At noon Thursday, thousands of students, staff and faculty filled the east quad to rally support for a system-wide UC walkout; by 1 p.m., their numbers and voices had risen and they were marching to Mrak Hall to make their message loud and clear.
“The students united will never be divided,” they chanted.
The rally began with a performance by a spoken word poet and included speeches by several individuals angered by recent budgetary measures.
The walkout was initially organized by faculty upset by the recent furlough plan and increased student fees, but garnered student support, as the topic of student fees applied to them. The rally was part of the day-long walkout.
“I can’t afford to attend this university, the way fee increases are headed right now,” said Dennis Nguyen, a senior Asian American studies major.
Nguyen beat on a hand-held drum while the rally-attendees marched to Mrak Hall and carried a homemade sign addressing the rising cost of attending a UC.
Among those who spoke at the rally included a student from the Native American Student Association, Bill Camp, CEO of Sacramento Central Labor Counsel, Gretchen Braun, lecturer of the undergraduate writing program and Markus Luty, physics professor.
The sources of contention for these individuals were broad, but the main message of the rally was clear: students and employees want a change in the way education is funded.
“Your brainpower is the intellectual capitol that will lead California into the future,” Camp told students at the rally.
Speakers at the event mainly addressed what they felt is the “privatization” of the UC system – or the cost of tuition reaching that of a private university. They predicted such fee increases would diminish the financial diversity of the campus population.
“A public institution has a mandate to provide opportunities for a diverse and growing population,” Luty said in his speech.
“Here’s the bottom line: A privatized University of California will not grow fast enough to give a place to the top one-eighth of graduating high school seniors in California. During the last five years, UC enrollment went up by more than 10 percent, while Stanford’s went up by only two percent. More privatization will result in less education,” he said.
Many blamed the rising fees on the regents, with signs reading “I’ve seen the best minds destroyed by Yudof” or, “Cut from the top,” referring to the regents‘ yearly salaries.
One table set up at the rally included a letter attendees could sign addressed to the state legislature, urging them to reevaluate their budget priorities to include public higher education as a top priority.
Workers from the University Professional and Technical Employees simultaneously joined the walkout in protest of “unfair labor practice.“
“Our unfair labor practice strike is about the illegal cuts that Yudof is making to the university,” said Jelger Kalmijin, UPTE president and researcher at UCSD in a press release. “He is obligated to bargain with us, but instead he’s taking unilateral and unwise actions. His furloughs and layoffs, proposed tuition hikes and lack of budget transparency threaten the public mission of our university.“
In response, administrators have expressed their condolences, saying that they have tried every option they can in protecting student fees; however the cuts were made to maintain the quality of a UC degree.
For more information on this rally, read Monday’s edition of The Aggie, or visit ucfacultywalkout.com and http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/special_reports/walkout_0909/
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at email@example.com.