Following organized protests from over 400 University of California students — including 40 from UCSB — who lobbied in the capitol last weekend against statewide cuts to higher education, UC Berkeley students chained themselves to the roof of a school building yesterday.
According to the Associated Press, 17 students were arrested on Wednesday during an attempted sit-in at Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall. All were charged with trespassing and three allegedly obstructed officers in the line of duty. The protests at Cal escalated yesterday when nine protesters — six of whom were chained together — perched themselves on the fourth floor ledge for seven hours before being persuaded to come down. Almost 30 classes were canceled as a result, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
However, the majority of student protests maintained a more civil tone.
Students across the nation participated in a day of action in cooperation with the U.S. Student Association and the Student Labor Action Project on March 2. According to Sophia Armen, a second-year political science major, UCSB students organized a phone bank and made more than 100 calls to U.S. senators and representatives last Wednesday, condemning cuts to higher education.
At last weekend’s annual UC Student Association Student Lobby Conference, students received instruction on how to encourage activism at their respective campuses while directly petitioning against education cuts and subsequent University-wide student fee increases. Participants of the ninth annual conference attended more than 90 legislative meetings with state officials, as well as rallies and workshops.
Quinn Nguyen, a fourth-year global studies and political science major who attended the conference, said the public education system bore the brunt of California’s budget cuts.
“It is about disproportionality,” Nguyen said. “Cuts have to be made, but they’re not being made fairly. Our public institutions, which should be funded by the state, are becoming a privilege [to attend].”
Stanley Tzankov, a third-year political sciences major, said the issue affects a wide student demographic.
“We were trained not only how to lobby effectively, but how to bring the student activism back to [our] home campuses,” Tzankov said. “It was not just the stereotypical model of ‘involved students in student government’ [doing the work]. This is something that is affecting more than the immediate student community.”
The conference focused on two specific goals. First, students disputed the $1.4 billion cuts to higher education proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in January. The UC system alone could potentially lose $500 million dollars if existing tax measures are not extended in an upcoming special election. Additionally, the Student Lobby also sought support for the California DREAM Act to make institutional aid provided by student fees available to undocumented students.
If the proposed cuts are approved revenue accumulated from student tuition would exceed state contribution to the University for the first time in its 143-year history.
“‘Public’ education is becoming a privilege, not a right,” Armen said.
Media outlets report that, in order to coerce protesters at Berkeley off their perch yesterday, university officials agreed to drop charges against some of the protesters.