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Students of Color Conference Attendees Rally at UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Home

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One hundred and fifty UC students and others unaffiliated marched to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’s on-campus residence last Sunday to rally for the rights of outsourced campus workers.

On the last day of the Students of Color Conference (SOCC), students protested for contract workers under UC institutions who are not recognized as UC employees, and thus, are excluded from higher wages and certain benefits.

The conference originally planned for an activity of action from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on the steps of the Upper Sproul Plaza. However, events went off-course and spiraled to a large rally outside University House, Dirks’s on-campus residence.

Once the protest made its way to his home, one student jumped over the guarded gate of the residence which ignited over 100 people to follow.

Everyone rallied outside the steps of Dirks’s front door,  knocked, banged on the windows, wrote on the property, and demanded to speak with the chancellor, who never appeared.

Students chanted “UC Berkeley don’t be racist, pay your workers living wages,” “First you get the students, then you get the power,” “We gon’ be alright” and “I believe that we will win” on the steps of his university home.

A large banner elevated above the crowd stood out, as it had a caricature of Dirks’s face and read in bolded black: “DIRKS IS A RACIST.”

Iman Sylvain, University Affairs Chair of the UC Student Association and a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley said in a press release that SOCC provided a good platform for students and workers of color to air their grievances concerning UC contract workers.

“Students and workers of color feel personally attacked by the exploitation of contract workers, who work the same jobs as permanent employees without the job security, benefits and rights they receive,” said Sylvain.

Towards 11:30 a.m., police officers rushed to the scene to block off protesters. By 11:45 a.m., with the fear of more enforcement approaching the scene, the crowd eventually began to leave.

SOCC was started by the University of California Student Association and hosted by UC Berkeley this year from Nov. 6 to Nov. 8.

According to Marium Navid, External Affairs Vice President for Associated Students of the University of California, SOCC offers students of color a safe environment to disclose concerns and propose possible actions.  

“It is apparent that underrepresented students report higher levels of discomfort and exclusion,” said Navid. “For an institution that you see prides itself on diversity, it fails to address this very component in many of its policies and system. Even when it manages to address them, it fails to provide the resources needed to help make our students successful.”

This year, among the 41 scheduled workshops and 26 scheduled caucuses led by students from all ten UC campuses, many included discussions and spaces for: Black/Afrikan, Latinx/Chicanx, (South/Southeast) Asian, multi-ethnic, Indigenous, Native American, First Peoples students and more.

Students were able to voice in confidence their personal experiences regarding different aspects of their identities  and addressed a variety of concerns, issues and topics.

The only immediate sense of statewide and campuswide action recognized by students following the conference was the Million Student March taking place four days later. Through the march, students hoped to advocate for and for tuition-free college, cancellation of student loan debt, and a $15 minimum wage for campus workers.