A Statement Regarding the Movement

Phone: (510) 556-4402

Email: theopenuc@gmail.com

Berkeley, Calif. November 23, 2014 –

We, The Open UC, are a movement. After the 28% tuition hikes passed, we created the Wheeler Commons, but the context for our movement has existed long before this. We are demanding no tuition hikes, more transparency of the UC budget for students, and the dropping of charges against UC Berkeley student Jeff Noven, arrested at the UCSF Regents Meeting protest. However, the ideology of our movement goes much deeper. We are asking for the state to reinvest in schools and are ultimately standing for an accessible system of public education here in the U.S. and worldwide.

People everywhere are and always have been oppressed. Education is the best way to free people from the manipulative and exploitative practices of oppressors. Knowledge is power. But education is an institution, and often during our time in college we are forced to follow certain rules and abide by certain agendas in order to get our degree, which in today’s world has become a large receipt and a prerequisite for success. With higher tuition, students will have to face more debt coming out of school, an extremely oppressive burden.

Education is a universal human right. These tuition hikes, as well as concerted efforts by the UC’s to privatize their schools, have attempted to transform education from a right into a privilege. That is what is at stake here. Financial burden from public education, which should be free, is perpetually placed on students instead of the state. This must end.

We love our school, but we need it to be affordable. It is our hope that someday everyone in the world will have the opportunity to attend a school like Cal without having to make enormous sacrifices. But this is a long-term goal. Right now, we have a tangible and important issue of education here in California.

The UC system employs some of the greatest minds, produces some of the best students, and has been the foundation for the flourishing of the state. Reinvestment in the University of California is the greatest investment for the future of the state. An educated public is paramount to a successful and effective government. A school is not public if it is not accessible. Let’s make our representatives accountable for representing our interests, and re-fund the public university system for the future of California, the U.S., and the world.

We stand in solidarity with students everywhere calling for affordable public education.

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A Letter from the UC Berkeley Environmental Community in Response to Fee Hikes

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, the Regents of the University of California passed a tuition plan that will increase student fees up to five percent for each of the next five years, amounting to a nearly twenty-eight percent increase. This decision was made despite strong opposition from student groups across the state. Students formed The Open UC, a growing statewide movement demanding no tuition hikes and more transparency of the UC budget for students. The Open UC is asking for the state to reinvest in schools and is ultimately standing for an accessible system of public education in the U.S. and worldwide.

ECO, UC Berkeley’s student environmental coalition, stands in solidarity with the Open UC to stop tuition hikes and demand increased transparency. Our work makes us all too familiar with issues of privatization and misplaced investment. Student groups within our coalition are resisting commercial development on the university-owned Gill tract, fighting extreme oil and natural gas extraction, and demanding the university to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in renewable energies. These are just a few of the ways students in our coalition are working to ensure a more just and sustainable future. However, we are frustrated to find that we have less and less influence in the future of our own university whose public character has been jeopardized.  The Regents’ proposed hikes have come in the face of reasonable student suggestions to cut costs, many of which would save financial and natural resources.  Amid a historic drought, each year the campus uses 49.2 million gallons of potable water to irrigate campus landscapes and wastes a lot of water in order to keep campus lawns green (Berkeley Water Action Plan, 2013). Students have asked the university to design and implement lawn conversion free of charge. Student-faculty lawn conversion would promote hands-on learning and be more cost-effective. However, the university is still reluctant to give students responsibility over our campus landscape, choosing instead to contract out to the campus architect’s own landscaping company. Money and water is wasted.

For us, working in coalition with organizations fighting for affordable education is not only just, it is strategic. Our struggles share common enemies: as students fighting for control of our university we see potential in reclaiming democracy by delegitimizing the Regents and fighting the influence of corporate power in our public institutions.Unless we unite in challenging the systems in place that perpetuate inequality and oppression, a transition to a just, sustainable future will not be successful. Unless we delegitimize the Regents’ source of  power and call them out for their lack of integrity, democracy, and transparency, GHG emissions will go up along with tuition.

Many of us within the environmental community at Berkeley have been working to ground our organizing in a framework of climate and environmental justice, reconceptualizing our work as an intersectional struggle for social justice. The students and families most impacted by the rising cost of education are often those most impacted by environmental degradation and silenced within the mainstream environmental movement. Struggles against debt, police violence, and racism are struggles for sustainability, because we cannot build an effective movement for climate justice without also seeking to address the systemic violence affecting the communities who must lead the global struggle against the fossil fuel industry and climate change. Because we see our work as part of a larger project of collective liberation, we want to connect work across movements for justice, and we see the struggles for climate and environmental justice and affordable education as intimately linked.

The word economy means the management of home, whether that is a household, our university, or even our planet as a whole. At Wheeler Commons, Open UC is creating and managing a home, within an increasingly corporate university, for the amplification of student voices and the building of an intersectional movement. The first step is ensuring that our public university remains accessible and affordable to all, and with that ECO stands in solidarity.

Signed,

ECO, Environmental Coalition at UC Berkeley

ECO serves as the official coalition of UC Berkeley environmental and sustainability student organizations dedicated to advancing sustainability on campus in the short- and long-term.

The original article can be found here.

Press Release to the California State Senate

We, the students of Wheeler Commons and the Open UC at Berkeley, are pleased to see the proposal of SB15 in the California State Senate. Though the bill is not a blanket solution to the issue of funding public education, SB15 is an important starting point: it provides an alternative solution to the proposed tuition hikes and furthers conversation about creative approaches to funding this university. We can ensure that the quality of public education is maintained without sacrificing either access or affordability. One of the Open UC’s original demands was the elimination of these tuition hikes. We are now seeing mobilization at the state level to meet this demand. We are grateful to those representatives who have already spoken out against tuition hikes, and now call all state representatives to prioritize public education and reinvest in our university system. The proposal of SB15 proves that student voices matter, so let’s make them heard.

Increased state funding for the UC system is crucial to eliminating this latest round of tuition hikes, but the issues at stake are much more fundamental. The threats to public education are systemic, embodied in the power structures of this university. A comprehensive solution will need to consider the very meaning of public education and how those running this university are straying from that vision. As we see successes against tuition hikes, we must remind ourselves that the fight for public education is just beginning.

Press Release about December 2nd

UPDATE: Today, Wheeler Commons was cleared of all posters, the food prepared for the students was discarded, and students remaining in the lobby were told to leave or face the cops. These students were simply organizing and making posters, in broad daylight and during the building’s operating hours. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Speech Movement on this campus, but the students still do not have freedom of speech. They closed the doors on us, so we throw them open again. The rally has been relocated to Wheeler Commons, come join us!
At noon on December 2nd, the 50th anniversary of Mario Savio’s famous speech on Sproul steps during the height of the Free Speech Movement, The Open University will be hosting a Speak Out and Rally on Sproul.

Student speakers from various groups, including a student-parent from the Village Residents Association, students from environmental coalitions, and more, will be speaking. Campus and community workers including AFSCME 3299, Teamsters 2010, and fast food workers from the movement fighting for $15 hourly wage will be speaking. Professors including Khalid Kadir – lecturer in International and Area Studies and Global Poverty and Practice – and Leopold Podlashuc – visiting lecturer from South Africa in the History Department – will be speaking. Community activist Ellen Choi from Movement Generation will be speaking. We will all be speaking out about the tuition hikes. Our voices have power and we will use them not only to commemorate the legacy of the Free Speech Movement, but also to defend our public education.

Our movement is not over, and we will continue to speak out against the tuition hikes that have continued to deny Californians the right to an affordable education and against the privatization of our public education. Join us in our fight.

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” – Mario Savio 

Letter of Solidarity from Open UC Davis to Open UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz Occupation

Passed by the Third General Assembly at 1PM on November 26th 2014

Comrades from across California, this Tuesday, November 24th, we unanimously voted to stand in solidarity with your movements. To join in brother and sisterhood against the cruel oppression of a nonrepresentative, tyrannical Board of Regents. We continue our fight today, and although we will be going home on Thanksgiving, we will be back. We will be back with renewed vigor. We will be back with a timeline of action. We will be back and we will never leave so long as those who are forced to stoop their backs in labor during the day, only to stoop their necks in study during the night are not able to defend themselves against tuition hikes. We will occupy until those who were promised an affordable education will not need to drop out of school before graduating, with nothing to show but unsurmountable debt and a heavy heart. We will occupy until democracy is restored, until we choose who makes the decisions that affects us, until we are respected enough not to be used as pawns in a political gambit.

Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Thank you for leading the way. We respect you immensely, and will always be here in legal, emotional, and action based support. Keep fighting the good fight. We’ll be beside you doing the same until justice is restored.

Statement of Solidarity with Ferguson

To the people of Ferguson:

We are student protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who have been fighting the privatization of our university. Like you, we are enraged by the recent announcement that Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department will not be indicted for his murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August. We stand in solidarity with Michael’s family, as well as with all victims of police brutality.

We recognize that the privatization of our university is intimately connected with the criminalization of black and brown youth. The increasingly exclusionary nature of public education, made so by many factors including state disinvestment and tuition hikes, has only increased as more of America’s residents are locked up and thrown away, no longer able to attain an education or contribute to society. A majority of those thrown behind bars are young people of color.

The effects of this increased criminalization of Black and Brown youth is not just explicit. Numerous studies have shown that discrimination of any kind can severely damage an individual’s mental and physical health, further hindering his or her ability to achieve an education and enjoy “the pursuit of happiness.” At its most tragic, as in the case of Michael Brown, discrimination leads to brutal and unjust loss of lives.

The protests in Ferguson and around the country have sparked a flame that shows little sign of withering away. It has galvanized not only Missouri, but people around the world, as well as the students here at Berkeley. Your resistance and determination remind us that we must not back down! We must hold those in power accountable for their decisions, whether those are an unwillingness to seek justice or an intention to destroy public education.

Additionally, we strongly condemn the forceful police response against Ferguson protesters, and recognize that this repression is a daily occurrence for many communities of color. Many of us seek to demilitarize our own campus and local police, who are also guilty of such brutality.

To quote the powerful message sent to us by students and faculty at Cairo University: “We write in solidarity with you who were born into a world of fear, and yet have learned to light fires that cast fear away.”

We, also, stand in solidarity with you with fires against fear.

–Students from the UC Berkeley Wheeler Commons

Daily Cal: Hundreds of protesters take to streets, march against tuition hikes

Reposted from The Daily Cal

By Frances Fitzgerald and Jane Nho

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Hundreds of UC Berkeley students, faculty and community members marched through the city and campus Monday as part of a systemwide day of action, protesting the recent vote by the UC Board of Regents to pass a controversial tuition hike policy.

Beginning with a rally at noon at Sather Gate, student protesters walked out of their classes onto Sproul Plaza, picketing posters and chanting phrases such as “No cuts, no fees, education must be free.” The line of marchers spanned about three blocks, heading to Downtown Berkeley, and included more than 1,000 people at its peak, while UCPD stood by and stopped traffic.

“I’m excited to see so many people out here and mobilized and angry, because we should be,” said ASUC Senator Haley Broder toward the beginning of the demonstration. “We need to show we’re not complacent when the university is threatening us, because this university is meant for us and not for the regents.”

The walkout followed six days of students occupying Wheeler Hall, which began Wednesday evening after the vote by a regents committee to move forward with a policy that would increase tuition 5 percent per year for five years, contingent on state funding.

Although students have stayed in Wheeler Hall past its hours of operation, UCPD has not taken action to evict students from the building. Similarly, UCPD officers monitored the events of Monday’s day of action, following the crowd as they marched through Berkeley, according to Lt. Eric Tejada.

“We’ve just been observing,” Tejada said. “We’re going to let administration decide how they want to respond, and we’ll take our cues from them.”

Protesters continued past Shattuck Avenue onto Milvia Street, pausing in a field near Berkeley High School as more students spoke to the crowd, before looping back toward campus.

“The UC system is one of the last public education systems in the U.S.,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Dinshaw Avari. “In a sense, we’re fighting for the American dream. When the system becomes privatized and it doesn’t represent what the average American wants, then we are moving towards austerity.”

Students stopped in front of California Hall, where they chanted for administrators to come outside. Protesters declared that if administrators did not come outside by 3 p.m., they would march to the UC Office of the President in Oakland.

According to UC spokesperson Shelly Meron, the tuition plan is about maintaining the quality of the academic program and preserving access to the university. She said the revenue garnered from the plan would allow the university to enroll 5,000 more California students over the next five years.

“We hope that students understand that the real issue is how the state of California funds the university, and we welcome students’ voices and support in changing the current dynamic,” Meron said in an email.

At approximately 2:45 p.m., Chancellor Nicholas Dirks arrived at the protest, which had dwindled in size. Dirks said the administration agrees with students and wants education to be affordable, adding that students and the campus should work together to put pressure on the state.

In response, a student yelled that Dirks has political capital that he could use to influence Gov. Jerry Brown, which was met with cheers from the crowd. Students pressured him to definitively condemn the hikes, and when one person asked him if he would stand for the students, he responded that he stands for the institution, a comment which was met with displeasure from some of the protesters.

“We all care deeply about the whole university and that builds deep, but we also feel we’re caught between a rock in a hard place,” Dirks said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “The state doesn’t give us money, so what do we do? We have to find ways to maintain the great excellence.”

Dirks left the crowd at about 3 p.m., saying he would come back later. The protesters then voted on demands for the chancellor: that he issue a statement against the tuition hikes, be physically present at tuition protest events in the future, urge the university to release a fully transparent budget and demand that the pursuit of charges against Jeff Noven, a UC Berkeley student arrested at the Wednesday protest in San Francisco, be dropped. Dirks did not return before the crowd disbanded at about 4:30 p.m. Some students had plans to meet at 6 p.m. to protest in Oakland.

Students in the crowd decided to hold a meeting in Wheeler at 8 p.m. but agreed they would not create new decisions in respect for demonstrators who wished to attend the protest in Oakland against the Ferguson grand jury decision, which was at the same time.

“The UC’s supposed to be promoting free thought and expression,” said senior and former ASUC senator Destiny Iwuoma. “If the UC won’t do it, students will.”

Students said they intend to protest Dec. 2.

Contact Frances Fitzgerald and Jane Nho at newsdesk@dailycal.org.