What Does Summer Mean for Student Organizers?

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Administrators and policymakers don’t stop making decisions once spring quarter ends, creating an obstacle for student organizers over summer. The three-month dispersal of students can halt organizing momentum into the next school year, pressuring students to keep updated and make plans through the break. City on a Hill Press spoke with multiple groups, ranging from labor organizers to environmental and educational activists, about how they plan to continue their campaigns over summer and into the fall.

Worker-Student Solidarity Coalition

For the Worker-Student Solidarity Coalition (WSSC), an organization of students in support of UC service worker union AFSCME 3299, summer planning is still focused on addressing spring quarter.

In May, during the three-day AFSCME 3299 UC-wide strike, police arrested two UC Santa Cruz students and gave dozens of citations. AFSCME intern and member of WSSC Sarahí Gonzalez Ramirez said WSSC’s current priorities revolve around helping students pay for citations and trying to get misdemeanor charges dropped for students Jeremy Saunders and Juan Carlos Dàvila Santiago. Santiago’s court date is June 19.

Gonzalez Ramirez and other students, independent of WSSC, are also demanding the demilitarization of the UC Police Department in light of the strike’s heavy police presence — about 125 police officers patrolled entrances during the strike. Last week, Gonzalez Ramirez met with associate vice chancellor of Risk and Safety Services Jean Marie Scott and is waiting on a meeting with UC Police Chief Nader Oweis.

Student allies and members of WSSC will also continue to pressure the UC to meet AFSCME 3299’s demands for better wages and other improved contract agreements. Since the strike, the UC has extended no further offers.

Gonzalez Ramirez said although she’ll be organizing through the summer, the break and school terms overall pose a threat to student activism.

“With every school year, organizers come and go. Retention rates are something that is going to affect us. Because we’re barely starting to get the groove of stuff and the year is closing, and that’s why the quarter system works so efficiently,” Gonzalez Ramirez said. “[…] So the momentum of those social justice effects wears off soon.”

UAW Local 2865

Union of Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 represents academic student employees — including teaching and research assistants — across the UC. The union is in the midst of bargaining with the UC for higher wages and a number of social justice improvements because its contract expires June 30.

Last week, UAW Local 2865 participated in its sixth bargaining session in the past three months and has three more scheduled across the state leading up to the contract’s expiration date. 

Beyond contract negotiations, UAW Local 2865 UCSC chapter chair Ana McTaggart said members are organizing around increasing membership and an anti-sexual harassment campaign this summer. The union is already circulating a petition to strengthen protections for sexual assault complainants, which garnered over 2,000 signatures in about a month.

“We want to guarantee our student workers receive representation, not isolation, throughout the process, ideally from a union representative or someone of their choosing,” McTaggart said.

Student Union Housing Working Group

The Student Union Housing Working Group (SUHWG) under the Student Union Assembly (SUA) spent the year organizing around student renters rights. Members have hosted forums on the LRDP, met with administrators and city council and spread the narrative of the UC as many students’ landlord.

Notably, throughout the year SUHWG created an on-campus housing experiences survey that it is currently gathering data from and a set of demands to UC Santa Cruz administration regarding equitable campus housing, said Tho Lê, SUHWG coordinator. The survey is meant to depict the housing crisis’ effect on on-campus residents and show an overall picture of students’ on-campus housing experiences.

The group spent the year doing research and meeting with administrators to construct a set of demands to campus administrators for equitable and fair campus housing that was shared with to administrators on June 1. On-campus rent costs have soared while conditions have diminished. SUHWG hopes to build power around these demands to combat these situations.

The group plans to use the summer to continue its work toward equitable student housing and make plans for next school year, like bringing people into the group.

“We’re really prepared to just reflect on the year over the summer and then make some plans for what to do later on,” Lê said. “And of course we’re going to keep working on these things because the admin are still here, we probably just won’t do anything that requires a lot of people to show up.”

Fossil Free

Fossil Free UC’s (FFUC) mission is to push for the UC’s full divestment from fossil fuels. This year the campaign succeeded in influencing the UC regents to divest $500 million, but the UC still has about $2.6 billion invested in fossil fuels. FFUC also demands that the UC release a public statement acknowledging the need for divestment.

FFUC also expanded communication with the regents’ investment subcommittee and has stressed the importance of fossil fuel divestment as a social justice issue.

Next year, FFUC has plans to meet with the academic senates at UCSC, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego to introduce a resolution in support of fossil fuel divestment that the academic senates will vote on.

Though the summer is usually a time for FFUC to take a break from the fast pace of the school year, the organization will continue to meet via video calls. The campaign will continue through fall, educating students and taking action toward its goal.

“It has been a really productive year for the campaign in many ways,” said fourth-year   Fossil Free UC Santa Cruz organizer Claire Watts.  We’ve made a lot of progress in expanding our narrative to focus on social justice and we’ve also been making a lot of progress in terms of tangible next steps in fossil fuel divestment.”

Tuition Organizing

This year the SUA external vice president (EVP) office has worked to organize against further UC tuition hikes, mainly through lobbying. In addition to informing students on the importance of lobbying, the office lobbied at the California Assembly. EVP Judith Gutierrez is also the president of the UC Student Association (UCSA) and has gone to Sacramento multiple times to participate in state education subcommittees on behalf of UC students.

Over the summer, the office will continue to stay proactive around tuition.

“A general very proactive theme is just to stay proactive at the pressure and continuing the meetings and continuing to lobby because they’ve been working,” said Davon Thomas, chief of staff to the vice president of external affairs. “The folks in the Assembly and the Senate and the legislators, they wouldn’t have been caring or wouldn’t have passed these budget asks if it wasn’t for students bothering them all the time.”

The UCSA recently released a phone banking list of California legislators that students can call to push for more UC funding in the state budget. The EVP office will also participate in the Student Organizing Summit and Undocu Coalition Conference in August to mobilize students for the upcoming year.