Some say it was the beginning of a revolution. Others felt that it was merely a nuisance. Either way the occupation that kicked off the school year prompted countless responses to its impacts.
During their residence in the Graduate Student Commons (GSC), segments of protesters organized various smaller-scale demonstrations of resistance, including two dance parties and a protest of the high cost of textbooks.
The dance, held on Sept. 30, was orchestrated to bring attention to the issues of privatization and public space by invigorating the student population.
“We are trying to get bodies out here to get the word out by offering them a good time and a sense of empowerment,” said Allen Smith*, a third-year graduate student and occupant of the GSC. “That politicized charge is there.”
A crowd of participants, spanning from one end of Joe’s Pizza and Subs to the other, converged beneath the GSC patio which was lined with declarative posters reading “Raise Hell” and “We’re the Crisis.”
During the dance, demonstrators climbed on tabletops and cement walls and spoke out with megaphones, giving brief speeches addressing the reasons behind the gathering. The rallying became rhythmic, as the speaker instigated chanting with the crowd: “What do we want? Everything! Whose occupation? Our occupation!”
Though much of the crowd rallied, the message seemed to get lost in the fray when some yelled to turn the music back on instead of listening to the speakers. The demonstrators bantered back, responding “We are here for a reason!” Some girls on the balcony began to taking off their shirts, encouraging catcalls and yells from some in the crowd below.
“We need to do more than just a one day campaign, and this is a start. The time is now,” said Jane Sandoval*, a second-year graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and occupant of the GSC. “We hope for a multiplicity of actions.”
Their next action was a protest of textbook prices the following day. Quarry Plaza was on high alert Oct. 1, as employees of the Bay Tree Bookstore had reason to believe that the occupants of the GSC would next attempt to raid the bookstore.
“Last Thursday it seemed pretty clear that they were going to come in,” said Bob McCampbell, executive director of the Bay Tree Bookstore. “People were coming in and checking us out.”
The students looking to protest were not the only ones waiting for something to happen; police officers stood on both sides of the bookstore observing the gathering.
“It looked like they were ready to come into the store,” McCampbell said. “We were more aware and took security measures. The presence of the police prevented anything like that from happening.”
For around an hour, 25 students sat in front of the bookstore anticipating a commotion as they smoked cigarettes and discussed the politics of textbook prices. However, it became nothing more than a philosophical conversation.
“We came to this unprepared and that, combined with classes going on, may have contributed to the small turnout,” said Brian Glasscock, a first-year undergraduate student. “Also, there wasn’t as much advertisment with this as there was with the dance party.”
The occupation has not been met with unequivocal fervor like that displayed by the demonstrators.
One graduate student agreed that having the space unavailable was unfortunate, but asserted that she sympathized with the act.
“It was an inconvenience for the space to be closed,” said Nishita Trisal, a first-year graduate student. “But it is a small sacrifice for what I think is a bigger, more important cause.”
For Max Shrieve-Don, a second-year undergraduate student who was tabling for the Bike Co-op in Quarry Plaza, the location of the occupation was not ideal.
“Occupation is effective if you occupy the correct space,” Shrieve-Don said, “but it’s not an administrative space and it didn’t bring the university to its knees.”
Christine Juarez, president of the Graduate Student Commons Governace Board (GSCGB) and seventh-year graduate student, echoes this sentiment. She felt that the occupation would have been better suited in an administrative building, rather than a student-operated and funded space. Those who occupied the GSC view the selection as well calculated.
“A common move for an occupation is in administrative buildings, but I think this might be a better move in terms of its visibility and its centrality,” Sandoval said. “I think that is a victory; we created a center [for] UC Santa Cruz.”
Also factoring into the selection of the location is the logistics of the legal ramifications. If the occupants had occupied an administrative building, police intervention very likely would have occurred sooner.
Proponents of the demonstrations say they have left the students and administration with a message to grapple with.
“The occupation is being dissolved so it can be generalized. We stayed for a week and showed that when students are behind something, the university can’t do anything,” Smith said. “Our presence as galvanizing has a limit.”
Some, however, argue that the occupation was not as effectual as claimed. Juarez disputes the occupants’ claims that the demonstration was catalytic.
“It really makes me mad,” Juarez said. “I don’t think it did anything for the students of UCSC.”
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of some sources.