From SD to Davis, UCs Unite

Most students here at UCI are probably up to date on what has been happening at our school campus. For the past two weeks, UCI has had its share of rallies, teach-ins and protests against the 32 percent hike in  UC tuition. Many have witnessed the monumental actions that our student leaders have been organizing against the Regents’ proposal.

However, what most have not witnessed are the events that have been occurring at other UC campuses.

The weekend before the Regents’ finalization of the tuition increase, the annual Students of Color Conference was held at UC San Diego. Students from all over the different UCs gathered to share their perspectives on the budget crisis and tuition increase.

Students did not just stick to verbal expression but also marched in protest against the proposal on the freeway. At the end of the march, students released balloons of various colors, symbolizing how diverse the UC system is.

UCI Film and Media Studies Professor Catherine Liu discussed  where she thinks the real problem lies.

“I know that the budget situation is dire, but there is a serious problem with the way in which the state has been defending public higher education that I wish upper administrators would talk about more forcefully,” Liu said. “The administration is saying that the tuition hikes won’t hurt the poorest students, and this is probably true, but it’s the students in the middle who are going to take the hit.”

The protest held at UCSD also spoke out against the monetary consequences such fee increases would render for students who do not fall within the financial brackets to receive financial aid but are not financially situated to afford tuition.

On Nov. 17, two days prior to the Regents’ approval of the tuition hike, students at UC Santa Barbara participated in their first major protest of the year. About 150 students gathered at Cheadle Hall  to express their disagreement with the proposed increase.

According to News Director George Fulsham, of the office of Public Affairs of UCSB, “The protests have all been orderly, have not disrupted any classes, and there have been no arrests at any of the protests.”

On Nov. 19, the time finally came for the Regents to meet at UCLA and make their decision regarding a tuition increase of 32 percent.

Almost a thousand students from all the UC campuses united to protest against the proposed increase. Together, they took control of Campbell Hall and in Covel Commons, students repeatedly interrupted the Regent meeting chanting the words: “We are not afraid. We shall overcome.”

On the very same day that the Regents announced their decision to raise the tuition to 32 percent, about fifty three students at UC Davis reacted to the outcome by protesting across campus. This eventually lead to a sit-in at Mrak Hall.

In response to the students’ action, Associate Vice Chancellor, Janet Gong promised them the opportunity to speak with Vice Chancellor UCD Campus Budget Director, Fred Wood.

The following morning students of UCD formed a rally and began protesting across campus once more. As promised, these students were able to partake in a forum led by their Vice Chancellor Wood.

Along with the protests and sit-ins at UCD, students and professors alike have been showing great effort to educate the whole student body by providing teach-ins.

Also during the same day  an increase in tuition was finalized, students at UC Santa Cruz vocalized their frustration in protest when they occupied Kerr Hall. This protest took place from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning.

One of the occupants, Jessica Richardson, a first-year chemistry major at UCSC, commented on the protest.

“The protest was really peaceful. There was verbal agreement between the students and the chancellors: the students agreed to stay on one particular floor,” Richardson said. “In the end, we all decided it was best to barricade the door when the police came. Overall, it was all very peaceful. We even talked with some of the police and had agreed on how bad this issue was.”

Professor of History and Feminist studies at UCSC Bettina Aptheker, who was also present at the demonstration, regarded the tuition hike as a “travesty”, and that the Regents behaved in a “high-handed manner.”

“Faculty members across the UCs oppose the fee hike, as well as the students. But the Regents did it anyway. This is not what a democracy is,” Aptheker said.

Aptheker also mentioned that for the teach-ins held at UCSC,  faculty members including herself have taken time out of their class to educate more students about the budget crisis and their causes.

By the end of the week, students at UC Berkeley were also participating in their own outcry against the tuition increase. On that Friday, 40 students at UC Berkeley were arrested for resisting police orders to cease their occupation at Wheeler Hall.

Students had locked themselves in the hall as part of their protest. Students also surrounded the building to rally in support of the cause. The arrests made on that day led to a rally that next Tuesday in honor of the arrested students.

About 70 students again congregated outside of Wheeler Hall, and spoke out against the unfair treatment of the students by the police forces. For the students of UC Berkeley, the protests did not end there.

On Monday, Nov. 23, around 150 Berkeley students marched into the UC office of President Yudof and staged a sit-in. The students demanded to speak to Mark Yudof. However, he was not available because of furloughs. So students turned to speak to Executive Vice Presidents of Student Affairs, Nathan Brostrom and Larry Pitts. For a full three hours, the students and the administrators discussed the UC budget, financial aid programs for students, police actions during the protest at Wheeler Hall and the role student activism and administrative action should play in lobbying Sacramento for more funding for higher education.

Whether the combination of the efforts of all our UC students will succeed, we will soon find out when the final and most important meeting occurs in Sacramento. It is at this meeting that the UCs will try to convince state lawmakers to provide complete funding that the university’s budget is requesting.
Despite arguments made that students are apathetic, the string of protests, rallies, and teach-ins that have been organized across all of the UC campuses are clearly evidence to the contrary. What hangs at the edge are the students’ accessibility and ability to afford higher education. With these gone, the success of future generations of students in building a better tomorrow remains in doubt.