Nearly 200 protesters, including about 20 UC Irvine students, gathered outside of UCLA’s James West Alumni Center at 9:00 am on Nov. 28 in support of the speakers participating in the public comment segment of the University of California Board of Regents.
Both the public comment participants and protesters outside accuse the Regents of postponing and dividing the meeting between four different locations as a conscious effort to bar effective student activism. Protests were accompanied by the delivery of 10,000 petition signatures to open the meeting to “the 99 percent.”
The meeting began with a brief introduction from the Regents and followed with their remarks regarding how appalled they were at police responses to the recent protests at UC Berkeley and UC Davis.
The Regents then explained that the meeting would focus on a system-wide examination of UC policies and ideas to protect the academic quality of higher education.
After statements from the Regents, public comments were opened up to students from the four meeting locations at UCLA, UC Davis, UC Merced, and San Francisco – Mission Bay. The comments and dialogue were broadcasted via teleconference for everyone to hear.
Protesters gathered outside of the meeting, chanting, “It’s bullshit. Get off it. Schools are not for profit. Cuts in education will never lead to liberation.”
“We have a few statewide demands,” said Kelly Osajima, State and University Affairs Director for Office of the External Vice President of UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association. “We want the Regents to take a stance on new revenue measures such as progressive taxes on the 2012 ballot and a reform of Proposition 13. We also want them to take a stance against police brutality, and we demand more transparency from the Regents. The 2009 protests were big. I think that [police response] kind of scared off students. I haven’t seen enough activism here at UCLA. We’ve taken a proactive stance, but there are challenges. The 32 percent fee increase made it easy to get students out. Now it’s hard to get that urgency factor.”
When it was time for the UCLA students to speak, the third person in line began to chant “Mic Check!” into the microphone. His chants were stopped and the moderator moved on to comments from the other schools. The two people from UCLA who were in line to speak after the person chanting were left unable to comment at the time.
Some of the undergraduate protesters outside of the meeting reacted to the Mic Check with disgust, accusing the UAW graduate students attending the public comment section of undermining their efforts.
“[UAW] screwed us over, and now the cops are nervous,” said one UCLA student who wished to remain anonymous.
After hearing comments from the other UC campuses, the moderator returned back to the students at UCLA.
“I have two main requests to make,” said Emily Resnick, President of the UCLA Undgraduate Students Association. “First, that you protect student safety by instructing the UCPD to never use violence upon non-violent protestors ever again. It is honestly sickening and outrageous that this happened in the first place. Second, that you ensure that every student has the right to express his or her views.”
Students addressed a variety of issues plaguing the public higher education system, such as the increase in class sizes and tuition, exorbitant administrative salaries, and injuries sustained due to police brutality. Several speakers called on the Regents to prioritize education over corporate allegiances.
A PhD student at UC Berkeley noted that methods of teaching are being sacrificed in certain ways due to the large class sizes – that “it’s hard to teach critical thinking through Scantron tests.”
At about 10:30 am, the protesters stopped chanting in order to give the public commenters a chance to be heard without outside noise. However, several factions began to break off of the original group of protesters. Groups of graduate students and Occupy protesters splintered off into groups to try and formulate plans on disrupting the meeting.
Some lingering protesters expressed concerns that they weren’t accomplishing anything, stressing the need for a clearer message.
“There’s so many different factions that have different ideas about the process,” said Cameron Joe, a fouth year UCI student who attended the UCLA protest. “It’s good to have a variety of tactics. You have to work with what you have…it doesn’t mean that this isn’t a valuable effort. We can’t see success as binary or black and white terms. What’s produced here is hard to measure.”