Demonstrators dressed as zombies gathered on Oct. 7 to raise awareness about the ongoing University of California budget crisis. The year’s first rally last Thursday took a creative approach, featuring zombies shuffling around campus and moaning messages at students gathered at bus stops. The zombies then interrupted classrooms by limping through lecture halls, using the spectacle to round up people for the noon rally at Quarry Plaza, where an estimated 200 demonstrators gathered.
“Fee hikes have us turning over in our graves” and “I lyk my branes fully devellupped” were two of the poster slogans carried by the zombies.
According to fliers handed out at the rally, the UC regents are considering a proposal that calls for an additional 5 to 15 percent increase in annual fees for the next five to seven years. The next regents meetings are from Nov. 16 through 18 at UCSF Mission Bay.
“The university is becoming a natural disaster,” moaned one of the zombies as he passed through a classroom.
The theatrics continued at the noon rally with a mock pie-eating contest. Faculty and staff portraying student grievances like “Yudof’s housing budget” ate pie labeled “UC budget money.” Faculty and staff portraying “UC educational quality” were given none of the pie, in an dramatization of what protestors consider the unfair allocation university funds.
The rally focused on uniting various affected groups. The speakers of the day consisted of students, faculty, staff and representatives from the Coalition of University Employees, University Professional and Technical Employees, United Auto Workers (UAW) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
“[University affiliates] have not shared the burden equitably,” said Brian Malone, graduate student in literature and campus chair for the teaching assistant union, which is represented by the UAW.
The UAW was negotiating a new TA contract with the university.
“Last week on the day our contract expired, UC walked away from the bargaining table, refusing to continue to bargain,” Malone said.
A UCSC worker later spoke at the rally to share his experience.
“We as workers are being asked to do too much work for less pay,” said Nicholas Gutierrez, UCSC worker and AFSCME member. “[Some] workers on campus make $25,000 to 33,000 per year.”
A UCSC alumnus from the class of ’73 and father of UCSC student expressed his views on the university’s priorities.
“My son tells me he’s a biology major and he can’t get classes — so then what they did is reduce the requirements for the major,” he said.
The alumnus’ son is part of a large group of students that often struggle to sign up for necessary classes. A poster held up at the rally read that in spring 2010, 61 percent of students didn’t get into the classes they wanted or needed.
Protest actions have included strikes, sit-ins and campus shutdowns to gain the attention of the top administration. This year’s demonstration had a different goal.
“Last year we were very militant and it was an actual strike,” said Edgar Ontiveros, fourth-year anthropology and Latin America and Latino studies major. “I feel that what they’re doing right now is going to build up for further events during the year. It’s more like education and awareness … A lot of people don’t really know about the 33 percent increase, budget cuts [and] furloughs.”
“As long as we’re united, we’ll fucking win this fight,” Gutierrez shouted as students gathered with fists up, yelling, “¡Sí, se puede!”