Advocating cuts to the University of California administrative ranks, student group UCLA Fights Back mobilized about 100 local students, workers and union members as part of a national day of action defending public education.
Protesters voiced their discontent over the UC employment system during a rally in Bruin Plaza at noon, arguing that the UC Board of Regents has given priority to administration rather than students, lecturers and workers.
“Pretty much only executives are being employed by the University of California right now,” said Elise Youn, an urban planning doctoral student who leads UCLA Fights Back. “Workers and students have been bearing the burdens, and the chancellor, as our leader, should stand up for us.”
Around 11:30 a.m., students in UCLA Fights Back began circulating a card to Chancellor Gene Block asking him to cut from UC executives instead of students, workers and faculty. Medical center workers marched into Bruin Plaza a little after noon. Shouts of “Chop from the top!” and “Si se puede!” rang in the plaza as protesters marched in circles.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $1.4 billion in cuts to higher education formed a focal point of the rally. Jason Ball, a graduate student in political science, gave a speech to demonstrators and encouraged more aggressive protest.
“If we remove cooperation and create mass action like Wisconsin and Egypt, we can start dictating on our own terms,” Ball said.
UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said the issues merit further attention.
“We’re in the midst of a transformation about how public higher education is funded in the state, and naturally the stakeholders who have concerns deserve a full discussion,” Hampton said. “The rally today is a reflection of that discussion.”
Hampton said the UC Board of Regents has held town hall meetings on every campus to hear and address concerns.
“As the campus continues to reach out to new funding realities, the goal of the university continues to be maintaining the academic excellence that we’re known for,” he said.
Members of the American Federation of Teachers, University Professional and Technical Employees and the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America were among the gathered groups. Other state-funded schools, including UC Berkeley, Riverside Community College and Oakland Unified School District, joined in the state-wide efforts.
Other protests were held in 16 other states and Washington, D.C.
Susan Griffin, a writing lecturer and member of AFT, said the regents’ decisions will jeopardize educational quality for future students.
“I’m in a program being eliminated bit by bit,” Griffin said. “I’m on the verge of retirement, and they’re not going to replace me. If I were a young person, I would run away from teaching. Who’s going to teach your kids?”
Protesters began to trickle out of Bruin Plaza at 12:45 p.m., as a light drizzle began to fall. By 1:15 p.m., all protesters had vacated the area.