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UCI Alumna Arrested By UCIPD During Cost-Of-Living Adjustment Rally For UC Santa Cruz Graduate Students

UCI alumna Shikera Chamndany was taken into custody while trying to obtain her transcripts from Aldrich Hall amid a lockdown initiated by UCIPD on Feb. 20. Chamday was taken into custody and to the Orange County Women’s jail by UCIPD despite denying reports that she attempted to assault a police officer while getting her transcripts from UCI administration. She was released from police custody on Feb. 21.A petition was created on the same day detailing events.

Chamday’s arrest occurred after a lockdown was initiated in response to actions taken by students participating in a Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA) rally. The rally was to show solidarity with the UCSC graduate student strike that was taking place the same day. 

During the rally, students attempted to access Aldrich Hall in order to speak directly with the administration, namely Chancellor Howard Gillman, about their own concerns with COLA. UCIPD responded by putting Aldrich Hall on lockdown.

While the building was on lockdown, student protesters heard screams coming from within Aldrich Hall. Following the source of the sound, they found that Chamday had been tackled and handcuffed by UCIPD Sgt. Tricia Harding.

The UCI alumna was not affiliated with the COLA protest and was trying to obtain their transcripts when the incident took place. 

The UCI Black Student Union and United Students Against Sweatshops, who were both present at the COLA rally, are now calling upon the UCI community and Chancellor Gillman for accountability for the incident and financial support for Chamday’s legal fees.

A petition was created by the Black Student Union and United Students Against Sweatshops calling for Chancellor Gillman to acknowledge and act on their list of demands following the incident. In addition to financial support for Shikera’s legal fees, the petition demands that she get psychological support, for the officer who tackled and handcuffed her to be fired and for the abolishment of the UCIPD. 

“We demand support from UCI graduate students involved with COLA, who were not at the jail to demand Shikera’s release. We demand that such graduate students fully support COLA4ALL, of which a core tenant is the commitment to fighting anti-Blackness in all forms,” the petition states.

Since September 2019, UC Santa Cruz graduate students have been organizing for livable wages as they struggle with the housing and high cost of living crises in California. According to a document given out by members of “UCI4COLA” at the rally, “UC Santa Cruz graduate students generally spend more than 30%, and often as much as 60 and 80%, of their average $21,000 annual income on housing costs.” 

UCSC COLA representatives have struggled to reach a mutual agreement for increased wages for students with the UC system. In response, UCSC graduate students have engaged in a strike to withhold Fall 2019 grades since Dec. 9. The UCSC graduate students were given a Feb 21. deadline to turn in their Fall 2019 grades, which was extended to Feb. 27. It has been reported that UCSC has terminated 54 graduate students who did not adhere to the final deadline. 

The COLA sentiment has been echoed in actions taken across the UCs. UCI graduate students launched their own COLA campaign and held a rally with students and faculty attending in support of the cause outside of Aldrich Hall on Feb. 20. As reported by the 2018-2019 AGS Graduate Student Life Survey, “the average Irvine graduate student spends 43 percent of their income on housing, while some spend as much as 80 percent.”

During the rally, students stood outside of Aldrich Hall, specifically waiting for Chancellor Gillman, who was reportedly not present at the time, so that they could give him a call to action.

It was during this effort that the UCI alumna was arrested by UCIPD as they attempted to keep rally participants out of the building. 

Tatum Larsen is a Campus News Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. She can be reached at tnlarsen@uci.edu.