As Nov. 9 — dubbed a “Day of Action for Public Education” — approaches, UC Berkeley students, faculty and campus leaders are expected to come out to protest against budget cuts and tuition hikes in California public universities.
According to organizers, the all-day Wednesday protest is scheduled to kick off with a “teach-out” at 8 a.m. — in which GSIs and professors from various departments will teach their morning classes that day on Sproul Plaza — followed by a student walkout and rally at noon and a general assembly in the evening, the location of which is yet to be determined.
Charlie Eaton, a UC Berkeley graduate student and financial secretary of UAW Local 2865 — a union representing more than 12,000 graduate student workers in the UC system and one of the main organizers of the protest — said he expects the participation of several dozen GSIs, many of whom are also scheduled to join the rally at noon after the teach-out.
In addition to the union, organizers of the event include the Public Education Coalition, according to Shane Boyle, head steward of the union.
“Any group that is active around the budget cuts on campus will be involved,” he said, adding that he expects thousands to attend on Wednesday.
Organizers met Monday evening to discuss possible plans for an encampment on campus and a march to the Bank of America.
In an email to the campus community, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande said that encampments will not be allowed on campus.
“In these challenging times, we simply cannot afford to spend our precious resources and, in particular, student tuition on costly and avoidable expenses associated with violence or vandalism,” they wrote in the email.
Boyle said Wednesday could mark the largest student protest since Sept. 24, 2009, when 5,000 students, faculty members and union members rallied to protest a similar issue.
According to UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett, there will be extra police staffing at the event to ensure safety.
CalSERVE Senator Andrew Albright said he hopes the protest will bring a greater sense of awareness to the student community regarding the problems that currently face California’s funding for public education.
“I think walkouts give students a really good chance to voice their opinions in a big way,” Albright said. “They might not have the opportunity to speak at a regents’ meeting or go to Sacramento to lobby — (but) a walkout gives them a chance to speak out and show their discontent for public education in California.”
Albright added that he believes the protest will be joined by similar ones at UC Santa Cruz and UCLA.
On Monday, ASUC President Vishalli Loomba and External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman, as well as Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab, sent emails to the community encouraging students to participate in the peaceful demonstrations against the higher education budget crisis.
On the faculty side, Mark Richards, executive dean of the College of Letters and Science, also sent out an email urging faculty members to “consider making special efforts to reach out to students during this period.”
UC Berkeley junior Marco Amaral, a student organizer, said he expects higher participation on Wednesday than in the past due to the nature of the protest and support from nearby Occupy Oakland.