Over 350 students, faculty and staff gathered in the Arbor yesterday to protest the UC’s handling of its current financial crisis.
While most students and professors attended scheduled lectures, an array of UCSB community members participated in a system-wide walkout designed to draw attention to the effects of the budget shortfall. With faculty and staff taking pay cuts and furlough days and a threatened 32 percent fee increase on the table for students, the University is facing protests from all sides.
As of press time, UC faculty signatures collected by the UC Community Coalition for Option 4 total 1,227, with 125 from UCSB.
Around 11:30 a.m., a rally erupted in the Arbor as professors, students and staff flooded out of their classrooms and offices to advocate for a “Free UC.” The event – which featured speeches, poetry and protest songs – demanded UC budgetary transparency and an end to salary cuts, furloughs and layoffs for UC employees, as well as a stop to student fee hikes.
The walkout was not the only political rally taking place yesterday. Union representatives from University Professional & Technical Employees, United Auto Workers, Coalition of University Employees and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also held a one-day unfair labor practice strike. Many workers also joined the Arbor action.
David Schnal, a fourth-year global studies major, said one of his professors made an effort to engage in a conversation about the strike prior to walking out of the classroom.
“I just got out of a class where we discussed the right way to handle the situation,” Schnal said. “Students feel differently [about the protests] but we all agree on the goals, regardless of how they are reached.”
David Starkey, Santa Barbara’s poet laureate and a SBCC professor, read a poem that accused the California State Government and UC Office of the President of spreading miscommunication and deceit.
“As somebody who used to teach here, and now being someone who teaches at the city college with a lot of students who come here, I think undergraduate education is the most important part of an education, and it is currently being compromised,” Starkey said. “I think we need to re-shift our priorities back to education.”
On the other hand, many UCSB educators chose not to participate in the walkout. Professor Giles Gunn, Chair of the Global & International Studies Program, said he disagreed with the course of action of yesterday’s protest.
“While I happen to be in sympathy with the protests, I have decided to conduct classes to be in line with the associated students, especially this year when the budget cuts have made it so hard to get classes themselves,” Gunn said. “This is not the time to cancel classes or walk out on them. … Serving students was a more immediate need than responding to the issues, which we will be doing throughout the year.”
According to art history professor Laurie Monahan members of Option 4 at the UC Berkeley campus selected the date of the walkout. The walkout at UC Berkeley – where classes began in August – attracted an estimated 5,000 participants.
While Monahan noted that the first day of instruction may not have been the best time to schedule a walkout, she said the event was designed to draw attention to the University’s financial predicament.
“We wanted to create awareness,” Monahan said. “[The walkout] won’t change what’s going on, but it will bring more awareness to the issue, which will bring change.”
Lauren Keach, a fourth-year global studies major, said she felt the walkout was an important event given the UC’s hard times.
“I don’t normally get involved with protests or strikes, but this is something that I felt if I did become involved in could help lead to an important positive change,” Keach said. “The national and state government is trying to take over so much of the country in different ways – the UCs should not be part of that.”
Along with yesterday’s efforts, faculty members of Option 4 have organized a UCSB Teach-In for Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 3 p.m. until midnight in Campbell Hall and various other locations on campus.