Walkout draws moderate crowd of protesters to Upper Sproul, Wheeler Hall

Sophia Elia/Staff

Sophia Elia/Staff

Leya Andrews/Staff

Kayla Shapiro/Staff

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As the chalk advertising Thursday’s walkout slowly washed away in the pouring rain, about 200 UC Berkeley students, faculty members and clerical workers gathered on Upper Sproul Plaza around noon to protest recent tuition increases and the management of UC funds.

Representatives from the student workers union UAW Local 2865 and the group Students for a Democratic University  led the protest, emphasizing the need to prevent further cuts and build a broader movement to protect public education.

“We’ve seen that protest does have some effect with the deferred tuition hikes, but Prop. 30 does not guarantee (the state) won’t reduce funding (in the future),” said associate professor of English Geoffrey O’Brien, a speaker at the protest. “We need to go on the offensive rather than just react to bad news.”

Proposition 30, a ballot measure that will temporarily increase the income tax on the wealthiest Californians and state sales tax by a quarter of a percentage point, passed at the polls Tuesday. Its passage spared the university from a $250 million midyear budget cut.

Speakers also advocated for affirmative action and criticized the campus’s cost-cutting Operational Excellence initiative and the California prison system.

Juan Garcia, a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, heavily criticized Operational Excellence, calling it “Operation Elimination,” because the of the staff layoffs that have resulted from the program’s implementation. He also criticized the campus for hiring a private firm to manage its Early Childhood Education Program.

After the number of protesters diminished as the rain intensified, about 100 protesters, with a brass band in tow, marched to the lobby of Wheeler Hall, where they began discussing a list of demands to present at a protest planned for the UC Board of Regents meeting next week.

At an ad hoc general assembly, students divided into smaller groups to discuss the demands and ongoing strategies for further demonstrations. After discussion, representatives presented their suggestions and thoughts to the entire assembly.

As the assembly broke up, attendees and members of UAW 2865 continued to work on large hand-painted signs with slogans like “No hikes, no cuts, no privatization” intended for use at next week’s demonstrations.

SDU spokesperson Maggie Hardy said the intent of much of the conversation among demonstrators was to plan a student response to the regents meeting. She emphasized SDU’s goals of developing an undergraduate student union as well as the necessity of student oversight of the funds gathered from Prop. 30.

“Our goal is to build a more sustained student movement over the next few weeks,” Hardy said. “We didn’t want to make this into an occupation — that would make students feel scared or threatened.”

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