UC Santa Cruz Protest: From a Face-Off to a Mace-Off

The recent University of California budget cuts have not only imposed financial hardships, but are also pushing students to protest. At UC Irvine, the dead rose to stand up to UC President Mark Yudof. Several meetings were held and petitions were signed. At UC Santa Cruz on Oct. 16, students took the student protest into their own hands.

The protest group, known as Occupy California, practiced sit-ins and rallies in Santa Cruz and surrounding areas.

Even now, controversy surrounds the protest because of the police reaction – spraying some of the participating students with mace.

According to some UCSC students, the group of students who were protesting are not necessarily liked by everyone on campus.

UCSC third-year student Denise Doria said, “They pretty much do extreme things on campus … everyone gets annoyed, it really doesn’t make a difference in my opinion.”

Occupy California’s purpose for this rally in particular was to express their distaste for the UC’s unfair distribution of finances. In a document sent to various media sources, Occupy California voiced the specific problems with UC.

“We have recently learned that the University of California does not use tuition money or student fees to fund research and education,” Occupy California representatives said in a document, calling students to revolt.

Occupy California claimed that UC places all of the money into an account with the Bank of New York Mellon Trust to guard borrowing power in credit markets.

“They hold our tuition as collateral in order to finance the largest and most speculative construction projects in the state of California,” the Occupy California document said. “UC pledged collateral rose by 60 percent with the last issue of bonds to $6.72 billion from $4.2 billion. The number of students taking out debt has risen 20 percent since 2000 and from 80 to 100 percent for students of color.”

The document also cited the fact that the average debt levels for graduating seniors rose to $23,200 in 2008 alone, a 24 percent increase over 2004.

According to Executive Vice Chancellor Dave Kliger of Campus Provost at UCSC, “A handful of people barricaded themselves in the Humanities II Building for several hours last night. This followed a party in the Social Sciences and Humanities courtyard, which elicited numerous noise complaints from students in nearby college residences,” Kliger said.

There was also controversy over the breakup of the vandalism by the police. According to Occupy California, “All the police said to the students was, ‘Hey folks, let’s go, this is vandalism,’ after which they sprayed mace on them. At no point did the police warn the students that they were about to be sprayed, nor did they ever instruct the students to desist. The police failed to read students their Miranda rights at the time of cuffing but were dragged away to the police vehicle,” representatives from Occupy California said.

But Kliger defended the police, explaining that the group was not as innocent as Occupy California claimed it was.

According to Kliger some protestors got out of hand.

“Three people carrying a large table near the entrance to the Humanities Building – apparently intending to vandalize or blockade the building – cursed at an officer and defied multiple requests to stop. Pepper spray was used to subdue them. One of the three was arrested; the others fled on foot,” Kliger said.

In addition to having the “intention” of vandalizing the building, actual damage was done, requiring cleanup.

In his statement, Kliger said that cleanup costs will hit students and tax payers hard.

“When added to cleanup costs following the earlier occupation of the Graduate Student Commons, these efforts will run into tens of thousands of dollars — costs directly borne by taxpayers, students and their families. Those dollars are diverted from educating and supporting students,” Kliger said.

But Occupy California retaliated, “It is hard to fathom that this cleanup should cost tens of thousands of dollars.” If true, they only indicate the corporate structure of the university and its reliance on inflated costs for services, costs that are indeed “placed on students and workers.”

The fight at UCSC goes on, and as problems continue, the truth begins to surface; what this means for UC students are increased expenses.
While the conflict started out with the increasing cost of tuition due to the budget crisis, if more instances like this one at UCSC start occurring, students may also end up paying for the vandalism caused by the violent protests.