UCSC students gather at Quarry Plaza before departing to campus entrances and blocking off the streets. Traffic was backed up down Empire Grade and Bay Street as protestors determined who could and could not enter school grounds. Photo by Rosario Serna.
UCSC students gather at Quarry Plaza before departing to campus entrances and blocking off the streets. Traffic was backed up down Empire Grade and Bay Street as protestors determined who could and could not enter school grounds. Photo by Rosario Serna.

I’m sitting in lecture on Wednesday, trying to get the education that I’m paying over $8,000 per quarter to receive, and in barge five students, faces painted, wielding signs that warn of 32 percent fee hikes and shouting at the students before them. Through a megaphone, they declare that our student fees are going to construction projects instead of to our education, and that UC President Mark Yudof enjoys a $900,000 annual salary while we struggle to make ends meet.

Not quite.

One-third of the fees paid by UC Santa Cruz students go toward financial aid, and the other two-thirds go to paying for campus instructional services. And Yudof’s salary is actually closer to $600,000 per year.

Not only was the class interruption offensive, it was deceptive. On Wednesday our education was interrupted so that an invitation to a campus-wide protest could be extended. This interruption not only misinformed students in some ways, but also seemed simply to be an abrupt effort to gain supporter bulk.

After class, a friend and I passed through Quarry Plaza to get to a bus stop, where yet again we were subjected to amplified, falsified shouts about fee hikes and student power and battle-like calls of, “Whose university? Our university!”

I can’t help but find it ironic that protesters claim UCSC as “ours” when their actions Wednesday actually prevented their tuition-paying peers from entering campus and taking advantage of the education that they work so hard to afford. A classmate of mine was unable to make it to section due to campus closures — both at the base and West entrances to UCSC. He may actually fail his class because of this absence.

The misguided enthusiasm of many protesters prevented hundreds of students from attending class, numerous professors from teaching class and countless campus affiliates at every level from knowing the full and honest truth about the fee hikes. Protesters stood at both entrances, deciding seemingly arbitrarily who had a good enough reason to be permitted onto campus and who did not.

If we as students are going to make a dent in this budgetary mess, we need to stand together in unity. Interrupting classes and keeping fellow students from fulfilling their academic desires and responsibilities does not foster such solidarity. The plight of affordability is felt by all students, and compassion is key in these trying times. Determining who is important enough to enter and exit campus alienates peers and fellow sufferers. And road closures only breed anger and frustration, rather than rallying a passion and understanding for the issues at the core of the protest.

Undoubtedly, the near and distant future of UCSC will be marked by more protests. It is our right and our duty as students to let our concerns be heard and to fight for the educational rights we deserve. But it is important that as we protest, we make every effort to be inclusive and progressive, rather than alienating and destructive.

Preventing financially struggling students from attending classes is not progress. Vandalizing cars that are stuck in traffic because the campus is blocked by a wall of people is not progress. Keeping students from getting to the jobs that help them attend college is not progress.

I agree with the protesters that fee hikes are completely terrible, especially in light of already high tuition costs. I agree that the state’s dedication to higher education is questionable, to say the least. I do not, however, agree with the methods implemented by protestors on Wednesday in order to communicate their anger and financial pain.

Biking up Empire Grade, all I saw were downtrodden, frustrated faces captive in their vehicles with traffic stopped going both up and down the hill. The student body was not marching through campus in unity, it was dispersed amid frustration in the hundreds if not thousands of cars that day. The student body was both literally and figuratively divided.

True educational dedication was more apparent in the students who trudged to campus from downtown Santa Cruz just to make it to lecture on time than it was in the protesters themselves. It was in the bikers who arrived at their classes, flushed and sweaty, because they had to book it through a mob and up Hagar Drive just to get to class. That is student power.

Without the fee increases the UC will fall short $792 million dollars in its budget. We need the money. But demanding that regents eliminate the fee hikes is like asking to live in a house without paying bills: it’s an impossibility.

If we are actually going to be successful in our fight against fee hikes and for student rights, we need to convene, organize and consolidate and to come up with comprehensive, realistic solutions.

This Wednesday was not a success, but next Wednesday, two Wednesdays from now, or even 20 Wednesdays from now can be. We need to organize, discuss, and fight together to save our education, but this cannot happen in one day. Patience is power, and the student voice can be heard if we take productive action.

This is our university. Let’s work to save it.