Hundreds of UC Santa Cruz students, faculty and community members closed off most of the Banana Slugs’ campus last Thursday as part of the statewide student protests against sustained higher education budget cuts.
Demonstrators gathered at the west campus entrance around 4:30 a.m. to camp out in various areas and block coastal access as well as obstruct vehicles and public transportation entry. Although the protesters allowed on-campus family and faculty housing residents to enter the university, some students were barred access and campus administration asked faculty to excuse students who could not physically attend class by 8 a.m.
According to Marianna Muratova, a fourth-year political science major at UCSC, some professors cancelled classes and students continued to join the gathering up until its dispersal at 6 p.m.
“My professors and TAs decided to not have class since the Occupy UCSC protest was right at the main gates of the school,” Muratova said. “It’s great to see professors, faculty and students standing together to support our right to higher education.”
However, some individuals expressed frustration toward the protest due to the difficulties it imposed on fellow university members, Muratova said.
“It is evident that not everyone sees Occupy the same way,” Muratova said. “The angered driver, who was on his way to drop his fiancée off at school, really seemed fed up with the protesters. He just drove right through even though the crowd had not cleared in front of him.”
Similar demonstrations are occurring at 30 university campuses statewide.
UCSC lecturer Mary Virginia Watson said the higher education funding decrease has left campus communities frustrated and anxious for change.
“Somebody got their foot run over during the protest,” Watson said. “I think the environment in the university right now is so stressful. People are taking out more loans to be able to pay, [and] we are all angry about the cost.”
Watson said nationwide economic shortfalls have created disproportionately high education costs and growing inequality.
“The public university is the route to social mobility for most people,” Watson said. “When we start seeing declines in access, increases in cost and a decline in quality, it just adds to the problems we address.”