Hundreds protest proposed fee hike with 1 arrest outside regents meeting

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Rachael Garner/File

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SAN FRANCISCO — As rain showered on the UCSF campus, students from all UC campuses — including graduate students and union members — protested at the UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, picketing and blocking building entrances to express their discontent with a proposed tuition increase policy a committee of the board approved in the afternoon.

At the peak of their attempts to enter the building, protesters rushed over a police barricade toward an entrance, and UC Berkeley student Jeff Noven, 21, was arrested on suspicion of vandalism and inciting a riot.

If officially approved Thursday, the policy would raise tuition by 5 percent per year for the next five years, contingent on the state continuing 4 percent increases in funding to the university each year.

Protesters, some of whom reached the UCSF Mission Bay campus before 7 a.m., represented campuses from across the UC system and encountered police barricades barring them from entry. In response, protesters began impeding the entrance of regents into the meeting, shouting at them to “go home.”

By 9 a.m., about 400 protesters were marching around the building chanting, “No cuts, no fees, education should be free.”

According to UCSF spokesperson Elizabeth Fernandez, a group of protesters went past the barricade at the security line and rushed the police. In the process of the struggle, a large glass door was broken. Fernandez said this led to the arrest of the 21-year-old student.

UC Berkeley senior and ASUC Senator Austin Pritzkat said that protesters tried pulling open the door after police held the doors shut and that there was pushing and pulling from both sides by students and police. The glass door, he said, experienced enough pulling from the two sides that the metal handles came off, and the door shattered.

Sofia Franco, a UC Berkeley sophomore working as a liaison between UCSF and protesters, said that after Noven’s arrest, there was a divide in interest in the protesting body between those who wanted to continue to push against police and others who did not want to ignite any further confrontation.

“As UC Berkeley students, we’re not advocating for anyone to be violent,” Franco said. “There are students hitting cops, and that’s not justice — that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to get our voices out.”

Franco said there were other students who felt differently. Melody Ye, a junior at UC Davis, said that although the actions of certain protesters may appear violent, there is more widespread “violence” to be addressed.

“I have friends who are already living in a precarious state, who can barely pay their rent, who barely have enough food on the table, and they won’t have enough money to pay for college,” Ye said. “That’s not considered violence, but it should be — it hurts more than a broken door of a university that a lot of people can’t even afford to enter.”

Irving Barrios, a junior at UC Berkeley, comes from a single-parent household that just recently lost its home. Barrios said his mother wants to help him pay for tuition, but he turns down her help and assumes most of the financial burden for his education. But with a tuition hike, he is not sure how he is going to be able to do it.

“Sure, I can get loans, but I feel like the purpose of an education is to be able to better yourself and prepare for the workforce,” Barrios said. “And if students are drowned in debt, that’s all they’re worrying about.”

As tuition has remained flat for three years, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the university wants to “bring some sanity” into the process. At the meeting, UC President Janet Napolitano expressed that the university has experienced massive state disinvestment.

“It’s a conditional plan,” Klein said. “We are saying that we need to be responsible — that in lieu of increasing funding from other sources, we have this as an option.”

Fifty-five percent of California students who receive financial aid have their fees and tuition fully covered and will not feel the impact of the increase.

“Those that would have an increase now have the opportunity to plan and to budget, which is much better than it has been in the past when, all of a sudden, there were spikes in tuition that came at the last minute,” Klein said.

Still, protesters feel that they were not consulted enough about the university’s plan, which was announced two weeks ago. Caitlin Quinn, ASUC external affairs vice president at UC Berkeley, said protesters at UC campuses had minimal time to assemble their campaign.

Wednesday’s protests follow a number of campus demonstrations at UC campuses, including one at UC Berkeley.

Despite the vote in support of the tuition hike, protesters intend on continuing to fight the plan. Quinn said the campaign’s leadership will have to develop a strategy to hold the university accountable to be more transparent with their money and to hold the state accountable to give students more money.

Contact Bo Kovitz at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beau_etc.