“Education isn’t free right now,” second-year Noah Miska, an environmental studies and art major, said through a bullhorn.
Five hundred students lay on the East Field Tuesday afternoon to spell “FREE EDUCATION” with their bodies.
Thirty minutes past noon, a plane flew over the field to take pictures of the arrangement of bodies advocating free education in protest with the University of California budget cuts.
Chris Woolling, a fourth-year psychology major, participated in the formation of “FREE EDUCATION.” Woolling said he would have “wished it was in Sacramento,” but the non-violent atmosphere was his motivation to participate.
“It’s also an inspiration, especially after the recent successful protests around the world,” Woolling said.
The unofficial organizing group, Open University Together (OUT), fundraised throughout the quarter to make Free Education possible. The group fundraised $1,600 in grants from various UCSC colleges to pay for the event’s food, art supplies and facilities.
Forty butcher paper signs were posted on the tennis court and pool’s fences — each banner with a question or statement. Students were able to pose responses on questions like “What is an individual?” and “What is your major and why is it important to you?”
Robert Gutierrez, fifth-year psychology and Latin American and Latino studies major, said that he liked the new creative way to protest. As an advocate for higher education, Gutierrez said that it is unjust that as budget cuts increase, diversity on campus decreases.
“It’s sad that a lot of students who want to go into higher education are telling me that as much as they want to do it, they can’t afford it,” Gutierrez said. “I find it hard to advocate to high school or transfer students and telling them that it’s a good investment, when I feel cheated of my education.”
Miska was the student who came up with the idea and organized the non-violent demonstration to protest budget cuts. He wanted to make sure that students felt they were in a peaceful and safe environment. Miska said he dialogued with executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway to help in not having police officers be too visible.
The only sign of police involvement was one police officer on a motor cycle stationed on the outskirts of the field. No use of force or any violent acts occurred during the event.
After the plane picture was taken, some students stayed on the field to engage in dialogue around various discussion groups. Topics ranged from Immigration Policy to current events in Egypt — all dialogue in connection to the complexities of issues caused by budget cuts.
Free Education gathered media coverage from NBC and Univision, and Miska said he was content with the overall turnout.
“[It went] amazingly,” Miska said. “People felt comfortable enough to get naked and there are thoughtful responses [to the questions posed] on banners. I think everything happened as it should have.”
March 2, the National Day of Action, will follow Tuesday’s ideas for a free education during a noon rally at the Quarry Plaza.