UC students everywhere are feeling the pressure after the UC Board of Regents approved a 32 percent fee increase on student fees last Thursday. This vote will make it even more difficult for students currently struggling to make ends meet to get the quality education they expect from the University of California, quality that has been called into question.
The protest that ensued after the vote showed just how upsetting the news was. A group of around 300 students gathered outside of Covel Commons at UCLA, chanting loud enough for the Regents inside to hear the resounding cries of “Chop from the Top!” and “We’re fired up, we can’t take it no more!” Campus police dressed in full riot control gear were pelted with vinegar-soaked bandanas, picket signs, hot dogs and soda cans filled with change, as well as being verbally attacked by students in the crowd. Protesters pushed at the barricades separating them from the hall, and were forced back by security. 14 members of the public who were allowed into the boardroom to speak to the Regents were arrested for being disruptive and refusing to stop after their allotted time slot ended and their ruckus was deemed an unlawful assembly. They chanted, “We shall overcome” in unison.
It was the kind of scene that could have been taken out of a 1960s newsreel of youths protesting against the Vietnam War. While it was encouraging and exciting to see students be aware of the current economic affairs of the UC system, the protests were, in the end, ineffective.
As noble as the protester’s cause, in the end, the garbage-throwing and chanting did nothing but make these angry students look like a violent mob. Whether or not the accusations of police attacks are true, the protest escalated quickly into a small riot that required police action. The anger and frustration of these students was completely justified, but the violence was not.
As the members of the Board watched members of the public get dragged out in restraints, one woman sighed, “They just won’t listen to us! They don’t care … they’re so rude.” That is just how these Regents view us students, as rabble-rousers without a clue of what the circumstances are. This kind of protest doesn’t portray UC students positively in the eyes of the voting Regents, and it certainly doesn’t get them on our side.
Had this display of student activism been shown earlier, as opposed to on the day of the vote, the protest would have been more effective in impact. A protest helps galvanize people and attract attention for the cause, but it doesn’t affect change on the scale that would have changed the outcome of the Regents’ vote. It may garner media attention, but it doesn’t have the longstanding and necessary impact that would help affect real change.
As frustrating as it is to fight against a system run by condescending, inattentive and overpaid bureaucrats, sometimes you have to work within that system to get the results you want. The old adage of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” comes to mind. Now that the vote has tragically passed, UC students, employees and anyone else affected by the fee hikes and budget cuts should organize the fight against these problems at a governmental level and take the fight to Sacramento. Working with legislators and lobbyists to help support financial reform in California is a step in the right direction. We as students need to show the system that our UC education is worth fighting for by proving just how smart, proactive and organized we’ve learned to be.
These fee increases are coming at a devastating economic period for the whole country. Just as many of our students are suffering, so is the UC system and the state of California as a whole. The news of these increases is upsetting to all members of the UC system.
Our feelings are justified, but we need to go about it in a different way. Now is not the time for tantrums; now is the time for organization. If we join with those in charge, we can march on Sacramento and fight the root of the problem. We students can prove that we are not willing to let the system trample all over our education with fee hikes and budget cuts. The time has come for UC students to make the best of their current circumstances to prove to the system that they can take away our classes and our money, but they can’t take away our determination, intelligence and UC pride.
Send comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, year and major.