“The non-symbolic nature of the S.F. State strike was likewise reflected in the tactics, which carefully avoided the usual ritual seizure of buildings and planned confrontations with police. Instead of “living the revolution” inside an occupied building for a brief apocalyptic period culminating in a Big Bust… the TWLF [Third World Liberation Front] opted for a “protracted struggle,” closing the campus and keeping it shut down not by simply impairing normal campus activity, but by making it totally impossible.”
—James McEvoy & Abraham Miller, “On Strike…Shut It Down” in Black Power & Student Rebellion: Conflict on the American Campus (1969)
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
—George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense
Suggested Points of Unity Towards Action on March 4th
On March 4th we hope to use the high points of the 60s and 70s revolts as points of departure so that we do not start from scratch and repeat their historical mistakes. There has been too much criticism of the building occupations last November and December and not enough discussion of how we can take their militancy and push our next actions even further, hopefully beyond the campus to draw in other working class people affected by the crisis. Some proposals even ignore the strikes and occupations that have occurred so far and suggest “going slow” and refocusing our efforts on the politicians in Sacramento through lobbying, petitions, letter writing campaigns, vigils and symbolic marches. We find this caution to be based on an obsession with top-down leadership that distrusts the imagination and potential for radical action from below by ordinary students and workers. The following points attempt to visualize how a statewide general strike on March 4th would unleash the creativity of the mass of the participants.
Universities, schools, public buildings, workplaces, and offices should be occupied at the start of the movement to serve as bases of operations.
While we are advocating a strike, occupied space can serve as a place for assemblies to be maintaining and defending the strike, as well as coordinating its extension beyond the campus to other public sector workers, and hopefully to private sector workers, the homeless and everyone in the working class. The occupations and campus shutdowns must be defended through mass action and control of physical space and expropriated equipment.
Only a general strike has the power to achieve our most basic goal, which is the defensive demand to stop the cuts to education and public services.
We should be operating by the principle “Everyone needs to be out on strike” and “Statewide problems demand statewide solutions.” Student occupations and strikes should not be seen as ends in themselves, but as a way of creating a basis for others to act. When strikes spread off the campuses to public sector workers, the class nature of the struggle will draw in others to help prevent the strikes from being defeated in isolation. Class consciousness will also draw in private sector workers, the unemployed and homeless, all united around the slogan: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Control and maintenance of the action should remain in the hands of the strikers and occupiers themselves.
We must refuse delegating decisions and control beyond the autonomy of those involved; we must push for the active participation of the greatest number. Issues and concerns of the strike should be debated and decided by all the strikers. Those engaged in various support and solidarity activities should meet regularly for collective discussion of the significance of their work and its political basis; these meetings should be used for reports to all the strikers of the work of the smaller groups, such as task-oriented action committees, for political discussion of the strike, and invitations to participate in specific actions, etc. Each site, whether school, public building or workplace, should have its own strike coordinating committee, like the city-wide committees we now have to plan for March 4th. Committee members should be elected by the strikers, subject to instant recall, with new elections every few days–as long as the strike continues. City or regional coordinating councils should represent the elected strike committees for the purpose of information exchange over a wider area. This type of structure will prevent the emergence of a strike bureaucracy, which destroys the collective energy of the strike. The mass participatory nature of our actions will show the emptiness of parliamentary democracy, the way it mediates our power away from us, and how it alienates decision making into a hierarchy with power over us. As the Situationist International said, “You can’t fight alienation by alienated means.”
The goals and demands of the strike should be made universal.
Different groups should be encouraged to join the strike to press for their own demands. For example, working class users of public transit should be able to advocate for a “social strike” of the public transit system (meaning the system continues to operate, but drivers and station agents refuse to collect fares) when fares are raised, as BART and San Francisco’s Muni are currently planning to do. If immigrants continue to feel threatened, as they did with the Sensenbrenner Act in 2006, they should be supported in solidarity should they organize another general strike. With the continued escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we could imagine that longshore and port workers would call a strike in support of student demands and against these imperialist wars much like they did when they shut down 29 ports on the West Coast on May Day 2008.
This is merely an approximation of what we might do to be prepared for an indefinite strike on March 4th. All too often, the day of action comes and no forethought had been given to organizing ways to maintain the strike and to find means of spreading it further. Our greatest strength is going to be our militant imagination and willingness to reach out to other workers to show them it is in their class interest to not only support our strike, but to join it in solidarity.
G.H. works as an adult education teacher in the non-profit sector and participates in the San Francisco March 4th Strike Committee, which can be contacted through SFM4.org
Friday, February 19, 2010
By Barbara MacLean, M.A.
The cuts to the California State University (CSU) for fiscal year 2009-2010 are unprecedented. The public and even students applying to CSU don’t have an overall understanding of the devastating changes the university is undergoing. Here are some of the details of the impact of the $564 million budget cut which the CSU refers to as “restructuring”:
Slash and Burn
• Enrollment at the CSUs slashed by more than 40,000 students. No new students were allowed to enroll this Spring 2010.
• Demand to attend the CSU continues to rise. In just one year, the university has seen a 127% increase in the number of applications from community college transfers, and a 32% increase in freshman applications. (Office of the CSU Chancellor website)
• Two fee increases in 2008-09—32% in just the last year!—with an anticipated 3rd increase looming in 2010.
• Severe reduction in financial aid, primarily Cal Grants, which is the funding source for many students.
• Elimination of classes, course sections and entire academic programs.
• 2 day/month mandatory furloughs for all faculty and staff resulting in 10% decrease in salary and drastic decrease in student services to students.
• Threats of widespread staff and faculty layoffs to be announced during winter/spring 2010.
• Creation of additional, more rigorous application requirements including local residence requirements resulting from the classification of more programs and universities as “impacted.”
• The drastic shortening of enrollment deadlines. CSUEB used to accept applications for fall quarter up to within days of the start of the quarter. The fall 2010 application deadline was moved back to Nov. 30, 2009.
Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association (CFA), said the CSU chancellor and his administration have failed to "confront elected leaders" or educate the public about the effects of the cuts. "Instead, they have embarked on a mission to restructure the university in ways that will profoundly affect the educational opportunities and experiences of Californians for generations to come," Taiz said. “What all of this means is that access to a quality four-year higher education–which is exactly what the CSU mission promises–is quickly disappearing.” (CFA, “Restructuring” the CSU or Wrecking It?,” Fall 2009)
Additionally, “the Chancellor’s office argues that restructuring is inevitable due to the budget crisis. We disagree. Clearly, where there is political pressure and political will, there is a choice. Just take a look at the trillions of tax-payer dollars that were spent last year on bailing out banks. There are other options.”
For Taiz, “There are serious long-term social effects that these changes will have, specifically on low-income people and communities of color. The provision of a broad liberal education for communities that might have no other access is at the heart of the CSU’s mission and that is the heart of what is under attack.” (Californiaprogressreport.com, Dec. 2, 2009)
Part of the mission of the California State University is that it promises to:
“Seek out individuals with collegiate promise who face cultural, geographical, physical, educational, financial, or personal barriers to assist them in advancing to the highest educational levels they can reach.”
The CSU system was founded to educate working class people and provide them with opportunities to make valuable contributions to society and earn a higher income in the process. What is happening now is nothing less than an attack on the working class, the disadvantaged and the poor. Now is the time to fight back and reclaim the rights of all people to a quality education, not just the privileged few. Without access to higher education, more working class people will be destined to low paying, dead end jobs and the state of California will not have the skilled, educated workers it needs to restore a thriving economy.
Barbara is a Career and Academic Counselor at CSUEB and a member of Academic Professionals of California (APC). She is currently experiencing a 10% paycut as a result of forced furloughs, possible layoff, and a dramatically increased workload.
Posted by Vote Ovetz for COM Board at 10:20 AM
In 2007, the capitalist economy melted down and its internal weaknesses became exposed. The subprime mortgage crisis exploded, banks and insurance companies collapsed, all catching the public off guard. To pay for this crisis, mass layoffs and budget cuts have been taking place triggering a movement of resistance across California. Beginning on September 24, 2009, 5,000 students and campus workers protested at UC Berkeley. Building occupations, protests and walkouts soon followed across California on a number of other campuses. Following this wave of actions, a conference attended by about 800 people at UC Berkeley called for a day of actions and strike to begin on March 4, 2010 that is rapidly building momentum.
Movement 1, State 0
On November 19th, the UC Regents met at UCLA announcing that tuition will be raised to $10,000 a year, a 32% increase in one year. Students at UCLA fought back attempting to shut down the meeting and occupied a building. Other direct actions erupted elsewhere at the same time. UC Berkeley students and workers engaged in a three day strike and 1,500 students and community occupied a campus building, an idea originally proposed at the general assembly. Students at San Francisco State University (SFSU) engaged in a protest and sit-in. UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz joined in with their own building occupations and protests. UC Santa Cruz notably had a general assembly in the middle of street to stop business as usual and discuss what to do next. 400 students emerged from a teach in at Fresno State university and launched a walk out. On December 9th, SFSU students occupied the business building for 24 hours demanding and end to the war, a stop to the budget cuts, and other demands. They renamed the building after Oscar Grant, a young black father who was murdered by BART police on New Years Eve 2009. Hundreds of students became politicized in its defense against the police sent in to forcibly end the occupation.
The movement has spread to the community colleges and other CSU campuses by early Spring 2010. Students and faculty had a “walk-in” to protest the cuts at Den Anza community college on January 20th and students, faculty and staff at all three San Mateo community colleges had a two day teach in to protest the cuts. CSU-Northridge Chicano/a Studies faculty and students walked out and held a teach-in on February 4th. City College of San Francisco students, faculty and staff are planning a “study-in” on February 11th to demand a restoration of cut library hours.
March 4th: The Statewide Shutdown
City-wide coordinating committees have formed to organize for the March 4th strike and days of action. Santa Cruz, San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco have begun flyering for and building for a day of strikes and walkouts. In addition to the UCs, CSUs and community colleges, several SF high schools also plan to walk out and Oakland teachers have authorized a strike on March 4th.
The movement has been characterized by extensive open debate over tactics and strategy. Some conservative unionists have spoken out against a one day strike and others have said that such committees are “dreaming.” Despite their attempts to put the reigns on the movement, the movement against the cutbacks is in the hands of the participants. Perhaps nothing will happen in the next coming months, perhaps a general strike across the state will take place when multiple institutions are shut down. What will determine the outcome is what people do before hand. If March 4th is one battle, what preparatory work will we need do to have a favorable outcome in this battle? Obviously if people don’t do much not much will happen. But if university, college and high school students are really organized for walkouts, teachers and faculty are ready to walkout out of their campuses, workers ready to stop working, then we can see the real potential power we all have.
The administrators need us, but we do not need them. The schools, and public institutions cannot run without the workers, students and teachers, making them run.
Posted by Vote Ovetz for COM Board at 10:19 AM
By Katy Rose
“…when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you.”
–Immortal Technique, “The Poverty of Philosophy”
When a group of students went to a budget-committee meeting at Cañada College to speak out about budget cuts, the administrators told us we should “go to Sacramento,” and that we should “work with student government.” We had to wonder why they insisted on trying to control our political development on campus, and why our autonomy worried them so much.
The administrators of our campuses are uncomfortable with the idea of a growing, restless, and independent campus movement that will hold them accountable for “managing” the cuts rather than fighting them effectively. The administration’s line is “our hands are tied,” which is their way of saying that they are not going to actively fight anyone higher up in the system to get the funds we need to have a thriving public education system.
Their best response to us is to urge us to leave them alone and go sit through student government meetings and try to get that body to fight the budget cuts for us.
But our question is, why should we waste our time in student government meetings when we are building our own power now from the bottom up? Why not cut out the “middle-man”?
Most of us know some amazing people with good intentions in student government and in our campus administration. That makes it difficult at times to critique these institutions. Our impulse is to believe in the people we know to do the right thing and stand up for school funding; after all, they’re against the cuts, too. But we need to be able to separate individual people from the roles they play within institutions.
We need to examine the function of student government as an institution, rather than rely on the intentions of friends within it, or even on the anti-budget-cut position of the student government as a whole.
The agendas for student government meetings are often posted online, and they’re worth taking a look at. They brim with good intentions, but reading them is a little like watching Nero fiddle while Rome burns. The official “voice and link between administration and students” isn’t planning strikes, occupations or walk-outs to fight for EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) funding and keeping childcare centers open. The bravest thing they do is support a “lobby day” in Sacramento where students interested in developing “leadership skills”—and connections—can go rub shoulders with legislators.
The fact is that student government has to play within the legalistic, non-confrontational rules set by college administrations. That means that any “advocacy” for students has to be in the form of lobbying (begging) for favors from higher-ups, rather than building grassroots power to get what we need to thrive.
Our task as independent, unaffiliated students resisting cuts is to build sufficient power to get what we need and desire for our community and our campuses. We can’t allow our creativity and imagination about how to build that power to be co-opted by the process and procedures of student government. Our dreams don’t fit into their ballot boxes; our needs don’t follow Robert’s Rules of Order.
As the great Black abolitionist Frederick Douglas famously said in 1857,
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions…have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.… This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Across California, independent student groups are building for walk-outs, strikes, occupations, and system-wide shut-downs for March 4. It will be this kind “moral and physical” struggle from the grassroots that demonstrates our power as students and working people to halt injustice and create a better world. Student government will not, and cannot, do this for us.
Katy Rose is a former UC Berkeley student now finishing her BA at Cañada College in Redwood City.
Posted by Vote Ovetz for COM Board at 10:18 AM
By Robert Ovetz, Ph.D.
“Can't look away/The powers that be might take it all away/Together we burn, together we burn away”
—Uncle Tupelo, “Graveyard Shift”
“There is always, I believe, a close relationship between the intensity of the threat and the brutality of the response”
—Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America
The $2 billion dollars in budget cuts, skyrocketing tuition and fee increases, and layoffs in public higher education over the past couple of years have been draconian. But they aren’t new. We are seeing only the latest chapter in a 30 years long series of entrepreneurial remaking of public community colleges and universities so that they operate more like corporations in the face of growing opposition from students, faculty, staff and communities.
This restructuring is not about making California public higher education more efficient, serving more with less or any of the other explanations we hear bandied about. It’s about asset stripping, stripping away the usefulness and relevance of public higher education to the majority of the population to learn about themselves, their history and gain the intellectual tools to improve their lives and change their world. In this two part article we will look at asset stripping of public higher education over the past 30 years and the impact on students, especially those attending community colleges.
Part I: Why Budget Cuts, Privatization, and Rising Costs?
Asset stripping is made possible by austerity: budget cuts, privatization and rising costs. Programs that are not “self-sustaining,” eg. generate outside corporate sponsorship, are defunded and public resources are shifted to subsidize programs that do generate such investment. Surviving programs are increasingly subject to forms of evaluation imported from the for profit world so that they are judged on the quality of the product (ie, you, the student) churned out and how disciplined and hard working the product is (ie, measured by your grades and later paid salary).
I call this asset stripping process the entrepreneurialization of the universities—the process of reorganizing and restructuring colleges and universities (or any public institution) into businesses. Entrepreneurialization is a two part process of austerity, shifting an increased burden of the costs to the individual rather than society, and the privatization of resources held in trust for the public. In the process, the individual sinks deeper into debt to purchase on the market what used to be provided by society through taxes.
Entrepreneurialization of the colleges and universities can be traced back to 1980, the same time that so-called neo-liberal restructuring of the global economy became predominant. Neo-liberalism seeks to starve the state of revenue (through tax cuts for the rich and corporations and economic decline) in order to shrink the state by stripping all of its responsibilities that are relevant and useful to people to improve their lives (ie, public support programs like unemployment and public education) and change the world (ie, regulate and limit business, protect the environment, ensure work safety). These responsibilities of the state to the vast majority of society are the result of small victories accumulated over centuries of struggles.
The language of neo-liberal entrepreneurialization is coded and mystified. It’s a language that justifies ripping apart our gains under the guise of “necessity,” “productivity,” “flexibility,” and “streamlining” while denigrating our gains as “luxury” and “entitlement.” For example, CSU-Stanislaus President Shirvani fears that our movement ”has driven expansion in higher education beyond what is reasonable or necessary.” (Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/18/09) His counterattack is nothing short of radical: “Cutting costs is not enough. We need to break down expectations based on entitlement and focus on educational productivity and outcomes. Institutions should review redundancies, rethink staffing models, and streamline business practices”—in short complete reorganization of public higher education into explicit businesses. Cognizant of the resistance to his plan, Shirvani is desperately planning for “today's harsh economic realities” to have “finally broken the stranglehold of the sense of entitlement about higher education.”
College or Prison?
Neo-liberalism has evolved as a strategy to pare down the state so that it serves only the needs of business to make profits and protect its investments. That is why we see ballooning budgets for police, military and prisons while funding is slashed for everything else that serves social needs. In California between 1984-2004 prison funding rose 126% while higher education funding declined by 12%. In 1980, 10% of the general fund went to higher education and 3% went to prisons. Today, almost 11% goes to prisons and only 7.5% goes to higher education. This is not an accident or bad planning.
At the same time we see a strangling of new revenue sources by lowering taxes for the rich, corporations and property owners and increasing borrowing through high interest loans that are paid off decades in the future. Since 2002, the percentage of the state budget that goes just to repaying this debt has more than doubled from about 3% to 6.55%. (State Legislative Analyst’s Office) That means there is less money for everything society agrees should be funded.
This shift in spending and revenue generation is a strategy. It’s a counter attack against the gains of the past 100 years of public higher education.
This strategy began to be applied to higher education in 1980 when Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act allowing universities to turn publicly funded research into privately owned products and corporations. The law passed with little notice. Private profit was once again funded by public cost. But this seemingly insignificant measure became a virus that has only grown to infect and mutate all of higher education.
Student as Product
Little by little more and more of higher education has come to be evaluated as and cajoled to be more and more like a profitmaking corporation. Public universities and community colleges went from being nearly free to charging rapidly rising fees and tuition while the majority of funding to support higher education shifted from local government to the individual. In fact, community colleges were free until 1984-85.
At the same time the state was shifting from generating revenue from taxes to debt, student loans began to overtake Pell Grants so that today 77% of financial aid is in loans. This has created the new phenomenon of lifetime indebtedness to private banks most of whose student loan portfolios are 100% guaranteed by tax dollars. Teaching and learning have grown to be explicitly evaluated according to the productivity of students, ie. how well they are molded to fit into waged work. Faculty and programs that did not demonstrate their relevance to the interests of profits and work have had to fight to survive overcrowded classrooms, budget cuts and layoffs. As many turned to outside corporate funded foundations, corporations or government to make up the differences they further found themselves submitting to this same logic: subservience to the market.
One of the primary ways students face the same logic of the market is with rising fees and tuition. The 1960 California Master Plan for Education establishment of all public higher education as tuition (but not fee) free has been violated. In 1960, student fees at UC and CSU were roughly $150. This year at UC fees and tuition are $11,000 (a 7000% increase since 1960) and at CSU they’re $4,900 (a 3200% increase). Since 1990, the cost has risen 600% at the UCs, and 500% at both the community colleges and the CSUs. Between 2000 and 2008 alone, tuition at UC and CSU more than doubled. Rising costs, ballooning loan debts and declining employment opportunity and wages force students to reconsider their focus of study so as to maximize the largest possible later salary.
Little has been immune to the virus of entrepreneurialization. Student struggles of the 1960-70s to demand programs to teach Black, Chicano, Women’s, Asian-American and Indian studies and open up enrollment to more students from these groups was transformed in the 1990s into its polar opposite: multiculturalism. These new spaces of learning now found themselves struggling to prove their relevance to business’ need for a culturally sensitive productive multicultural workforce and to help sell their products to a multicultural customer base. Today we see the same thing happening in the community colleges in their rush to cash in on the “green” business’ need for trained workers to sell dubious new “eco” technologies to increasingly eco-conscious consumers.
Part II: Effect on Community College Students. Why Fight Back?
The pressure for California universities and community colleges to higher education to make themselves subservient to the logic of the corporation has shown itself during the ongoing slash and burn budget cuts happening now across the state. California’s 3 tier system of higher education mirrors the three social classes of American society. The inequity of the system shows itself when you follow the money. The UCs spend 3-4 times and the CSUs 2-3 times more per student than the community colleges, the working poor of California higher education. The UCs hold vast wealth in lucrative contracts, real estate and undedicated funds that the CSUs and community college lack.
We know about programs and departments getting shut down at the UCs at the same time new privatized corporate partnerships with biotech, chemical and oil companies get set up. We know about the canceled programs, limits on enrollments, and overcrowded classes at the CSUs. We know about rising tuition and fees, exorbitant salaries and perks at the top, and how unprofitable sports program are being subsidized by tax funded education programs. These are the concrete manifestations of entrepreneurialization, a filtering process to screen out the wave of students demanding access to resources to which they and their families and communities have been denied.
Entrepreneurialization operates at both the systemic and individual level. Students who submit to the imperatives of profit and change their major to one where there is less or no overcrowding are rewarded with better conditions and maybe even with a bit higher pay for a while after graduation. These higher salaries allow them to repay usurous student loan debts, IOUs on future salaries, for a while at least. Those who do not submit and hold onto their original goals face deteriorating conditions through overcrowding, lack of access to classes and professors, declining resources, and eventually insecure employment at lower wages making their usurous debts even more onerous.
The View from the Basement
But what about the community colleges where about 80% of all college students reside? Within this system of separate and unequal, in which the community colleges reside at the bottom rung, are the entry points for students trying to get a second chance to make up for an inadequate public school education, recover from divorce or job loss or personal tragedies or returning home from a senseless war or prison or addiction or learning English to help them through the arcane maze of immigration laws. From this basement, the filter covering the passageway upward to the CSU and UCs hasn’t just tightened it has closed off with shorter times to apply for transfer, higher entrance requirements and fewer available places. These students now face longer waits with fewer choices among more overenrolled classes blocking their way. Rising fees are met by fewer counselors to help them maneuver the arcane maze that is the 3 tiered hurdle. For those entering with language needs or to make up for lost prior educational opportunities they find missing or overcrowded ESL and Basic Skills classes, and disappearing CALWORKS, childcare programs and counselors.
What appears as an inconvenience or hassle is that and more. It is an attempt to transform a victory we fought for, defended and won over the past century into a defeat.
It is intended to discourage those who otherwise are not or able to fight for what is theirs: the vulnerable, the undocumented, the overworked and underpaid.
It is intended to dissuade one from studying in order to give something back to ones’ family or community and to study to serve one’s self-interest.
It is intended to convince us that the rules have changed for the best. That what was once provided by society is now the sole responsibility of the individual to be purchased on the “market”.
Inconvenience and hassle are intended to convince us that austerity and worsening conditions are not worth the inconvenience and hassle; that we should just stop asking and stop demanding and accept that that which we once fought for and gained can no longer be ours or is becoming just a feeble shadow of what it once was.
But inconvenience and hassle are not very convincing reason to abandon the fight to protect, expand and transform public higher education.
It is no surprise that across the state a new movement from below of students, faculty and campus staff are joining local community is emerging to resist the pillaging of public higher education.
Robert Ovetz, Ph.D. is a migrant mindworker of academia (aka adjunct professor) at two San Francisco Bay Area community colleges. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation about the entrepreneurialization of the University of Texas. You can find it at www.utwatch.org. Contact him at: email@example.com
Posted by Vote Ovetz for COM Board at 10:17 AM
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The first issue of Gathering Tempest is now out in print and for download and distribution. Please cut and paste the URLs below to copy, print, email, fax and forward widely. The texts are also posted here to read on-line.
We are also now accepting submissions for issue No. 2. After you read the first issue and think you have something to contribute email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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We are also now accepting submissions for issue No. 2. After you read the first issue and think you have something to contribute email us at email@example.com
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Posted by Vote Ovetz for COM Board at 10:32 PM