About 30 students and staff marched to Chancellor Gene Block’s office Monday calling for a sanctuary campus and protections for minority students.
The Student Labor Advocacy Project organized the walkout and rally as part of the May Day protests happening worldwide, said Parshan Khosravi, a member of SLAP. Labor activists around the world have traditionally advocated for labor rights on May Day, or International Workers’ Day.
Khosravi, also the newly elected vice president of External Affairs for the Graduate Students Association, said he thinks the protests help keep students aware of national issues.
“The first 100 days (of President Donald Trump’s administration) everyone was following the issues,” he said. “But now that 100 days are over, there won’t be as much attention. We need to keep pushing.”
The walkout started with a rally in front of Powell Library, where speakers talked about worker’s rights, undocumented student issues and sexual harassment. The protesters then marched to Block’s office, chanting “email, email you’re all talk” and “sanctuary now or we won’t stop.” After protesting at the chancellor’s office, several of the protesters boarded buses to join the May Day marches in downtown Los Angeles.
Audrie Francis, a third-year environmental science student, said she thinks the UCLA administration should do more for undocumented students.
“(The administration) has all these pamphlets on what they are going to do for undocumented students, but they won’t say the word ‘sanctuary,’” she said. “We are going to demand sanctuary and we are going to get sanctuary.”
Melissa Melpignano, a graduate student at the world arts and cultures/dance department and member of Bruins Against Sexual Harassment, called on the university to remove Gabriel Piterberg as professor. She also referenced a recent state audit that found the University of California had an undisclosed surplus of $175 million.
Two of Piterberg’s graduate students accused him of making unwelcome sexual advances and forcing his tongue into their mouths in 2013. They also sued the university, claiming officials inadequately handled their cases, though the case was settled in September. Piterberg returned to teach in winter 2017.
“(The administration) says they cannot remove Piterberg because they would have to pay millions to fire him,” she said. “Let’s ask (University of California President Janet Napolitano) to use the $175 million they hid to pay off Piterberg.”
Several of the individuals who marched in the walkout said they participated because they were personally affected by the Trump administration’s policies.
Isabel Durón, a graduate student in the Chicana/o studies department, said she joined because she wants the university to know that minority students on campus feel vulnerable after the election.
“I’m a woman, a student and a worker, and I feel threatened by (the Trump administration),” she said. “As a Mexican American, I also feel the threat is racialized.”