Bay Area students gathered Thursday to protest rising tuition costs and state budget cuts to public education in a wave of demonstrations at campuses up and down California.
The protests are part of a “National Day of Action to Defend the Right to Education” called by student organizations and members of the Occupy movement.
In California, the protests are the latest in a series of demonstrations over the lack of funding for public education in the state, which has resulted in dramatic fee increases for public universities in recent years.
Protesters intend to march on the state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday as well, and students are organizing to send busloads of protesters to the event.
Protesters at the University of California at Santa Cruz managed to significantly disrupt campus operations, blocking staff and faculty from getting to work and causing class cancellations, a university spokesman said.
Protesters gathered early Thursday morning at each of the campus’ two entrances to block cars from getting through, UC Santa Cruz spokesman Jim Burns said.
“There are enough people in each of those entrances to prevent cars from entering,” Burns said. “Once we recognized this was going to happen as advertised, we communicated to our own people not to bring cars to campus; they’re not going to be able to.”
Burns said that 200 or 300 people were participating in the protests, standing outside in the cold rain.
The protests are scheduled to go on throughout the day, starting with the blockade and continuing with a rally and a “Tent University” event at noon, in which students and faculty will teach workshops on topics ranging from foreclosures to gender issues to Marxism.
Musical performances and a screening of the film “Brazil,” a dystopian story of impenetrable bureaucracy, are scheduled this afternoon and evening, organizers said.
Burns said that while campus activity hasn’t been completely disrupted, many classes have been canceled and dining services have been scaled down because staff haven’t been able to make it to work.
However, he said, the campus health center is fully staffed and the library has been at least partially opened.
He said staff members who are able to work remotely are doing so, and that others have found alternate means of transportation, including bicycling and walking to work.
University administrators have set up an informational page on the school’s website to inform students about what services have been affected and what is still available. They have also used an informational phone line and text messages to communicate with the campus community.
“We made a considerable effort to communicate to members of the campus community to inform them of the prospect for this occurring and to provide them with various ways to stay up to date on the status of campus,” Burns said.
He said the school has been preparing for the disruptions throughout the week.
“It’s not the same level of service for our students. We’re not happy about that, but we’re doing the best we can,” he said.
Burns said that he expects campus operations to be restored by Friday morning.
Protesters will hold another demonstration on Monday, but for that, busloads of students from throughout the state will gather at the state Capitol building in Sacramento for an “Occupy the Capitol” event.
Protesters at the University of California at Berkeley were holding their own open university Thursday morning, and began gathering outside California Hall at 8 a.m.
A rally was held in Sproul Plaza at noon, and then protesters planned to march to Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza to join an evening rally there at the site of the former Occupy Oakland camp.
At California State University Monterey Bay, protesters held an “Occupy Education” rally at noon followed by a march at 1:30 p.m. The rally will be held at Library Plaza at the corner of Divarty Street and Fifth Avenue.
The march will head to the Student Center on Inter-Garrison Road, where a teach-in will be held starting at 2 p.m.
At California State University East Bay in Hayward, protesters will hold a “People’s University” starting at noon. There will be faculty and student speakers and educational workshops throughout the afternoon, organizers said.
A “Reclaim SFSU” rally will be held at San Francisco State University started at noon, followed by a march from Malcolm X Plaza.
Organizers of the SFSU event said the action is being held to improve the quality of education at the school, and reclaim a student voice in education.
Students at San Jose State University planned a walkout at noon Thursday, followed by a rally and march.
The rally will begin near Clark Hall and students will hold a “speak out” to tell their stories of struggling with the rising costs of tuition.
The protesters are then planning to march silently through the Student Services Center before gathering in front of Tower Hall in the afternoon.
In the North Bay, students at Sonoma State University held a “Reclaim the People’s University” event at noon in Stevenson Quad.
The event will last throughout the day, starting with teach-ins, discussion circles and performances discussing cuts to departments, campus programs and the availability of student jobs.
Organizers said that university administration officials are intending to attend the events and discuss the students’ concerns.
There will also be a night event on the campus, with a concert featuring musical performances and speakers from 9 p.m. until midnight.
Students at Santa Rosa Junior College are planning to rally at 2 p.m. for a march to the Rattigan State Building at 50 D St.
There will be several Bay Area events held in solidarity with the campus events as well that have no direct association with a college or university.
In San Francisco, protesters will hold a teach-in and occupation at the California State Office Building at 455 Golden Gate Ave. before holding a rally in Civic Center Plaza at 4 p.m.
Occupy Oakland protesters are planning a rally in Frank Ogawa Plaza at 5 p.m.
Protesters from throughout the state will hold a larger, unified demonstration on Monday in Sacramento.
The “Occupy Education” rally began at 10 a.m. followed by a march to the state Capitol building. The daylong event will also feature nonviolent direct action training and another rally at the Capitol that evening.