The UC Regents approved a fee hike at a meeting on the UCLA campus today (Thursday, Nov. 19) to address a $1.2 billion deficit next year, amid angry protests throughout the 10-campus University of California system.
Student regent Jesse Bernal was the only one to vote against the fee increases.
As a result of the hike, undergraduates and graduate professional school students will see a 15 percent increase in winter-spring 2010 fees, amounting to $585. Graduate students will see a 2.6 percent increase, amounting to $111.
Starting summer 2010, all students will see an additional 15 percent, or $1,334, increase.
A contingent of students from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego left for UCLA Wednesday, the first day of a three-day strike on the Berkeley campus, to protest at the regents’ meeting.
Students rallied, cheered, shouted and marched downtown to voice their concerns Wednesday.
According to local media blogs in Los Angeles, angry cries erupted outside the regents’ meeting room at UCLA while they discussed the fee hikes. UC President Mark G. Yudof has encouraged students to explore all available options, including scholarships, to fund their studies instead of getting discouraged and dropping out.
At UC Berkeley, students and faculty members held open discussions all over campus today.
The strike reached its peak at 3 p.m., when students and custodians dumped days-old trash from the different campus buildings outside California Hall, where UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau works, to protest recent custodian layoffs.
Although California Hall was locked and looked deserted, a couple of people could be seen peaking out from behind the blinds.
“Tell me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!” shouted Kathryn Lybarger, an organizer for the workers union, as students threw used paper cups, apple cores and banana peels at the front door. “What does a regents’ meeting look like? This is what a regent’s meeting looks like!”
“We will bring your job back,” Lybarger assured Houam Ounniyom, a laid-off custodian.
UC Berkeley undergraduate Marika Goodrich said some buildings on campus had not had their trash picked up for a month because custodians had been laid off.
“One custodian is being asked to clean an entire university building—garbage is piling up in the chemistry labs, in offices, everywhere,” she said. “Some people think it’s because the custodians are lazy but it’s because they are being laid off.”
UC Berkeley student Marika Ryer said that a shortage of maintenance workers was taking its toll on some classrooms.
“The other day a chalkboard fell on a professor’s face and he had a concussion,” she said. “It’s pretty bad.”
The pile of garbage was about five feet high by 4 p.m.
“It smells like hell,” chanted the crowd. “It smells like the bathroom.”
“It smells like leadership,” cried Lybarger, to applause from the audience.
Senior Matt Marks said that the students had specifically picked 3 p.m. to dump the trash outside California Hall because most custodians end their shift then.
“So when they clean all this garbage up, they will get some overtime,” he said. “The union members were OK with us doing this.”
Marks said that students had wanted to have an after-party at the Bear’s Lair following Wednesday’s rally but the student union administrative body had locked it down.
“They kicked the students out and chained the doors,” he said. “The fire marshall came and told them to open the locks because it was a fire hazard.”
Marks said that although the students had wanted to hold open lectures inside the food court Thursday, the student union officials told them that would require insurance.
“I don’t think they want us to do anything there except eat food,” he said. “And apparently even then we have to be out by 6 p.m.”