Anticipation hung in the air at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay conference center while students and workers demonstrated in opposition to proposed fee hikes and a two-tier pension program.
UC President Mark Yudof dismissed allegations of inefficacy of UC Office of the President presented during the public comment period at the Nov. 17 regents meeting.
“Despite what you’ve heard the drop out rate has been flat,” he said. “This idea that [the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan] is a sham is nonsense.”
Meanwhile, outside the conference center, spectators, activists and journalists tried to access the public meeting. However, new protocol for regents meetings put a stop to the process of credentialing reporters, giving police officers the authority to deny entrance to anyone.
UCOP director of media relations Peter King blamed a San Francisco Chronicle article for this change.
King said reporters displaying press passes and abstaining from participating in any demonstrative actions will still be afforded the appropriate rights in the event that police dismiss protesters.
Inside the conference room, UC Student Association president Claudia Magaña urged the regents to avoid imposing another fee increase.
“Fee increases are no longer an option,” she said. “We have given too much.”
Magaña presented student testimonials as evidence of the negative impact of student fee hikes.
Student regent Jesse Cheng and student regent designate Alfredo Mireles Jr. agree that it is the state’s and UC’s responsibility to provide quality higher education to its own residents.
“The thing about alternative revenue is that it does give up this idea of public education,” Mireles said. “It seems impossible to have more students, fewer classes and the non-residential students not pushing out California students.”
Yudof denies this.
“We’re not privatizing,” he said. “My problem is the state legislature doesn’t want to fund the Master Plan.”
After the public comment session, an estimated 300 protesters assembled outside the building.
UCSC student organizer Brian Malone accused the regents of being apathetic.
“They’re not even pretending even a little anymore that they care,” he said.
One group of protesters attempted crossing the police line by overwhelming a single police officer stationed at the conference center’s stairway entrance from the parking garage.
UCSF police chief Pamela Roskowski reported that the officer responded to the advances of the crowd by drawing his baton. Peter Haul, a UC Merced student took possession of the baton and struck him on the head with it.
Haul was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
Roskowski said that after the officer recovered his baton, he drew his gun when the crowd continued to advance toward him.
By the end of the day, 13 people were arrested. Roskowski said seven of those detained were UC Berkeley students and one student each was arrested from UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, UC Davis and Peralta Community College. Two more people were also arrested.
Fifteen people were hit with pepper spray and four police officers were reportedly injured.
“There was excessive force used — this is the way the UC maintains power over students,” Malone said.
UC Berkeley student Victor Mendez, among the 15 pepper-sprayed, said he was both pleased that this dispute would merit the attention of the regents and media outlets.
“I hope this gets better and by better I mean I hope we shut this shit down,” he said. “So besides my burning face, I feel fucking incredible.”
Roskowski declined criticism of UCSF PD and SFPD of using excessive force.
“I have no information to tell me protocol was not followed,” she said.
In the last open session of they day, a joint committee of the UC Board of Regents approved an action item to change “student fees” to “tuition” that will be voted on Nov. 18.
Student regents Cheng and Mireles expressed concern about the hastiness with which the motion was passed.
“It’s a significant change to the Master Plan and although we’ve been paying what feels like tuition for years now, it merits notice, and it’s disappointing,” Mireles said. “Those of us who believe in the Master Plan still think there should be fees, not tuition.”