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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Protestors return to Mrak to confront administration

Roughly 150 protestors rejoined in Mrak for another sit-in last night to further show their dissatisfaction with the UC Regents and campus administrators.

The police present made no arrests during the six-hours occupation, which also served as an open forum for discussion with administrators and police. Protesters left peacefully at approximately 11 p.m. after several negotiations.

“When we sat down to have conversations with administrators, our energy died,” said one student protester. “Any conversation we have with administrators will be on our terms.”

Students presented a list of short-term and long-term demands they deemed necessary to have a fully functioning campus.

The first two short-term demands were for the administration to give amnesty to those arrested last Thursday and for the District Attorney to drop charges against them. The second demand was for a public apology from the administration and UC Davis police department to Bree Holms, a student who was believed by the protesters to be assaulted.

Janet Gong, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza arrived at roughly 7 p.m. when it was clear protesters were not leaving. As they began discussion, riot police had arrived and students became anxious with the police presence.

After attempting to discuss with the protestors for approximately two hours, Gong presented two options: the first, for students to close the doors to Mrak, for the police to pull back 100 yards and for protestors and administrators to continue discussion on the subject. The second, to leave doors open, for students to leave peacefully and for police to also depart peacefully.

Protestors accepted neither of these options.

“This is not a conversation we can have when police are on campus,” said Joshua Clover, associate professor of English. “We will talk when police leave because we need to have this conversation.”

Many students and faculty saw the options that Gong gave as a way to distract them from the fee increases they came to protest.

“Please don’t look at me like I am a child,” said student Michelle Villegas to Spicuzza and Gong. “You all work for us, we pay your salaries. But the fact is that you’re forcing us to close these doors and it’s making me feel unsafe in a place where I pay [to attend].”

Discussions with Spicuzza became tense when students expressed concern over the bathrooms being blocked by police and for Spicuzza’s inability to apologize for the arrest and handling of Holms.

“I don’t have any of the facts [on Holms’ arrest],” Spicuzza responded. “You’re asking me to apologize for something I didn’t witness and that I’m not an expert on.”

At approximately 9:30 p.m., students, faculty and administrators began to discuss the items on the list of demands. Students presented their short-term demands to Gong.

Gong took several breaks to discuss the plausibility of the demands and returned to present her ideas to students. After much negotiation from both protesters and other administrators, she presented the agreements she could make.

The agreements signed by Gong include: an immediate review of Holms’s arrest without the formal complaint process; an agreement to take an affirmative position of advocacy with the district attorney in charge of reviewing the case of the arrested and to ask him to strongly consider his option of not filing charges; not pursuing action with Student Judicial Affairs for the students arrested; further discussions – including those with a representative group of students’ choice – regarding the campus Cooperative Housing.

The agreements were made in exchange for the demonstrators’ agreement to leave Mrak Hall peacefully, and also to respect the hours of operation of the facility.

However many students were still dissatisfied.

“We just got negotiated by a prime negotiator,” one student announced. “None of our demands were met.”

Others expressed frustrations at having strayed from the topic of fee increases. In response, students resolved that the agreements made were a step in the right direction, and that they would continue to advocate for change.

“We are going to be here and push and push and push until we get what we want,” said one protestor. “Until education is free there will be no break.”

Gong said she was proud of the accomplishments made between the administration and students, and hoped that last night’s discussion was the start of an active dialogue between all members of the university.

“I’m hopeful that those discussions will be held in civil, productive and proactive ways, rather than being in a difficult confrontational way,” she said. “There are lots of other forums that exist that allow everyone to have their viewpoints made and to work together to answer these difficult questions that we all have.”

Gong mentioned the dialogue with the Chancellor, which will be held on Monday at 5 p.m. in the ARC Ballroom. The UC commission of the future will also be present on campus on Monday to discuss with students. The commission will meet at 3:10 p.m. in the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center.

“I believe [discussions like last nights’] were a first, not a last,” Gong said. “It took some level on compromise on the behalf of students and the university, but we all have a pretty common agenda.”

Protesters’ long-term demands:

-Repeal the 32% fee increase that was approved by the UC Regents.

-Make UC Davis a sanctuary campus for all undocumented students (AB540) and workers. Also, have UC Davis administration support the action of creating the city of Davis a sanctuary city. In addition, Chancellor Linda Katehi shall give her signing bonus back to AB540 students as a sign of solidarity with her students that cannot receive financial aid.

-Stop all current construction on campus.

-A public apology from administration for having created this situation and a further sign of solidarity by advocating to the State of California to reevaluate the cuts on education.

-Have the UC Regents and UC Davis administration positions reevaluated and have their terms reduced to four years and have a balanced student and state administration representation at Regents meetings.

-Promise not to close any cooperative housing and promise to support and expand low-income cooperative housing on campus.

-Support all student services and programs including outreach services and resource centers on all University of California campuses.

-Make the UC Davis and the UC wide budget transparent and more accessible to students.

-Reinstate programs and majors that have been cut; including but not limited to: Textiles and Clothing, and Nature and Culture.

-Restore all lost positions for University employees and make no further cuts on the lowest-paid employees.

Students and faculty plan to study in front of Mrak Hall today, and to continue protesting next week.

LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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