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Davis, California

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Guest Opinion: Tuition Hikes Protesters Bring Fight to Regents’ Businesses

On November 24, UC Davis students and workers, joined by supportive Walmart workers fighting for better pay, benefits, and respect at work, rallied to oppose the recent tuition increase and fight for public education. We marched through downtown and ultimately occupied Olson Hall to raise visibility of our fight. Many students are aware of the Olson occupation, but not as many know about what transpired on our march through downtown Davis.

We marched to Bank of America, the corporate bank with a board member sitting on the University of California’s Board of Regents. UC Regent Monica Lozano gets paid over $250,000/year as the External Director for BofA, and yet she is somehow allowed to sit on the Board of Regents and, in direct conflict of interest, vote to raise our tuition. Why is this allowed? Maybe because Monica is not an exception to the rule. Many of the UC Regents come from the financial sector as bankers or hedge fund managers. Regent Richard Blum, for example, owns Blum Capital and owns private for-profit education companies. The record indicates that free public higher education is not a priority for any of these people. Nor is it a concept that they support. Just look at the governor, who has diverted millions from higher education to prisons, and UC President Janet Napolitano, whose war on the Chican@/Latin@ community reveals her contempt for this community — you can’t say you love children and want the best education for them when you are detaining and deporting their parents en masse.

A group of about 30-40 students and workers had initially planned on going inside the Bank of America to present a giant check made out to Monica Lozano for “our future.” Once we arrived at the bank, however, we were spontaneously joined by dozens of additional marchers, making for about 75 people all spilling into the bank’s lobby. We wanted to call attention to the direct connection between the recent decision to increase tuition and the general trend of what is called privatization — the increased influence of private corporations and banks on universities. As the UC becomes more and more privatized, we have seen education become less accessible to the public. Higher education, unlike K-12 education, is no longer a right according to this trend, and if someone wants to attend a UC, it is their responsibility (and not the state’s) to pay for it. By occupying the bank, we wanted to call attention to the corporate banking industry’s stranglehold on public education. We also wanted to call attention to the fact that the banks – and their UC Regent directors – directly profit from the $1 trillion (and rising) in loans we students have to take out to pay for our education.

We also wanted to send a message to the UC administration, to President Napolitano, to the Regents, and to Bank of America, and to all of the other financial interests eroding public education — we will not be contained to campus. We will bring the fight for our education to their businesses. We will not be predictable, and they cannot ignore us. The Regents, their businesses, and their CEO allies have been attacking our communities for far too long — locking up black and brown people in skyrocketing numbers, deporting record numbers of immigrants, busting our unions and more. We will allow this no more.

This student movement will not be contained to campus because we are more than just students, and we all come from communities. They are attacking us everywhere, so we will fight back everywhere.

Duane Wright

Ph.D Student Department of Sociology

Head Steward, UAW 2865


Graphic by Jennifer Wu


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