With skeletons painted on their faces, a group of students fell to the ground in the Arbor yesterday to protest the “death” of public education.
Students and union workers participated in the “die-in” to protest the UC’s policies of tuition increases, furloughs, layoffs and cutbacks in the wake of the university’s financial crisis. Unable to express their grievances to the UC Regents themselves, the students shared their anger with Chancellor Henry T. Yang, who happened to be passing through the Arbor at the time. At that point, the crowd demanded that the chancellor offer an explanation as to why he failed to address the student body about the tuition increase before the initiative was passed.
The protest began with a debriefing on the federal budget crisis and its affect on the state and UC. Mitchell Stewart, a fourth-year history major, said students are faced with a large debt upon graduating because California’s leaders have misdirected priorities.
“[California] spends [nearly] seven times more on a prisoner than on a student,” Stewart said. “The Regents have not provided leadership … and the average UC student [now graduates with] $23,000 in debt.”
According to Melissa Uribe, a third-year sociology and Chicano studies major, recent police action against student protesters across the UC system has been appalling and UCSB students haven’t done enough to combat these injustices.
“[Students at] UCLA, Berkeley, [UC Santa Cruz and UC San Francisco] have been Tasered, pepper-sprayed,” Uribe, said. “Where’s our voice here at UCSB?”
Students then fell to the ground to symbolize the death of their affordable educations. After catching sight of UCSB’s chancellor walking by, the “dead” rose to their feet and demanded a speech.
Yang expressed his sincerest apology to the crowd and informed the protesters of a series of town hall meetings he has scheduled for next week to discuss possible means of alleviating the budget deficit.
Dissatisfied with his explanation, the demonstrators yelled “We don’t need sympathy! We need action,” “Why didn’t you publically denounce the 32 percent increase?” and “This is a good preview of what the town hall meeting will look like!”
Urvashi Nagrani, a fifth-year film studies major, said Yang’s lack of communication with students is unacceptable.
“Can we get a cell phone number?” Nagrani said. “Because we haven’t [heard back from you in e-mails].”
Yang, however, said that he has, and will, continue to convey student concerns to the UC Regents and officials in Sacramento.
As he was leaving, Armando Carmona, a third-year sociology major, handed Yang a list with the contact information for a large number of students eager to discuss their woes him.
Yang then left the crowd as they roared, “Whose University? Our University!” at his back.
Tara Villalba, a religious studies graduate student, said if students work together, they will be able to accomplish all their goals.
“We will start our [own] people’s assembly right here,” Villalba said. “We [will discuss] what we envision the University needs to do. We need to make this work for us.”