Students across UC campuses protest UC tuition hikes
On Jan. 24, during a meeting of the UC Board of Regents, it was decided that a vote over proposed tuition hikes for students would be delayed until May. If passed, tuition and fees would be increased 2.7 percent for in-state students and 3.5 percent for California non-residents. This would mean an extra $342 for in-state tuition rates and an additional $978 for out-of-state students.
This discussion began in Nov. 2017, when the UC Office of the President released its “Proposed Long-Term Stability Plan for Tuition and Financial Aid.” In the document of FAQs, UCOP addressed concerns regarding its reasoning for the proposed tuition increase, its plans for the budget and how state funding contributed to the rise in tuition rates. After a wave of protests by UC students at the Regents meeting at UCSF in November, the Regents postponed the meeting to January of 2018.
Beginning on Jan. 23 and continuing into Jan. 24, students across various UC campuses protested the impending vote over the proposed tuition hike. At UC Davis, student-run organizations like Students for a Democratic Society created Facebook events, flyers and posters calling for the student body to advocate for themselves. An organized rally took place outside of the Memorial Union on Jan. 23.
As protestors circled the flagpole in front of the MU, the rally filled the Quad with chants of “Hey, hey UCD, cut those Regents’ salaries,” “War profiteers not welcome here!” and “Whose university? Our university!”
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May walked past the protest twice. Students responded with chants — one individual asked, “How much did you make today, Gary May?” In response, the Chancellor continued walking and said “No more than I made yesterday.”
Second-year sustainable agriculture major Dexter Hampton, an active SDS member, stated the organization’s demands at the MU “NO Tuition Hike RALLY.”
“Our primary demand is to stop the raising of tuition,” Hampton said. “A secondary demand [is] showing the students that we can stand up and we can fight back and we can make a difference in our university,” Hampton said. “We don’t have to accept whatever the Regents tell us, we don’t have to accept whatever the administration tells us.”
Hampton expressed concern with the administration-to-faculty ratio on campus and discussed his personal goals for the protest.
“The administration is currently outnumbering the faculty and is paid astronomical amounts,” Hampton said. “I hope that administration recognizes that the students and the workers here are the ones that actually do the work here at the university and that administration, even though they control most of the wealth in the university, does not control this and they’re not the ones running things.”
Additionally, Hampton discussed the protest’s potential impact on the administration at UC Davis and in the UC system.
“In the past, they have been tyrannical, they’ve pepper sprayed us, they’ve pointed guns at us, they’ve arrested us,” Hampton said. “We’re hoping that this new administration is a little more open to student voices, but we’re unsure because they are still technically trying to exploit the students.”
Along with many other guest speakers, Amara Miller, the head steward of the UC Davis UAW unit and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology, discussed the personal impact tuition hikes will have on her.
“I have over a decade in the UC system [as a student],” Miller said. “I was here as an undergrad from 2005-2009. Back then, my tuition was literally a fraction of what you are paying now. Across the time I have been in the UC system, I have seen tuition pretty much more than double. My undergrad students — I have students that are undocumented, I have students that are homeless, I have students that are fighting against white supremacy on campus that have been trying to kill them — have not been supported by the administration or the UC Regents. The UC Regents are not our friend, they consistently put their own interests first and they consistently try to line their own pockets with their positions. This is not acceptable. It’s our university, it’s not theirs. It is time for us to say no more tuition hikes.”
AJ Ballesteros, a first-year sociology major, discussed his reasoning for attending the sit-in on Jan. 23.
“I’m here at the moment protesting tuition hikes that are UC system-wide — actually, I am protesting more the fact that undergraduate students have no meaningful power over these decisions that are being made at the highest bureaucratic level,” Ballestros said. “Essentially, there’s no democratic control over the university and decisions that are affecting undergraduate populations directly.”
The overnight “Mrak Slumber Party” took place on Jan. 23 and was attended by four people.
On Jan. 23, SDS posted a statement describing the purpose of the sit-in.
“Tonight is our first night that we are doing a sit in at Mrak Hall to protest the tuition increases,” the statement reads. “The administration came to us wanting to hear our demands and work to a common goal. However when it got late they came back demanding our student ID numbers and told us that they are seeking disciplinary action against us. We must work together as a community and must not allow the subtle hegemony of empty promises and sanctions for ‘our safety’ prevent us from standing for students and workers in our university. Every person present at this sit-in significantly improves our strength as a group to resist administrative oppression and to make our voices heard”
On Jan. 23, UC Regents met at UCSF to discuss the proposed tuition plans. They announced shortly after that the vote regarding the proposed tuition increase would be delayed until May. According to an article released by The Sacramento Bee, “Gov. Jerry Brown has sent a letter to the UC Board of Regents urging them to reject a proposed increase in tuition at the University of California’s 10 campuses.”
A second sit-in took place at Mrak Hall on the night of Jan. 24 after the demands presented to UC Davis administrators were not met, according to a statement given to The California Aggie from the students involved in the sit-ins. Demands included a rollback in tuition, a commitment to affordable housing as well as the disarming of campus police “of all lethal weapons.” Nine students participated in the overnight sit-in.
“At 6:00 p.m. [on Jan. 24], when Mrak Hall had officially closed for the day, the student activists informed Administration that they would leave Mrak Hall on the condition that Administration […] Secure an open, accessible meeting with Gary May no later than Friday, 1/26/2018,” the statement reads.
The student activists outlined a list of demands to address with Chancellor May, including more democratic student involvement in decision-making, a cut in Chancellor May’s salary to $420,000 with leftover funds allocated toward “Resource Centers that recently lost funding” as well as a university commitment and investment in low-income housing.
Written by: Priyanka Shreedar and Aaron Liss — firstname.lastname@example.org