The trouble with mobilizing the 99 percent is the “few bad apples” syndrome.
Just over two years ago, UC Santa Cruz students rallied, bearing signs asking students to “raise hell” over the 32.5 percent fee increase voted on by the UC Board of Regents. On Nov. 19, 2009, approximately 150 students occupied Kerr Hall, eventually barricading themselves inside in protest. When police raided the building and removed the student occupiers, UCSC faculty and students alike were aghast at the reported cost of damage to the facility: nearly $35,000 — an arbitrary and perhaps conflated amount — was charged to 35 students.
The Kerr Hall incident marked a peak in a brief series of occupations fueled by student angst, administrative indifference, and to some extent, a sense of abandon. An earlier occupation of the Graduate Student Commons had mixed results. Similar to the Kerr Hall occupation, four students were charged with $532 a piece for damages incurred.
While the protest itself was a testament to UCSC student activism, former Executive Vice Chancellor Dave Kliger pointed out in a 2009 email the drawbacks to occupations:
“Unfortunately, occupying buildings — a library last week, an administrative building this week — does little more than divert precious resources while denying others their rightful access to campus facilities and services,” he wrote.
As students, we all feel the brunt of the blow when fees get hiked up and cuts come down. Student movements like these and subsequent occupations should and have drawn attention to these facts. When instances of vandalism occur, it detracts from the overall sincerity and effectiveness of what is trying to be accomplished because it validates skeptics’ criticisms. Simply put, it distracts from the message. We would like to commend the students who occupied Hahn Student Business Services Center for recognizing this.
The Nov. 28 occupation is particularly praiseworthy for seizing control of the administration’s workday while simultaneously being considerate of the student body at large.
As the occupation’s media relations spokesperson, third-year Adam White described the occupation as “really organized” and “very civil compared to Kerr Hall.”
“We all made an agreement that we weren’t going to fuck shit up,” White said.
The Hahn building is both one of the best and worst places for the Occupy movement to have taken place. In solidarity with UC Davis occupiers, the UCSC student body shut down the campus bank. Yet the building also houses other critical resources, including the Disability Resource Center and the Student Financial Aid Office.
But by clearing out of their occupation Tuesday morning, the occupiers show that they remain mindful of the student body at large.
This latest occupation proved student activism will not be a rope for the administration to hang us with. It is about showing students care about student issues, and we’re not going to pay for it.