Disclaimer: UC President Mark Yudof and regents be supporting students on the March 1st UCSA actions, not on the stated March 4th actions, however protests will take place on both dates.
Regents to back UC students protest at Capitol
Thursday, January 21, 2010
After last fall’s angry and at times violent campus protests, it seems unlikely that rival students and leaders of the University of California would stand together to speak out on behalf of UC.
But when students hold their big Day of Action in Defense of Public Education on March 4, converging on Sacramento to lobby lawmakers for sufficient funding, several members of UC’s governing Board of Regents and UC President Mark Yudof said Wednesday they’ll be there with them.
“We need to be up there as regents and as students,” Dick Blum told his two dozen or so fellow regents meeting this week in San Francisco. UC chancellors, administrators and students also attended.
Other regents – not all – agreed.
“We all have to join together,” said Regent Leslie Tang Schilling.
“I’ll be there,” said Regent Frederick Ruiz.
“It certainly would be appropriate for us to join the students,” said Regent Charlene Zettel.
Even Yudof, the most frequent target of student fury in recent months, said he would join in.
“I think we can work together,” Yudof said. “We’re on the same wavelength.”
Unexpected words, given the escalating animosity in recent months.
The trouble began last summer with an $813 million hole in the UC budget. Yudof’s austerity plan included deep cuts on campuses: fewer courses, lecturers laid off, and pay cuts through furloughs.
Angry protesters disrupted the September regents meeting, and 14 were arrested. Days later, thousands of students and faculty walked out of classrooms across the state to protest UC leaders’ handling of the crisis.
Then in November, the regents agreed to raise tuition 32 percent for fall 2010, on top of a 9.3 percent increase approved in May.
Angry students threw food, sticks and vinegar-soaked bandannas at the UCLA building where the regents met. Dozens chased after Yudof and the regents as they left, with police in riot gear barely catching up.
At UC Berkeley, students occupied Wheeler Hall for hours, while some 2,000 supporters ringed the building. Helmeted police used metal gates to push the students back and beat some of their hands with batons.
The violence culminated in December, when police arrested eight people among dozens who broke windows and threw torches at UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s campus residence.
On Wednesday, perhaps thinking of such incidents, Regent Sherry Lansing said some regents “may not feel comfortable” supporting the students’ agenda for UC.
But Victor Sanchez, president of the UC Student Association, told the regents he hopes “we can meet each other half way.” He described the March 4 event as part of a monthlong effort by students, from elementary schools to universities, to draw attention to the need to better fund public education.
He and the UC leaders agreed they have a common goal: getting lawmakers to look favorably on the stellar public university system as they try to knit together a $20 billion budget gap over the next six months.
“It’s a matter of seeing where we can collaborate,” Sanchez said, suggesting the regents help pay for buses to bring students to the Capitol.
Jesse Cheng, the student regent designate, said, “It’s time we went to Sacramento as a UC family and presented ourselves as a united front.”
The mood on campuses was less genial, in part because today the regents are set to approve millions of dollars of extra pay for a handful of UC executives who met performance goals.
“Yudof and the regents are a major part of the problem,” said UC Berkeley student activist Callie Maidhof. “It was not the state that decided to give these administrators enormous bonuses.
“This is just another attempt to co-opt the student movement when it’s very strong. I can tell you it won’t be successful. We won’t be deceived.”
The regents resume their meeting at 8:30 a.m. today.