In a recent interview with New York Times Magazine in an article entitled “Big Man on Campus,” University of California president Mark Yudof infamously stated that running the UC was “like being the manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you but no one is listening.”
In response, Defend UCI, a campus group comprising of students, faculty and workers, decided to organize a protest to demonstrate their outrage towards Yudof’s statements as well as the proposed 32 percent hike in tuition.
So, in the spirit of Halloween, last Thursday, Oct. 29, around 50 protesters donned zombie make-up and attire in response to Yudof’s cemetery comments.
“We’re trying to send Yudof and administration the message that we’re not dead, we’re very much alive and that we are not going to take tuition hikes, pay cuts and layoffs without a fight,” John Bruning, a social science graduate student and one of the organizers of the protest, said.
A few dozen protesters participated. Everyone was welcome to join, with a make-up artist on duty “zombiefying” those who were joining in.
The highlight of the protest was UCI Humanities Core lecturer Jonathan Brook Haley, who sported a creative Mark Yudof costume, complete with a paper mask.
“I think that it’s unfair that Mark Yudof is creating a privatization of the University of California by making it unaffordable, and I also think that saying there is nothing he can do about it makes him the culprit, rather than the state legislature,” Haley said. “I hope that students will realize that the University of California is a real public institution and that forcing them to pay more out of their pockets goes against the master plan for education for the state of California.”
Halfway through the protest, the participants were invited by members of ASUCI to join them at the flagpoles as they denounced the possible elimination of the Cal Grant program, a financial aid program that pays the tuition of low-to-middle income California residents.
At the flagpoles, appointed 2010-11 Student Regent Jesse Cheng spoke of the dependence of many UCI students on Cal Grants, and the consequences of the possible elimination of the program. Cheng’s speech was followed by readings by ASUCI students of testimonials of UCI students and alumni on the necessity of Cal Grants.
The protest garnered the attention of many passersby. Several stopped to photograph the event or to converse with the zombies.
“I think it is an interesting and creative way to bring attention to this issue,” said Jessica Lopez, a non-student bystander at the protest.
Another concern addressed by both the zombie protesters and ASUCI was the dropping out of UC students who can no longer afford the cost of attendance.
“My friend was here last year and [this year] she couldn’t return. Some of us can barely afford it now and they’re hiking it up next year. Are you kidding me?” second-year English major and zombie protester Jesenia Marquez said.
While much of the protest combined the informational speakers with the fun of zombie costumes, an undertone of anger was still felt by many students and faculty members.
The protest concluded peacefully after the speakers. A small handful of zombies remained outside of Aldrich Hall handing out flyers and information.