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UCLA staff block De Neve dining hall entry amid protest for free tuition, dining

UCLA staff block students’ entry to De Neve Residential Restaurant following a protest by student organizers attempting to allow students to eat for free and calling for free tuition and dining from the University of California. (Constanza Montemayor/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Constanza Montemayor and Shaanth Kodialam

Dec. 7, 2022 7:16 p.m.

This post was updated Dec. 8 at 4:48 p.m.

UCLA staff blocked entry to De Neve Residential Restaurant on Wednesday following a protest by students advocating for free tuition and dining from the University of California.

The protest began around 11 a.m., at the start of the De Neve dining hall’s lunch period, with protestors blocking students from swiping their cards to enter. UCLA staff soon formed a human barrier in front of the doors to the dining hall, barring all student entry.

A student leader who requested to remain anonymous out of concerns for their position at the university said they were a group of autonomous cost of living adjustment, or COLA, organizers who aimed to give students free entry to eat at De Neve.

COLA is a catch-all term that organizers often use to refer to other social justice demands aside from the adjustment, such as anti-capitalism, abolishment of UCPD and working against worker exploitation

Student protestors stood outside and inside the dining hall waving signs reading “smiles not swipes” and “everything for everyone” and handing out flyers inviting students to eat for free at De Neve from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Organizers and students successfully managed to obtain some food for free, but officials promptly arrived after the protest began to block off the entrance and direct dining hall staff to cease operations.

Similar protests occurred across multiple UC campuses, including UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara, according to a tweet from Cops Off Campus UC.

The student leader said the group hopes to abolish UC administrative practices that create poverty and hunger.

“They’re (the UC) paying workers horribly. They’re making us overpay for food. (We’re) overpaying for housing,” said the student. “And so what we were doing for today, we’re planning on taking it back to the UC and saying, ‘Students are hungry. We have basic needs, and (we) should be able to eat for free.’”

The organizers were protesting independently of the United Auto Workers strike that has been occurring across the UC since Nov. 14, although many of the organizers are union members and stand in solidarity with those striking, the student added.

Grace Harris, a second-year international development studies student, said she came to De Neve dining hall after seeing a message inviting students to dine for free in a Student Labor Advocacy Project group chat. However, she was not allowed to enter the dining hall due to staff blocking the entrance, she said.

She added she supports the group’s demands and believes the UCLA administration has not been supportive of student needs lately.

In an emailed statement, UCLA Dining said no one was allowed to enter the dining hall during the protest and that those inside when the protest began were permitted to finish their meals and exit safely.

“UCLA respects the rights of individuals to protest, and protesters were not prevented from expressing their voices,” UCLA Dining said in the statement.

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Constanza Montemayor | News editor
Montemayor is the 2022-2023 News editor. She was previously the 2021-2022 features and student life editor, a News reporter, Photo contributor for the news beat and Arts contributor. She is also a third-year global studies student at UCLA.
Montemayor is the 2022-2023 News editor. She was previously the 2021-2022 features and student life editor, a News reporter, Photo contributor for the news beat and Arts contributor. She is also a third-year global studies student at UCLA.
Shaanth Kodialam | Features and student life editor
Kodialam is the 2022-2023 features and student life editor. They were previously a News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a second-year communication and geography student.
Kodialam is the 2022-2023 features and student life editor. They were previously a News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a second-year communication and geography student.
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