regular work hours.
We only ask of you, and of the University, that we retain access to
automated check-out machines, computer labs, and other basic unstaffed
resources. We additionally condemn any attempts by the administration to
shut off power or Internet access or lock the main doors.

"Our only barricades will be our bodies so long as authorities respond
peacefully to us, and it is our intent to leave the library cleaner than
how we found it. We intend to use the space for teach-ins about the
budget crisis, exam review sessions, study groups, and quiet study. On
Saturday at 1pm, we will be holding a General Assembly for the UCI
community to assess our ability to remain in Langson Library and
consider our capacity for further action. Should you or your coworkers
voluntarily choose to stay in the library for any period of time in
order to assist us in any way, you have our humble appreciation."

The manifesto goes on to make some grand statement of solidarity with past instances of direct action:

"This action is being carried out in solidarity with 15 prior occupations
in the UC and CSU systems this quarter, and with the occupations
throughout the world, most recently in Croatia, Serbia, Germany,
Austria, Italy, and Great Britain. While this may be the first attempted
occupation at UCI, it will not be the last. We will occupy the entire
campus, building by building, until everything that has been taken from
us is ours again.

It ends with a rallying cry: "LONG LIVE THE OCCUPATIONS!"

The planned occupiers say this: "We are an autonomous body in Orange County attempting to subvert hegemonic, state-supporting/ed protest by promoting radical discourse and militant action."

Of course, occupations have a mixed record in the UC recently, without the students necessarily achieving all their demands, although undoubtedly they became radicalized by the them. At UCLA, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz this past week, student occupiers of buildings on those campuses were forced to vacate them at risk of being arrested for "tresspassing." At Berkeley, over 40 were arrested.

Study-ins, however, have been successfully held at libraries in other UCs. One at Berkeley's Anthropology Library "led administrators to allocate funds from unrestricted donations" to keep that and similar specialized libraries on campus open. In addition, "student activism around the finals week closure brought about an awareness of the issue that led to a private donation to keep the libraries open during finals week" ("UC Libraries Face cuts, But Faculty and Student Activism Pays Off," UC-AFT Perspective, Fall 2009, p.9.)

Prospects for a peaceful resolution at UCI are as yet unknown. Will the University welcome students to stay for the duration of the study-in?

I like Langston Hughes, but given that Lang Son was where noted General Võ Nguyên Giáp defeated the French colonial forces there in 1950 in one of the first successes of the First Indochina War, facilitating military aid from China across the border, perhaps the students could have just added a blank space and renamed it Lang Son Library as well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

UCI Students Protest Fee Hikes

Dennis Lopez & Hadeer Soliman at KUCI. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2009

UCI Students Fight Back Against Fee Increases

Updated with audio link: To listen to our interview with Dennis Lopez and Hadeer Soliman, click here: .

Irvine - UCI students, faculty and staff gear up for a huge noon rally
Tuesday (24 November 2009) at the UCI flagpole.
The rally, sponsored by a host of student groups,
comes in the wake of Regental action the
past Thursday to raise student fees a third for the coming year,
starting Spring Quarter.

On the 23 November 2009 edition of Subversity, we talked with Dennis Lopez of UCI's Worker-Student Alliance
and Muslim Student Association member Hadeer Soliman.

According to the rally Facebook page.

"The UC has voted to raise tuition by 32%! Students were brutally
assaulted at UCLA for using their right of freedom of speech! Cuts are
coming from the bottom not the top, while the administrators are
getting raises workers are getting fired and student class sizes get
larger. It is time that we as students come together in solidarity to
tell the UC it's our UC!!!"


"Come out and hear stories from those affected and find out what we
can do from here! Please invite at least 10 others. This is our time
in history will we live up to the responsibility?


"We stress that this is a peaceful rally, however, we as citizens of
the United States can and will exercise of First amendment Rights of
free speech!"

Calling "even studying is now a form of resistance," the organizers
also plan a teach-in outside Langson Library Friday December 4 at 3
p.m. followed by a "study-in" in the library at 4 p.m., followed by an
"all-night" teach-in at 5 p.m., past closing hours. On the next day, a
Saturday, a "general assembly" is slated for the Graduate Reading Room
in the library at 1 p.m.

For details see another Facebook page.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

From Liberation Struggle to University Presidency in Vietnam

Dr. Bui Tran Phuong at UCI's Langson Library. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2009.

Updated with audio link: To listen to our interview with Dr. Phuong, click here: .

On the 9 November 2009 edition of Subversity, a KUCI public affairs program, we talk with a university president from Vietnam. Dr. Bui Tran Phuong is president of Hoa Sen University in Ho Chi Minh City and she has an interesting story to tell, one that is rarely heard publicly in Orange County, California.

When she was ten, his father, who was in the Viet Minh resistance movement, was arrested with her by the south Vietnamese police under then-Pres. Ngo Dinh Diem. She was released after a day, but her father spent several years in prison, enduring torture.

Thus began her political awakening, that brought her to Paris where she
joined in distributing agitprop resisting both the south Vietnamese
government and U.S. invaders to her homeland, from the political active and (at the time) leftist Vietnamese diaspora abroad. After graduating from Sorbonne, she returned to Saigon and took part in the liberation movement.

Today she is a university president and grappling with the challenge of improving higher education in Vietnam. In an era of globalization, at her university, juniors and seniors will soon be offered the choice to be taught in English. But her enduring passion remains history; she is hoping to organize an international network of scholars interested in women and war.

Dr. Phuong visited UC Irvine this past Thursday, 5 November 2009.

The show airs Monday 9 November 2009 from 9-10 a.m. on KUCI, 88.9 fm in Orange County, California, and is simulcast via kuci.org.

Podcasts will be available afterwards. Interviewing her is show host Daniel C. Tsang.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Le-Van Kiet's Dust of Life begins theatrical showings with benefit premiere; Coco Paris LLC distributes the film

Lee Ngo, Dan Tran and director Le-Van Kiet outside KUCI. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2009

Updated with audio link: To listen to the 2 November 2009 Subversity show, click here: .

Irvine -- For the November 2, 2009 edition of Subversity, a KUCI
public affairs program, at 9 a.m., we feature again Le-Van Kiet, the director of Dust of Life, a gritty, local film focusing on youth in Little Saigon in an era of police surveillance of Asian youth and gang activity. Dust of Life makes its theatrical premiere this coming Friday. He is joined by the distributors of his film, Dan Tran, President of Coco Paris LLC, and Lee Ngo, marketing consultant. (Clocks have changed in U.S. and Canada 2 November 2009, with "fall back" one hour giving sleepers one more hour of sleep!).

Cocco Paris LLC is is "a media distribution company based in Orange County, California. Our mission is to distribute Vietnamese media content and to ensure their accessibility. The plan to achieve these objectives begins with several initiatives of creating awareness about the film industries, and working closely with and engaging filmmakers and the community for innovative marketing solutions to bring the Vietnamese media content to the general mainstream audience.

"Further, the plan is to create an effective and efficient platform to reach a wider audience by including distribution of media content through different venues and other distribution channels worldwide."

The premiere Friday 6 November 2009, starting at 6 pm, at STAR
Performing Arts Center, 16149 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, CA
92708. is a benefit for two worthy causes: The Vietnamese American
Cancer Foundation and Project MotiVATe, which seeks to mentor
Vietnamese teenagers and motivate them to civic involvement. Regular screenings of Dust of Life continue November 7 at STAR Performing Arts Center. For more information, see:


The film runs 90 minutes, in English and Vietnamese with English subtitles. Le-Van Kiet did initial research for his film at the Southeast Asian Archive at UC Irvine Libraries.

Our earlier interview with Le-Van Kiet on Dust of Life is: here.

Dust of Life web site and trailer.

We also interviewed him on another feature of his, Sad Fish, which was featured at the 2009 Vietnamese International Film Festival at UCIrvine.
of that Subversity interview.