A group of roughly 100 UC Davis students gathered to protest in the defense of public education last Wednesday.
The protest was a part of the nationwide Day of Action, rallying students from public universities to support the right to a free education.
Beginning outside the ASUCD Coffee House, the protesters walked through campus and buildings in order to spread the word about the decrease of public education funding.
Many speakers related the public education struggle to other protests worldwide, including recent movements in Wisconsin regarding collective bargaining rights and uprisings in Libya.
“The privatization of UC is affecting all of us as students and if you think that we live in a privileged state, that our struggle is not the same struggle that the people of Egypt and Libya and Greece and Haiti and all around the world are engaged in right now, then you’re misled,” said Kevin Smith, graduate student of anthropology. “The same system that’s forcing the state to cut public education is the same system which for 30 years crippled Egypt’s economy.”
The group of protesters at UC Davis was made up mostly of undergraduates, but also included representatives from the graduate student union UAW Local 2865 and the UC employees’ union AFSCME 3299.
At approximately 12:45 p.m., the group marched through Shields Library, where leaders of the protest asked students to be silent in order to be considerate of those who were studying. Protesters then continued marching and chanting loudly through Olson Hall, the Memorial Union, Wellman Hall and Hart Hall.
In Hart Hall, protesters stopped to talk about the decline in funding for public education, specifically for social science departments, many of which are housed in Hart Hall. Smith argued that money should be put toward education, not war.
“The U.S. military budget goes into the billions, and every day we spend millions on the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, while our humanities and social science departments are being cut,” Smith said. “Class sizes are increasing, professors are being forced to take on more and more loads, TAs are being exploited more and more and you’re having to pay more for less.”
Protesters then moved to Dutton Hall, which holds the UC Davis Student Accounting office, and shared stories of financial woes.
“I realize there’s a reason why all of us are here collected in this office. All of us are suffering cuts from our financial aid, from scholarships, from access to scholarship,” said Janaki Jagannath, senior international agricultural development major.
Jagannath, a resident of the Domes, also spoke about the cooperative’s closure.
“The Domes are being shut down because [it] is a place for activists who are involved in our food systems and communities. What we need is more alternative agricultural education and sustainable living and [a] learning community like the Domes,” she said.
After occupying Dutton Hall, students walked to Chancellor Linda Katehi’s house at roughly 1:45 p.m. Protesters blocked traffic in the intersection of Russell Blvd. and Howard Way, dancing and chanting in the street, for about five minutes.
Protesters gathered in front of Katehi’s house and police came, but did not interfere with the protest. After learning that Katehi was holding a dinner party later that evening, students decided to leave and return to protest during the event.
However, when the protesters returned at 5 p.m., they found that the dinner party had been cancelled. The protest ended at around 5:15 p.m., and many said they felt that they had “won” the protest as the dinner party had been cancelled.
UC President Mark Yudof issued a statement supporting protesters’ peaceful movements.
“My heart and my support are with everybody and anybody who wants to stand up for public education. I salute those who are making themselves heard today in a peaceful manner on behalf of a great cause,” he said.
Protesters ended by planning to meet March 16 for picketing at the intersection of Russell Boulevard and La Rue Road, in support of unions on campus. They also said they’ll start planning for the March 31 National Day of Walkouts and Strikes to Defend Public Education.
HANNAH STRUMWAWSSER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.