UC students, employees protest school funding woes
on October 7, 2010
On Thursday, UC Berkeley students and employees protested rising student fees, cuts in the number of classes offered, and the state’s plan to cut $3 billion from education funding—a familiar theme on California college campuses over the past year.
Responding to California’s budget crisis, state legislators cut $637 million from the UC system’s 2009-10 budget. More than $800 million was cut from the budget the previous year. The decreased funding has led to student fee hikes, as well as employee furloughs and layoffs.
University spokesperson Dan Mogulof estimates that fewer than 1,000 people attended the noon rally in front of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall, the high point of activity during the day’s planned protests. He said the gathering appears to be considerably smaller than the March, 2010, protest that started on campus and led to Oakland City Hall, and “much, much smaller” than a protest in September 2009, when students and university employees throughout the UC and California State University systems—including an estimated 5,000 at the Berkeley campus—protested the then-proposed fee hikes and worker layoffs. About 150 protestors were arrested during the March protest after they blocked Interstate 880 near downtown Oakland.
What started out as early-morning picketing at the entrance of Sproul Hall led to a noon rally, at which students chanted “no cuts, no fees, education must be free” into megaphones. Around 1 pm, protesters left Sproul Hall and headed north to stop at the campus’ Doe Library, still carrying signs and banners, to begin a peaceful sit-in. The sit-in was originally planned to last until about 5 pm Thursday.
The American Association of University Professors, the Associated Students of the University of California and the UC Student Association were among the sponsors of the day’s protests, according to the university’s website.
Fliers prepared by a group called The General Assembly were handed out by participants during the morning picket, listing several demands including a stop to fee hikes, the reversal of the recent 32 percent fee increase for all undergraduates in the UC school system, providing “access to financial aid for undocumented students,” and “no layoffs or furloughs to workers.”
“We’re here to challenge the narrative of inevitability” of education cuts, fourth-year student Eric Garcia said.
Mogulof estimated that by 2:30 pm, only 100 to 200 protesters remained inside the library. “We think that is extremely unfortunate because there are actually students in the library trying to study,” said Mogulof.
Demonstrators sat at tables, and a group of students stood on top of a wooden table, singing “We should not be moved” while playing a violin, ukulele, mandolin and a guitar. Food Not Bombs provided a lentil and zucchini lunch for participants.
There were no reports of injuries or disorderly conduct, Mogulof said, other than fire alarms being pulled in several buildings on campus.
Senior Alex Cole-Weiss, said today’s turnout was beyond her expectations. “It’s important we use this public space [library] this way.”
Demonstrators booed a written statement from UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau and associate chancellor Harry Le Grande which was read shortly after 4:30 p.m. In it, the university heads stated: “Although we cannot respond to all of the demands for which you are fighting, we do support the cause of continuing to raise your voices to inform the public.”
As of 5:30 pm, protesters were still inside Doe library and were discussing whether to remain there later into the night. Oakland North will continue to cover the protest as it unfolds.
[Update at 8:14 pm] University of California Police Department verified that protestors have left the Doe Library. After 5pm, about 100 students were still in the library, discussing if they should stay past the 9 pm close time of the library. Police officers surrounded the protest area after they learned the sit-in would possibly last longer into the night. Around 7 pm, protestors ended the sit-in.
Read Oakland North’s previous coverage of California’s education budget crisis.
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