“Free education rain or shine” is written on the sidewalk every 100 feet, and flyers on every other light post for a noon rally draw attention to events planned for the first Tuesday and Wednesday of March.
The demonstrations on these two days are meant to spread awareness about the ongoing UC budget cuts. Organizers point to the UC regents for the state’s failure to fund higher education.
In fall 2009, UC regents voted to increase UC registration fees by 32 percent. A year later, in 2010, the regents increased fees another 8 percent.
Coincidently, many divisions continue to face cuts to their departments. At UCSC, the American studies and the community studies majors have been suspended until further notice.
Brian Malone, campus chair for the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) and a fifth-year graduate literature student, has been organizing to inform the campus about these cuts.
“The pressure to privatize the UC is coming from the failure of state funding,” Malone said, “but the way UC has spent the money has sort of shifted the burden onto students.”
Open University Together (OUT), an unofficial student group, is organizing a demonstration for March 1. The group has been organizing since the start of the semester to make March 1 a peaceful, fun and informative demonstration.
The excitement for March 1 comes from the goal to get at least 1,000 students on the East Field at noon, where they will spell out “Free Education” with their bodies.
Second-year environmental studies and art major Noah Miska was one of the students who came up with this idea and has been scrambling to make the event happen.
The group has accumulated $1,300 in grants from various colleges, which will pay for food, art supplies and facilities for the event.
Student participants will be invited to make use of the 11 gallons of paint, several hundred pieces of chalk, 256 markers, 1,000 feet of butcher paper and several hundred pieces of cardboard provided by OUT to construct posters, artwork and idea boards to express their ideas and opinions about the state of the UC.
After students finish spelling “Free Education,” they will form discussion groups, teachings and an open space to meet others. For Miska, the event will show that activism can be both fun and productive.
“I want to use the event as a networking space for future organizers of non-violent demonstrations,” Miska said.
For Miska, free education starts with spreading awareness.
“I want students to engage in knowing that no one should have to pay for access to resources on campus,” Miska said. “Anyone who wants to learn about something has a right to be connected to someone who is able and willing to teach on that subject.”
Even though the cuts come from the state, part of the problem is that certain “corporations are not being taxed to the extent that they could be,” Miska said. He commented on the administration’s idea that cuts are inevitable, and wants to make this a focal point at the March 1 demonstration.
“I just want to remind people of the ideal on which the university was founded, which our administration seems to have lost sight of,” Miska said. “They don’t think it’s possible for us to have full state funding, but I think that they are wrong.”
Malone says that cuts have not been equally distributed across campuses and inter-departmentally. He said that the cuts to particular divisions and resources have made it seem like the administration targets particular groups.
“All students are affected in some way, but the cuts have also been particularly targeted to students of color in terms of accessibility to the UC,” Malone said. “Programs like American studies, community studies and the lack of ethnic studies continue to impact these communities that are already being hit hard by both the UC and the state’s policy.”
The possibility of bringing an ethnic studies major to UCSC — the only UC aside from Merced that does not have one — will be one of the main discussion points on March 2.
Organizers hope the momentum of March 1 will roll over to the events planned for March 2. The ad-hoc group of organizing students plan to have snake walks on campus to draw more students for the noon rally. The rally will be situated around a carnival aspect with artwork, skits and various speakers to educate students on the complexity of budget cuts.
“We do talk a bit about ethnic studies developing here,” Malone said. “I mean, it’s not going to make up for what’s been done … but it’s something that needs to be done.”
Third-year history and sociology Carol Hernandez is part of the March 2 organization group. She said that students’ experiences in overcrowded classrooms, the unbalanced ratio of teacher aides to students, the cut resources and the cuts to certain majors need to be openly discussed among faculty, workers and students along with the administration.
“The focus is imagining a new university,” Hernandez said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean diversity in the demographics — it means diversity in ideologies and perspectives and experiences. It’s a start, and in that start you start with that dialogue and conversation that could eventually lead to some structural change.”