Saturday, September 26, 2009

UCSC Occupation

Oh, what a time to be in Santa Cruz! It appears some student activists have occupied the Student Commons on the UCSC campus. The occupiers write:
We are occupying this building at the University of California, Santa Cruz, because the current situation has become untenable. Across the state, people are losing their jobs and getting evicted, while social services are slashed. California’s leaders from state officials to university presidents have demonstrated how they will deal with this crisis: everything and everyone is subordinated to the budget. They insulate themselves from the consequences of their own fiscal mismanagement, while those who can least afford it are left shouldering the burden. Every solution on offer only accelerates the decay of the State of California. It remains for the people to seize what is theirs.”
How occupying the rather crummy restaurant near Cowell College is meant to achieve any of these things is beyond me (and likely the protesters themselves). At least this action has a more focused set of demands than their New York counterparts a few months back. With tuition spiraling upward in California, and with the job market being as it is, there is surely a lot of justified frustration to go around. Like previous tree-sits and student occupations however, this is not the best method of dealing with those complicated issues.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has more on this story.
"There have been so many hikes in tuition and at the same time they are cutting our resources," said Elizabeth Jarasunas of Los Angeles, a junior philosophy major who said she supports the Commons demonstration. "We end up paying more for a less-quality education."

She and freshman Edward Loseman, a molecular biology major from the Dominican Republic, said they have not gone inside the occupied area but hope the event galvanizes students around fighting budget cuts.

"It's about time we stop playing by their rules," Loseman said
Playing by whose rules? As far as I can tell, the rise in tuition has been well covered by media outlets in California, and while the student occupiers may eventually speak with a University liaison, there “negotiations” will not roll back the cost of higher education within the state school system.

I look forward to reading the occupier’s victory memo, where they specify this action’s ability to achieve absolutely nothing.


For a liberal free America said...

Oh, how cute! White liberals upset about worsening economics and less job availability.

Maybe they should have used their brains a little and instead of voting for lefty politicians with illegal immigrants' best interests in mind. Maybe then the economic problems wouldn't be so bad in what's fast becoming a third-world state.

So, pat yourself on the back white liberals. You've accomplished much in proving you're not racist. Hispanics are thanking you for the jobs, no taxes and free health care. And the companies hiring the are thanking you too. They don't have to pay the illegal immigrants as much in income.

Anonymous said...

Hello, as your blog was one of the first sites to come up in a Google search for "UCSC Occupation," I felt it worthy to leave a comment. First of all, the Commons that the (undergraduate and graduate) students occupied are in a central location of the campus. This allows the demonstrators to make speeches, pass out pamphlets and listen to comments from all sorts of students on their way to class, or to buy texts from the nearby book store. In other words, it is strategically central to the galvanization that Loseman mentioned. Secondly, those upsetting facts of the California budget--no matter how many media fonts repeat them--are not really known by the majority of UC students. I suppose my third comment is the most controversial: This occupation is meant, I believe, to be a meager beginning. No matter whose name is on what deed, the citizens of California and UC students are the people who pay for it; faculty and staff who are overworked and constricted by increasing layoffs are the ones whose labor earns it. UC administrators continually raise their salaries while worsening the quality of the product they sell. Though all of this is, of course, legal, it is unjust. The attitude of occupation speaks to this injustice. Students need to know that they are being ripped off with such vigor. The UC was meant to be a public institution, not a corporation. Students occupying those commons are not interested in negotiating with bureaucrats to let their hopes be crushed by the prerogatives of budget. I believe they think that change is in our hands and our power, not in those of the wealthy few. A pamphlet I read outside the commons reads

"University life finally appears as just what it has always been: a machine for producing compliant producers and consumers"

The occupiers, I believe, want to pose the question, "Should this be?"

Rebecca said...

I was a student at UCSC many many years ago and participated in the occupation of the administration building when a professor whom we liked was not given tenure. We stayed in the building until Monday morning, because if we had stayed any longer the police would have been called in. Our sit-in had no effect, of course, but did give us the feeling of having somehow done something good. I suspect that's what the current generation of UCSC students is feeling right now, whether or not their occupation has any effect.

Roland Dodds said...

I guess you could say Commons is as centrally located as any other building in UCSC, seeing that the campus is decentralized. On the plus side, the protesters have easy access to the sub-par sandwiches they sell there. Unless things have changed much in the last 5 years, I bet the area around the Commons remains pretty quiet however. But I’ll grant you that point.

As to students not knowing about the budget crisis, I would argue that that’s not true. Any of them who are even remotely connected to their student fees every semester can see how much it has gone up lately. Unfortunately for Santa Cruz activists, there are simply too many protests on campus and in town that are meant to “bring attention” and “enlighten” the surrounding population, and so these acts fall on deaf ears, and for good reason. What, other than “bringing attention” to the budget crisis, are these protesters going to accomplish? What is the step to achieve their aims after this occupation? Surely, I don’t think students should sit back on the sidelines if there are things they would like to see changed at the university, but I do disagree with their tactics and their aims when they carry out this kind of action.

To be completely honest, their words would ring much clearer if they made a list of programs at the school that they would like to see cut to offset the increased fees. And by programs to be cut, I mean popular programs that they enjoy. The problem with UCSC (and the state as a whole at the moment) is that no one wants to increase taxes or fees, but they continue to demand more and more from the already broken state. In hard times, everyone makes concessions (and the student population is hardly on the front lines of suffering).

But something tells me that pragmatic mindset and approach won’t be as exciting as taking control of a restaurant and making a slew of demands they know won’t be realized.

Anonymous said...

I'm at UCSC and can offer a clarification:

The occupation is not inside the restaurant downstairs, but in the commons upstairs. So it's not about access to stupid sandwiches, but as an earlier commenter noted, about occupying a building in a central campus location, across from the bookstore, with the Quarry Plaza below, with a balcony from which the occupiers can speak and interact with everyone outside.

One of the occupation's statements articulates the reasoning:

"Workers are losing their jobs. Students are dropping out of school. We have no choice but to occupy and escalate. We call on the people of California to do the same."

As Anonymous also noted, this occupation is just a beginning. Check out what's happening in New York, in New Orleans, in other places, and I'd be surprised to hear if more isn't escalating in the days and weeks to come.


Roland Dodds said...

Ah, so it’s not about sandwiches, but balconies. Makes sense.

Roland Dodds said...

“As Anonymous also noted, this occupation is just a beginning. Check out what's happening in New York, in New Orleans, in other places, and I'd be surprised to hear if more isn't escalating in the days and weeks to come.”

The beginning of what? Sorry, but I have been here before, and while this may seem rather exciting to you if you are 19 years old and educated in the Left that finds this kind of action the height of resistance, then yes, it may appear to be exciting. But to everyone else, including the legitimate Left, this looks like a bunch of college kids taking over a room to demand things that cannot be achieved by such actions.

Anonymous said...

(From the first Anon)

Yet, in the midst of California's budget crisis, lawmakers, and those men (and few women) who manage the budget continue to line their pockets with bonuses and perks.

You're certainly correct that a bunch of young, middle-class youth are among the least affected. Yet, the vacuousness of our supposedly "higher" education makes obvious the dying quail of genuine resistance.

Let us also talk about the word "demonstration." Although it is frequently used as a synonym for a protest, I would like to believe that what makes the UCSC occupation a "demonstration" is that it demonstrates to those students not involved the strength and power they could potentially exhibit. As the occupation escalates, the UC Regents and hell, everyone else, will be made aware--through demonstration--of what even a handful of committed citizens are capable of. Lawmakers and public managerial elite will see the demonstrated power of those disaffected whom they are robbing.

As for accomplishments, I suspect as well as you, that little in the way of legal success will come of this. Ideological success? Likely marginal, but still real. Fiscal success? Ha! Do students have a list of programs they'd rather see cut than the Latin American/Latino Studies Program, or the Community Studies program? No. We want it all. Budget cuts should start at the top. What would achieve this? Most likely, an occupation of the University House, or Mark Yudof's mansion in Oakland. Do students want to sacrifice their freedom to make such actions? No. Of course not. By the same logic that the Unions that struck on Thursday struck for only one day. We are vulnerable. We are scared.

Still, direct action counts for more than voting--something most of these students are convinced of. Why haven't the police raided the building yet? Because their authorities are aware that the UC is hurting its students and that conflict will catalyze more radical action and produce more radical results. The occupants are working hard to do the same without anyone having to get arrested... yet.

But if you think that the 8-hour work day, the abolition of child labor, medical benefits, child care benefits, and job security are benevolent gifts of liberal politicians or employers, you are sorely mistaken. These things were fought for, bled for, died for. So, why stop?

Also, "For a Liberal Free America..." Are you fucking serious about free health care? I'm a citizen, and because of a congenital condition, I am completely un-insurable! Politicians defend the right of immigrants not because of some anti-racist agenda, but so that their labor can continually be exploited by agricultural business and the service industry--jobs that students earn their degrees so that WE DON'T HAVE TO WORK THEM. If we're losing jobs because of "Hispanics," then there is still a problem with public education, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Well, speaking as a University student I can honestly say that it's not the economic crisis that scares me, but the prospect of recovery.

Anonymous said...

big surprise that an enlightened former socialist would have a problem with students demanding the free education that the state of California use to grant.

who knows what the occupation will lead to. But when self-aggrandizing bloggers write that it means nothing, that comment surely reflects more on their own activity.

anon 2.0

Steve said...

The occupiers thought the blogger might want to be made aware of the exit message. Hardly the vacuous "victory message" that was anticipated!

We left this occupied space in order to escalate. This is only the beginning of a year-long and multi-year effort to stop and reverse the damage being done to public education in California.

Many students and workers are learning from our action how to escalate their own resistance against leaders who are failing to protect our education system. We hope this occupation and our future actions will also help catalyze people throughout the state of CA to fight back against the budget attacks on their communities. All universities are being run like corporations, and the situation has become unacceptable. Now is the time for students across the nation to fight back. We have received statements of solidarity from around California, the United States, and the world. This is a struggle situated here, on our California campuses, but it is directed far beyond.

We leave not to retreat but to plan further modes of escalation. We leave knowing that countless others out there are planning, gathering support, innovating, and strategizing. This is the end of this particular action, but it is only the beginning of more actions everywhere, again and again, as long as it takes.

We’ll see you in the very near future.

In solidarity,


Anonymous said...

The point isn't to demand anything. The only reasonable orientation towards society is one of utter nihilism. There is no victory, only occupation and escalation. We desire everything and expect nothing. We are against everything and have no plan on saving society, only a plan on how to let it crash in a way that benefits us.

Paul Fernhout said...

I wrote a rebuttal to some of the points about effective change in “Communiqué from an Absent Future”, even as the occupiers may be right about many of the problems they wish to help fix:

It’s very easy to tear things down; it’s much harder to build them up, as the destruction of Iraq showed.

Essentially, strategic non-violence is the only sensible way forward in our current society, as a UC Santa Cruz professor (G. William Domhoff) outlined years ago:

So, how about, make films and music and food and education, not war?

Here is an essay I wrote last year about transforming Princeton University into a post-scarcity institution:

Here is the really long version: :-)

Anonymous said...

wait, aren't occupations and protests like a fad at UCSC? You know, for freshman to be accepted or be one of he crowd? I'm sorry but, I don't have sympathy for these people.