The UC Regents toured UC Santa Cruz Wednesday, and they certainly caught a glimpse of what the campus is most famous for.About 150 students, staff and local community members gathered outside the new Humanities Lecture Hall, where the Regents were holding a brief public comment session, to protest to the Regents about a variety of issues regarding the direction of the university and the wages of faculty and staff."The Regents are trying to treat the University as a corporation," said David Silva-Espinoza, the vice president of the Coalition of University Employees (CUE). "They are political appointees who got their jobs through patronage [to the government.]."Students from several campus groups, including MEChA, Students Against War, the Student Union Assembly, and the Rainbow Society, showed up in protest."We’re trying to put on an alternative forum for students," said Alette Kendrick, a student protestor who was arrested during the demonstration. "We want to provide a space for students to reclaim power."While the comment session continued inside, protestors gathered near the exits of the building to prevent the Regents from leaving.The mood of the protest turned hostile when two people, Greg Carter, the President of the Chamber of Commerce in Santa Cruz, and Alan Pasano, the Santa Cruz public school district superintendent, attempted to leave the building. Members of the crowd rushed the door, which was being blocked by police officers, in an effort to trap the people inside. Police broke through the crowd, which had formed a line by linking arms. At that point, several protestors were thrust into the suddenly violent melee, and eventually three students were arrested. According to Campus Spokesperson Jim Burns, two protestors were charged with disrupting a public meeting and one protestor was charged with three counts of battery. "That was pretty shocking," said Clara Ackerman, a fourth-year student observing the protest. "People were fighting the police off."Carter, who is also UCSC alumnus, was caught in the middle of the fracas."I admire [the protestors’] passion, but they have to honor our rights," Carter said. "I have a two-year-old daughter waiting to be picked up from school."The police reappeared shortly after their first attempt to leave the building, but this time wielding batons and shooting off canisters of pepper spray. Several students were hit with the pepper spray and fell back away from the door. But after about half an hour, the crowd seemed to calm down. The protest originally began at the Bay Tree Plaza, where students and a number of UCSC administrators, including Chancellor George Blumenthal, gathered together. The procession then moved to the Humanities Building, where the Regents were arriving. "This is the campus," Blumenthal told CHP just before the demonstration moved up the hill. "I want to be able to hear students’ oppositions so that I can take those concerns to the Regents."Whenever the Regents tour a campus, they are bound by law to allow for at least a 20-minute public comment period where members of the campus community are allotted a time to voice their concerns to the Regents. The comment period was not open to the public at large-only people who had previously signed up for a chance to speak and media were let into the building, however the initial plan would have allowed anyone interested to attend."It’s kind of sad the protest is such that the Regents can’t hear what the issues are," said Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger. "I wish we had a better way to communicate."
Santa Cruz County Supervisor and former mayor Mardi Wormhoudt was among the 15 or so people who voiced their concerns to the Regents."It was a very odd scene," Wormhoudt said. "There were very few people in there anyway. Personally, I’d rather have let people go in and disrupt the meeting and get their voices heard."Wormhoudt wished to voice displeasure with the Regents for approving the University of California’s Long Range Development Plan. Many other students protested fee and tuition increases, the University’s involvement with the Los Alamos National Laboratory and nuclear research, and the wages of many of the University’s lowest-paid staff.Ray Austin, a fourth-year UCSC student and chair of the Student Union Assembly, was also scheduled to speak, but never made it to the microphone. Austin, who joined the human chain around the building, explained his frustrations with the structure of the forum."It’s hard, because [the Regents] don’t listen, they don’t respond," Austin said. "It’s not a discussion or a dialogue. It’s like I’m talking to deaf ears."Many protestors, including one student who asked to be referred to simply as John, wore bandanas around their faces to cover their identities. A group of the masked protestors hurled fruit at police officers blocking one of the entrances to the building at one point during the demonstration."The Regents are just corporate CEOs employed by the State," John said. "They manage it horribly. From tuition hikes to nuclear weapons to cutting down the forest-it’s just the tip of the iceberg."Faye Crosby, chair of the Academic Senate at UCSC, was disappointed that the protest briefly turned so ugly."This kind of demonstration may not be the most effective way to get their point across," Crosby said. "[Students] need to have a well-articulated point, and they need to keep profanity out of it."Crosby pointed out that in the past, students were able to convince the UC Regents to cut all involvement in Sudan. However, Crosby said, that victory was achieved through peaceful demonstration.The public comment session with the Regents lasted only about an hour, though it took about three more hours until the Regents and those inside the building were finally allowed to leave. Santa Cruz police called in extra security to help escort the people who were inside the building out.Students outside the building negotiated with administrators and police in an attempt to secure the release of the three students who were arrested and taken into the building by police. The students were released and issued citations. Their case’s will be forwarded to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney and they will be subject to UCSC’s student disciplinary process, according to Burns.Chancellor Blumenthal, who took over as acting chancellor during the summer after serving over 30 years as a professor of astronomy and astrophysics, looked on during the early stages of the protest, noting that he was not used to viewing such demonstrations from an administration’s point of view."It’s funny," Blumenthal said, pointing to the front of the crowd. "I used to be right over there."CHP staff reporters Zev Vernon-Lapow, Claire Walla, Hannah Mamont, Daniel Zarchy, Leah Bartos and I.A. Stewart contributed to this report.