UC Santa Cruz students, workers and instructors converged by the hundreds at Quarry Plaza Wednesday afternoon. With fists raised, fire in their bellies, and homemade signs reading “Hike mountains, not fees” and “Who’s university? Our university!” the gathered crowd, estimated at 500 people, converged in front of the bookstore before marching down Hagar Drive. Their march ended at the base of campus.
Ian Steinman, one of the speakers at Quarry Plaza, articulated some of the goals of the movement. “We’re not trying to stop fee hikes today, but we hope to radicalize a new set of people who will contribute to the fight against them,” Steinman said. “We hope to encompass the student body and shake the state and shake the country.”
Students then circled the Bay and High intersection, creating a physical blockade to stop oncoming cars, which both honked in support and tried to squeeze past the protesters.
People from the crowd came up to the microphone to suggest their ideas for where to go next. Ideas included occupation of the music center, one of the administration buildings, or Classroom Unit 1. The consensus was that the Kresge Town Hall, which usually costs $400 to use overnight, was the best place to reclaim.
As this was going on, students at the West Entrance of campus had formed another blockade. The police threatened to arrest these students. Once news of this spread to the other group of protesters, dozens of students marched up Empire Grade to reinforce the blockade.
With the group at the West entrance significantly larger in number, the police showed no interest in arresting any students. The student protesters agreed to allow parents to pick up their children from the on-campus daycare, but denied students and professors access to campus. Members of the blockade chanted, “Out of the car and into the streets!” as they moved slowly towards the cars, forcing them to turn around. Eventually, all of the remaining protesters moved to Kresge.
As CHP went to press, the student protesters remained in the Kresge Town Hall, preparing with food and blankets to stay all night.
Margaret Laffan, a speaker at the rally and an organizer of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, objects to the fee hikes.
“Public education should be for the public good. By making it privatized, we are decreasing access and creating an elite group of students,” Laffan said. “If we’re only educating those who can afford it, then those are the ones who will have a voice and power in the future. That’s predominately the white and middle class.”
Impromptu speakers expressed their ideas and concerns into a bike-powered microphone in the center of the street. Students, faculty, community members and workers stood in solidarity. Workers expressed their concern with fewer working hours.
“We decided to rally with the students because they stand with the collation workers,” said custodian Nicolas Gutierrez. He continued to say that because of the cuts in worker’s hours, bathrooms and dining halls are not being disinfected the way they should, especially in the flu season.
“If students are paying more, they are also receiving less services,” Gutierrez said. “[The budget] affects everything — it’s even becoming a health issue.”
Despite the excitement for the cause, some students opposed some of the methods the protesters took.
Moments leading up to the walk-out, protesters stormed into Classroom Unit 1 while a Macroeconomics lecture was taking place, shouting negative remarks against the regents’ move to increase fees by a total 32 percent next year.
While some of the class chanted in support, others found the protestors disruptive. Antaeus Edelsohn, a second-year from Cowell College, yelled at the protesters to get out.
“You shouldn’t detract even further the amount of learning students do by disrupting class,” Edelsohn told CHP after the lecture ended. “Everyone in that class has already spent thousands of dollars [to attend classes]. I want to enjoy what I’ve spent my money on.”
Some participants of the walk-out agree. Tiffany Loftin, the Internal Vice Chair of the Student Union Association, spoke to the Quarry Plaza crowd through a megaphone.
After her speech, she told CHP, “Our goals are to be heard, seen and to represent. If you’re not in class, you’re supposed to be. We’re fighting against fee increases, so if you’re out here and not in class, it’s contradictory. People should be going to class.”
Many protesters at the Quarry Plaza Rally, including Loftin, planned on going to class later in the day.
UCSC fourth-year Rusty Plascencia was not about to miss class in the name of tuition hikes. “I would like it better if they changed all the classes to later [instead of striking classes],” he said. “If you don’t do anything, you’re always going to piss some people off.”
Third-year Alexandra Bakaly participated in the walk-out, but headed back up to campus later in the day to attend class.
“I wanted to do what I could to support the rally,” said Bakaly. “This is history, now. We’re making history and I want to be a part of it. I’m not just going to stand by.”
Inviting speakers to come up to the microphone in the intersection, Chris Chitty hoped that people would miss class in support of the movement. Dressed in a red shirt emblazoned with the word ‘communist,’ Chitty said above the yells and protests, “Going to class today is complacent on a day when the university is voting on fee hikes.”