UC students protest UCOP’s handling of issues faced by undocumented students

Michael Drummond/File

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More than 30 students from eight UC campuses convened in Oakland on Monday to state their disappointment with UC President Janet Napolitano’s handling of issues faced by undocumented students.

The students — who were largely undocumented — held a press conference on the street in front of the Oakland office of the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, taking turns raising objections to how Napolitano has responded to undocumented students’ concerns that have been brought to her attention since she became president in 2013.

The demonstration was organized in part to protest a decision made by UCOP earlier this month to halt the changes being made to the President’s Advisory Council on Undocumented Students.

The council was created in May 2014, but because undocumented students voiced concerns that it included only two undocumented students but many administrators, plans were made this May to increase undocumented student representation within the council.

Undocumented students across the system then began to consider candidates to represent undocumented students for their respective campuses, until they were informed that Napolitano would have the final say in which students would be included in the council, according to a document released by the demonstrators.

Earlier this month, UCOP informed the students that work on the council would be halted.

“The press conference vocalized that we’re tired of being silenced,” said Cuahuctemoc Salinas, an ASUC senator who represents undocumented students and is undocumented.

Since Napolitano became the UC president, various actions have been taken by both the university and student groups to aid undocumented students, including a UC initiative that created a $5 million fund for expansion of campus services for undocumented students.

UCOP spokesperson Dianne Klein said Napolitano “has been very forthcoming in helping undocumented students,” adding that, “I feel confident that the voices of these and other students are being heard.”

Madeleine Villanueva, an undocumented UC Berkeley senior who attended the demonstration, acknowledged that UC Berkeley is among the campuses most responsive to the needs of undocumented students, but pointed out that “undocumented students have a hard time finding housing here.”

Salinas shared the belief that UC Berkeley is one of the better UC campuses for undocumented students, but that “we still don’t have adequate resources.”

Villanueva also pointed to another concern shared by undocumented students on campus that goes beyond a lack of resources — that the struggles they face are ignored by those around them.

“There’s an invisibility of undocumented students on campus,” Villanueva said.

Contact Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz at [email protected].