Students of color at UC Santa Cruz began a four-day hunger strike today in the hopes of bringing critical issues surrounding underrepresented minority groups to the foreground.

According to a press release from the newly formed UCSC Students of Color Collective, massive budget cuts to University services have directly affected students of color, prompting the group to hold a hunger strike. Ethnic communities in higher education institutions such as the UC, the release said, are underserved by the officials who are supposed to ensure their academic careers.

Nearly 20 SOCC members started the protest yesterday at noon and will continue until this Friday, Dominic Prado, a third-year community studies major and SOCC member, said. He added that the SOCC has received support from UCSC’s Academic Senate to run the protest, as well as their greater campaign against disparities at the UC.

“We’re having cuts to Latino/Latina studies and community studies,” Prado said, referencing a long history of educational and socio-political inequality at the UC. “Several coalitions are deliberating with the administration.”

SOCC has short-term demands of the UCSC administration which include hiring full-time directors for the UCSC American Indian Resource Center and Women’s Center, retaining the current structure and faculty in the community studies and Latino/Latina studies departments, and publicly supporting the state and federal DREAM act.

In addition, the group is asking the university to permanently fund ethnic year-end ceremonies at the campus.

The hunger protest has special significance, Prado said, because it commemorates the Third World and Native American Studies hunger strike of 1981 at UCSC, in which 25 activists campaigned for the fair representation of students of color in higher education systems.