Activists continue 2nd day of Wheeler Hall occupation, protests on campus

Jennifer Tanji/Staff

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Fighting against tuition increases and, at times, their own exhaustion, students and community activists continued to occupy Wheeler Hall and protest throughout campus Thursday.

The occupation began Wednesday evening after a vote by the UC Board of Regents to move forward with a proposed tuition hike policy, which was officially approved Thursday morning. UC Berkeley students voted to occupy the building as well as conduct a walkout Monday.

As of 11 p.m. Thursday, more than 300 individuals remained in the building.

The lobby of Wheeler Hall remained crowded with about 50 to more than 100 people at different times throughout the day. Protesters bound shut some doors to the building but left some open for students, who weren’t prevented from attending class by the “open university” protest.

The campus has not taken action to evict the protesters. The relationship between police and protesters at the occupation has been relatively free of conflict, students say.

“This is between the students and the administration,” said UCPD Officer Marco Ruiz. “If there’s a life threatened or hazardous conduct, (we’ll intervene). But short of that, we’ll let students do their thing.”

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email the campus would continue to monitor and assess the situation as it unfolds.

Students and community activists say they intend to stay in the building until their demands are met, which include an end to tuition hikes, greater transparency of the state budget and for authorities to not pursue charges against UC Berkeley student Jeff Noven, who was arrested Wednesday outside the regents meeting and later released.

“People who are easy to step over are stepped over,” said Daniel Evans, a UC Berkeley freshman who attended the occupation. “If this works, this shows our Berkeley ethos — that student protests are not something to roll your eyes at.”

In the afternoon, students submitted and voted on proposals during a general assembly meeting to decide the protest’s next moves, leading to the adoption of a nighttime “dorm storm” march to draw more students to the occupation of Wheeler Hall. A group of about 100 students walked to the courtyards at Units 1, 2 and 3 before heading to residence halls Bowles and Foothill, chanting “This is what democracy looks like” and “We’re not gonna take it.”

Throughout the day, protesters stood outside Wheeler Hall with megaphones and banners, inviting students to join the cause.

“There’s not a lot you can do as a full-time student. We don’t always have the time to draft proposals or go to UCSF,” said Ramsey Karim, a UC Berkeley sophomore who joined the occupation. “But if I can sit here and do homework and make the protest look more impressive, I sure will, because I support it.”

Earlier in the afternoon, protesters entered Wheeler Auditorium during a lecture by campus lecturer Khalid Kadir. Kadir, who was speaking about social movements throughout the world, gave the stage to protesters for brief announcements. Some protesters disapproved of the decision to interrupt the class, saying it would interfere with the goal of the protest.

Student regent Sadia Saifuddin, a UC Berkeley alumna who voted against the tuition hikes, and state Assemblymember-elect Tony Thurmond came to Wheeler Hall on Thursday evening to speak alongside ASUC External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn and Mon-Shane Chou, the ASUC academic affairs vice president.

They were scheduled to speak at Unit 2 during a town hall, but according to Ellen Topp, director of communications of student affairs, the reservation was cancelled because the scheduled room was not large enough to accommodate the expected number of attendees.

Saifuddin called the tuition hike situation a “power struggle between the state and governor … (both of which) have taken the students as a pawn.” She said that the regents have no idea what the student experience is like and acknowledged that it was hardest for the students in the middle class, who may not receive financial aid.

“We have to turn up the pressure on both entities,” she said. “If we work really, really hard, we may get our funding.”

Chou expressed frustration at the privatization of the university, as evidenced by the “ridiculous philanthropy posters everywhere,” and said the campus was dependent on donors. She pointed out that revenue from the tuition hikes would go to admitting more students, leading to what she considered an endless cycle of raising the fees necessary to provide resources for more students.

The protesters said they will hold a general assembly in Wheeler Hall on Friday to discuss action proposals.

Contact Alexander Barreira and Heyun Jeong at [email protected].