March 1, 2012
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By J.M. Brown
About a hundred students have blocked entrance to the UC Santa Cruz campus this morning, not allowing vehicles to enter as part of and Occupy Education rally.
The students are chanting and mingling around the entrances to campus. Police have not made an effort to disband the group. UCSC police as well as officers from Santa Cruz and California Highway Patrol have driven by and are nearby.
Buses are dropping students at the entrance to campus. Demonstrators are allowing bicyclists and pedestrians to walk onto campus and are allowing some cars through, mostly those going to the university’s health center. Cars are also being allowed to leave campus.
The demonstrators are erecting some tents by the base of campus where people are gathering to get out of the rain.
Emily Honn, a sophomore from Pasadena studying Earth science, said she is participating because “I’m tired of all the fee hikes. They’ve been difficult for my family. My sister is going to college next year and I want her to have as many opportunities as I do.”
Honn said her parents are having a tough time helping her pay for college because of decreasing financial aid.
Honn said she understood that the demonstration is stopping students who have paid for school to get to classes today, but said she thought it was more important for her today to participate in taking action to protest increased fees.
The demonstration is timed with similar protests statewide calling for an overhaul of how public education is funded in California. Demonstrators decry years of cuts to the K-12 and higher education systems that have led to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes and in secondary schools and increased tuition and program cuts at community colleges and university campuses.
Chancellor George Blumenthal and Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Galloway said in a message to faculty Thursday today’s protest “is preventing many students from attending classes at their normal time and place” They ask faculty to make accommodations, as appropriate, for students who are unable, through no fault of their own, to attend class.
Despite the fact that a UC education has increased 56 percent since 2009 despite, UCSC saw record interest among applicants for next fall, an increase of 13 percent over 2011 applications. But enrollment has been held steady due to a lack of funding from the state, a situation that student and faculty leaders say keeps the university from serving a growing base of qualified applicants.
Gov. Jerry Brown has recommended a 1.1 percent increase in funding for higher education, which university leaders say is essentially a cut because it doesn’t keep up with rising costs for employees. But UC would see a $200 million funding cut if the governor’s plan to increase the sales tax and some income taxes fails in November.
The “Tent University” being erected at the base of campus by protesters is designed to educate students about the impact of the cuts. Faculty leaders have expressed support for the protest.
The campus saw a number of “occupy” events on campus in recent years, including a takeover of the main administration building, Kerr Hall, and the Graduate Student Commons.
Three dozen students were charged nearly a $1,000 in fines for the November 2009 damage to Kerr Hall. Most of the students received disciplinary warnings but seven were recommended for suspension, probation or dismissal.
UCSC officials recommended students contact instructors and staff contact supervisors before Thursday to discuss access to campus. They suggested the campus community keep up on developments by checking a webpage established to provide updates or via the university’s Cruz Alert system.
Updates will be available through the campus’ communication hotline (459-INFO), UCSC’s Twitter account @UCSC and KZSC Radio (88.1 FM).
Police urge residents that traffic delays are expected on the Westside due to the demonstration. Watch for updates at www.santacruzsentinel.com