Walkout draws hundreds, protestors occupy campus building
Hundreds of UC Santa Cruz students, faculty, workers, and alumni gathered at the base of campus on Thursday, Sept. 24 to protest devastating budget cuts that have taken place over the summer. The daylong event, coinciding with the first day of classes at UCSC, also included a strike by the union of University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) and a sympathy strike by the clerical worker’s union, the Coalition of University Employees.
The day culminated in a surprise occupation of a building in UCSC’s quarry plaza.
The day’s events included speeches by union representatives, faculty members, Assemblymember Bill Monning, and a performance by the Raging Grannies. Speakers addressed the crowd through a bicycle-powered sound system provided by People Power, a local sustainable transportation advocacy group.
Computer Science graduate student Foaad Khosmood marveled at the event’s cross-boundary coalitions. “State leaders and the UC Regents have little appreciation of what drastic cuts these are. Things can’t be business as usual,” he says.
Johanna Isaacson, a UCSC lecturer who is teaching a frosh “core course” at College Nine this fall, held class at the base of campus. “The students were excited,” she says, noting that this was their very first experience in a college class. “I want them to understand the issues at stake.” After listening to testimonials from union members, Isaacson’s students each interviewed a walkout participant to better understand the demonstrators’ motives.
“They were all very worried,” says Isaacson. “If there are more tuition hikes these students may very well have to leave the University.”
Professor Dana Frank, a UCSC labor historian, spoke about the unprecedented nature of the gathering. “This is a historical moment in the history of the University of California. This has never happened before,” she said. “We’ve had enough of the disrespect. Guess what? The deal is off in every way. We are part of a new university – one that is controlled from below.”
Victor Sanchez, president of the UC Student Association, also imparted a sense of the struggle to come. “These are just the first steps,” he told the crowd. “It needs to escalate.” In the afternoon, a group initiated occupation of a building at UCSC’s quarry plaza. An open letter describing the action is in circulation. “A single day of action at the university is not enough because we cannot afford to return to business as usual,” it states.
“As undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff, we call on everyone at the UC to support this occupation by continuing the walkouts and strikes into tomorrow, the next day, and for the indefinite future,” reads the letter. “We call on the people of California to occupy and escalate.”
Please visit http://occupyca.wordpress.com for up-to-date information on the UCSC building occupation.