Roughly 300 protesters from various UC campuses converged on the UC Board of Regents meeting at UC San Francisco Mission Bay early yesterday morning to ensure their voices are being heard.
A third protest is planned at noon in anticipation of the regents vote that will be made today, where student fees are expected to increase by 8 percent.
UC officials and witnesses said that 13 people were arrested, 10 of which were UC students. Witnesses also said that UC Police Officer Kemper drew what appeared to be a gun on the protesters. The UC Police Department could not be reached to confirm this claim nor the first name of Officer Kemper.
A group from Davis arrived at 6 a.m. and joined students from Berkeley, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz to block the elevator that the regents were going to enter. Five were arrested as a result, including one UC Davis student.
“I don’t know what triggered the police to push us. We were just standing our ground, strong, and we were pushed to the floor and arrested for obstruction,” said Juliana Romano, a senior community and regional development major who was arrested.
Romano received a citation and will have to go to court in December.
Later in the morning, police pepper sprayed a group of students and eight were arrested for trying to cross a police barrier into the regents’ meeting.
The protest ended around noon when the buses left to return to their respected schools.
“People were really respectful and well organized. We knew what to expect, and the people who got arrested weren’t violent,” said Kelsey Skaggs, a UC Davis graduate.
On Tuesday, UC Davis students, staff and faculty engaged in a teach-out, where around five classes at a time were held on the quad by TA’s and professors. About 15 students also marched to Mrak Hall around 1:45 p.m. to make sure their demands were heard by Chancellor Linda Katehi. Organizers noted similar protests being conducted on other UC campuses as well.
“The administration agreed to deliver the statement and demands to the chancellor and she received it in time to read it before the regents’ meeting,” said Claudia Morain from the UC Davis news service about the students who protested at Mrak.
Among the demands were calls to reject the fee increase, but also for corporations to offer full ride scholarships to AB 540 students if those corporations are to operate on campus, that the regents appoint a student representative from each UC campus to the board and for the financial aid office to extend its hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (it is currently open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and that the limit of calls they can receive (presently 200 per day) be lifted.
Another demand was for UC to extend the contract between United Auto Workers 2865, the union representing academic student employees like TA’s. However, as of Tuesday the union and the university have reached a tentative agreement, with a 2 percent minimum salary increase per year and an increase from $900 to 2400 a year in childcare reimbursement, among other terms.
With the university continuing to raise fees, concerns about the “privatization” of public education have sprung up.
“There are more business people on the UC Regents board than there are educators. One of our regents, if you didn’t know, is married to Dianne Feinstein … Senators, business people, politicians should not be running our education system,” said Senator-elect Tatiana Moana Bush, referencing investment banker Richard Blum, who served as the chair of the board until 2009.
Investigative journalist Peter Byrn was also in attendance at the UC Davis teach-out.
Writing for Spot.Us, a website promoting “community powered reporting,” Byrn penned a story titled “The Investors’ Club: How the University of California Regents Spin Public Money into Private Profit.” Versions of the story also ran in Sacramento News & Review, among other publications.
“Basically what I did was, using public records, I traced $2 billion worth of UC investments more or less into the pockets of several regents,” Byrn said.
Byrn’s article details how the UC invested in several public companies that are part of Blum Capital Partners, Regent Blum’s firm. According to the article, $748 million was invested into these public companies since Blum was appointed to the board of regents in 2002.
Byrn quoted the book Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges at Tuesday’s protest, adding that the university was originally founded to educate people to run businesses.
“As universities become glorified vocational schools for corporations, they adopt values and operating techniques of the corporations they serve.”
JANELLE BITKER contributed to reporting. CECILIO PADILLA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.