For Undocu Collective, UCSC Administration’s Words of Support Ring Hollow
*A pseudonym is used to protect the source’s identity.
Six students were placed on interim probation after occupying the Academic Resources Center (ARC) in February. Some remain on probation following a July appeals process. And tensions between undocumented students and administrators remain after Undocu Collective members alleged the university co-opted their demands.
The Undocu Collective at UC Santa Cruz has been pushing the campus administration for increased support and protections since September 2019 when undocumented students and students from mixed-status families founded the group.
In the months since, Undocu Collective members met with Chancellor Cindy Larive and other administrators multiple times to urge action on a running list of 16 demands. The demands include increased housing guarantees for undocumented, Black and Disability Resource Center (DRC) affiliated students and barring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from campus.
In alignment with their desire for more safe spaces on campus, the Undocu Collective has called for a dedicated space for Undocumented Student Services (USS) since fall quarter. The USS currently shares an office with two other Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) in the ARC.
After leaving multiple meetings with administrators feeling unheard, Undocu Collective members and their supporters organized a “takeover” of the ARC on Feb. 5 to reiterate their demand for a space of their own.
Undocu Collective Occupies ARC
During a meeting, administrators told students they could not guarantee more space for USS due to limited spatial and financial resources, said Sandy*, a recent UCSC graduate who was part of the Undocu Collective.
“All of those reasons caused us to be, like, well, these demands can be met by us since we understand our needs and we can support our community,” Sandy said. “So let’s make more space for undocumented students on campus. And so that’s why we occupied the ARC.”
About 200 students gathered the morning of Feb. 5, marching from Quarry Plaza to the ARC and demanding more space for USS. Some students entered the building, while others remained outside.
Six students, four of whom are undocumented, received student conduct summons letters from the university administration following the Feb. 5 action.
The summons letters referenced Code of Student Conduct violations including unauthorized entry to or use of university services, disruption of university activities and harassment. While investigations took place, the Dean of Students office issued an interim probation for the six students who received summons letters.
“After going through the conduct process, a few of us got resolutions,” said Rio*, a member of the Undocu Collective. “And they really varied. […] Some people got probations, others got physically banned from the ARC. [While] some could still access the resources, the place was a center where people could come in and have a nice place to study, have that security, have snacks. One of us who worked there got banned from their own workplace.”
Although students received the summons letters in February, members of the Undocu Collective were still working through the student conduct process with administrators and appeal officers into the summer. The Dean of Students office lifted one probation in July but some of the other students remain on various levels of probation ranging from being physically banned from the ARC to suspension.
“I feel like one of the reasons we were targeted is because they don’t want other people to reclaim space at this university,” said Truth*, a USS intern and Undocu Collective member. “Cause that’s essentially what we were doing, right? We said, ‘This is stolen land. How are y’all going to say that we don’t have access to a place that came out of the civil rights movement? How are you going to say that this building isn’t for the students and only certain people get to be in there?’ It’s kind of ridiculous.”
Undocumented Students Say Their Labor Goes Unacknowledged
The last demand on the Undocu Collective’s list states, “Students’ energy should not be used as a tool or as a resource without consent by administration to further their agendas. It is admin’s job and responsibility to gather these resources and therefore student voices should not be co-opted and instead celebrated for taking action […].”
Chancellor Larive sent a campuswide email restating the university’s commitment to supporting undocumented students on June 18. The email immediately followed the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Trump administration’s 2017 rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was unlawful.
Larive’s email linked to a webpage on the USS site titled “Updates on Actions in Support of Undocumented Students.” The page was created on Feb. 13, one week after the ARC takeover.
“It’s not really true to say that we’ve refused the demands of the undocumented students,” Larive said in a July interview. “I think you saw in this website that the prior vice provost for student success was really trying to address those demands. […] It references that work that the campus was trying to do, to try and work through those demands.”
During a virtual town hall on July 2, members of the collective claimed the language used in many action items on the USS webpage had been taken directly from their list of demands without due credit. Bullet points on the site detail the university’s commitment to extending housing guarantees for EOP students, providing a gender neutral restroom within USS and dedicating space to USS, among other things. Several demands, including banning ICE from campus, remain unaddressed.
“It’s pretty wild just to see this co-optation and this stealing of our demands, of our work, of not just Undocu Collective but many other folks in other undocumented student spaces who have been working on this for a long time just for the university to be like, ‘This is the university’s work,’” said recent graduate Sandy* during the town hall.
Larive acknowledged in an interview the labor undocumented students have undergone to bring demands to the university’s attention. Administrators and undocumented students had difficulty collaborating last year, Larive said, adding that she wants to change that dynamic going forward.
Meanwhile, three of the six students received resolutions, with one remaining on probation. The other three students are still in the appeals process.
“In the end, no one’s held accountable except the students who speak up,” Sandy said. “And they’re saying, ‘oh, we’re holding you accountable, this is a restorative process,’ like the chancellor said, but this is not restorative.”
Additional reporting by Weston Gray
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated all six students who received student conduct summons letters in February had their probations rescinded in July. However, some of their probations remain in effect to varying degrees.