When they took over the Graduate Student Commons (GSC) on Sept. 24, it was a characteristic UCSC welcome: a hearty protest on the first day of instruction to rile up idle students and once again force officials into that familiar position at the edge of their seats. They threw dance parties and shouted into megaphones to bring attention to budget cuts, furloughs, layoffs and climbing tuition. They spoke passionately about calling the student body to action, to join them in fighting the good fight.
But who are they? And more importantly, what exactly is it they want us to do?
Unfortunately, we’re not really sure how to answer either of these questions just yet.
Since the first day of fall quarter, ignoring these actions has been near impossible. From class walkouts and altered campus bus schedules, to a simple lunch break at Joe’s, very little of the average student’s day has gone untouched by this matter. On Sept. 24, an alliance of students organized a walkout, a traffic-stopping rally at the foot of campus and a weeklong sit-in at the GSC in Quarry Plaza. They have since launched two dance parties and protested the cost of textbooks outside Bay Tree Bookstore. These initial actions have been described as “demandless” and “peaceful,” designed simply to shine a light on the University’s recent actions and rally supporters for future action.
It’s a good theory, but it appears the future arrived before these newfound troupes could be briefed on a plan of action.
Last Thursday, a group of students influenced by the initial GSC occupants picked up the revolutionary torch and ran with it, crashing head-first into a mess of noise complaints, graffiti and even a night in jail for one student. Similar to their GSC predecessors, these students also occupied a campus building — this time Humanities 2. However, their actions necessitated police involvement and pepper spray, consequences that the initial occupants never dealt with.
Whether or not this occurrence was an intended outcome of the first occupation is debatable. The point is, this is getting serious, and we’re very confused about what lies ahead and how it involves us.
Communication between protestors and the student body at large has gotten fuzzy. Most recently, students received a set of dueling e-mails concerning the Humanities occupation and it’s aftermath. The first came from Executive Vice Chancellor Dave Kliger; the second was a feisty response from a mysterious “Occupy UCSC” sender.
Following Kliger’s e-mailed account of the vandalism and “tens of thousands of dollars” going towards repairs, “Occupy UCSC” denounced many of Kliger’s points and once again called students to action. But the call was vague and alienating, urging students who disagreed with radical tactics to “join a wider struggle and pursue their own ways of fighting.”
It is this sort of mentality that could break down a potentially strong cause. If the students involved in the previous occupations hope to continue fighting and gaining support, communication and transparency are needed. It is also important that supporters at all levels of involvement are acknowledged and given opportunities. Clearly, not all students — especially those who have just arrived at UCSC in the last five weeks — are inclined to spend Thursday nights getting maced and arrested.
In addition, a sense of unity within the cause presents a better front to those who oppose it. The higher-ups are more likely to pay attention and take this seriously if they see a solid, productive alliance versus random destruction.
While it’s fair to say that the majority of UCSC students oppose the idea of paying more to attend school, we simply can’t organize behind an elusive cause that lacks organization. It’s likely that many would-be supporters are waiting in the wings with feet edging towards the action, but are unclear about where to go or what to do. It’s important that all students who want to be involved are given a clear avenue to do so, and that those who don’t are at least in the loop. We understand that radical action can be a vital part of initiating change, but without clarity, it’s just seems like chaos.
“We must all fight back against this situation,” said “Occupy UCSC” in the recent e-mail. “This cannot be the work of few. This is a collective and urgent task.”
We agree. But we can’t help out without a nudge in the right direction. And while there’s been lots of dancing, if there’s no clarity in your revolution, we’re not coming.