Students from all main University of California campuses gathered in front of the UC San Francisco Mission Bay Conference Center to protest yesterday’s meeting of the UC Regents, who debated a plan to implement a five percent annual tuition increase compounded over the next five years for the entire UC system.
Estimates by the UC Police Department at UC San Francisco place the number of protesters who attended the conference between 300 and 400. Protests remained peaceful until tensions escalated around 10 a.m., when roughly 50 students attempted to storm police barricades and enter the conference building after being denied entry by UCPD. During the struggle with police, a large glass door shattered and 21-year-old UC Berkeley student Jeff Noven was arrested on two separate felony charges of vandalism and inciting a riot. The UCPD Public Information Office said that three officers sustained minor injuries during the protests, but that the department was “proud” of the way its officers responded to the protesters.
UC Santa Cruz student Natalie Black, who participated in the charge to enter the building, said the decision to act was made by the entire group based on a principle of social justice.
“As a collective group, we decided we’re going to storm the building. We did what we did because we wanted to get into the meeting,” Black said. “It’s the pawns versus the angry citizens.”
Black said protestors did not mean to destroy the door, but that it broke under the pressure of each side exerting force.
“We were trying to pull it open while the police were trying to pull it closed and using a baton for leverage when it broke,” Black said. “We didn’t want to cause any damage. We just wanted in, and we have the right to.”
After the attempted charge was rebuffed, police in riot gear barricaded all entrances to the building while protesters regrouped and chanted, “Who will protect the students?”
Berkeley alumna and member of education activist group By Any Means Necessary Angela Dancev used a megaphone to rally students in the wake of the confrontation with police. Dancev said she and her colleagues advocate for UC President Napolitano’s resignation based in part on her former position as head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, arguing that her role in supporting rights for undocumented students has been exaggerated.
“We’re calling for the resignation of Janet Napolitano, who is not an educator. Her background is based on being part of the oppressive system that subjugates a historically oppressed minority community,” Dancev said. “She can argue and say that she helped pass the D.R.E.A.M. Act, but its total bullshit. If it wasn’t for the advocacy of the community that would not have happened.”
Third-year sociology major at UCSB Mohsin Mirza said the proposal put forth by the UC Office of the President will have negative long-term ramifications on students.
“It’s a lot of money and it’s going to hurt students for a long time to come, seeing tuition going up like this,” Mirza said.
He also said he would continue to fight against tuition increases, regardless of the prospects for a favorable outcome.
“Change doesn’t come unless the people demand it,” Mirza said. “Nothing will happen if we don’t do anything.”
Amani Proctor, a third-year communication major at UC San Diego, said the UC budget shortfall that prompted the proposed tuition increase should be filled without increasing the cost of education.
“It’s unreasonable. It shouldn’t fall on the backs of students,” Proctor said. “Why isn’t the state funding education?”
Political science and social policy and public service double major at UC Irvine Julian Bugarin, who attended the protest with a “small delegation” of students, said he believes affordable education should be universally accessible, but that the tuition hike disproportionately targets the poor.
“It affects everybody. I believe personally it’s a form of oppression against low-socioeconomic background students,” Bugarin said. “I truly believe that education is a right.”
Bugarin also said the UC’s practice of raising senior administration officials’ salaries while simultaneously seeking tuition increases constitutes a contradiction of policies within the University.
“They send us the wrong message when you want to increase tuition, but you’re also increasing wages for chancellors and the rest of administration,” Bugarin said. “There’s no correlation between them, but all the funding that goes to our schools — where does it all really go? Does it go to the students or does it go to administration?”
A version of this story appeared on page 1 of Thursday, November 20, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.