Doesn’t the Graduate Student Commons already belong to students?
NO. The GSC makes a mockery of the very idea of student commons. What do we really have? We have some study rooms and a lounge with a Wii. Undergrads don’t even have access to that. Don’t be fooled: we have nothing – no public space, no community space, no organizing space. The GSC is NOT an authentic student space. It is an exclusive clubhouse that appeases graduate students while dividing the student body along the lines of status.
Elsewhere in the world it’s quite common for universities to contain autonomous student spaces that are owned, controlled and used entirely by students. make no mistake: these spaces were never given, they were taken. What power and resources students control was won by struggle. The spaces they own now were won by radical student movements in the 60s and 70s – by occupations. Now, these autonomous zones are critical spaces for community, activism, and the free flow of ideas.
Maybe it’s hard to imagine students owning and controlling a space within this university. In fact, the idea of autonomous student space conflicts with every aspect of how the university works. This is the real point – the university system, as it exists today, is incompatible with anything resembling real community, autonomy, democracy.
Many will claim that we are occupying space that belongs to the grad students, but this is just not true. This building is owned by a bank; grad students fees pay for a mortgage that was purchased from the UC. This is what we’re talking about. We find ourselves so far down in the pit of privatization that even students space must be bought on the market and financed with a payment plan. Thus, our project of occupying the GSC is inherently related to the larger project of liberating and transforming the university and society.
A student-controlled space at UCSC is unrealistic. But the very fact that it is so unrealistic highlights how very fucked we are. How completely bureaucratized, corporatized, and privatized this university. The impossibility of truly autonomous student space within this university highlights the fundamentally alienating, isolating and ultimately controlling nature of our educational system.
This occupation is a first step; it is not the end. We will not transform the university solely occupying the GSC. However, we have taken one concrete step towards taking back our university. Whether it is held in occupation, evacuated, or transformed into public space, something has begun here at UCSC. It’s time for students to question every aspect of the university and the social space that surrounds us. It’s time to start discussions about what needs to be done, how it is to be done, and why it is to be done. It’s not time to apologize for taking over their clubhouse. It’s time to escalate.