Cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, advocates and graduate students hosted a “COLA party” on Sproul Plaza on March 3, ending in a meeting between student organizers and UC Berkeley administration.
About 150 students gathered on Sproul Plaza until about 4:45 p.m., when they marched to Eshleman Hall and sat in on a meeting between COLA advocates and campus administrators. This event was the latest in a series of campus demonstrations meant to bring attention to the high cost of living for UC graduate student employees and show solidarity with striking UC Santa Cruz graduate student instructors.
According to campus Ph.D. student and Cal COLA organizer Tara Phillips, the event’s purpose was to create community and build momentum for Thursday’s walkout — which was voted to happen during a March 2 Cal COLA general assembly meeting.
“Part of what’s important about the COLA movement is that we’re trying to create community in a place where we feel alienated,” Phillips said.
During the event, Phillips announced that UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, Graduate Assembly representatives and United Auto Workers, or UAW, Local 2865 — the union that represents UC graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, readers and tutors — representatives were meeting in Eshleman Hall and called for students to walk over and voice their opinions to Christ.
Called by Lisa García Bedolla, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division, the meeting was planned to bring Christ and other administrators together to discuss the concerns and challenges faced by graduate students with the Graduate Assembly and UAW Local 2865 representatives.
“I like to believe all communication is helpful,” Bedolla said after the meeting. “I leave this meeting with an even clearer sense of urgency and the need of our students and I hope on a small level we have a little more mutual understanding.”
During the meeting, campus administrators pointed to the recently launched “Light the Way” fundraising campaign, which has a goal of raising $6 billion by the end of 2023 along with creating 300 graduate fellowships, which would effectively double the number of fellowships available for graduate students specifically, according to Christ.
Graduate students in attendance, however, said they were more concerned with their representation in budget revisions. In response, Christ said she is “happy to consult with graduate students” before administration finalizes the campus budget.
Graduate Assembly president Adam Orford, who was present at the meeting, said he hopes graduate students “insist” that campus administration give them specific answers about improvements that will be made.
“This is a campus that values diversity, that values protests, that values standing up for your own rights and standing up for the rights of others,” Orford said. “To fire graduate students at UCSC for doing so, in my mind, was a contravention of every principle that I think this campus should hold.”