At noon today, students, faculty and staff at UC Davis will organize on the patio of the quad, calling for the campus to walkout and rally for accessible and inclusive higher education.
The Day of Action – Walkout & Rally for Education, which will last from noon to 10 p.m., is occurring at other UC campuses as well. The event is reminiscent of the rally held in September of last year, where thousands walked-out and protested furloughs for UC employees and student fee increases. It’s also evocative of the March 4 Day of Action that sought to reverse fee hikes and decreases in state funding.
“We need to maintain our opposition to the Regents’ fee increases and once again tell our government that they can’t balance the budget on the backs of students,” reads the Facebook public event page. “If you have a midterm or other test on Thursday afternoon, ask your professor to reschedule and encourage her [or] him to join our coalition of students, workers and faculty members.”
Among the concerns of those attending the rally are reversing the 32 percent student fee increases approved last November and the restoration of state funding for the UC.
Brian Sparks, senior international relations major, cited the possibility of further fee increases – which was put off at the last UC regent meeting in September for possible consideration in November – as a point of contention.
He also mentioned the breakdown of union contract negotiations between the UC and the United Auto Workers 2865, a union which represents over 12,000 academic student employees. The union has charged the university of bargaining in bad faith.
“When students speak and the administration doesn’t listen it’s disillusioning,” Sparks said.
He has also argued that student fee hikes have threatened access to higher education for working and middle-class families.
“But with tuition and fees up to nearly $12,000 a year, and another fee increase set to be voted on this November, the UC is replacing the best and brightest students with those most able to pay. That’s not equality of opportunity,” he said in a post on the rally’s Facebook event page.
The rally is a culmination of pre-event rallies, including the first of several action meetings that was held at Wellman Hall on Monday, which focused on logistical planning, outreach and discussion of past and present challenges to public education.
There will also be a pre-rally teach-out held in front of Wellman Hall at 10 a.m. and another held at 2.pm.
ASUCD President Jack Zwald said he is glad that students are continuing to advocate for public higher education and that the rally is a great opportunity for campus to learn about problems confronting the university.
“Whether or not a student chooses to attend,” Zwald said in an email interview. “I hope that all students take some time to think about the future of California and how we can all be a part of moving our state forward.”
Chancellor Linda Katehi could not be reached for comment about the event, but Griselda Castro, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, affirmed the university’s support for students’ rights to freedom of expression and campus safety.
While most students agree in their opposition of further fee increases, some feel walkouts and possible disruption to classes send the wrong message.
“How does skipping classes, when you have already paid for these classes, show that you are against fee increases?” said Justin Forth, a senior international relations major.
Forth said that as an out-of-state student he understands the high cost of education but argues that there are better ways for students to fight for this cause.
“If students want to show their anger, they should bring the fight directly to Sacramento, without bothering the students that are trying to reap the benefits of the education that they have already paid for.”
Sparks said he agrees Sacramento is part of the problem. He has already spoken to Rep. Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) and other representatives.
“If someone thinks it’s better to organize in Sacramento, I would say to them, ‘Go for it. I’ll go with you,'” Sparks said.
However, Sparks still sees the UC system’s decisions as serious threats that merit action.
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at email@example.com.