Town Hall Discussion Held for Post-March 4 Activism

On Wednesday, March 10, a group of about 60 students gathered in the Ring Room of the Cross Cultural Center for the first meeting in a series called “Dispersal of Knowledge.” After the March 4 action at UC Irvine, in which 800 students marched in support of education reform, many students wanted to find a way to keep the movement going. The meetings were created by individual students who did not representing any organizations, and were seeking a way to unite students and find a way to collectively move forward.

The meeting, which was scheduled at 7:30 p.m., began close to 8 p.m. with a brief presentation about the disinvestment in public education over the past several decades. “This crisis is not natural,” said Emmeline Domingo, third-year literary journalism and sociology major. Domingo, along with other students throughout the two-hour meeting, spoke about the government’s decision to not fund public education.

After 10 minutes of introduction, student leaders opened the discussion to the room, asking questions such as, “Why did you come tonight?” and “Why do you protest?”  Answers varied, but the overarching reason for attending the meeting was clear: people wanted to know more. “You always see protests,” one fourth-year student said. “I finally stopped and listened.”

“Everyone has different roles,” added fourth-year anthropology and criminology major Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, who is doing research on the topic. He, along with several other students, voiced their need to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. “When you have to drop out [because of the fee increases], no one’s going to protest for you.”

Though the group was mainly made up of students already actively involved in the student movement, there were a few new faces who were eager to learn more about what their fellow students were fighting for. One engineering graduate student came with a friend in hopes to learn about what was his peers were thinking about and why they were protesting. The engineering department, he argued, is often secluded from the activism coming out of the Humanities and Social Sciences – another major problem members of the movement are fighting.

Additional topics throughout the night included the definition of “radicalism,” the issue of previous arrests of protestors and the list of demands written by student protesters for the February 24 protest at UCI.

The meeting ended at 9:30 p.m. with a closing comment from fourth-year international studies major Justine Calma of ASUCI, who shared with the room that ASUCI had just recently passed legislation in support of the Irvine 11’s freedom of speech. With that news, the energized crowd dispersed for the night, leaving the future of the movement open for more discussion and more action.