Saturday, January 18

Beat ‘SC bonfire canceled because of tuition hike protest

About 50 student protesters cancelled Thursday's traditional Beat 'SC bonfire, which between 4,000 and 5,000 students attended. (Austin Yu/Daily Bruin)

The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for more information.

This post was updated on Nov. 20 at 9:54 p.m.

UCLA officials canceled the bonfire portion of the Beat ‘SC Bonfire and Rally Thursday night as about 50 students marched in circles around the bonfire site to protest potential tuition hikes.

Rally attendees and organizers tried to ignore the protesters, who banged a drum, chanted and circled the woodpile while student groups danced, cheered and sang on stage to continue the Beat ‘SC rally. Several attendees booed the protesters in between performances.

Nobody who spoke at the rally, attended by more than 4,000 students, acknowledged the protesters.

Football coach Jim Mora officially announced the bonfire’s cancellation, saying it was cut because of “circumstances beyond our control.”

“We don’t need a friggin’ fire to get it fucking turned up,” he yelled, and the crowd responded with cheers and dancing.

The cancellation came as a surprise to many students at the bonfire, who shouted “Light the fire” in response to Mora’s announcement.

Even though some rally attendees said they agreed with the intent of the protest, they said they thought protesting at one of UCLA’s biggest traditions was inappropriate. Organizers said the goal of the event was to rallyfootball fans for the rivalry game against USC and support UCLA as it makes a run to clinch the Pac-12 South division.

“I’m very upset because this bonfire was hyped up all year through tours and media,” said Emma Rosen, a first-year applied mathematics student. “People come to UCLA for the academics but also for the great events like this. This is a great tradition.”

Some students at the event said they think the protesters sent the wrong message to the student body.

“This protest makes students think that this protest is against school spirit and not the regents,” said Praptee Chowdhury, a second-year biology and physics student. “It makes them less inclined to join their cause because they’re interrupting a major tradition.”

University police said they would not arrest the protesters unless UCLA officials asked them to because the protesters were not trespassing or breaking any laws.

Campus officials said they did not force the protesters to leave because they have the right to free speech on campus.

“We negotiated with the students. We thought that they would leave and they didn’t,” said UCLA spokesman Tod Tamberg. “We wanted to make sure we acted in the interest of everyone’s safety, the people in there and the people outside.”

Prior to the scheduled start of the rally, the protesters huddled closely together and debated their next course of action. Some said they should stay and risk being arrested, while others said they should disperse in case canceling the bonfire generated student animosity toward their cause.

The protesters, who occupied the bonfire site since shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday, demanded that the University of California Board of Regents cancel its plan to raise tuition by up to 5 percent annually for the next five years. The board approved the plan Thursday despite loud student protests at its meeting in San Francisco, saying tuition hikes may be necessary to keep up with inflation, increased pension costs, deferred maintenance and other costs.

Daisy Castillo, a third-year sociology and Chicana/o studies student who participated in the protest, said that even though she did not want the bonfire to be canceled, she wanted to make a statement.

“People need to realize we are not against UCLA but (against) an institution,” Castillo said. “(Blocking the bonfire) is the most historical way. We have to make noise.”

Protesters said they think they achieved a victory by canceling the bonfire because they brought some attention to the tuition raise.

“(The rally organizers’) priorities are different,” said Angelica Lopez, a fourth-year French and music history student.

Before sitting on the bonfire wood, students marched around the campus, chanting at the front door of Murphy Hall. United Auto Workers Local 2865, a union that represents graduate student workers at the UC, organized the protest along with several other groups, including the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation.

Similar protests against tuition hikes were also held this week at UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall, UC Santa Cruz’s Humanities 2 building and UC Irvine’s Aldrich Hall.

On Thursday, protesters announced plans for another demonstration against tuition hikes Monday as part of a UC-wide “day of action.”

Contributing reports by Jeong Park and Sam Hoff, Bruin senior staff, Arthur Wang, Bruin contributor, and Korbin Placet, Bruin Sports contributor.

Correction: Students for Justice in Palestine did not participate in the protest.

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  • RB

    These students seem to think that all publicity is good publicity–whether it be upsetting people by ruining their bonfire or by interrupting classes and midterms…but that really isn’t true in principle. As an out-of-state student who is part of the 30% paying full tuition (I know, stupid me), I would be a natural audience and participant for this type of rally, but because of how disruptive this group has been, I wouldn’t be okay with being associated with them. I don’t know of anyone who has been “complacent” on this issue, or who isn’t upset/concerned over this, and accusing us of that makes Ochoa and others at the regent meeting/those who are leading these rallies seem incredibly ignorant to me. We want tuition to be lower as much as you do…but we’re also he’re to learn and have fun as a community, and these disruptions make that impossible. In fact, the reality is, tonight, rather than getting people fired up and angry about the tuition hikes, you got people fired up about hating these protests. We aren’t the one’s you’re mad at–the regents are–so go talk to them and leave us, our classes, and our bonfires alone.

    TL;DR: Don’t hurt the students who you are allegedly fighting for.

    • Jason

      After speaking to a few of the protestors, they told me that they are pissed off that students care more about the bonfire, then the tuition increase. People have a right to do what they want, and organize as they choose to. They choose how to spend their free time, and the students canceling and ruining this event for other Bruins have a really strong opinion of what people should be thinking. If you want to have a discussion, then talk, but don’t go off rampaging and ruining other people’s time.

      On top of that, a lot of students this Rally together. Thanks for making their time go to waste.

      You ask us to check our privilege, so I did, and guess what? My pockets aren’t empty. Thanks for ruining a beautiful week.

    • reader

      What’s even more unfortunate is the anger at the Regents. The Regents are our best allies. They care about this university much more than state officials do. Their proposal to raise tuition unless the state restores sufficient funds provides a strong incentive for the state to restore funding to the university. Anger can be justifiably directed at state officials, but not at the Regents.

  • Shane Flanagin

    What a shame. As the previous poster stated, all this accomplished was denying the opportunity for students to take part in a long-standing tradition that bonds the Bruin community together. I sympathize with the anger directed at tuition hikes, but if you think this will help change the Regents’ minds, then you have no sense of reality. This only turns off fellow students to the cause and makes the protestors seem as tone-deaf as the Regents themselves. Self-righteous and self-aggrandizing behavior solves nothing, and I’m afraid that’s all this was.

  • drakejr

    These people are idiots who prove that they are happy to put their need for special snowflake status against the ordinary interests of their fellow students. They embarrass the school and alumni such as myself.

    • Socali

      They are actually fighting for the interests of all the students in that rally. But its ok. Lighting a stupid bonfire means so much more to the student population than increasing the cost of tuition for every student. These protesters are not an embarrassment. This is coming from alumni such as myself.

      • Ganplosive

        No they are not, it may seem that way on paper but the truth is many of them are doing it out of self interest.

        Yes, greater education should be made available to all qualified students but it is at the end of a day still a finite resource. Higher demands with dwindling supplies will lead to higher costs.

        Without tuition hikes, there are 2 options: 1 the state pays more for these students educations which arguably benefits these students disproportionately more so than anyone else not associated with the UCs footing the bill, or the school waters down it’s quality or supply. Both of which will harm the greater student body / California as well.

        I’m an alumni too and I took out full loans for my education. Many of my friends from out of state did as well. If we didn’t think it was worth it, we didn’t have to go to UCLA. Community college or csus were great alternatives with much cheaper tuitions.

        Everyone is entitled to higher education if they are qualified. Not everyone is entitled to an education at UCLA or the UC system.

      • unclesmrgol

        That “stupid” bonfire was their target, was it not? Did sitting around it stop the tuition hike? What did they accomplish, other than to rain on a third party’s parade?

        Answers to this pop quiz: Yes. No. Nothing.

  • Really?

    So, let me get this straight. The graduate students in UAW 2865, along with several other groups, thought it would be a good idea to shut down a massively popular undergraduate event to “bring some attention” to something everyone already opposed. Really?

  • Jason S.

    Unbelievable. What a bunch of selfish turds. Way to leave your legacy. Morons.

  • AT

    What a shame that people are more concerned about a silly bonfire than they are about rising tuition fees and the privatization of public universities. #shame

    • Jack

      No one said they are more concerned –one does not oppose the other, which is exactly the point… Why was the bonfire targeted–Its one of the few events that our large campus has the opportunity to come together and forget schoolwork and tuition and what have you and simply support a good old fashioned rivalry. You can be angry and displeased without mobilizing every single second of your life.

    • Him Jill

      Silly to you, but obviously important to your peers. What about using your head and finding a way to publicize your cause while helping your fellow students instead of completely alienating them? There are still endzone seats available for tomorrow’s football game. There will be 80,000 people there. It will be televised nationally by ABC. Every time a field goal or extra point is kicked, you’ll be on TV.

    • Jason S.

      Tons of other opportunities to hold your protest. You choose to blow up one of the few opportunities we get to come together as a community. Not exactly the best way to garner support for your agenda.

  • Him Jill

    What concerns me is that the protest organizers were most likely not Bruins. They are graduate students whose allegiance, if they even have one, is to their undergraduate school. This sets a bad precedent. So next year a group of $C students can sit around the wood pile and prevent the bonfire?

    • Joe

      As someone who was there, most of the protestors were undergrads. It’s not true that they were mostly grad students or union workers.

      • Him Jill

        According to the article, the protest was organized by a graduate student union, which is what I posted.

        • guest

          The protests weren’t organized at all. There was no plan before 3pm. The bonfire didn’t even come up until 425, when we voted to storm the barricades. We held it at 430

    • AT

      Your comment makes literally no sense. This protest was about more than a school rivalry – it was about the PRIVATIZATION of public universities, about the regents’ attempt to price the citizens of CALIFORNIA out of an education, and about raising students’ consciousness on these issues. So, if you want to know whom the protest organizers are aligned with, what they show allegiance to, it is this: keeping public education public. Additionally, UCLA students – be they grad students or undergrads – are all bruins. The grad students were there in SOLIDARITY with their undergrads. They marched and occupied with and for their undergrads, who will be bearing the brunt on the tuition hikes.

      • Socali

        AT, I guess alot of these kids just want to have a good time in college. Its quite tragic, really.

      • Him Jill

        You are the one who is making no sense. How do you think you can win people over by ruining their evening? Just look at these comments. And now you’re doubling down on a failed strategy by trying to justify it. I read a lot of UCLA sports forums and this stunt was so misguided that many are questioning whether or not the protesters were actually $C students in disguise. The reason why movements like these don’t get more traction is because of the erratic behavior of the protesters.

  • tough

    Ok. Here is the thing. Students didn’t cancel the bonfire. Instead they were all for it. That’s why they were very clear about their demand of leaving the bonfire after they would finish their speech on the stage that the university had promised them. However, the university authority pervasively wanted them to leave right at the moment. Now, you judge. Student wanted to hold the bonfire as the collateral so that the authority couldn’t cut off the mic during the speech. There is no reason for the students to trust the authority anymore because they betrayed the student at the first place by raising the tuition for their higher pension benefit. Now they are trying to falsely implicate the students and create a division among the students so that they can secure their profit by debilitating the protest.

    They didn’t stop the bonfire for the student’s security. They stopped it to make the protesters look evil to the general student body. The vice chancellor gave the students only one minute to make the decision! How funny!!!

    So, we all should stand up for justice. At the end of the day, justice > tradition.

    • Jason S.

      He gave the student’s one minute to make their decision? And yet they continued to sit there. Your sense of justice is supremely screwed up. You accomplished ZERO last night in favor of your agenda. Most students are PISSED. Not at the administration, but at YOU.

    • niancube .

      Protesters were offered 5 minutes on the stage for 2 people to make their point on the mic. Five minutes is a lot of air time in front of that crowd and the online audience. But if they went over, then yes they would have been cut off because it’s NOT THEIR RALLY. It could have been a win-win where the protest is heard and the bonfire gets lit. Instead, now we have animosity and criticism.

  • RB

    I get that people think justice>tradition. I agree. BUT this was NOT justice. The hikes have already passed–and those who passed it were not at the bonfire and were not affected by this rally. Who was? The students of SAA who worked hard to put on this event. The students who took the time to decorate wood blocks for the purpose of the bonfire. The students (particularly seniors) who came out to the bonfires to share in a tradition and to make memories with friends. Justice is far more important than tradition, but the students involved in this need to stop kidding themselves here–this wasn’t justice, this was selfishness and blatant disregard for your fellow students. You took away from what I’m sure was countless hours of hard work by the event organizers, as well as from the happiness and experience brought to students by this bonfire. Just because the students and Coach Mora were able to make up for this by adapting to the situation does NOT mean that this behavior was right, acceptable, respectful, or in any way justified. I wish I could have stood by these rallies as I believe in their message and purpose–I believe in the Justice you speak of–but fighting for student rights by taking away from student rights? That makes so little sense it’s unbelievable. Makes me wonder both whether these students are actually paying tuition, and how exactly these brilliant minds made it here in the first place.

  • educationiskey

    This protest was organized by students through facebook, most of whom did not know eachother, most of whom were of marginalized communities… In fact, I was surprised to learn that the protesters had a good number of veterans as well! I only know this because I caught the end of this clash on my way home last night and talked with some of them, the sports fans, the police, the spectators.

    I value the school pride and celebrative gatherings, which is why I support this protest. Sure, it could have been better executed, but it nevertheless made some difference, which is better than nothing. It is a pity that they had to interfere with a fun social event to be heard, but that is because the general public, UCLA students, almuni, staff are not engaged by their own accord. Our elite stature is located on the same map as the poverty, the struggle, the marginalization plaguing our once greater nation. I know it is hard to see the painful struggles of poverty far from our elite lives, but it is our responsibility to engage with others, to try to empathize. Public education should be public, and by that I mean accessible to all, not prohibitively expensive and
    exclusive as it is.

    Please, take the time to do the math as to how many minimum wage hours would have to be labored in order to afford median rental studio near you. Add laundry, grocery shopping, sleep hours into the equation. Things today don’t add up for many. Many people don’t have the time to read this article. Literally, not just because they claim to be busy to sound important. Working in social welfare for a bit truly opened my eyes to a side of California that blew my mind.

    Please, people, realize how lucky you, we, are. Please try to appreciate the notion that everyone deserves to be afforded the chance to pursue their academic dreams, to become more highly contributing taxpaying workers, to celebrate future UCLA bonfires.

    I feel a bit of pity for those who lost their moment to drink and burn stuff, but i am seriously disappointing and ashamed at UCLA students for comparing such a slight inconvenience to the injustice imposed by the tuition hikes. Props to the protesters who stood strong amid the frightening threats, insults, slurs I heard being called at them. Props as well to the police for keeping the peace as the frighteningly angry crowd encircling the few dozen protestors significantly outnumbered them. Props to all those who engage in conversation to help move this problem toward the best solution.

    I hope future protests are paid as much attention to, and even more engaging, without interfering with fun school events… rather in unison with them. THe tuition pricing out American is an issue I hope more students get behind, more all of our benefit. I want this country to thrive, it all starts with educating our youth. Please keep up the convo!

  • Socali

    As an alumnus of UCLA and as a former administrator for the school, students need to stand up against these tuition hikes. If you guys only knew how much administrators get paid, which can be easily accessed if you google “sacbee state salary” and look at the salaries for the CAOs of the school and what not. Our system is broken and you guys are crying because you can’t light a fire for one day of the year for a football game. How about lighting a fire within yourselves and fight for your future. Don’t have your future mortgaged because of bloated salaries within the UC system.

  • niancube .

    I’m one of the event organizers of the bonfire. I was very proud to see the great turnout of both alumni and students. I’ve never seen the alumni section as packed as it was that night. Plus hundreds more were watching across the nation and around the world. So I get why the protesters chose this venue and this moment to make a statement about something they were passionate about. But when does their right to free speech infringe upon our right to execute our event? I’ve done my fair share of protests but I wouldn’t be so disrespectful as to disrupt an event that brings great joy to my friends and promotes unity and school spirit. What if I went to their commencement ceremony, occupied the stage with 50 of my friends, to protest racial profiling? One has nothing to do with the other and it accomplished nothing to win support for their cause.
    I was also privy to learn about the negotiations that night. Administrators offered the protesters 5 minutes on the stage for 2 people with a mic to send their message. UCLA did not have to do that. For safety concerns, UCLA could have asked the police to declare unlawful assembly and disband the protest. When protesters refused the offer, I’m glad the rally went on as planned and administrators chose the non-confrontational route, even if it meant changing tradition. Just like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, we don’t need a fire to show our Bruin spirit!
    Go Bruins! Beat ‘SC!

  • Guest

    I disagree with you. This was not the right time and place for a protest. No one is angry that students are protesting the tuition hikes. I cannot imagine any students saying, “I want tuition hikes.”

    I think the real reason people are angry is because protesting at the Bonfire in a manner that caused its cancellation was extremely disrespectful to those students who put in months and months of time, effort, and hard work putting on a long-lasting tradition for other students to enjoy. For SAA volunteers, this is not their job. They don’t get paid for putting in on. They’re students who also have class, outside obligations, and their own financial problems who obviously feel that something like this is worth putting their time in. This event was meant to get students excited for the USC game. It was not to promote any political agenda, or to garner support for any UC regent or the body itself. It was an opportunity for students to participate in something that is iconic of UCLA’s spirit and pride.

    I commend the protestors for standing up what they believe in. You’re right, a lot more people should be vocal about this. But definitely not at the expense of students’ time and hard work.

    To be honest, if the protest happened at the Bonfire & Rally but didn’t cause the cancellation of the Bonfire, a LOT of students would be strongly behind the protestors and their call to action. But because it wasted students’ time and ruined a moment that thousands of students looked forward to, and stood on a pedestal claiming that their desire to see a bonfire for the pure reason of enjoyment (even de-stress from student responsibilities) is really unfair and disrespectful

  • unclesmrgol

    Classic spoiled children. They will grow up to be excellent Democrats — taking that which does not belong to them, and reveling in the theft.

  • unclesmrgol

    Ah, “collateral”. I would call it a kidnapping and ransom. Your freedom of speech does not extend to anyone else’s venue. If you want to have freedom of speech, set up your own venue — don’t steal someone else’s.