The UC Office of the President (UCOP) sent out an email on the afternoon of Nov. 14 informing the public that the regents meeting was to be postponed, based on information gathered by the UCPD that “significant violence and vandalism” was likely to occur at the event. The email said UCPD recommended “in the strongest of terms” the meeting be canceled, and after consultation within UCOP, they decided to heed UCPD’s warning.
UAW 2865 had chartered several buses to take protesters to the meeting in San Francisco, where a protest organized by the group ReFund California (an anti–Wall Street statewide coalition comprised of “homeowners, community members, faith leaders and students,” according to the group’s website) was due to take place.
Despite the cancellation of the meeting, the buses transporting over 1,500 protesters (including students from UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, San Francisco State and K-12 teachers) still went to San Francisco as planned. The protest took place in the Financial District of San Francisco, and included a march and rally that lasted the majority of the day.
“Wall Street and the regents can’t hide from us,” said Josh Brahinsky, UAW affiliate and graduate student at UC Santa Cruz in an email to politics graduate students outlining the change in protest plans. “We’ll be marching through San Francisco’s Financial District, where many of [the regents] have offices … we’ll invite them to join us.”
Student and union representatives have been largely critical of the regents’ decision to postpone the meeting based on the possibility of violent action. UC student regent and student regent-designate, Alfredo Mireles, Jr. and Jonathan Stein respectively, said the regents’ decision was a poor one.
“We understand that UCSF law enforcement authorities recommended the meeting be postponed in the interest of public safety,” they said in a Nov. 14 press release. “However, students have a right to protest peacefully and make their voices heard forcefully; this action eliminates their opportunity to do that.”
Sindy Ramirez, a UCSC SUA representative, said the cancellation robbed students of their voice.
“I think it’s unfortunate students from the UC system are not given this space for solidarity, and to express how we are suffering from these fee increases,” Ramirez said. “However, we must not let these concerns from the regents hinder students from taking action.”
Claudia Magaña, president of the University of California Student Association, said UC students are “strongly opposed to this decision.”
“We do understand the concerns about public safety, yet the regents have a responsibility to the students and people of California to hold open meetings that allow for public access and participation,” Magaña said in a Nov. 14 press release. “By canceling this meeting, the UC regents have done a great disservice to students, and our ability to participate in the governance of our university system.”
Others feel the cancellation of the meeting itself speaks to the effectiveness of the planned protests.
“I think it’s fantastic [that the meeting was canceled]” UCSC grad student Brahinsky said. “If you build a big enough movement, just its presence is an incredible force. We don’t even need civil disobedience — we just need to be there.”
The protest on Wednesday follows hot on the heels of police action that took place on the UC Berkeley campus Nov. 9, where students were arrested and beaten by UC police officers as they assembled in Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza. Antipathy from students towards the UCPD remain high.
“It seems that given the way regents meetings have gone in the past, the only credible threat I can imagine would be coming from UCPD,” said a UAW-affiliated TA who wished to remain anonymous. “This just shows how out of touch the regents are with the student movement.”
Mireles condemns the university response to the Berkeley actions as well, and thinks the UC system needs to differentiate between violent and non-violent protest.
“The police violence at UC Berkeley on Nov. 9 was reprehensible and ought to be condemned, not defended, by campus and systemwide administration,” said Mireles in an open letter to students. “The student regent and student regent-designate support the actions of students who call attention to the privatization of public education through courageous and peaceful protest.”