UCMeP Plays with Humor and Art to Draw Attention to UC System's Issues

Photo: <b>Their University.</b> The UC Movement for Efficient Privitization, or UCMeP for short (urination pun intended), lampoons the budget crisis through caustic caricatures.
Eddie Rosenbaum/Photo
Their University. The UC Movement for Efficient Privitization, or UCMeP for short (urination pun intended), lampoons the budget crisis through caustic caricatures.

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Tip #3: Butter- "How to Cross a Picket Line"

On Thursday, March 4, 2010 there will be a statewide strike to defend public education in California. For those of us who are working hard to put an end to public education, March 4 promises to be a very scary day. This is why the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) is proud to offer some fun and innovative tips for crossing pickets on March 4.

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A look inside UCMeP

Gwen Kingston talks to Shane Boyle and Brandon Woolf about the University of California Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP).

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Since the beginning of the fall semester arguments on both sides of the fight for the future of public education have grown so thunderous and insistent that many of us have become deaf to the real issues at play. One student activist group on the UC Berkeley campus has found a new way to make us prick up our ears and listen. The UC Movement for Efficient Privatization, an organization founded amidst the unrest and upheaval of September 2009, has emerged as a potent satirical voice in the UC dialogue.

What is different about UCMeP is that they make us laugh. With irony as their weapon of choice, this tactical performance group takes on UC officials by posing as supporters of their perceived efforts to "privatize" the University. In character, Shane Boyle and Brandon Woolf (both Ph.D. students in the department of Theatre Dance and Performance Studies), play the Chairman and CPA (Chief Performance Advisor) of a concerted effort to turn the country's premiere public university into a private institution.

"Unlike others worrying about the direction of privatization, we're concerned about how slowly the inevitable transformation is happening," said Chairman Boyle.

Some may remember the infamous faux auction they held at the September 24th walkout. Standing on the steps of Sproul Plaza, members of UCMeP sold off UC Berkeley's most famous landmarks one by one to the highest bidder. This demonstration is characteristic of the group's biting sense of humor.

The Chairman's alter ego, Shane remarked, "I think humor goes a long way in allowing people to take a step back and be self-critical about what's going on."

Witty and articulate, UCMeP's performance aesthetic and satiric public statements cater to the well-informed and politically conscious Berkeley student. One distinguishing element of style within this group is how closely they stay in dialogue with the actual statements being issued by the UC administration. When President Mark Yudof remarked in a New York Times interview that he would consider swapping salaries withPresident Obama if they threw in Air Force One, UCMeP began a mock fundraising campaign to "Help Buy Mark Yudof a Plane."

To highlight the accusations of a top-heavy University pay structure, they began their "Adopt-a-Regent" campaign, designed to "ease the troubles of California's 26 most under-appreciated and under-valued public employees." So far they have raised $2.37.

And in preparation for March 4th they have posted a useful and entertaining set of instructional videos on their website on "How to Cross a Picket Line on March 4th," and established a subsidiary, the Student Counter Activism Brigade, or SCAB.

"The way in which student activists have been framed by the administration has been very one-dimensional, so one of the tactics seems to be to take the administration's position incredibly seriously, to its utmost extreme," explained Brandon Woolf.

By taking their opponents' positions to the absurd, UCMeP engages its audience, encouraging spectators to bring a fresh and critical set of eyes to the consideration of the problems we, as a University, are facing.

When asked how interested students could help further the cause of "efficient privatization" Chairman Boyle replied, "Apathy. Active apathy is probably the number one way we can ensure the swift and efficient privatization of the UC system."

Be apathetic with Gwen at [email protected]

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