On Tuesday, the Students of Color Collective (SOCC) pledged to empty their bowls in the interest of activism, a measure that commemorates the Third World and Native American Studies (TWANAS) hunger strike in 1981 that protested UC Santa Cruz’s lack of recognition of issues facing students of color.
Massive funding cuts and ineffectual communications with administrators have led to this recent bid for the university’s attention. The SOCC is fighting against the dwindling funding for resources for students of color and other cuts that they feel would impact campus diversity. The base of campus has been turned into ground zero for the duration of the protest and events and speakers are scheduled to run up to Friday.
Concerns brought up at the first event on Tuesday included the university’s refusal to replace the newly vacated position of American Indian resource director, recent cuts made to the community studies major and the impending dismissal of faculty involved with Latin American and Latino studies.
Fifth-year Latin American and Latino studies (LALS) student Ricky A. Quesnot said he feels a disparity between the university’s claims of supporting campus diversity and their subsequent actions.
“This university likes to talk about diversity, and how we have a commitment to diversity,” Quesnot said. “Then they make cuts to resources that directly affect the diversity of the campus. … I find it shameful that this is happening.”
Students have hashed out the subject of decreased diversity before, but hunger strikes have been few and far between. Its been 28 years since TWANAS staged a strike on behalf of underrepresented students and faculty, resulting in increased financial support for the Third World Teaching Resource Center and tenured track faculty member in both Asian American Studies and Native American Studies.
UCSC professor Bettina Aptheker praised the current action and compared their hunger strike to Ghandi’s nonviolent political actions, which resulted in India’s independence from Britain.
“[What makes it different is the] personal sacrifice,” said UCSC professor Bettina Aptheker. “… But the administration hears numbers. They have a couple hundred people here now, but if they had a couple thousand, it would make a big difference.”
Along with Quesnot and 25 to 35 other students, third-year community studies major Rebecca Roz0-Marsh ate her last meal Tuesday morning. An apple, avocado, and bread were all the breakfast she had and will be tiding her over until the conclusion of the protest. Rozo-Marsh noted her gradual preparation for the fast, which has no end date so far.
“First it’s cutting out those things that are really toxic, like dairy, meat and eggs,” Rozo-Marsh said. “Some of us did a 24-hour fast from Friday night to Saturday night to prepare our bodies. We’ve been getting closer to a raw foods diet.”
Rozo-Marsh and Quesnot stated their inability to speak for the group, but individually affirmed that they would consider prolonging the strike past the designated four-day period.
“Each person carries their own struggle,” Quesnot said. “We’re not making it mandatory for people to keep going, but if the university doesn’t meet our demands, I’m prepared to go past this week.”
According to Rozo-Marsh, the value of a hunger strike lies in the symbolism and stated that the effects of lacking food coincide with the lack of student diversity.
“Food affects us all the time, and it’s a good way to show how these cuts affect our community all the time,” Rozo-Marsh said. “This is our bodies and our food, this is the most that we as individuals can show what this means to us.”