UC students, staff stage zombie protest at regents meeting

Sarah Brennan/Staff

Sarah Brennan/Staff

Sarah Brennan/Staff

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The public comment period during the UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday morning was heated, culminating in a zombie-themed protest that interrupted the meeting for 15 minutes before the board could resume open sessions.

Members of the public and students dressed as zombies at the UCSF Mission Bay campus demanded that the board stop fee and tuition hikes and the privatization of state capital debt during the public comment session of the meeting, which began shortly after 8:30 a.m.

Many spoke in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s November tax initiative, while others accused the regents of acting in their own interests.

“We’re dressed like zombies because the debt is killing us,” said Matt Wade, a UC Berkeley doctoral student in city and regional planning.

UC President Mark Yudof voiced his support for the tax initiative during his opening remarks at the beginning of the meeting and said the plan is “an imperfect deal.”

“Still, it is a better deal than (the regents) anticipated,” Yudof said. “It is our best shot at taking an important step towards the financial steadfastness and stability that this university so desperately needs.”

But Yudof was persistently interrupted by protesters who shouted comments such as “lay off the regents” and “cut from the top.”

For many public commenters, the objection to tuition and fee hikes, regardless of the tax initiative’s approval, was a common sentiment.

“To put it in simple terms, we just can’t afford it,” said UCSC Student Union Assembly External Affairs Vice Chair Victor Velasco of the proposed 20.3 percent tuition hikes.

Other commenters voiced their distrust in the interests of the regents, citing the lack of a democratically elected system.

“The students should be able to decide who their advocates and their allies are,” said UC Berkeley student Honest Chung, criticizing the undemocratic nature of the regents’ appointment process.

After the public comment session was officially closed, members of the public began a series of scene-stealing stunts, beginning with a “mic check,” directly addressing the regents by chanting their demands, which included an end to tuition increase proposals regardless of the status of the governor’s tax initiative.  After a brief chant of “No Cuts, no fees, education must be free,” the students dressed as zombies then stood on top of chairs and began dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Following the threat of police action as officers from the San Francisco Police Department entered the meeting room during what the regents declared an “unlawful assembly,” protesters vacated the main conference room by 9:40 a.m. to begin a press conference outside the building.

One student protester dressed in zombie garb explained the strategic rationale behind the costumes.

“If you’re standing in that room looking at the regents, they don’t pay attention to us,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Sydney Rock. “They have these blank stares.  Dressing up makes it a little more fun and gets us publicity.”

Later in the afternoon, after the open session ended, Ex Officio Regent and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he thought the protests “were very healthy,” and that he is “encouraged when people show up,” noting that he did not see the same level of engagement and expression at previous regents meetings.

Staff writer Oksana Yurovsky contributed to this report.

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  • Current student

    zombie protest. so mature. I’m sure the regents will take you fools seriously now.

  • Calipenguin

    $98 billion to pay for a high speed rail to nowhere. And Brown can’t afford $125 million for UC?

    • Guest

      Last time I checked, it goes from L.A. to S.F.

      So yeah, nowhere to nowhere.

      And the Rich in California can’t afford $125 million for UC? Shit, that’s what like one of them makes in a year! And more like what most people make in 10 lifetimes.

      • I_h8_disqus

        So you are all for paying almost $100 billion for a train that has 26 stops from Sacramento to San Diego, and will never move that many people instead of taking $125 million a year for the UC? Instead you would just rather tax people who actually bring jobs to the state? Say take $125 million from Zuckerberg one year and motivate him to take Facebook to Washington to hang out with Gates. We need to learn to spend our tax revenue wisely.

    • Guest

      Voters passed that high-speed rail as an initiative. It’s not part of the operating or discretionary budget, and the legislature can’t change it without a new referendum.

  • I_h8_disqus

    What I really want to see is the zombies protest the legislature and Gov. Brown more, because they hold the actual purse strings. We also need to start focusing on state spending. Every Cal student should become aware of the details within the state budget, and point out the pork that should be cut before tuition is raised, and there is a lot of pork.

    • Guest

      The Cali state budget is available electronically, online, in entirety at http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/. Can you point out the specific “pork” in it that could be cut to fund higher ed.?

      • I_h8_disqus

        I would like better control of California’s IT department that gets half a billion a year, or the Department of Corrections that gets $10 billion a year.