Occupy UCLA students began gathering in Wilson Plaza around noon on Thursday, blasting music, setting up tents and sharing “community food.”
Within an hour, nine tents were set up near the Student Activities Center.
About 30 protesters participated in a “Festival of Resistance” at Wilson Plaza, in solidarity with a national day of action to support higher education.
The Festival of Resistance is part of a long-term effort to protest on behalf of higher education, said Mathew Sandoval, an Occupy UCLA member and fifth-year world arts and cultures graduate student.
At the rally, Occupy UCLA participants emphasized increasing state funding for the University of California and other public universities. Protesters also expressed concerns that the UC is spending money on areas other than instruction or related research.
“The real cost drivers are administrators, professional schools and athletics,” said Bob Samuels, a lecturer at UCLA and president of the UC lecturers’ and librarians’ union, who attended the Occupy event. “The university should focus on instruction. It’d reduce our costs.”
Protesters said they felt UC administrators were being paid too much, while the university suffered cuts from the state.
“We want people who are willing to get paid less because they’re committed to the mission of public education,” Samuels said.
KT Bender, a graduate student in geography, said she has a personal stake in higher education reform ““ she wants to become a professor one day.
She said she wants to fight against “privatization of the university,” saying she feels that higher education is becoming a consumer good rather than a right.
The UC is engaging in investment practices that are too high-risk and not spending the profits for the benefit of its students, Bender said.
“When the institution cares more about turning a profit than about providing a quality education, there’s a problem,” Bender said.
The event hosted several discussions and presentations about issues related to higher education, including the state budget and UC research practices.
Kyle Todd, a third-year law student, led a discussion about student protesters’ rights in coordination with Palestine Awareness Week. Todd taught attendees about campus law and code on protests, as well as what rights students have.
Members in Students for Justice in Palestine spoke about what they feel is a crackdown on Palestine awareness activities on college campuses.
Three UCLA administrators stood near the protesters to ensure school policies were being followed, while members of Occupy UCLA made plans to move their tents to Bruin Plaza. At the same time, three police officers stood by on bicycles.
“We need to be careful to balance respecting (students’) rights of expression and policies on campus (that) allow for normal campus activities to continue,” said UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea.
Thursday’s Festival of Resistance will be followed by a march at the state Capitol on Monday. Sandoval organized transportation for about 25 Occupy UCLA protesters, who will be driving to Sacramento to occupy the Capitol, he said.
The University of California Student Association is organizing a separate rally in Sacramento for Monday, said Gilberto Soria, a UCLA representative to the Association. About 60 to 70 UCLA students are expected to attend, Soria said.
Organizers say the rallies will include UC students and members of the UC community speaking out against state disinvestment in higher education.