A group of students starved themselves for 27 hours to protest the steep budget cuts plaguing the University of California.
The fast, originally organized as a student project for a Chican@ studies class, garnered the support of almost 40 students, faculty and staff members. While hunger strikes are outlawed on campus, the students and those that joined them pledged to largely abstain from food and classes during dead week. Participants in the fast demanded a freeze on all further fee increases, the reinstatement of all services sacrificed due to lack of funding and increased transparency from university officials.
This week’s protest is just one example of the numerous measures students have resorted to as an expression of their distaste for ever-rising tuition and lack of administrative support. However, Iris Bustos, a fourth-year sociology and Chican@ studies major, said this protest differs in crucial ways .
“There have been rallies, demonstrations and occupations of campus buildings leading up to this,” Bustos said. “But we really wanted to make an impact with our action. The fast is a different way to get the campus community to pay attention and to make the struggle students are facing visible to all.”
Despite the modest number of students committed to the cause, Arturo Burciaga, a fourth-year black and Chican@ studies major, said he hopes the demonstration will revitalize the fight against the budget cuts.
“We may be a small group of people, but we have to keep the momentum going,” Burciaga said. “Our action alone is not going to solve the problem, but it will keep the movement alive.”
Moreover, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang issued a memorandum to the student body, stating he was unable to meet with protesters because of a prior commitment.
“Know that I am there in spirit and ask that as a community we respect the desires of these students and colleagues,” Yang said in the letter.
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young stressed his support of students in light of the budget crisis.
“I don’t disagree with their concerns,” Young said. “Nobody wants to increase fees. It’s an awful time, and it’s going to take leadership at the statewide level to resolve.”
In addition to skipping meals, student activists listened to guest speakers, poetry readings and music performances. The event also gave the history of UC education with a Pachanga, a traditional Latin American music and dance, at the end of the night.