UCSC students and teachers made their disapproval of recent changes in the UC system visible this week during the “Walk Out to Your Education” event. Originally planned as a strike, the event changed course and instead became a walkout on May 18 and 19. Organizers encouraged instructors to relocate classes outside as a way to raise awareness of the consequences of this year’s fee hikes and budget cuts, as well as future changes the university could face.
Event organizer and graduate student in literature Brian Malone said that there was a number of reasons to change the event from a strike to a walkout and to use the event as an educational opportunity. They did not want to block students from accessing classes.
“[Event organizers] encouraged people to have classes at the protest, or come down between classes. We feel it’s important to use this opportunity to educate people on what the Commission on the Future [does], and the [UC] budget,” Malone said. “There are still a lot of people on campus who don’t really know what is going on.”
Class discussion groups and lectures met at both the West and Main entrances over the course of the two-day event, with approximately 175 students present at the west field Tuesday. Early Wednesday morning, five separate class sections met for discussion at the base of campus simultaneously.
The rest of the day, attendance was lower, with a few dozen students present. However, the low turnout did not cause the spirits of walkout participants to drop.
“I think it’s what we need after a very long year, it’s a relaxed day with a lot of conversation,” said second-year literature major Lauren O’Connor. O’Connor set up an information table at the event to provide students with free literature.
“We’re representing a variety of views from theoretical, practical and critical discourse with radical leanings … these texts help to explain where we are coming from so it doesn’t seem like a scary thing that can’t be understood by students our age,” she said.
Language Program lecturer John Mock was among those to move his Tuesday Hindi class to the West Field by Family Student Housing.
“We all support freedom of expression, and it was very nice to remove the classroom walls and have our class be part of the larger context,” Mock said. “It was a normal class, but we added the situation as part of our material for discussion in Hindi. We had some fun interactions with people walking by, some of whom knew some Hindi.”
Matt Latham, a fourth-year sociology major, attended the event for his community studies class, Gendering Occupation. The class looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a gender lens.
“If I hadn’t had class out here, I probably would not have come,” Latham said. “But I do think things like this are good, there seem to be some interesting discussions going on.”
The event also gave students the opportunity to hear speakers, including Community Studies Field Study Coordinator Mike Rotkin, and Professor of Social Sciences and Political Thought Robert Meister.
Meister, author of “They Pledge Your Tuition,” spoke on student loans, UC privatization, and growing income inequality.
“A tuition-dependent UC is a UC dependent on private borrowing,” Meister said. “There is something better than the best private education, and it is the best public education.”
Event participants both days were met with large numbers of UCPD officers, who observed the action from a distance.
Students and faculty who attended expressed that they found the police presence excessive and off-putting for an educational event. Along with the UCPD, Private Investigator Brian Newby was present at the walkout, photographing participants. As of press time, the UCSC administration had not clarified Newby’s role in the walkout, or whether he was in any way contracted by the university to observe the students.
“I wouldn’t have had students come here for class if I had known they would be photographed and subject to possible arbitrary prosecution by the administration,” said Spanish Lecturer Maria del Carmen Morris.
One officer expressed his support of the student action, and said that the UCPD presence was to ensure student safety following a year of several rallies, study-ins and occupations on campus.
“There have been a whole bunch of things that have happened this year. We’re just here to make sure everyone stays safe,” said UCPD Sergeant Brian Cabriales. “I think it’s good that students are out here raising awareness about the [issues on] campus, I wish them all the best in their campaign — I wear regular clothes too, I have three kids and I have a dog. Ultimately, this is my community.”
Despite police presence, students who led workshop group disscussions made it clear that the goal of the event was similar to that of the university as a whole — education.
“Students spend so much time being talked at. There is a message behind taking education out of the space of the classroom and talking back and forth — to have a non-hierarchical discussion between students, grad students, TAs and faculty,” said literature graduate student Katie Woolsey. “That’s what’s so great about having students lead these workshops.”