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Slugs Speak Up

blog_slugUCSC takes part in nationwide education rally
More than 200 demonstrators gathered in UC Santa Cruz's Quarry Plaza on Wednesday, March 2, as a part of a national day of action for education that included actions at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and others.

One year ago, on March 4, 2010, protestors gathering at the UCSC entrances were effective in shutting down the campus for a one-day walk out. This year, participants took a different approach– opting for an emphasis on discussion. Fourth year feminist studies major Lauren Lystrud says the event was focused on awareness and getting more of the campus involved.

“I am out here as a student concerned with budget cuts, concerned with fee increases and the lack of access to the university for underrepresented communities … while we're focusing on issues of people of color … its really a struggle for everybody at the university,” Lystrud says. “It’s all of our rights and all of our responsibilities to keep this university public and to keep it accessible.”

Several students and UCSC staff spoke to the crowd on issues including: the 2012 university admissions policy in which the UC will no longer consider SAT 2 scores for admittance, a move critics say will disproportionately effect students of color; support for the DREAM act; the lack of an ethnic studies academic program at UCSC; and a lack of space and funding for the campus' Ethnic Resource Centers. Students argue that the centers are confined to a small space on campus and required to compete against each other for funding.

The central unifying demand for the group is the creation of an ethnic studies academic department at UCSC. Protestors point to what they consider a broken promise from the university, where after a 1981 protest then Executive Vice Chancellor Michael Tanner said the school would “[keep] Ethnic Studies on an even footing.”

The creation of a new department may be a budgetary challenge for UCSC with recent deep funding cuts and the suspension of both the community studies and American studies programs. Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed $1.4 billion cut to higher education next year means a $31 million reduction for UCSC. Steep cuts have also come along with drastic fee increases, with the 8 percent fee increase scheduled for next fall, UC student fees will have increased 40 percent since fall 2009.

Around 1:30 p.m., as the rally concluded, approximately 75 protestors moved the demonstration to the third floor of the Bay Tree Bookstore building, which houses conference rooms, the Career Center and the campus Ethnic Resource Centers. Following some group discussion American Indian Resource Center Director Carolyn Dunn addressed the crowd with a motion of support, but also to request the space be respected and the office's work allowed to continue. The group moved out into the adjacent balcony and hallway.

After negotiations for a meeting with the campus Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway fell through, 30 students decided to stay in the building for a sit-in. While the building officially closed at 10 p.m. protestors remained inside all night for the peaceful demonstration watched over by Fist Alarm private security officers.

Thursday morning the group marched across campus to Kerr Hall to bring their message to university administration, where they were met by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Felica McGinty and Dean of Students Alma Sifuentes. The two administrators encouraged the students to find alternative tactics for bringing forward their concerns. McGinty that her priority is to support student retention and graduation.

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