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.

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

Statement of Solidarity from the Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives

November 24, 2014

The Board of the Free Speech Movement Archives is in solidarity with
UC state-wide protests against increased tuition fees.  In raising
tuition, the Regents are in direct violation of the Master Plan for
Higher Education, the Donahoe Act, signed into law by Governor “Pat”
Brown on April 27, 1960.

This standing law guarantees that tuition at the UC campuses will
never be charged, in order to make higher education in the state
accessible to all people.  Whether the discriminatory charges are
called tuition or fees, they violate the guiding principle of the law:
that higher education ought to be available to all eligible California
high school graduates regardless of their economic means.

We also call on the Governor and the State Legislature to live up to
their responsibilities, as required by the CA Education Code, “to
ensure that resources are provided” to permit all eligible students
wishing to attend the University of California to do so, without
demanding reductions in the quality of the UC education offered to
them.

Signed,

The Board of Directors of the Free Speech Movement Archives

Lee Felsenstein, Gar Smith, Anita Medal, Bettina Aptheker, Susan
Druding, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Jack
Radey, Barbara Stack, Robert Cohen

Bera “extremely disappointed” with U.C. tuition hike

2014.11.14, Letter to Rep. Napolitano to freeze tuition

Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. released the following statement in response to the University of California (UC) tuition hike that Regents voted on earlier today:

“I’m extremely disappointed that U.C. Regents today voted in favor of an unreasonably high increase in tuition for students for the next five years. These hikes break a promise that was made to students and threaten to jeopardize the affordability of education for middle and low income students at a time when middle class families are already struggling. I attended U.C. schools for undergraduate and medical school because they were affordable and the education I got there has helped me pursue the American Dream. We need to work to bring down the skyrocketing cost of education so that that same dream is available to this and future generations, and I will continue to fight to do that.”

Earlier this month, Bera led the California delegation in urging U.C. President Janet Napolitano to maintain a tuition freeze (link to letter). Bera is a co-chair of the California Public Higher Education Caucus.

Source: Webpage of Congressman Ami Bera

Statement of Solidarity from UCSC

Students currently occupying the Humanities 2 building at Santa Cruz, in solidarity with the occupation at Wheeler Hall at UCB, propose to escalate action and carry forth further actions, such as occupying another space or blocking a main road, should there be any police repression towards our fellow students at the Wheeler Occupation or police attacks on other campuses. Let it be known to the administration at UCB that should they send the guard dogs of the Regents and the powers that be, the police, to repress, brutalize, evict, or disrupt the collective occupation at Wheeler Hall, students at Santa Cruz will act in solidarity and take direct action on our own campus. Let it be known to our own administration at UCSC that if the police are sent to repress us, students at UCB have also committed to similar actions in solidarity. We encourage public circulation of this proposal and any further adapting of this proposal for purposes on other campus.

An attack on one is an attack on all.

A Letter of Fire from Egypt

Dear Santa Cruz and Berkeley Occupiers,

We are students and faculty from Cairo writing to you from within the folds and dust of an ongoing revolution. Many of our own universities are now occupied by the military, and we now find ourselves fighting against a regime that grows worse than the one that our revolution had initially rose up against only 3 years ago. When we first heard that you had occupied your universities, we were inspired by and felt close to your revolt that we see as resonating with our own.

We think it is important to say that our struggles arise from distinct histories, but we also know that the problems we all face can only ever be challenged by a cascade of a thousand revolts, revolts like yours that involve both a struggle for your own lives but equally for the lives of others. Our revolts are ultimately attempts to become something together, to become a part of a collectivity that is as much emancipatory as it is diverse. In your occupations against the tuition increases in your universities, we hope you find yourselves fighting alongside new and unanticipated friends and allies, people found in your revolt that have joined you in inhabiting spaces that you have made your own. We hope that you consider us among these new friends as well.

We don’t find it so urgent to distinguish between whether the attacks on our lives come in the name of austerity, security, or civility, but instead recognize that each of these attacks and each of our revolts against them are connected by shared logics: the logic of what you’ve called in your communique the “capitalist economy of accumulation” and the opposing logic of what we’ll call in this letter “creativity and solidarity”. In this spirit, we write in solidarity with all of those who look forward and see a hopeless future, and in return demand a different present and occupy it. We write in solidarity with you who have been ignored by society’s institutions, and in return have seized them. We write in solidarity with you who the global powers hope will suffer injustice alone, and instead have found one another on the barricades of revolt. 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.

With fires against fear,

-Students and Faculty from Cairo’s Universities

https://aletterfromegypt.wordpress.com