Saturday, January 2, 2016

UC Santa Cruz Students Participate in Million Student March

On November 12 students at UC Santa Cruz joined students at college campuses across the country for a "Million Student March," a day of local actions organized nationally around three principle demands: tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers. Million Student March actions were organized at over 100 schools, and the movement has been endorsed by political figures such as Noam Chomsky and Jill Stein, as well as by organizations such as Young Democratic Socialists and the labor union National Nurses United. "The United States is the richest country in the world, yet students have to take on crippling debt in order to get a college education," a national announcement for the Million Student March read. "We need change, and change starts in the streets when the people demand it. With students, college graduates, and workers united we can build a movement capable of winning debt-free college for all and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers."

At UC Santa Cruz, the march began at Quarry Plaza, where students first passed around a megaphone to speak to why they were participating in the action. Many described the personal financial struggles they have experienced while attending UC Santa Cruz, while others spoke more broadly.

"My parents are immigrants," one student said.

"They came here from another country. They're here for the land of opportunity. They came here for the American dream, but they are thinking of leaving now. They're thinking of going back to their home country because there are no more opportunities here for them, and I am thinking of going back with them, because there is no more opportunity for me here either. I'm covered in student debt. I'm covered in racism, and I'm covered in all this institutional bullshit that's trying to keep me down. What kind of land of opportunity holds people down to their debt? What kind of bullshit is that? I'm not going to stand for that, and that's why I am here."

According to data provided by the Million Student March, over 40 million Americans share a total of $1.2 trillion in student debt, and 58 percent of it is owed by the poorest 25 percent of Americans.

After leaving Quarry Plaza, the group of students marched around campus, and through several large class rooms, to communicate their demands.

The march concluded at Clark Kerr Hall, the administrative center of UC Santa Cruz and the location of the office of Chancellor George Blumenthal. After holding a short rally in the building's lobby demonstrators happened to spot Blumenthal, by chance, at the rear of the room. As he walked towards his office, students slowly followed him in an attempt to communicate, but the chancellor entered his locked office complex without addressing them.

Undaunted, the students read off the demands of the Million Student March using their megaphone in the hallway.

Before leaving Kerr Hall, some wrote down the amount of debt they expected to incur at UCSC on pre-printed "Debt Sentence" sheets, which were then taped to the windows of the building. The debt figures ranged from $14,000 to $100,000.

At UC Santa Cruz, the march was organized by the UCSC Student Labor Action Project, as well as students involved with "Fund the UC," a campaign organized by the UC Student Association to fight for the "affordability, quality and accessibility" of the University of California system.

Students rally inside of Kerr Hall, UCSC's administrative center

Chancellor Blumenthal walks to his office, followed by student demonstrators

Following Chancellor Blumenthal

"Debt Sentences"

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