On Monday, May 10, over 100 UC Santa Cruz students crowded the floors of the Science and Engineering Library in protest of the severe reductions in campus library hours of operation. This reduction followed a $1.9 million cut from the library’s budget over the last two years alone.
The next day — Tuesday — the administration retaliated. The libraries closed at 4:30 p.m., nearly five-and-a-half hours before each of their typical closing times.
And now, as we enter a stage of conflict in which our actions are met with draconian reactions, an even bigger loss is occurring beneath the shaky terrain of student and administration relations — the disintegration of communication between students and staff.
Through the majority of this year’s student unrest, we’ve found solace in the knowledge that, while the administration is the figurehead and therefore the problem, the students and the staff were on the same side. What these rash retaliations to the attempts at civil protest do is hinder that bond.
The fact of the matter is that the campus’ reaction to the study-ins was far more problematic — both morally and financially — than the study-ins themselves. For the extra two hours that students spent sitting in the entrance of the Science and Engineering library, refusing to leave until the original closing time of midnight, both libraries closed five-and-a-half hours early. In an attempt to demonize the students who participated in the sit-in, a combined total of 11 hours of library time were taken.
“Since [student] action required extra library staffing, fewer people were available for [Tuesday’s] shifts at both libraries. In other words, the sit-in further reduced funds available to pay our dedicated staff to keep our libraries open,” University Librarian Ginny Steel said in an e-mail sent out hours after the early closure. In it, she explained that the strain on resources due to the protest required immediate action, and the early close was meant to show exactly that.
Library staff members were in attendance at the sit-ins, and as a result, were forcefully compensated for their two extra hours spent working. The staff has, until now, been on the side of the students, feeling the same strain that we have. There is no denying our common goal. While the extra time spent in the library was surely strenuous, now is not the time for the collectively affected to be bullied into turning on one another. The administration is already pitting students against students, as non-protestors were irritated to find their library closed even earlier because of a handful of students’ reactions. Pitting staff against students sharing a common cause is not the way for us to find a conclusion to what is sure to be a multi-year roadblock.
Most of all, what needs to be understood is that this issue goes far beyond our students and our staff, our campus and our administration. This points to an overall lack of support for higher education. We must recognize the need to be collectively focused against these cuts, whether that entails students and staff or students and administration. The answer to the problem at large will not come from over-the-top reprimands directed at those students choosing to fight for their campus, nor will it come from uncommunicative protests that could be more constructive.
For those unaware of the power of the proper collective, I suggest they read up on it.