The sounds of bongo drums and the sight of students lounging in tents will probably draw passersby’s attention to a mass sleepover being held tonight in support of three controversial issues.
In response to the August eviction notices given to tenants of the Cedarwood Apartments, located at 6626 Picasso Rd., members of Associated Students and other groups have organized the Tent City Jam Fest, which begins at 8 p.m. on the lawn between the Women’s Center and Storke Tower. The event also champions a raise for UCSB service workers and a revival of affirmative action policies in the UC system.
Organizer Jeronimo Saldana, a fourth-year Chicana and Chicano studies and comparative literature major, said the event is an opportunity for students to enjoy themselves while supporting good causes.
“We originally titled the event just Tent City, but we decided UCSB students would prefer to encourage social justice while still having a good time,” Saldana said. “We are hoping to encourage both at the Jam Fest, and are inviting people to bring out drums and enjoy themselves while supporting the cause.”
Saldana said he hopes the event’s central location and attention-grabbing atmosphere will inspire as many students as possible to stop and ask questions and get involved. He said the Tent City Jam Fest welcomes both individuals fighting for social justice and those who feel they are not receiving it.
“We have decided we do not want to be ignored anymore,” Saldana said. “If the administration fails to listen, the students will have to step up and bring about change.”
While two other causes have been added, the primary aim of the sleepover is to support the evicted Cedarwood tenants and to protest the university’s reluctance to back a policy regarding their circumstances.
The organizers want the university to back a Just Cause Ordinance in Isla Vista, which would require property owners to provide reasons for evicting tenants, such as severe destruction of property.
The mostly low-income Latino tenants have filed a lawsuit against the limited liability company that owns the property, saying their eviction was an act of discrimination. In the past two months, the tenants, along with a multitude of supporters, have held protest marches around Isla Vista, fundraised money for legal fees, organized candlelit vigils and repeatedly called the office of Conquest Student Housing, the presumed power behind 6626 Picasso, LLC.
While the event was inspired by the evicted tenants’ situation, organizers said, Tent City will highlight two other examples of social injustice present in the community.
Sixth-year computer engineering major Mohamed Hafez said the protest will help pressure the university into releasing funds for a pay increase to its service workers. The 2006 California State Budget allotted three UC schools – Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara – funds to pay for worker raises, of which UCSB was allotted about $3.2 million.
“The university has the funds available, but Chancellor [Henry T.] Yang [will] not approve their release until further research has been conducted, which may take up to two years,” Hafez said. “Our university has one of the lowest wages for service workers in the UC system.”
Saldana said the third issue regards affirmative action in the UC system, which he said needs reconsidering.
“We are here to support the evicted families and generate awareness of change; students have an amazing history of bringing about both,” Saldana said. “The final issue regards affirmative action, and the under-representation of African-American faculty members and students on campus.”
Claude Piller, an American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees union representative, said concerns regarding affirmative action cannot be resolved as quickly as tenant and labor disputes, but still deserve the attention of the protestors.
“While this issue cannot be solved in a week and requires more than signatures like our first two objectives, it is an issue that needs to be addressed and needs a place on the agenda,” Piller said. “Our goal is to resolve these issues; if not, we will keep coming back – we are not giving up.”