Students marched from Cheadle Hall through campus and into Isla Vista this past Friday in support of I.G.N.I.T.E, Invest in Graduation Not Incarceration, Transform Education, a statewide campaign to push for more public education funding and less spending on the prison industrial complex.
Organized by student groups such as the Associated Students Commission on Racial Equality, or S.C.O.R.E., Student Lobby UCSB, the MultiCultural Center, the Black Student Union and the External Vice President of Statewide Affairs, the rally was a part of a five-day Week of Action featuring events discussing issues of education, incarceration and inequality. Sponsored statewide by UC Student Association, or UCSA, I.G.N.I.T.E initiatives include a Senate constitutional amendment and four bills, as well as a proposal to reserve $10 million of unallocated UC funds for student-run recruitment and retention centers.
I.G.N.I.T.E. committee member and second-year sociology major Mohsin Mirza said students began organizing and planning two weeks ago, announcing the event at the UCSA Students of Color Conference in Los Angeles two weeks ago, as well as putting up flyers and encouraging students to get involved on campus.
“It’s been tough, considering how much activism has been on campus this week … especially with the workers strike,” Mirza said.
Roughly 30 people participated in Friday’s march as well as in a rally in Storke Plaza at noon. Protesters chanted phrases such as “No justice, no peace!,” “I’m fired up, can’t take it no more!” “Whose university? Our university!,” and “Education is a human right, unite to live, unite to fight!”
UCSA has called for the passage of bills AB 420, which “defines and limits the use of willful defiance for suspensions and encourages schools to prioritize other means of correction,” SB649, which “makes possession of certain substances punishable as a felony or misdemeanor subject to imprisonment for no more than a year as opposed to a felony subject to imprisonment for up to three years” and SCA 5, which “allows for the consideration of race, sex, ethnicity, and national origin in higher education,” according to an I.G.N.I.T.E. press release.
I.G.N.I.T.E. campaign participant and second-year global student said the rally is a part of an ongoing effort by students statewide to refocus state funding from prisons to education.
“The statewide campaign has been going on for some time now,” they said. “UCSA did F.I.R.E. [Fighting Incarceration, Reclaiming Education] last year so this is a concern that has been around for quite some time.”
Anumita Kaur, a first-year communication major who participated in Friday’s rally, said the issues surrounding I.G.N.I.T.E.’s campaign applies to all students, not just those involved in activist organizations.
“Not everyone is a member of the I.G.N.I.T.E. committee, and not everyone went to the Students of Color Conference,” Kaur said. “But everyone here came out to support the cause.”
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of November 25, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.