ReFund California activists open UC Regents’ meeting to the 99% at four teleconferenced meeting locations – Davis, Merced, San Francisco, and Los Angeles; hundreds more occupy buildings at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis in solidarity
After nearly one month of a massive student protest wave throughout the state, demanding that banks, corporations, and California’s wealthy elite pay to re-fund public education and essential services, students and activists with the ReFund California coalition converged on the UC Regents’ teleconference meeting locations on Monday morning. Activists and students at all four locations – UC Davis, UC Merced, UC Los Angeles, and UC San Francisco – successfully transformed the teleconference into People’s Regents’ meetings, opening the dialogue over the university’s funding options to the 99 percent.
Monday’s meeting, which had originally been scheduled for November 16th but was postponed, was held by teleconference at the four campuses, an unprecedented format for Regents’ meetings. The public comment period for the meeting was extended to over 1½ hours in order to accommodate the 150 students, workers, and community members who signed up across the four campuses to speak directly to the Regents. Among those who spoke were students who were beaten, pepper sprayed, and arrested for engaging in nonviolent protest actions at UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and CSU Long Beach. Many of them called on the Regents to abandon the excessive force used thus far against students and instead sign the ReFund California pledge to support taxes on millionaires, banks, and corporations for education and essential services.
At the end of the public comment period, students and activists at all four locations used the “people’s mic,” a tactic made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement, to propose and vote to convene People’s Regents Meetings. These meetings were held in the General Assembly format, a form of direct democracy also made popular by the Occupy movement. Rather than participate in the People’s Regents meetings, most of the bankers and millionaires on the Board of Regents left the room to meet behind closed doors where they voted to approve an “expenditure only” 2012 budget for UC. The budget provides less critical resources for instruction and low-wage workers at UC than past budgets and in doing so stops far short of demanding that banks and millionaires pay to refund public education.
Students, workers, and community members proposed and voted on various resolutions at all four People’s Regents Meeting sites, addressing issues such as the Regents brutal crackdown on students and solidarity with students facing a similar crackdown and tuition hikes at CSU.
Below are highlights from each campus:
UC San Francisco:
Lt. Governor and UC Regent Gavin Newsom accepted an invitation to join the 50 students, workers, and community members who joined the People’s Regents Meeting. When presented with the ReFund California pledge, Newsom declined to sign, but declared his support for each policy called for in the pledge.
Three resolutions were also discussed and passed by the Assembly at UCSF:
· A call for UC President Mark Yudof, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s immediate resignations
· A call for students across the state to wear black on December 5th in solidarity with CSU students who were beaten and pepper sprayed at the CSU Trustees meeting on Nov. 16th
· To continue People’s Regents meetings in the form of general assemblies on campuses statewide
Students re-launched Occupy UCLA on the eve of the Regents teleconference. At the end of public comment, fifty students, faculty, and workers used the “people’s mic” to declare the UC Board of Regents teleconference an “unlawful assembly,” with support from 300 more protestors outside of the building. In place of the unlawful Regents’ meeting, students convened a "People's Regents" assembly. The "People's Regents Meeting" then sent administrative delegates to the Regents to request their presence at the assembly. After 30 minutes, Regents Chair Sherry Lansing, Regent Eddie Island and three campus Chancellors joined the People's Regents assembly. After some discussion, the assembly voted to request removing police from the premises, opening the meeting to the public, and scheduled a meeting with Chair Lansing and other interested Regents to discuss solutions to the crisis of higher education. With persistent student pressure, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block agreed to remove police and opened the meeting to students until the building closed. Chair Lansing has since reached out to students to schedule a meeting before the end of the Fall quarter.
After students around the state used the “people’s mic” to convene People’s Regents meetings, UC Regent Fred Ruiz and UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland agreed to meet with 50 students and community members in the meeting. After being presented with the ReFund California pledge, the Regent and Chancellor agreed to respond regarding the pledge within 2 weeks, or before Christmas. 50-60 students also demonstrated outside the building.
Nearly 1,000 students, faculty, and workers walked out. Hundreds converged on the teleconference site from which Student Regent Alfredo Mireles and Assembly Speaker and UC Regent John Perez phoned in. Assembly Speaker Perez left during public comment and Regent Mireles chose to join the People’s Regents meeting when students voted overwhelmingly for it.
Hundreds more students and faculty later occupied the student loan office, echoing the demand that banks refund public education.
UC Santa Cruz:
To show solidarity with the actions across the state, students, workers, and faculty gathered for a noon General Assembly to discuss how to make banks and millionaires pay for public education before deciding to occupy the Hahn Student Services building where student loans are managed. More than 100 students and faculty joined the occupation, which is still going.