On Nov. 9 of last year, more than 1,000 protesters assembled on the steps of Sproul Hall in a statement of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Almost exactly one year later, a walkout planned for Thursday on campus hopes to rekindle that spirit and raise awareness of declining state support for public education.
The demonstration has been organized by a conglomerate of groups called the Public Education Coalition, which includes members from Students for a Democratic University, affirmative action group BAMN, the UC workers union UAW 2865 and others.
State funding for the university has decreased dramatically over the last decade, amounting to just 11 percent of the system’s budget in 2011-12. Thursday’s demonstration comes just two days after one of the first indicators that state funding may return to the university.
On Tuesday, voters in California passed Proposition 30, an income and sales tax measure that will provide for increased funding of public education. Had the proposition failed, the University of California would have incurred a $250 million midyear cut.
“(Prop. 30) shows it’s clear that there is a recognition that it’s time for corporations, banks and the wealthiest to be taxed and start paying their fair share,” said BAMN organizer Yvette Felarca. “But we need to continue the movement and continue to fight for fair funding for all the public universities, colleges and K-12 schools.”
But according to Brooks Ishler, who is leading a campus group that asks students to think critically about protest strategies like the walkout, the measure’s passage points to a far more effective way to deal with state funding shortfalls. Ishler says state cuts are the real problem and that Prop. 30 represents the state taking action to combat that problem.
“Prop. 30 is an example of people sitting down, thinking about the issues and coming up with a result,” Ishler said. “We see the walkout as wasting time and money.”
Ishler’s group Rational Moderates takes issue with what it calls the “propaganda” spread by walkout promoters. It implores students to gather facts and think deeply about the issues before they demonstrate.
The Rational Moderates might not be the only sign that the atmosphere that influenced last year’s protest has changed. Last year, then-ASUC president Vishalli Loomba sent out a campuswide email endorsing the walkout before it happened. Current president Connor Landgraf has not disseminated a similar email about the demonstration, and the Occupy movement has significantly weakened on a national level.
On the other hand, administrators sent out a campuswide email last week reminding students about campus policy regarding time, place and manner restrictions for protesting. Some professors have also canceled classes in support of the noon rally.
“There wasn’t as much publicity for this event as there was last year, but I have received announcements, and students in my class know about it,” said Marcial Gonzalez, an associate professor of English.
Gonzalez teaches an American Cultures class this semester and said that all AC courses cover an element of political resistance.
“In our class, I gave students the opportunity to talk about the issues and have a spirited and friendly discussion,” Gonzalez said. “Not everyone agreed with the walkout, but they voiced their opinion with good reasons.”
On Nov. 9, 2011, UCPD called in officers from other departments through mutual aid to assist with management of the protest. This year, UCPD has no reason to expect the demonstration will be problematic despite coinciding with the one-year anniversary, according to UCPD Lt. Eric Tejada.
“Just like any protest, we will assess and act as needed to protect life and property,” Tejada said. “As usual, if it’s a peaceful protest, we will just observe.”
Contact Jacob Brown at [email protected]