As I walked up the hill to class this morning, I heard shouting and clapping coming from the direction of Wheeler Hall. A small crowd of students had gathered on its steps, blocking most of the building’s entrances and waving hand-painted signs. I thought, Aha, the protest has begun. In fact, the protest began yesterday evening, and as a girl with a megaphone announced, quite a few of the protestors had stayed up all night to continue the rally, undeterred by fatigue or foul weather. #OccupyWheeler, indeed. Check out some coverage of the protest in the Daily Californian.

A rally poster adorning the front of Wheeler Hall.

A rally poster adorning the front of Wheeler Hall.

So, what’s the issue? The Board of Regents has voted to pass a plan that will increase university tuition fees by 5% annually over the next five years. This affects all ten UC campuses and amounts to about $600 more per year for California residents. Of course, the plan isn’t literally just a fee hike. It’s more like a gamble: the university is demanding that the state invest more in higher education in order to keep fees at their current flat rate, but if the state cannot do so, then the university will have to raise tuition to compensate. Students and faculty at Berkeley aren’t pleased in the least about this; it amounts to using students’ financial pockets as a chip in a risky bet. Thus, this past week has seen echoes of similar protests over fee hikes from 2009, as well as Cal’s own iteration of the Occupy movement from 2011, when students and faculty went on strike and even altercated with police.

The comparably more peaceful protest this morning did make its way into my classroom, albeit not in the way one might expect. We’ve been learning about control verbs in syntax: verbs that take three arguments: a subject, an object (or a null object), and a verb in the infinitive, and determine what the subject of the infinitive verb is. For example, in the sentence, “I persuaded Sam to leave,” persuade is a control verb, and Sam is both the object of the control verb and the subject of the controlled verb, leave1. There are several ways to test if a verb is a control verb or a raising verb2.

1) *I persuaded it to rain.
2) *I persuaded there to be protestors.

Can the object of the supposed control verb be a syntactic expletive (it or there)? If these sentences are grammatically incorrect, mark them with an asterisk and declare the construction control. But replace persuade with predict, and they all become okay: this demonstrates that predict is a raising verb. (As you can see, our professor worked today’s weather and the source of the shouting that we heard during class into the examples he chalked onto the board.)

3) *I persuaded the fire to be lit.
4) *I persuaded the shit to hit the fan.

Can the second verb be in the passive or be part of an idiomatic expression? If not, mark the ungrammatical sentences with an asterisk and call it a control construction. (I can’t help but think our professor was making subtle commentary about the results of the Board of Regents vote today. There’s teaching, and then there’s teaching.)

Anyway, I’m proud of the students and organizers of the tuition hike protests for their efforts, and it’s really too bad, in my opinion, that the vote passed. And… that’s all I have to say about that.

Decades ago, a University of California student’s tuition was a paltry couple hundred bucks per semester. Do you think it’s reasonable for it to have risen to the $6,000+ that it is today?


Word of the Day: gambit, a risky move or sacrifice made in order to secure a later advantage, originally used in chess stratagems but now commonly used to characterize play-changing remarks in a debate. From the Spanish/Italian gambit(t)o, which is the act of tripping someone and the name of a wrestling move. The administration is playing a gambit with our money, and now it seems we have no choice but to hope for their win — which is nevertheless our loss.

– – –

1This is just one kind of control; there are several other types, and in general the idea is beyond my understanding (as is pretty much everything in this class), so please accept my apologies for that undercooked explanation.
2In English, control and raising look very similar in many respects and are thus tricky to distinguish. Again, I learned about this literally today, so don’t consider me an expert.

About Andrew C.

I'm a grad student at UC Berkeley.
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