A small but lively group of students huddled in front of the Isla Vista Food Cooperative on Tuesday evening, waiting for a bus to take them to the UC Regents meeting in San Francisco.
They had one goal: to improve their university through activism, even if that meant sleeping on a bus, skipping classes and starting a protest in 48-degree weather.
Wednesday’s meeting began with a public forum, where students voiced their concerns about college affordability. The public forum ended with police threatening protesters with arrest.
Security personnel checked students before they were permitted to enter the public forum. The search included wanding students with hand-held metal detectors and forcing them to leave food and drinks outside the forum.
The forum began at approximately 8 a.m. with 38 people signed up to speak. Individuals were permitted to speak for one minute, while groups of two or more who chose to combine their time received two-and-a-half minutes to speak.
Several students spoke about divesting from fossil fuels, with one student expressing outrage that UC administration claimed it would be too difficult to divest.
“I don’t think climate change is complicated when we’re talking about a simple divestment,” said a student from UC Santa Cruz Fossil Free. “I think that when you have a top team of investors you can find out how you can divest over seven years and make a public politicized statement, because that is what we are asking you to do.”
There were also speakers who were angered by the tuition increases in the wake of the audit.
“We have to question why tuition increases are disproportionate to state disinvestment,” Taylor Chanes, the Associated Students external vice president at UC Irvine, said. “I don’t understand why we have a proposed increase in 2014 and another one in 2017 when we have millions of dollars in a reserve, whether or not that is supposed to go towards funding different programs for students that you are already under-resourcing.”
The Regents will discuss the audit more thoroughly on Thursday.
There were also several comments regarding UC President Janet Napolitano’s salary, including one graduate student who referenced the low wages made by teaching assistants.
There were also calls for Napolitano’s resignation.
“I think you need to resign, first of all,” one man said, prompting applause at the meeting. “I also think there needs to be a criminal investigation.”
Several speakers went over their allotted time and were asked to stop.
After public comment, while Regent Chair Lozano was thanking those that spoke, one audience member stood up and began to chant, “Whose university?”
Other audience members immediately caught on and started chanting back “Our university.”
As the chants grew, the room became more hectic. A reporter from UC Santa Cruz jumped over the barrier separating the crowd from the Regents in an attempt to get a photo. He was reprimanded by police.
Despite Regent Chair Lozano’s attempts to speak, she was drowned out by the protesters. A police officer then stood in front of the crowd reading the rules of conduct, before telling the protesters that the police would begin arresting participants if they did not leave in five minutes.
The Regents left the room at this time.
“As far as Regents meetings go, unfortunately, it seems standard that you know, the meeting is shut down and the Regents leave and don’t really pay attention to us,” Michael Kile, who organized the protest with Gabriela Romo, said.
“The way that Regents set up their meetings they set them up to minimize the public’s kind of view of that” Romo said. “The fact that they shut down the meeting shows that they’re clearly scared that people are out there and pushing for you know maybe the right side of history.”
The chanting continued for two more minutes while the police counted down the minutes. Protesters filed out while chanting and all had left the room by the five-minute mark.
Police did not make any arrests.
A version of this story appeared on p. 3 of the Thursday, May 18, 2017, edition of the Daily Nexus.