This summer, following the July Regents Meeting — at which student fees were raised by another 9.6 percent — a group of students, workers and faculty began meeting to renew our shared fight for public education and against the evisceration of the UCs. Since then, we’ve held large social gatherings and open meetings to begin building an effective, coordinated pushback against fee increases and worker layoffs.
These attacks against students and workers are only intensifying: This past week, we learned that the UC Regents are considering a plan that could result in an 81 percent fee increase over the next four years. They may be voting on this plan in mid-November.
In collaboration with our allies in the labor movement, we are building for mass student walkouts on Nov. 9 and 10, which we hope will make it more difficult for the UC Regents and state politicians to carry forward their agenda to privatize California’s public universities and to slash spending on health and social welfare programs.
In order to begin building for the November actions, we’re organizing a public forum on state austerity and budget cuts tonight, from 6 to 8 p.m. in 315 Wheeler. We’ve also called for and are organizing a day of action this Thursday, Sept. 22, which will begin with a noon rally on Sproul Plaza.
We have collectively prepared the following statement in advance of Thursday’s Day of Action, and hope that all students, workers and instructors on campus will join us in fighting for public education and against the destruction of the public sphere in California:
We are a broad coalition of UC Berkeley students, workers, instructors and community members who are committed to fighting for universal, free and accessible education.
As members of the campus community, we see university administrators and state politicians abandoning and blocking the realization of this goal. We are facing crushing levels of student debt from massive and increasing student fees, the intensifying exclusion of students of color and working class students, worker layoffs, departmental cuts that have damaged the quality of our education and futures constrained by devastated job markets.
Meanwhile, corporations and the wealthiest individuals — including many UC Regents — continue to rake in increasing bonuses and profits, partly by speculating on our indebtedness. This destructive prioritization of corporate interests is apparent at all levels of society: in our country, state and education system.
We say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We live in the richest society in the history of the world, and yet we always hear that there are no resources for accessible public education and decent public services. We, as a society, generate immense wealth. Trillions of dollars are currently directed towards warfare, incarceration and the enrichment of an already wealthy few. It is through collective actions that we must reclaim and redirect this wealth for the public good and the needs of the people. We support making corporations and the wealthy pay for free public education, health care and social services.
Popular movements against austerity and oppression all across the world have occupied public squares and established popular assemblies where ideas can be exchanged and proposals debated. From Spain to Chile, these movements have revealed how education and consciousness-raising are far more effective when combined with a strategy of impacted communities mobilizing in the streets.
As members of the UC community, we demand a complete reversal of recent fee increases; a revision of current admissions policies to lift barriers faced by underrepresented students of color and working class students; the re-hiring of workers fired as a result of budget cuts; a full investigation of the Regents’ conflicts of interest, especially their investments in banks and for-profit schools; an end to UC administrative and police surveillance, violence and intervention in political and academic activities; equal and full access to the university for undocumented students and workers; and the democratic control of the university by students, faculty and staff. In order to pursue these ends, we are committed to uniting with people and movements in all sectors of society who share our commitment to the empowerment of workers, students and the unemployed to create an equitable, compassionate society.
Amanda Armstrong is a graduate student at UC Berkeley and Ricardo Gomez is a senior at UC Berkeley.
A previous version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that the UC Board of Regents would be voting on a plan to increase tuition this November. In fact, there is no guarantee that action will be taken on this plan.
This op-ed also incorrectly stated that a protest will take place next Thursday. In fact, that protest is taking place this Thursday, Sept. 22.