They were upset about ‘Compton Cookout’ incident at UC San Diego and failed negotiations with custodial employees.
By Joseph Serna
Seventeen students and university employees were arrested Wednesday at UC Irvine after they staged a sit-in outside the chancellor’s office to protest about several issues involving UCI and other University of California campuses.
From the arrest of 11 students at UCI earlier this month, to a racist party at another UC campus, fee hikes, funding decreases and university employment issues, demonstrators said Wednesday that campus life is spiraling downward.
“It’s an alliance of students and workers expressing their disappointment and disgust at the administration’s lack of regard for their issues,” said Cindy Amobi, a third-year UCI student who represented the various interests.
Protesters picketed in a circle outside Aldrich Hall, an administration building, and blocked one entrance. A second group of demonstrators inside the building attracted most of the police presence.
With Irvine, Newport Beach and university police stationed at either end of Aldrich Hall’s narrow corridors on the fifth floor, 14 students and three custodial workers sat outside Chancellor Michael Drake’s office. They chanted and pounded their fists on the walls until they were taken away in handcuffs.
Amid protester chants of “No racist police! No sexist police! UC Regents, UC racists,” and “Whose university? Our university!” police decided to end the demonstration.
Using a bullhorn, a university police sergeant declared that the group was unlawfully assembled and said they would all be arrested if they didn’t leave.
One by one they were taken away over a half hour. The dwindling group cheered each time a protester was led away.
University officials said those arrested were cited on suspicion of failing to disperse and violating the school’s code of conduct policy.
Students and contract employees were demonstrating on four main issues, Amobi said.
Among the issues raised were what many students see as a tepid response from UC leaders to a recent incident at UC San Diego. Last week, students there took part in “Compton Cookout,” a party where people were encouraged to wear gold chains, cheap clothes and be loud to mock Black History Month, February.
Students at UCI were among many across the UC system who now accuse system leaders of advocating racism.
UC San Diego officials have said the “Compton” party was not a school-sponsored event and have denounced it.
Other protesters were picketing about a labor agreement, or lack of one, between UCI and its custodial workers. The university was in negotiations with ABM, which employs custodial staff. School officials were looking to fold those employees into its labor union, AFSCME 3299.
Talks crumbled and custodial staff had to take a 5% decrease in work hours, said university spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon.
Others were protesting a hike in student fees and a decrease in state funding. A few were calling for authorities to drop charges against 11 demonstrators arrested during a recent speech on campus.
Edward Abeyta, an advisor to the board of regents, was on campus for another issue when he visited Aldrich Hall to see the demonstrations.
“I think this is just the start of an overall movement that prioritizes student issues,” Abeyta said. “It’s a microcosm and reflection of what our leadership in Sacramento has to address.”
He noted that UC Board of Regents President Mark Yudof made a statement criticizing the San Diego event, but that it didn’t get widely covered.
“Right now, we’re a telltale of what’s going on around the world with education,” he said. “This is just a small example of the issues we’re going to have to address because others are watching.”
Students see the UC system “as an institution that’s not keeping the promise of its master plan,” Abeyta said. “There’s no short-term fix here.”