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Davis

Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Column: Non-opinion on Occupy

On the afternoon of Nov. 18 last year, my friend and I had been sitting in the CoHo making travel plans for Christmas break. Afterwards I decided to go to the library to work on a paper. It was grey outside and I was worried that it might start raining soon. But then something much more important was happening just 300 feet away on the Quad.

Lots of people, police cars, chaos, firefighters pouring water over red-eyed students, all in a one-minute bike ride. What on Earth had happened there?! I found out soon enough. Over Twitter, of course!

My initial reaction to the events on the Quad was mixed. Police actions were despicable and totally inappropriate. But was building some tents really the best way to express your dissatisfaction with increase in tuition fees? And to call that “Occupation”? I’ll use my “My home country was occupied by Soviets for half of the 20th century” card to make my point clearer — the whole tent village thing was just childish.

It’s really not my place to have an opinion about the matter, though. As an exchange student, I am using the University’s services and facilities without paying any tuition. But having experienced this rise in fees firsthand in three countries, I feel strongly about what’s happening with our education systems.

University fees went up in Lithuania just before I finished high school, affecting my classmates and fellow seniors. Last year, I witnessed the heated (literally!) student protests in London and followed discussions in Scotland over implementing tuition for students from other European Union countries. And now, it’s the University of California’s turn.

While I’m not a fan of occupation, I fully support the backlash against rising tuition fees. Education should be accessible and it shouldn’t be a debt sentence! Although I believe that paying for education is the best investment in life, the proposed fees are too high and unjustified.

Another thing I don’t understand is why the current students are being affected by the raise. In the UK, the new tripled rates only apply to first-year students; those already studying will continue to pay the same amount as they did when they started. But here, while freshmen know what they’re getting themselves into, older students are feeling tricked — they didn’t sign up for this.

I’m sad to see that there’s so much disagreement on such an important matter. Worse yet, increases in fees don’t automatically mean better-quality studies, newer facilities, higher-rated teachers and so on. I understand that it’s a long process, but not enough is done to ensure that it will be students who benefit the most.

So nothing’s left but to protest. The events that followed the pepper spray incident were incredibly moving and empowering of the whole community. The international coverage provided an amazing opportunity to show the world what UC Davis students are capable of — a civilized, well-planned movement with clearly formulated, smart goals. I was so proud to be an Aggie.

As for the Davis Dozen, that’s a whole other story. As a U.S. Bank customer, I was affected directly by their “occupation” of the branch. Not being able to use bank services because of someone blocking the door was annoying. But university administration response – the black tape and some signs – was just as ridiculous.

My selfish reasons aside, I don’t think what protesters were doing was smart or achieved anything other than driving U.S. Bank off of campus. The sit-in was not an appropriate method for the protesters’ goal, and their reasons did not find support on campus — that’s why it’s only a Dozen, and not a Thousand.

Nonetheless, we need to speak up against these unwelcome changes. The response of the campus community and public in general to the pepper spray incident was fantastic. I think that’s what we need to actually start changing things for the better. So, peacefully and intelligently, let’s protest.

You can reach KRISTINA SIMONAITYTE at ksimonaityte@ucdavis.edu.

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