Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fight Back News: UCLA Students, Faculty, and Workers Walk-Out Against Cut-Backs

By Eric Gardner

Los Angeles, CA - The fall quarter started off with a bang across the University of California system, Sept. 24 as thousands of workers, faculty, undergrads and graduate students walked out of work and class to protest severe budget cuts, layoffs, furloughs and tuition hikes.

At the UCLA campus, the faculty and student walkout was combined with a one-day unfair labor practices strike by United Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), which represents thousands of workers across the University of California system. Other campus workers and supporters joined them at the picket lines.

At noon, all of these groups came together for a rally at Bruin Plaza, which had as many as 1000 people at its peak. “They say furlough, we say hell no!” was a popular chant, as was “Whose university? Our university!”

Speakers included union members, graduate and undergraduate students and professors. UCLA’s student government, graduate student association and several academic departments formally endorsed the event.

Susan Li, External Vice President of the student government, spoke about the rising cost of education at UCLA: “Since my freshman year the cost of education at UC has risen from $6141 in 2006-2007, to $8266 this year - that’s a whopping $2125 increase in just four years. Now is that right? And what’s worse is the projected 32% increase this fall for next year, which will raise our tuition to $10,302. And that doesn't include books or living expenses!”

Protesters didn't hesitate to connect the UC budget crisis with other issues, either.

“The federal government found the money to bail out Wall Street, to bail out the banks, to bail out the auto industry - but where’s the money to bail out public health care? Where’s the money to bail out public education?” asked a graduate student speaker. Each mention of a bailout was met with resounding booing from the crowd. “There’s no bailout for us - because it’s a higher priority for the government to spend billions and billions of dollars for imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Then crowd took up the chant: “No cuts! No war! The cuts are for the war!”

Other speakers talked about how the cuts on campus impacted students of color and immigrant students by eliminating resources they relied upon, from grants to ethnic studies programs. “UC regents, we say racists!” the crowd chanted.

At the conclusion of the rally, hundreds of protesters marched across campus to Murphy Hall, where top campus administrators, including the chancellor, have their offices. A group of students demanded entry in order to meet with Chancellor Block and present their demands. When told that the chancellor wasn’t in, a group of about 60 students staged a spontaneous sit-in until he agreed to schedule a meeting on Oct. 5 to discuss the cuts.

On other UC campuses, similar events took place - all ten of the UC campuses saw some level of protest. At UC-Berkeley over 5000 marched from campus into the city streets, closing off intersections. Students at UC-Santa Cruz have launched an occupation of a campus building to protest the cuts.

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