Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.
Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

Last Thursday, on the first day of fall quarter, our 2,000-acre UC Santa Cruz campus was both eerily quiet and triumphantly loud as it straddled both sides of the proverbial fence, with classrooms either echoing emptiness or bellowing with the frustrations of a student body and staff reeling from historic state funding cuts.

In case you’ve been living under a rock — one that has yet to be pelted — here’s what you need to know: people are angry. And there is nothing that UCSC students love more than get angry. Usually it won’t last too long; remember Community Studies? Neither do I.

But this time, no single department is being affected exclusively. We are facing the potential deterioration of the entire UC system, one of the most prestigious public university systems in the world. And after a summer of harsh economics, fiscal finger-pointing and educational mudslinging (still bitter after all these weeks, UC San Diego), students and staff marched to the base of campus this past Thursday, showing their solidarity in the battle against a nearly $800 million cut in statewide education.

That same day, a group of UCSC students began their occupation of the Graduate Student Commons, a building located in what is most easily defined as the center of our ever-growing campus. The occupation began on a Thursday and a dance party ensued on Saturday to further awareness for the cause. Now, in the hopes of furthering the movement, the occupiers have asked for another day of walkouts this Friday.

As the students of a public university, one that is dependent on the action of its student body, it has become increasingly clear that we are facing one of the most uncertain times in the history of not just our campus, but the UC as a whole. In the ‘70s, these campuses provided a safe haven for political discourse. Now, they’re the very reason we protest at all.

The campus-wide walk-outs and teach-ins managed to bring attention to an issue that had, until now, remained both convoluted and faceless. Yes, we were all hyperaware of the sweeping budget cuts, much of which really began to hit home this past school year. But there was no one unifier of the movement; there was no event to progress the student body past its apathy and into action. We have that now, and the challenge is to approach it as carefully as possible.

With the staff on the side of the students (or is it students on the side of the staff?), the occupation of our campus has begun. As students, we know and utilize the power of the revolutionary voice firsthand, and as a result we should lend our support and solidarity to the protesting students and staff. And in times of uncertainty, it’s important to remember one thing: there is no greater gift that we have been given than the right to be able to speak against the injustices occurring daily at our university.

Nothing can even come close.

It is both a right and a privilege, in every sense of the words. A public university is the student’s university, and we will progress our campus further, whether the administration is ready for it or not. Similarly, our campus houses a unionized faculty, allowing its staff the legal right to bargain with the administration — an ability that none of the other UCs possess.

But the effectiveness of our protests needs to be under stricter scrutiny, more than ever before. Because whether we realize it or not, all eyes are on us. We stood on the sidelines too long, baffled about the changes occurring, desperate to stop it.

So I call out to the students who stand in support of their fellow colleagues and teachers to heed the rules of our campus in an effort to better change them. There is no benefit in defacing university property, because it is now our property, and we must treat it as such. We must support every member of our university — including the janitorial staff, who already do too much for too little — by not furthering the destruction of our campus, but rather its progression. It’s time to actively communicate the events taking place through the tools given to us by the technological revolution.

Similarly, I ask for professors to actively place the future of our campus above their own curriculum, promoting further walk-outs and making the effort to take part in them. This past week’s walk-outs proved to be better in theory than they were in practice. Many students were, frankly, unaware of the intensity of the events taking place. The role of university professor extends far beyond syllabi and lectures — they represent the positive authoritative figures of our university. Teach us to care, to better ourselves, to play an active role in the changing of our university.

We have always been in control of our university, we just never realized it. And after eight years of uneducated leadership, much of which got us into this situation in the first place, the time has come to actively promote the necessitation of higher education.

Until then, President Yudof, a few suggestions: warm milk, a comfortable pillow and lots of layers. Those are my recommendations for how you can sleep at night.