Friday, March 21, 2014

UC Santa Cruz Students Occupy Hahn Building for 18 Hours

On March 5, students at UC Santa Cruz occupied the Hahn building in an ongoing resistance to the appointment of Janet Napolitano as president of the University of California system. The occupation follows a march to Kerr Hall on February 26, when students attempted to enter the offices of UCSC's Chancellor. Support for UC workers is central to the demands of student demonstrators, and over the course of the recent protests, labor victories have been gained as the university has given into demands by Graduate Student Workers and AFSCME Workers in separate negotiations.

Students arrived at the Hahn building shortly after 3pm

After a short rally at Quarry Plaza on March 5, a large group of students eventually marched into the Hahn student services building at about 3pm, which prompted cashiers to close the Registrar's counter.

At 7:30 pm about 35 students in the front area of the first floor of the building began a discussion about how long to occupy. At that time, two community safety officers and one campus police officer were sitting and eating in a lounge located down the open hallway in the back of the building. They said they would be staying in the building all night for the "safety of the students." 

At 8:30 pm the group decided to stay overnight. Some students left and returned with blankets and other supplies. Other students went on a food run and brought back several pizzas.

Students listed their demands as follows (this is a modified set of the demands students issued around the time of the Blum Center occupation in Berkeley on February 13 of this year): 

1. We demand the resignation or impeachment of Janet Napolitano as UC President

2. We demand that next and all future UC presidents be someone who
∙ a) is elected by students and faculty
∙ b) has an extensive and positive background in education
∙ c) works towards completely eliminating student debt through full subsidization
∙ d) comes from and has worked with communities in California
∙ e) supports all programs/resources that serve underrepresented communities; 

3. The appointment of Napolitano exposes the undemocratic process by which the UC
system makes decisions. In order to address this structural problem we demand a restructuring
of this process which includes:
∙ a) a campus wide election for all future UC regents; this includes having the ability to
nominate, endorse, and campaign for candidates
∙ b) the power to impeach both UC presidents and regents
∙ c) a general democratization of the regents to include true participation by students
and faculty in the central decision making processes of the University. 

The UC Santa Cruz students added that they wanted all UC worker demands to be met.

Quarry Plaza

Marching to the Hahn building

A student from UC Berkeley talks about attending the occupation of the Blum Center at UCB on February 13

Food Supplies

On March 6, students left the Hahn student services building after occupying it for nearly 18 hours. Approximately 30 students decided as a group to leave; all of them were undergraduates. Before exiting the building they cleaned the area they occupied and then sang songs of solidarity and protest.

At 6am that morning, approximately eleven police officers arrived on the scene. All but two of them left, however, as students spent some time deciding how to proceed with the occupation. The earliest public counters in the student services building open at 8am, and though workers arrived and entered the offices, they didn't unlock the doors that open out to the Registrar's counters. Students were never told by the administration to leave, or that they were trespassing, but at 6:30 am a UC administrator informed them that they were in the building at a time when it was not open to the "public".

After some discussions, students decided to leave Hahn on their own terms. As they were leaving, shortly before 9am, they chanted "We'll be back!"

All the group left at the protest location were modest paper signs placed on the restroom doors which re-designated the spaces as gender neutral.

Within minutes of the students' departure, a unionized AFSCME worker arrived to do some light cleaning in the wake of the occupation. When asked if he supported their demonstration, he replied warmly, "Of course I do!"

Student protests against Napolitano, the former head of homeland security who was involved with the deportation of over 1.5 million undocumented Americans, have been widespread across the University of California system. UCSC students protested the appointment of Napolitano during her visit to the Santa Cruz campus on October 18, and they organized their most recent demonstrations in solidarity with students at UC Berkeley, who occupied the Blum Center on February 13.

Following two major victories for workers, labor groups have expressed appreciation for the student demonstrations. On February 27, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) Local 3299 announced they had reached what they called a "historic" tentative contract agreement with the University of California. On March 4, Graduate Student Workers at UC Santa Cruz announced that, after two days of discussions, management had given in to all of their demands. They say that there will be no more underpaid undergrad TAs, back pay ($6000 each) for all those who've already been in that position will be paid, there will be a serious reduction in TA workload for poorly planned Arts department classes, and a committee will be established to make recommendations for class-sizes with equal voices for labor and management.

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