Students block Sather Gate on Cal Day in protest of treatment of undocumented UC students

Adrienne Shih/Senior Staff

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A group of roughly 30 student demonstrators gathered in front of Sather Gate on Saturday afternoon, protesting UC President Janet Napolitano’s treatment of undocumented students within the UC system.

The protest was held on Cal Day, a day when the campus opened its grounds for prospective students accepted to the class of 2020.

Protesters, formed in tandem with campus organizations in support of undocumented students’ rights, chanted for both Napolitano and campus Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ resignation, interspersing their calls with the Spanish words for “we are fighting.”

The UC Office of the President currently allocates $5 million of emergency grant funding for undocumented students across the UC system — used for such purposes as funding food, textbooks and housing. The grants, however, are set to expire in June, and Napolitano has yet to renew the fund.

According to Juan Prieto, protest organizer and former Daily Californian layout designer, by eliminating this source of funding, services vital for campus undocumented students would be at risk, such as legal advisers and psychological counselors.

“They’re cutting our funding,” said Angelica Vargas, a campus junior. “Cutting that funding would make my existence at Cal impossible.”

Prieto said, in light of former Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele’s resignation Friday, his successor would need to “understand the disparity” undocumented students face and would need to be transparent during future conversations with the community.

ASUC Senator Boomer Vicente, who was present at the demonstration and stood in support of undocumented students, said he was “shocked” by some negative responses and comments the protesters received.

Vicente expressed appreciation for several campus administrators, including Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell, who assisted in negotiating with those who were attempting to push through the line of demonstrators.

Our intention wasn’t to cause people to be angry, but to showcase a message,” Vicente said. “A one hour delay on Sproul does not even equate to the oppression undocumented students face on campus.”

Yet for some prospective students, though the message of the protest was both visually and ideologically powerful, it was seen as an inconvenience rather than a practical form of demonstration.

“I don’t really see what it gets done. It seems like it’s just blocking people who want to visit the campus for Cal Day,” said Kyle Schweizer, a prospective campus student. “People walk through here, and it kind of hurts (the campus’s) image.”

For others, seeing the protest on a day when the campus opens its doors to prospective students paid homage to UC Berkeley’s history of activism.

“I think it’s very powerful to hear these stories because undocumented students are already very unheard,” said Karla Vazquez, a prospective campus student. “It’s very important on a day like this. I love that students here stand up for what they want.”

Senior staff writers Andrea Platten and Suhauna Hussain contributed to this report.

Adrienne Shih is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adrienneshih.