By James Illingworth | February 12, 2010
SANTA CRUZ, Calif.–Campus authorities at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) have launched a campaign of harassment and intimidation against student activists in the lead-up to a statewide day of action against the budget cuts on March 4.
This week, about a dozen graduate students and undergraduates received a “summons” from the office of Student Judicial Affairs (SJA). SJA Director Doug Zuidema plans to ask these students questions related to their alleged role in the November walkout and occupations against fee hikes in the UC system.
Although Zuidema and the SJA act like friends of the student movement, and stress that these meetings are merely a “fact-finding” exercise, they’re clearly trying to intimidate the campus left as we build for a student strike on March 4.
Half a dozen students have already faced administrative sanctions related to anti-cuts protests in the fall, including four who were forced to pay fines of more than $500 following the occupation of the Graduate Student Commons building in September, and one undergraduate who has been suspended for the rest of the school year.
Furthermore, Dean of Students Alma Sifuentes recently threatened activists from the March 4 Strike Committee and alleged that they had been using their outreach efforts to organize an “unsanctioned” event on campus. While these charges are completely baseless, the administration is clearly nervous about the response to March 4 organizing efforts.
After just two-and-a-half weeks of tabling, the strike committee has already signed up almost 1,000 students on a pledge to participate in the student strike on March 4. The event is shaping up to be the biggest student protest at UCSC in more than 10 years.
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EVEN AS they try to stop grassroots organizing, UC administrators are trying to co-opt the movement, and direct student anger against the politicians in Sacramento.
At a recent meeting, the UC regents and UC President Mark Yudof pledged to join students in a march on Sacramento on March 4. Yudof offered to use his Mercedes to drive student activists to the protest. At UCSC, administrators have offered to pay for buses to take students to the state capitol on that day.
But the student movement understands full well that the administration is part of the problem, and not part of the solution. These bureaucrats are using the state budget crisis to push through privatization measures and attack politically inconvenient programs on campuses.
At UCSC, for example, the administration is trying to destroy the Community Studies Department, a campus institution for more than three decades and a place where many student activists have learned the value of grassroots organizing. They’re also going after the Latino/Latin American Studies (LALS) program and other campus services that serve students of color and underrepresented communities.
Even as they attack vital programs like Community Studies and LALS, administrators are giving themselves massive bonuses and creating new managerial positions in the UC system.
Thankfully, UCSC students and workers are uniting behind the idea of March 4 as a day of local action where we challenge both the skewed priorities of Sacramento politicians and the undemocratic, bureaucratic nature of the UC administration.
On February 11, the UCSC student government voted to endorse the March 4 student strike and condemn administrative intimidation of student organizing. The campus unions have pledged to treat the student strike as they would an official labor action, and are mobilizing their members to support the student movement.
Student activists also know that we can rely on solidarity from our lecturers and professors in the Faculty Organizing Group, who are mobilizing against the cuts and against the secretive and unconstitutional nature of campus “justice” proceedings.
The only way to resist administrative attempts at repression and co-optation is to build a grassroots movement independent of the administration and the Sacramento politicians. Students and workers need to stand up against repression and demonstrate to the administration that we still believe in the old labor movement slogan: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”