A grassroots group of UC Davis undergraduate students held a ‘naked’ rally on UC Davis campus today, protesting the University of California’s plans for massive tuition hikes and budget cuts. A dozen scantily-clad protestors, wearing little more than protest signs (but dressed within legal limits), urged students to participate in a UC-system-wide student, faculty and staff walkout and one-day strike on Thursday, Sept. 24th. Meanwhile, other protestors handed out literature and talked to passers-by.
“We’re here protesting today because the University is stripping of our right to public education,” said Sarah Raridon, undergraduate and organizer with the UC Davis Organizing Committee. “If we as students don’t make our voices heard, the UC leadership will continue using the state fiscal crisis as an opportunity to impose a ‘shock and awe’ budget on our university. We refuse to let UC President Mark Yudof push high-quality public education out of reach for low-income California families.”
Over the past several months, UC President Mark Yudof and the UC Regents have raised student fees by over $3,000, imposed faculty and staff paycuts of up to 10%, laid off hundreds of workers, forced professors to take unpaid furloughs, and used the declaration of a “fiscal state of emergency” to suspend UC’s shared governance system. Many students are highly concerned about Yudof’s proposed 32% undergraduate fee hike, which – coming on top of a 9.3% fee hike that was already approved in May – would send the price of a year at UC above the $10,000 mark for the first time next fall, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Add to that an average of $13,000 for living expenses, plus the average $938 fee charged by each campus, and the average annual cost for a California resident to attend UC would top $24,000 next year.”
“UC has already laid off almost 900 employees this year, and plans to fire another 1,000 over the next year,” says UC Davis undergraduate Shannon Harney. “And at the same time, the UC Regents is giving 28 top administrators $500,000 in pay raises. Handing out big bonuses to incompetent managers may fly on Wall Street, but it’s unacceptable at the University of California.”
After getting the attention of other students, protestors used the opportunity to urge undergraduates to join faculty, staff, and graduate students, and participate in a one-day walkout on Thursday, Sept. 24; this one-day walkout and strike has been endorsed by the University of California Students Association, the American Association of University Professors, and the 12,000-strong University Professional and Technical Employees union. The protestors demanded that the UC administrators return student fees to 2008-09 levels, stop cutting pay for employees making less than $40,000, relinquish emergency powers, and return UC executive pay to 2006 levels.
“Mark Yudof and the UC Regents seem to think that they can get away with undermining the University of California’s commitment to affordable public education,” said Charles Parker, UC Davis undergraduate. “We’re here today to tell them the naked truth: UC Davis students aren’t going to let our school get turned into one of the most expensive public universities in the country.”