Rallying for Education

By Samantha Lim and Esmeralda Alvarez

LOS ANGELES – The two day protest at the University of California Regents (UC Regents) meeting demonstrated a state-wide solidarity against fee hikes in California’s universities. Zealous students and staff stood together outside Covel Commons holding signs with expressions such as “Bail Out Education” and “Regents: Happy Thanks-Taking.” Students in all black held banners with “Mourn the Death of Public Education” painted in red as well as cardboard tombstones saying “RIP Public Education.”

The passion of UCLA fifth-year physics and Asian-American studies student, Pao, was particularly remarkable, especially in the morning hours. Calling out “who’s university?” Pao rallied protesters to “take that one little step” in voicing their opinion. Nearing the end of his career as an undergrad, Pao commented that these fee hikes were not going to affect him as much as others he knew who can barely survive as it is. He protested for them and for future generations asking, “If we don’t do this now, who’s gonna fight for them?”

Just to the side of the noisy, sign-holding crowd, was an advanced modern/postmodern dance class practicing Tai Chi. Ian Isles, a senior worlds arts and cultures (WAC) student at UCLA explained the WAC department’s decision to close the building and hold classes outside “so everyone comes to support [the protest and] so people can see what we’re doing.” Though silent, the class’ display was one way of showing the Board of Regents precisely who and what their decision affects.

UCLA students made up only part of protesters, with students and faculty from every UC campus arriving throughout the day and sleeping overnight in an on-campus “tent city” in order to protest the Nov. 19 vote. UC Santa Cruz Political Science student Reymundo Sauceda expressed a sense of loss of our public institutions that resonates across UC campuses. “Every year their proposed increases makes [the UC system] more privatized. Can we still call ourselves public?” Sauceda asked. Further, he expressed the sense of despair and abandonment that students so furiously felt and continue to feel, remarking, “The Regents are supposed to be the gate keepers…they should be taking a step with us…they should unite with students. They can’t see that they’re going against us by just having the vote on the table.”

The 20-1 vote passed an increase in fees from $7,788 to $10,302 beginning next fall, as well as a 15% fee increase this January.

Click here to read UC President Yudof’s letter concerning fee-increases.

Footage of the protest is also available here.

Update: Nov. 30, 2009

The UC Academic Senate issued this statement in regards to the protests held Nov. 18-19.

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