A fluctuating number of students affiliated with Occupy California, a UC student political activist group, remain barricaded in the Graduate Student Commons (GSC) located above Joe’s Café in Quarry Plaza, as this goes to print. Occupy California aims to resist the budget crisis by using occupation as a strategy tactic.
The UC Santa Cruz occupation of the GSC building comes in response specifically to furloughs, lay-offs, rising tuition costs and other actions taken by the University of California administration.
“The goal…is [to use] this space as a place for organizing towards more actions in the future to address the budget cuts that have taken place,” said an anonymous source affiliated with the Occupy California movement.
Those close to the matter are calling the occupation a “demandless protest” with the overarching purpose of bringing students together to critique how the UC administration runs itself.
“There are no concrete demands that speak to the administration. But there is a message — a communiqué — with students, workers and faculty at this campus that the time is now to escalate, because demands have not been met in the past … the administration has outright ignored us.”
The occupation began the night of Sept. 24 following the statewide rally against budget cuts. The rally was carried out in various ways at all UC campuses and attended by faculty, students and union members.
At UC Santa Cruz, a day-long strike resulted in a march that started after the general assembly. The march went from the base of campus to Quarry Plaza where Occupy California took over the GSC and have remained since. Although occupants of the building said their act is separate from the strike, those leading the march at the general assembly were seen inside the GSC building on Sept. 28, the fourth day of the occupation.
“Santa Cruz has allowed [the occupation] to happen,” said a man inside the building who wished to remain anonymous. “We have now broken a record for longest student occupation of a building to take place in America post-1960s.”
In the past year students across the nation have taken similar action in response to budgetary issues facing higher education. At New York University, a student activist group called Taking Back NYU (TBNYU) organized similar actions in February.
TBNYU and collectives of radical students have been in support of the Occupy California movement. A group of radical students at Columbia University released a statement addressing the UCSC occupation, saying: “As you are showing, students refuse to be controlled. We refuse to be complacent consumers and victims of a ‘market’ pitted perpetually against us. We refuse to have a line drawn before us — of gender, class, race, sexuality, or any other form of privilege, of unpayable tuition hikes, of asphyxiating budget cuts.”
UCSC’s Graduate Student Association (GSA), the group in charge of the student building, has the ability to evict occupants. The GSA did not return City on a Hill Press requests for comment but an anonymous source involved with the occupation said that, “GSA is very angry at us for taking over their space, quote-unquote. They never directly asked us if they were welcome into this space — which they would have been, had they asked.”
Other occupants said that GSA members were seen at Occupy California meetings in support of the movement.
Occupants have placed a notice on the doorway that lists the risks of illegal action of entering the building. The notice includes a lawyer’s number to call if thrown into jail. The same number can be found scrawled on the forearms of many occupants.
Occupants said their action has been successful largely due to their affiliates on the outside.
“We’ve had many people associated with this. There is no central group,” one occupier said.
Inside, blankets and pillows line the building’s biggest room. For the past week the organization has held several meetings of up to 60 people to decide on their next plan of action.
A hallway attached to the common room leads to a smaller room where students sleep and study. Near the hallway’s exit sits a yellow legal pad that reads: “Emergency Text List (in the event of police action).”
While some students who pass by the occupation appear indifferent, others eye the balcony curiously. Lauren Abbott, a UCSC second-year, has spent many hours this week tabling just below the occupation for on-campus sorority Alpha Psi.
Abbott thought the signs posted around the occupation by those involved were “ambiguous.” “I don’t think [the occupation] is really making a difference right now because a lot of people see them but they really don’t know what they’re trying to do,” Abbott said.
Nathan Kimmel, a fourth-year engineering student, views the occupation in a positive light.
“I think it’s very important students are taking back their education and standing up for people that are hurt by this crisis,” Kimmel said.
An employee at Joe’s Café, who says he was advised to stay away from the occupation by unnamed local authorities, explained that business at Joe’s was negatively affected by the occupation in its first few days.
“We were hurting Friday and Saturday. But today we are doing fine,” the employee said.
He also noted that the Café needed to pull down the large window dividers between the interior of the restaurant and the outdoor patio in an effort to block out loud music being played by the occupiers.
The occupants love their music. When they’re not hosting dance parties, they’re passing the time listening to songs like Pat Kelly’s “Tracks of my Tears” and “How Long.”
Outside the occupation, in front of Joe’s patio, a UCSC alumnus participating in the occupation stepped outside of the GSC to dance freely while his friend passed out fliers about the occupation.
“[Dancing is] a way to pass the time while I smoke my cigarette — and before I go back inside.”