Wednesday, November 25, 2009

UC-Irvine Tuition Protest

Cross-posted by Gary Fouse

"No beer, no peace."

In the wake of the University of California regents' decision to increase tuition fees 32%, the students at UC-Irvine turned out today to protest. And what a protest it was!!

The event was called by the usual campus groups, folks like MEChA, the Muslim Student Union, the Students for Peace and Justice (or is it justice and peace?), some "alliance of students, loafers, and workers", you know, the usual suspects. Everybody was supposed to wear black though the MSU folks showed up in green t-shirts, some with the obligatory Palestinian scarf with black and white doo-dads.

Due to my class schedule, I missed at least half of the "speeches". There were two that I saw. One was by a young radical-looking guy who, while talking about the unfair tuition hikes, also threw in some references to Iraq and Afghanistan (I guess college tuition is high there too) and other events going on around the world. Then another radical-looking guy came on and read a letter of "solidarity" in Spanish from the UCI Dept of Spanish and Portuguese. Then there was a march around Ring Road, which for you UC Santa Cruz Community Studies majors goes in a circle around the campus.

And there were chants!

"Whose university?"
"Our university!"

"They cut back!"
"We fight back!"

and of course...

"No justice-No peace!"

The chants as far as I could tell, were mostly being led by the MSU guys and what I suppose were MEChA guys.

And what does MEChA mean?

You don't want to know.

I followed behind aways just to see if anything interesting would happen-then went back to my office since I had to teach a class. The crowd would stop a moment in front of the classroom buildings and call for students to walk out of class and join them. All in all, I would say there was a couple of hundred people. (They were hoping to get 1,000.) Did I take pictures? No because I don't think that I, as a teacher, should be photographing students.

I know I am going to get in trouble for saying this, but what the hell. The crowd of protesters was diverse (UCI has few black students and is over 50% Asian-American). Just before I reached the site of the protest in front of the Administration building, I passed the flagpole area where most activities take place. There was a group of about 30 Asian-American students doing a dance and music performance. What is noteworthy is that in a campus that is overwhelmingly Asian-American, there were not too many Asian-American students taking part in the protest.

(That's a compliment.)

But apparently, I did miss some excitement. After my class, I was doing deep, deep cover work in the UCI Anthill Pub.

As I was sitting at the bar nursing my beer and trying to appear inconspicuous, a student walked up next to me to order a pitcher. He was telling the bartender about how he was front and center in the march, leading the chants, and that at a certain point, a couple of his friends nearby tried to walk past campus cops where they were not supposed to walk and got pepper sprayed!

And I heard it all!

I bet that's the most excitement those campus cops have ever had. What a great war story!

No comments:

Post a Comment