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Politics and Activism


Students in the UC system react to tuition hikes

Eric Risberg / Associated Press

A change is proposed, a vote is cast, and student outrage begins.

#OccupyWheeler began as a demonstration of over 150 people on the right side of Sather Gate demanding an end to fee hikes proposed by the Regents of the University of California and University of California President Janet Napolitano and escalated into a system wide demand for the reversal of a vote that passed Thursday in the heat of student dissent.  The gathering began with hundred people, but quickly grew to include nearly three hundred participants that remained locked in Wheeler Hall, a prominent building just past Sather Gate.  The atmosphere was full of hope, discussion, and betrayal.  

"Last night I spent a consecutive 14 hours on the floor of Wheeler" said Cal sophomore Holly Wertman. "I woke up this morning to people cheering about the rising sun, then woke up again 30 minutes later as a student kicked me on his way to his 8 a.m. class. I did work, danced, laughed, chanted, debated, cried (someone jumped on my toe), met new people and discussed important issues." 

The movement has expanded significantly since it began Wednesday afternoon.  One of the most exhilarating moments of the night was the entrance of Cal student Jeffrey Noven, the student arrested during Wednesday's march on charges of felony vandalism and inciting a riot, which his accompanying legal team called "bogus".  After drafting a set of demands Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, the group identifying themselves as #OccupyWheeler opened up the floor to participants who wanted to share their talents. "One member of our community shared her skill of playing the harp" said Wertman. 

An open mic night Thursday night also saw a "California Love" parody that included the lyrics "Now let's tell everybody about what's goin on/Affordable education in this country is gone."  The movement added to their notoriety by marching through the streets of Berkeley chanting "No judgement, no peace, no tuition increase" around residential complexes.  The occupation has persisted for over 24 hours.

The vote sparked a similar response at other UC campuses.  Davis, our neighbor to the north, has seen remarkable outcry on their campus that parallels the work on ours.

Students at Davis have staged their own occupation at Mrak Hall, the primary administrative building on campus.  Other demonstrations have occurred on campus since the vote. "There was a protest in the quad, but it was difficult to fully express our views due to the [rain]" said Brittany Gross, a Davis freshman. "I'm upset that the president can express power through an executive order, but no one is listening to me as a citizen and student when I demand a change."  Discussion at Davis has also focused in on budgetary misuse, frustration demonstrated in the Instagram post below, which notes how prison funding has increased but education funding has decreased.

Chalking outside of Wellman Hall laments the change in fundings to prisons and schools.

Students protest inside Mrak Hall, the location of their Occupy.

Response at UCLA has made a noticeable impact on campus culture as well.  Chalk writings on buildings and public dissent have created tension and created a push for the reversal of the hike.  "The response here, as was probably expected, has been backlash" said UCLA freshman Sam Schmall. "There are meetings for protest seemingly every night."  A group of 50 students began occupying the bonfire intended for the Beat 'SC rally on Thursday night in protest of the increase.  This is a key part of big game week for UCLA, a tradition held prior to the classic rivalry game this Saturday night. Their occupation, however, caused the cancellation of the bonfire. Regardless, football coach Jim Mora assured students that "We don’t need a friggin’ fire to get it f*&king turned up."

Occupiers cause the cancellation of the Beat 'SC bonfire.

A student reads chalk writings on the side of Powell Library.

UC San Diego's campus has been alive with the passion of dissent as well.  Speeches, protests, and sit-ins have been hosted around various parts of campus since the suggestion of tuition hikes until now. "We had a sit in on Library Walk" said Laura Thapa, a freshman at UCSD.  "There were several speakers and it was quite a peaceful protest. They also talked about the history of UC tuition increases, which was interesting."  The sit-in at Geisel Library, the flagship library on UCSD campus, featured nearly 300 students from a variety of campus groups and garnered attention from campus officials.  Participants were encouraged to wear black as a symbol of unity.

UCSD student Andrew Villalobos participates in a sit in at Geisel Library.

These tuition hikes are a disgrace.  In a society where higher education is nearly a requirement to be taken seriously not only in pursuing a career, but by your peers, access should be a priority.  These tuition increases only speak to how well the administration tunes out the students who have been begging them to allot more money to their education and increase access for all.  Do not mistake the outcry for hatred for our school; I can assure you that we are all so deeply in love with our institution that we wish it were accessible to all.  These tuition changes are certainly not a step in the right direction, but rather a step backwards. Regardless, with the incredible student response, I know in my heart that some day anyone who is qualified to attend our beautiful university will be able to do so without having to sacrifice his/her family's way of life.  Someday the UC system will be a truly public school, and we will see an increase not only in diversity, but in justice.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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