The innervating signs that once loomed over Joe’s Pizza and Subs in Quarry Plaza conveying a message of revolution are gone, no longer attracting the attention and curiosity of passersby. The area, once a site advocating resistance, now has the palpable air of normalcy.
The unprecedented weeklong occupation of the Graduate Student Commons (GSC) came to a close on the morning of Oct. 1 after approximately 25 individuals retreated from the building voluntarily. The demonstration began along with the walkout by University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union on Sept. 24.
The end of the occupation was met with mixed responses. Jim Burns, spokesperson for UC Santa Cruz, described the university’s relief when the participants vacated the space.
“We were pleased when they left,” Burns said. “We understand the concerns about these issues, but we don’t support occupation of space used by students or other members of the university.”
Although the occupation has ended, another disagreement continues. Chelsey Jaurez, president of the Graduate Student Commons Governace Board (GSCGB) that manages the facility, claims that the occupants left $10,000 in damages, which has been refuted by the collective.
Before the occupation ended, a meeting with members of the occupation and the GSCGB was held to discuss the date and terms of their departure. The GCSGB agreed that they would not call the police, nor would they condone a counter protest of graduate students who wanted to organize a resistance. According to Juarez, the occupants agreed to leave the facility as they found it, partially cover damages and depart on Oct. 1 by 12:00 p.m.
And so they left. The occupants peacefully vacated the premises before noon on the agreed upon date without any intervention from police or graduate students.
Allen Smith*, a third-year graduate student and occupant of the GSC, stated that the decision to leave was not a direct result of a previously arranged deal, but instead was influenced by the possibility of law enforcement being brought in.
“We received information that [the GSCGB] would be unlikely to bring police in until [Oct. 1] and it would be likely to after the date,” Smith said. “We were talking with them, and they were going to be sending in the authorities, so obviously that was a factor, but it wasn’t a deal.”
Juarez said that occupants promised to provide funding and time to help clean and repair the space upon their departure, though Smith says no such agreement was ever made.
“When they came in and talked to us, we told them we would like to help them clean up the space,” Smith said. “That was the extent of the conversation.”
Smith said when an occupier group came back to clean the space, cleaning crews were already at the facility.
After the occupants’ departure, Juarez reported that the GSC smelled of cigarettes and alcohol and rotting food was left in the kitchen. Cleaning crews spent 72 hours cleaning the facility where door handles had been tagged, some tables scratched and spray paint markings left on the balcony.
“I trusted them. We made a deal and they didn’t honor it,” Juarez said. “I felt like they lied to me and now we have to spend all this money to clean up.”
Juarez stated that $10,000 is a rough estimate for the damage. A couple thousand of that amount has already been spent on rekeying the facility, as there was concern that the occupants had acquired keys to the building. Smith claims that this was an unnecessary expense and asserts that none of the occupants had keys to the GSC since it was already open.
The takeover could not have come at a worse time for the GSCGB, which had just spent $40,000 on improvements to the facility.
However, Smith is skeptical of this $10,000 estimate and believes there is an ulterior motive for publicizing the number.
“They told us those numbers previously. They were ready to spin that story in advance,” Smith said. “I think the $10,000 estimate is a move for the GSC to play up their role as the victim.”
The GSCGB will hold a meeting next week to address issues about building security and hours of operation. Prior to the occupation, the GSC was open 24 hours, but since then the GSCGB has limited the hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has added security to the entrance.
Juarez hopes that the facility will eventually be able to return to its normal hours, but she states that it is a decision to be made by the GSC board.
“We have to decide whether it is safe to leave open,” Juarez said. “We have to have this discussion and I don’t want to have it. Hopefully we can continue on the way that it was.”
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of some sources.